Like every British national I simply assumed the answer to vehicle choice was a Landrover Defender and then set about looking for a 110 or 130, 300tdi with an appropriate price tag. The vast majority of trips that Id read about used 110 Defenders so it didnt strike me as an inappropriate assumption until my brother pointed me towards a Toyota Landcruiser. On further investigation I found a number of 80 series Landcruisers modified for overland expeditions. Whilst most equipment to modify a Landcruiser originates in Australia or South Africa there are a number of UK importers and suppliers to help get what you require. The Defender is still a very capable vehicle and certainly has more sex appeal than the Landcruiser but the two things which made us choose the Japanese Landy was reliability and comfort. Both are important when traveling 12,000 miles and particularly important when youre taking your two young kids with you.
So our first purchase was a 1997 80 Series Landcruiser with a 24v 4.2lt diesel, manual with air con. We had great plans to modify this vehicle and even went to the extent of purchasing a TJM winch bumper, a Safari snorkel, a Superwinch and a Le Metal Technique protection plate. As I was planning the vehicle conversion I bookmarked the www.overland-underwater.com website as a great example how to modify an 80 series. Then, by chance, I noticed one of their vehicles for sale on eBay in November 2005. Buying a vehicle that already had 70% of the work done on it was extremely attractive. This was further enhanced by the reputable companies involved in the conversion. In the end we came to a deal and acquired a 1992 80 Series import which is automatic (life if full of compromises).
The vehicle came with the following modifications and equipment:
Old Man Emu suspension, Optima batteries and battery management system, air compressor (under the bonnet), ARB extended range fuel tank, steel wheels, Toyota winch and aluminium winch bullbar, Hannibal roof-top tent, Twine hot water shower, Engel 40lt fridge, 240v power inverter, 80lt water tank, IPF spot lights, Safari snorkel, Hi-lift jack, Sureflow water pump, Nature Pure water filter, Wolf boxes, Garmin GPS, axe, spade, tree saw, fire extinguisher, BF Goodrich AT tyres, puncture repair kit, water and diesel jerry cans, twin jerry can holder, gas cylinder holder, gas stove, recovery gear, safe, immobilizer, awning, CB Radio and an Innovatek FM transmitter (for an iPod).
Having now spent a significant amount of time working on the Landcruiser I am extremely relieved to have purchased a modified vehicle. However, we have made a lot of changes since acquiring the extensively modified vehicle. The previous owner didnt plan on taking two young kids and hence only had one back seat and a tent to sleep 2 adults.
Modifications since purchase:
Reinstalled the rear seat, moved the Engel 40lt fridge into boot (on a new fridge slider), replaced boot shelving etc., changed roof tent (to Howling Moon family tourer), replaced side steps with ARM sliders and wing defenders, replaced the front bumper with a TJM steel bumper, replaced the Toyota winch with a X9 Superwinch, moved the water pump and filter, fitted a modified Kaymar wheel carrier to carry the Jerry cans and gas cylinder, fitted a hi-lift jack mount on the spared wheel carrier (lets hope the Toyota wheel carrier is strong enough to cope!), fitted a rear view camera and Innovatek mirror/monitor, installed a forward facing bullet camera, fitted a Panasonic CF-18 Toughbook tablet mount (installed with Touratech QV4 navigation software), refitted the IPF spot lights, installed some Le Metal Technique protection, fitted a modified 2.4m Hannibal awning, bought a 1.2m rooftop storage bag and installed 3 point seat harnesses for the 2 child seats. Oh, and we had the vehicle and wheels resprayed and the chassis waxoyled.