The truck market has just about always been split into three groups: Pickups, Vans, and SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles).
The term SUV vas coined in the early 80s, but what were these jeep-like vehicles called before then? I don’t think Jeep would have allowed the moniker on some non-Jeep truck.

As far as I can recall the few SUV type vehicles around were individually refered to by they brand names. ie. Jeep, Land Rover, Land Cruiser etc.
I don’t think there was a name for them as a group because there were not that many of them and only people who used them for off roading etc generally bought them unlike now!

My mom had a Chevy Suburban back in the late 1970s, now that was a real menace to everyone on the road. As far as I can recall, they called them 4WD. That was the unique point, they had 4 wheel drive.

A Jeep Wagoneer ad from 1968 calls it a four-wheel drive station wagon. Older Willys ads call the Willys 4-Wheel Drive Station Wagon a station wagon or sedan.

The vehicles we think of as jeeps (as opposed to Jeeps, but including the Jeep jeeps) were called by their names as JasonDean suggests; e.g., Land Rover, Land Cruiser, Jeep. Between WWII and 1950, when Willys-Overland got the trademark for the name “Jeep”, the name jeep (lowercase) was applied to the type rather than the make. (i.e., a light, short wheelbase, 4WD “scout car” or “1/4 ton truck”.)

But I think the vehicles we now call SUVs were, until the mid-80s, called by their names or were called 4WD station wagons.

In Australia we still refer to SUV’s generically as 4WD’s.

Personally, I regard the owners of such vehicles with some derision. Most of the people who own such vehicles rarely take them out of town, let alone do any serious off-road work. The standing joke is that a brand new Toyota Landcruiser or Nissan Patrol costs about $50k in Australian dollars, so you wouldn’t want to get it scratched!

When SUVs came out & until 2000, they were just put on a pickup body. Lots of old magazines in your library should have ads for them before then that you can check. I remember vans & wagons.

We had a 1978/79 International Harvester Travelall (sp?). Decent 4x4, but quite a huge land yacht. I seem to remember it being called a 4x4 wagon or something like that.

While vehicles we think of as “SUVs” have been around for several decades, it’s often mentioned that the Jeep Cherokee started the “SUV craze” in 1984. Its predecessors were built on frames (like most cars until the 1970s), but the XJ Cherokee is built as a unibody.

Definitely a pretty nameless class until SUV came along. Though there were a lot of vehicles back then that would be classed as an SUV today. They just weren’t considered a “class”.

There was Suburban, Blazer, Bronco, Scout, Scout II, Wagoneer, Land Cruiser, and many more.

Not quite sure what Handy meant about SUV’s being put on a truck body. Maybe meant … put on a truck frame? That isn’t particularly accurate. While most if not all these vehicles were full frame vehicles, with frames that resembled pickup frames, they generally had a unique to that vehicle frame. Lot’s of components and running gear were shared with the manufacturer’s pickup line though.

I think what Handy meant was that when SUV production hit its stride, they began to be produced mostly on ladder-frame technology rather than unibody technology, which the majority of non-4WD vehicles were using in the interests of safety, weight, maneuverability, and size. So, by putting SUVs on ladder-frame, they took a great automotive leap back to the 70’s.

In “The Goonies”, Chunk referred to what looked like a Jeep Cherokee as an “O-R-V”. I have no idea what ORV stands for (something-recreational vehicle?). This was mid-80s. It seems to me that SUVs would have been called “four wheel drive vehicles” prior to the current fad.

Off-Road Vehicle. Sometimes called OHV: Off Highway Vehicle. Nowadays that generally refers to vehicles that are not licensed for street use.

Off Road Vehicle

Once again, Johnny LA beat me to the mark…


The owner’s manual and such refers to my Jeep Wagoneer and others of its ilk as a “multipurpose vehicle”