Dominate the Dunes: The 7 Best Beach Rides
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
There might not be a better beach ride than a Jeep Wrangler. Four-wheel-drive, tough as nails construction, a classic open top experience, an interior that washes out and the kind of free-spiritedness that only a Jeep can provide make for endless summer days and maybe even an ill-fated decision to blow off work every afternoon for a whole week. The drain plugs let you hose out the hot sand, while the seven speaker Alpine audio system means the tunes travel with you. The two extra doors mean you can bring the ladies, too.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Convertible
Though the 350 horses from the SS’s V8 are plentiful, this ride is all about vintage beach style. Get the light blue paint job and the white leather interior and you’ve got one of the best vintage summer car colorways around. Twin pinstripes up the long hood show it’s fearsomely race ready, and its throaty burble blasts cares away with just a slight depression of your right foot.
1980 Toyota FJ60 Land Cruiser
We react to Land Cruisers like Pavlov’s dogs did to bells, and the 60 series might be the most gorgeous of Toyota’s line. Its squarish and muscular design wouldn’t look out of place in a parking lot full of Land Rovers — and it just might be a tad more coveted. It’s summer ready with seating for five and room for gear, and its off-road chops don’t hurt, either. In 1980, the FJ finally got air-conditioning, so you can still cool your burning dogs after a hot day in the sand.
Ford Flex Limited
More than just a family hauler, the Flex might be a modern day Woodie wagon without the lumber. With room for seven, it’s ridiculously practical, and with an available 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine that delivers 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, it’s plenty powerful, too. The all-wheel-drive means sand is no problem, and with the massive panoramic sunroof, neither is the scenery on the way there. Most importantly, it rides with a lower center of gravity than most SUVs and won’t ever be mistaken for a minivan.
1994 Land Rover Defender 110 Convertible
It was built in 1994, but the 110 Convertible might well have come from a much earlier time. Tougher than an angry English Longhorn and as simple as a wheeled vintage toolbox, the 110 Convertible has everything you need and nothing you didn’t. Full-time four-wheel-drive, eight rear jump seats and a fully removable convertible top make it 100 percent fun utility. Though the 68 hp diesel engine won’t make you disappear into the sunset in any hurry, it at least runs smoothly — which is more than we can say about you after you roast in the sun all day constructing a sandy Taj Mahal and wear yourself out crashing into waves.
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line 2.0T
Redone in all the right ways, the Ragster Concept-based current Beetle is more masculine than its predecessor (not that it would take much), and, in convertible guise, it’s one of the most beach-ready cars out there. The power soft top looks good up or down, and the R-Line 18-inch Twister wheels offer just the right amount of sporty. Front wheels powered by 210 horses won’t set any beach records, but for getting you and your sun-kissed lady from the beach to the tropical cabana for an evening drink, it’s just about perfect.
1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
The final generation of the majestic Wagoneer was easily the best; the fine faux wood siding made it Woodie-fied for summer’s best days. A fuel-injected V8 engine was smoother than ever, and standard equipment included beach-friendly amenities like power rear hatch glass for your longest boards and a roof rack to tote kayaks and other sizeable summer gear. Just pray that the velour seats have held up over years of hot weather, hot sand and hot times behind the tinted glass.