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The Retro Look: How to Make Off-Roading Colorful Again

In case you somehow haven’t been paying attention to the trends in vehicles lately, off-roading is huge and it only seems to be getting more popular. Whether it’s radically outfitted Ford Raptors, Jeeps or an “adventure-ready” Subaru, never before have more people been into off-roading—or at least the appearance of off-roading.

GMC Jimmy K5 Stripes

And while the aesthetic of each vehicle will differ with the tastes of their owner, there is definitely a popular style that includes things like flat, subtle or earth tone colors, black or dark colored wheels and a general appearance that looks more military than it does hot rod.

Ford Bronco 1970s Paint

There’s no denying the appeal of the rugged modern off-road look, but how about a little retro touch now and then? Specifically the cool color schemes and graphics that defined 4x4s of the 1970s and '80s.

Toyota Pickup Stripes

Even if you own a modern rig rather than a vintage one, there’s no reason you couldn’t go with a throwback-inspired color scheme to stand apart from the crowd.

Here are four ways to help bring back the old school.

Two Tone Bodies

For decades two-tone paint schemes were the norm for trucks, vans and SUVs but at some point in the 1990s it began to fade away. We think it's ready for a comeback. Many of these paint jobs followed the factory body lines, tracing fenders and door pillars in a natural way that brings out the character of the body and there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same on a modern truck or SUV.

Ford Bronco Two-Tone Paint

And of course while repainting is an expensive and time consuming process, the explosion of vehicle wraps should make this easier than ever should you want to give it a shot. Be creative but don’t forget to keep it “factory” looking.

Dodge Ram Charger Red and White

Stripes & Graphics

What happened to stripe and graphics packages? At one point it seemed hard to find a 4x4 that didn’t have these off the showroom floor but now it’s extremely rare. Again thanks to vinyl it’s extremely easy to add stripes or graphics to your vehicle, whether subtle and understated or wild and crazy. Gradient stripes in particular really bring on the retro vibes.

Datsun 720 4x4 Truck

When paired with the right wheels and other throwback upgrades, even the simplest graphics or stripes can really set things off. Extra points for gradient colored stripes.

Suzuki Samurai 1990s Graphics


You’ve seen the “TRD” or “Z71” branding on modern trucks, but how about throwing it back with some more over the top branding.

Jeep 4x4 Pickup

The choices are endless depending on what kind of vehicle you have, from the simple model name, or more specific features advertised on the exterior “TURBODISEL”, “V6” and of course “4x4”.

Toyota Truck Rear View

Again the key here isn’t to just plaster stuff on the side so it looks like you just went crazy at one of those mall sticker kiosks with no plan. The goal is to keep an eye for the details and make it look like something that could have come from the factory. Pay close attention to fonts and colors.

Wheel Colors & Finishes

Finally we get to wheels, or more specifically the color of your wheels. Chances are you’ve probably noticed that the majority of modern off-road aftermarket wheels are dark-colored, usually black and sometimes dark gray or bronze.

Chevy K5 Blazer Off Road

They also naturally have designs that are more contemporary, a beadlock look, and an overall character that is usually more aggressive and "sinister" looking than what you’d see on the trucks of yore.

Vintage Jeep Scrambler Pickup

Back in the day, most 4x4 wheels either had a simple, work-ready look or something with a bit of flash. Whether it's the polished look of the ‘70s or the painted, sometimes color matched look of the ‘80s—changing up wheel colors and finishes can radically change the look of your rig and help it stand out for the crowd.

These of course just scratch the surface of the retro 4x4 look which we’d like to see more of. Will 2021 be the year of throwback?

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