Heuliez Intruder

If you spend your free time as I do, scraping the bottom of the automotive barrel, the internet will quickly surprise you with one thing: there are far more customized off-roaders than you may expect.

Especially since the '70s or thereabouts; it's as if the world's rich (and oil rich) all of a sudden began to ditch the Spirit of Ecstasy in favour of go-anywhere transportation—Land Rovers and the like. UK-based coachbuilders seemed to be the first to accommodate these trends, with Glenfrome and others modifying off-roaders to suit their well-heeled clients. Monteverdi, Sbarro, and others soon created just about every body style imaginable on an off-road chassis.

See, the whole convertible off-roader thing works well when it's a Geo Tracker or Suzuki X90; the small size of those types of vehicles makes them far less imposing and, often quite cute. Things get a bit strange when the front bumper is as high as a man's chest, and you start to realize, "Wait…so this is what the conspicuous consumption means…"

The closest off-roader to the Heuliez intruder, first shown at the 1996 Paris Motor Show, is probably the Lada Niva-based Cardi Next. The Intruder enjoys much better underpinnings, however, from the Mercedes-Benz G 320 off-roader. 

With bodywork penned by Heuliez' Italian office, it very much looks like a truck from 1996, and wears carbon fibre bumpers and hood; the rest is a mix of metal and composites. The retractable hard top is done mostly in glass, with trick rearview mirrors to help the atrocious rear visibility—don't forget, this is before parking sensors and rearview cameras.

Even the G Class was a much more modest rig, and lent just 210 horsepower from its straight-six engine and four speeds from its automatic gearbox.

I'm not sure if more than one Intruder was built, because it's quite likely the single prototype was just repainted a few times—it now wears the silver and grey paintwork you see above. My favourite part of the Intruder are its custom-designed Japanese Work wheels…just typing that out has surely made a bunch of wheel whores jealous…