The right vehicle for this expedition is obviously fairly critical. When we first talked about doing an overland trip like this we decided that we wanted something reliable that would be able to cope with the demands of a 20,000 mile journey on roads that would; at times, be less than perfect. Our research quickly pointed to a Toyota Land Cruiser. The Land Cruiser is widely recognised as the expedition vehicle for long overland trips to remote places, and for good reason. The Land Cruiser is renowned for it’s reliability, off-road capability and being Japanese parts are easy to come by in Asia! However we had assumed that a car with such a good reputation would be way out of our modest budget - wrong!
Our friends Jonny Yates and Terri Souster travelled from the UK to cape town a couple of years ago in a Land Cruiser Colorado, the baby of the Land Cruiser family, and were very impressed with how much car they got for their money. Jonny is a Mechanic working for the British Antarctic Survey and seems to know a few things about vehicles! Jonny’s glowing recomendation of the Colorado had us sold. Searching online in the Antarctic with extremely limited bandwidth was a non-starter but we managed to ascertain that we could afford a Colorado.
So once back in the UK we set to finding the right vehicle…as mentioned previously we wasted no time and managed to pick up a 2001 Colorado GX on our first day back in the UK! We then had to think about preparing the vehicle for what the trip. I had orginally got in touch with a company called Overland-Cruisers, run by a Toyota Land Cruiser enthusiast and specialist, Julian Volkner. Julian was up to his eye-balls with customers and couldn’t fit us in for the work we needed but gave us some brilliant advice. After a bit of google searching and a recomendation from a friend of a friend we tried West Coast Off-road. The guys at West Coast managed to fit us in and we took the car down to them. So long story short that particular Land Cruiser turned out to be a heap of sh*t! The chassis was completely rotten and according the West Coast should not have been on the road. Somewhere along the line someone had “repaired” the chassis with fibre glass and covered over this awful job with under seal. After a slightly angry phone call to the dealer we purchased the car from we negotiated taking it back to them for most of our money back.
Back to square one…we started the search all over again, but now with even less time to play with before our planned departure date. We found a private sale of a near identical Land Cruiser Colorado in Milton Keynes and decided it was worth going to view. We definitely felt a bit more cynical second time round and were looking at everything with very critical eyes. Thankfully the car looked and drove very well so we took another gamble and bought it. First stop West Coast Off-road! They guys there obviously understood our concerns given our recent experiences so as soon as we arrived the got our new Land Cruiser onto the ramps for a thorough inspection - we got the thumbs up so it was time to start work on a few simple modifications!
We didn’t want to go mad on the modifications and just wanted a solid vehicle capable of everything we would throw at it. Based on advice from Jonny, Julian (Overland-Cruisers) and Paul Lundstrom (West Coast off-road) we had decided that up-rated suspension with stiffer springs was essential, given the weight of kit we plan to stick in the back, a snorkel to ensure cleaner air goes into the engine, new wheels and tyres, a bash plate on the front to protect the radiator which hangs particuarly low on the Colorado and a full comprehensive service including changing the timing belt and tensioners, all oils changed and a thorough inspection of, well, everything!
We picked the car up at the end of last week and she looks great, and more importantly drives perfectly. We are slightly behind schedule at the moment but it looks like we will be departing the UK on Friday! Fingers crossed the Land Cruiser serves us well but time will tell!