QOTD: Farewell To The Body-On-Frame SUV?

qotd farewell to the body on frame suv

Pictures of the “production” version of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, which looks about the same as the “concept” version unveiled at Detroit in January. And along with the reveal, another body-on-frame SUV bites the dust.

Having driven the Infiniti JX (essentially, a really nice 2013 Pathfinder), I’m not at all concerned; the Pathfinder has become yet another toddler taxi. The most extreme situations it will ever see is a gravel driveway. This is a “truck” that needs to compete against the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander – not to mention the Ford Explorer, which seems to be doing just fine with a unibody layout.

The body-on-frame SUV is a species in decline. Part of it is obviously cost considerations. There are perfectly good car platforms out there that can be used to create perfectly good, car-like crossovers. But how much of it is because these car-based SUVs are competent enough that having a body-on-frame design doesn’t matter? We can throw out arguments about towing, or off-road prowess, but very few of these vehicles will ever be used for those duties, and even then, they are often strong enough to fulfill the 99 percent of owner expectations.

So, my dear readers, here’s my question; how much of the lamenting of the body-on-frame SUV and its apparent superiority is merely cooked up in the hearts and minds of truck fans, longing for a bygone era? Or am I missing the mark?


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  • Ktm_525 Ktm_525 on Jul 31, 2012

    It's because they are rolling 20's. Ridiculous on a utility vehicle. I had to scrounge the country to find 18's for the Rover.

  • Marineguy Marineguy on Mar 07, 2015

    I couldn't live without my BOF SUV. I'm one of those aforementioned "bad-haircut" guys who gravitate toward this kind of vehicle. I have a family of six, and we often travel up and down the east coast in all weather conditions. Also the beach and mountains from time to time. I'm flying V22 Ospreys now, but before that I flew helicopters that were approaching 50 years old before being retired. The way we made them last that long was through proper maintenance, periodic overhaul, and replacement of major components when they reached their service limits or showed signs of wear. I kind of look at BOF SUVs the way I look at those aircraft and, for instance, high-end Danner Boits: re-craftable. You can spend $80 on a pair of Timberlands and toss them after two years, or you can spend $300 on a set of Danners, wear them for a decade, then send them back to the factory for refurbishment for about the cost of a cheap pair of boots. BOF SUVs are kind of the same thing. When my 04 Yukon XL K1500 SLT starts to show some wear (150k and still in great shape), I fully intend to repower it. At some point (maybe 300k) I'm sure I'll do a complete frame-off restoration. I would have no problem dropping $15k every 15-20 years to keep this truck (which originally cost me nearly $50k) doing what it does for the rest of my days. Kind of tough to do a frame-off resto on a unibody minivan with big tires. Much easier to crush and melt them into new ones. I wonder how many Dodge Nitro, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Jeep Liberty. CUVs have been built and then crushed in the ten years I've been driving this beast. Oh but they're more economical because they get 22 to my 16 mpg, right? I made my last payment in 2009, and have driven it 3-4 times a week, every week, since then. How's that for economy?

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.
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