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Expeditions West: Our Previous Vehicle

As with any endeavor, ones pursuit of the most suitable equipment for their choice of adventure is often incremental, and many times fraught with lessons learned. My pursuit of the perfect "adventure" vehicle has undergone quite a journey, and progressed as experience and available funding improved.

I will attempt to extol some of my personal experience with each vehicle i have owned and modified. I had a reason for buying each one (or thought i did), and learned a little more about myself, and my pursuit with each change.

I performed all of the modifications indicated, with the exception of engine internals and setting differential gears.

I would be curious to know your thoughts on my conclusions, as my opinions are just that. guide@expeditionswest.com

  Purchased Vehicle  

Long Ago

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 2

Highway: 1

Expedition: 2

Value: 4

Overall: (1-20)
9

1952 Jeep M38A1- 4cyl, 3-speed The "Family Jeep"

Advantages:
1. Simplicity
2. Historical Significance
3. Reliability

Disadvantages:
1. Slow highway speeds
2. Drivetrain not suitable for larger tires
3. Safety (brakes, steering, etc.)

Summary: The perfect historically significant vehicle to trailer to the trail or leave at the mountain cabin...

 

Spring 1992

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 1

Highway: 3

Expedition: 2

Value: 4

Overall: (1-20)
10

1989 Isuzu Amigo- 2wd(!), 4cyl, 5-speed

Advantages:
1. Reliability
2. Drivetrain Strength
3. Low cost of ownership

Disadvantages:
1. Poor fuel economy for 4cyl
2. Low power to weight ratio
3. Lack of aftermarket support

Summary: This was my first off-highway vehicle, and with it being 2wd, I learned a lot about line selection, wheel placement, momentum, etc.

 

Modifications:

2" torsion bar and add a leaf lift.
32" BFG Mud Terrain Tires
Bike Rack
RS9000 shocks


Summer 1993

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 2

Highway: 3

Expedition: 3

Value: 4

Overall: (1-20)
12
1993 Isuzu Rodeo- 4wd, 6cyl, 5-speed

Advantages:
1. Reliability
2. Storage space
3. Reasonably good clearance, can fit 32" tires without lift

Disadvantages:
1. Soft suspension tuning
2. Lack of aftermarket support
3. Poor low range ratio

Summary: My first 4wd vehicle. Inexpensive and reasonably capable. Poor aftermarket support limits usefulness beyond 3+ trails and short expeditions.

 


Modifications:
32" Tires
Factory Brush Guard
Fall 1994


Rating (1-5)
Trail: 2

Highway: 2

Expedition: 2

Value: 2

Overall: (1-15)
8

1953 Jeep M38A1- 8cyl, 3 speed w/ WARN overdrive

This vehicle was all about learning what works and what does not. Horsepower does not get you to the top of a hill and breaks lots of parts. I spent many 1000's of dollars and hours completing this frame-off build including Ford 289 4v motor, etc. Lot's of custom fabrication and mods. This is how not to build a reliable trail vehicle!
 
Several Pictures

Modifications:
33" Tires
300hp V8
Stock Drivetrain!
(bad combination)
Spring 1995

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 3

Highway: 3

Expedition: 3

Value: 3

Overall: (1-20)

12

1989 Toyota 4Runner- 6cyl, 5-speed

Advantages:
1. Reliability
2. System durability (everything works well together)
3. Good ground clearance

Disadvantages:
1. Marginal articulation
2. Needed a limited slip or traction device
3. Not much else...

Summary: This was a fantastic truck, and gave me a glimpse of the capabilities of the Toyota products. Perfect reliability over 60K+ miles. Fits 32" tires without lift.

 

Modifications:
32" tires
Fall 1995

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 3

Highway: 2

Expedition: 3

Value: 5


Overall: (1-20)

13
1985 Toyota Pick-up- 4wd, 4cyl, 5-speed

Expeditions West RECOMMENDED VEHICLE

Advantages:
1. Supreme Reliability in harsh conditions
2. Solid drivetrain
3. Great size and wheelbase

Disadvantages:
1. Low power (86hp), but sufficient
2. Stiff suspension
3. Axle wrap

Summary: I loved this truck (because of its simplicity and durability). It launched my expedition travels and provided low cost of ownership, perfect reliability, excellent off-highway performance, and sufficient comfort. The one vehicle I wish was still in my driveway...

 
Several Pictures

Modifications:
33" tires

Spring 1996

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 5

Highway: 3

Expedition: 2

Value: 2


Overall: (1-20)

12
1983 Jeep CJ-7- 6cyl, 3-speed Automatic

Advantages:
1. Perfect chassis to start from
2. Ease of modifications
3. Durable and reasonably reliable

Disadvantages:
1. Highway noise and handling (obvious)
2. Lots of mods required to gain performance
3. High cost of required modifications

Summary: This was my first real "rock crawler" and was built with the height of technology available in 1996-97 (just before the "buggy" trend). I used everything learned from prior projects, and invested in axles first, clearance, traction, durability, etc. Excellent performance off-highway, reasonable comfort on. Lots of money required to gain that compromise.
 
Several Pictures

Modifications:
35" tires
Long travel suspension
ARB lockers
Rhino Lining throughout
Winch
Custom Bumpers
Automatic Trans
, etc....
Fall 1998

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 3

Highway: 4

Expedition: 2


Value: 2


Overall: (1-20)

11
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee- 6cyl, Automatic

Advantages:
1. Good trail performance
2. Comfortable
3. Good highway performance

Disadvantages:
1. Some Reliability Issues
2. Lift required even for moderate tire size
3. Fit and finish

Summary: The Grand Cherokee makes for a good trail vehicle with excellent articulation and low range gearing (2.72:1). Great on the road. All of these positives are overshadowed by poor reliability
 

Modifications:
31" tires
2" teraflex Lift
Swaybar disconnects

Spring 1999

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 4

Highway: 3

Expedition: 2

Value: 2


Overall: (1-20)

11
1998 Jeep Wrangler (TJ) Sahara- 6cyl, Automatic

Advantages:
1. Awesome trail performance with minimal mods
2. Great ride quality
3. Easy to modify

Disadvantages:
1. Not cheap with the right options
2. Everyone has one!
3. Weird handling without long arm kit when lifted

Summary: This Jeep performed excellent off-highway, with even minimal modifications. I was able to drive the vehicle through the Woodpecker trail stock. The vehicle was not cheap with the modifications though, totaling over 30K.
 
Several Pictures

Modifications:
33x10.5 BFG At's
ARB bumper
Warn rear Bumper
M8000 winch
Hella 4000 lights
Teraflex lift
D44 with LSD
Swaybar Disconnects
etc.
Summer 1999 1996 Venture Craft Sportsman Tent Trailer (Currently Own)  
Spring 2000

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 3

Highway: 4

Expedition: 1
(reliability)

Value: 2


Overall: (1-20)

10

1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee- 6cyl, Automatic

Advantages:
1. Comfortable
2. Good trail performance
3. Great road manners and safety

Disadvantages:
1. Transmission issues
2. Dana 35 Rear Axle
3. High cost of ownership

Summary: If Jeep could only make a reliable product... Great style, power, performance and safety. Horrible execution.

 

Modifications:

30" BFG At's
Powertrax rear locking differential

Summer 2001

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 4

Highway: 4

Expedition: 5

Value: 5


Overall: (1-20)

18
1998 Isuzu Trooper- 6cyl, Automatic (currently own)

Expeditions West Recommended Vehicle!

Advantages:
1. Off-highway performance
2. Very reliable
3. Low cost of ownership

Disadvantages:
1. Poor aftermarket support for major modifications
2. Bland styling
3. Front seats (unsupportive and hard)

Summary: The Isuzu Trooper is the best value in the SUV market! Period! This vehicle was designed for expedition travel in harsh, remote environments. everything is overbuilt (9+" ring gear in rear axle), massive disk brakes, drive shafts, etc. Off-highway travel is impressive with g80 LSD, long travel suspension, generous ground clearance and 107" wheelbase. The Trooper does not have the "cachet" of other platforms, which is what makes it such a great value. Does require a shock upgrade from stock to limit pitch on and off road.


More Info

Modifications:
285/75 Tires (33")
OME Suspension
Onboard Air
Engle Fridge
2m radio
FRS radio
etc.

Winter 2001

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 2
(size)

Highway: 3

Expedition: 5

Value: 2
(very expensive for age)


Overall: (1-20)

12

1985 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60- 6cyl, 4-speed

Advantages:
1. Extreme Reliability/Durability
2. Resale Value
3. Cargo capacity

Disadvantages:
1. too big for my taste
2. Marginal highway usefulness
3. Not much else...

Summary: This really came down to personal preferences. The FJ60 is a fantastic vehicle, with wonderful character and reliability. Lots of historical value and aftermarket support. This was a perfect, grandpa driven TLC that I purchased with only 90k miles. It was just to big and perfectly original to modify (in my case). I was given an offer I could not refuse, so it is gone now. The FJ60 would (and does) make a great expedition vehicle!

 

Modifications:
31" BFG Tires
Aussie Mirrors
Some resto work

Spring 2001

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 3


Highway: 2

Expedition: 3

Value: 2
(VERY expensive for age)


Overall: (1-20)

10


1977 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40- 6cyl, 4-speed

Advantages:
1. Cool
2. Reliable / Durable
3. Cool (did I already say that?)

Disadvantages:
1. Fuel economy
2. You cant modify one this perfect
3. VERY Expensive to buy and maintain/restore

Summary: This was the most fun/coolest vehicle I have ever owned. I drove it for 4+ years and sold it for more than I paid (less mods). The truck was a perfect, unmodified (relatively) gem. I did use it off-highway, and it was very capable. No breakdowns with over 160k miles. These vehicles continue to appreciate and are rare in original form. Really a collectors car in this form.
I recently sold this vehicle to one of my best friends with first option to buy it back.


More info

Modifications:
33x9.5 tires
Factory A/C
Rear Locker
Resto Work
Spring 2002

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 4

Highway: 4

Expedition: 1
(reliability)

Value: 1
(expensive to purchase and maintain)


Overall: (1-20)

10

2001 Land Rover Discovery II- 8cyl, Automatic

Advantages:
1. High Payload
2. Low center of gravity
3. Solid Axles
4. Long travel, coil suspension
5. Excellent ride and handling on most tracks
6. Good Driving position
7. Good aftermarket support to address weaknesses

Disadvantages:
1. Traction Control System
2. Lack of CDL (available in 2004 discovery's)
3. Reliability
4. Cramped drivers quarters
5. Poor resale
6. Poor mileage, requires premium fuel


Summary: This is the most difficult review to write, as the vehicle is a pallet of contrasts. Performance is excellent with a center differential lock in place. We had several issues with the ABS/Traction Control system. We loved this truck, and enjoyed the performance, style and safety that is provided. It is just not appropriate for unsupported expedition travel, which is what I do...

If you want a Land Rover product, I would recommend the simplicity of the series I discovery or Defended units. Just be familiar with the vehicle and make sure it is well serviced.



More Info

Modifications:
OME Suspension
DAP winch mount
Factory Brush Guard
Hella H4000's
Load Liners
Etc.
Summer 2002

Rating (1-5)
Trail: 5

Highway: 3

Expedition: 3

Value: 2
(Lots of $$ in mods)

Overall: (1-20)
13

1995 Jeep Wrangler Sahara- 6cyl, 5-speed (currently own)

Advantages:
1. Performance
2. Reliability
3. Ease of Modifications

Disadvantages:
1. Modification Costs (over twice the vehicle price)
2. Highway comfort
3. Storage space

Summary: This is a purpose built vehicle that can still drive at 80mph on the highway for extended periods and handle light expedition work. The extensive modifications has created a great 4+ trail vehicle that can still be driven on the highway. The vehicle has been on most of the "big" trails in the southwest. I can't really recommend the vehicle as an exceptional choice, as there is not much that hasn't been modified...



Major Modifications:
D44
ARB Lockers
ARB Bumper
OME Suspension
33x10.5 BFG MT's
LOTS MORE...

Spring
2004

Rating (1-5)
Trail:
4

Highway:
4

Expedition:
5

Value:
4

Overall: (1-20)
17


2004 Toyota Tacoma TRD Double Cab SR5 (currently own)

Expeditions West Recommended Vehicle!

Current Project
guide@expeditionswest.com