If you have read my blog recently, you know that I purchased a 1999 Isuzu Vehicross as an overland project vehicle. Doing so is definitely not for the faint of heart, however, with fewer than five thousand sold in United States you will never own a more distinctive vehicle for your travel.
There is a joy in making something that is old new again that just can’t be purchased. It is as intangible as why we travel to remote places and seek out the experience of adventure. For some of us, it is just something we enjoy doing.
On a more practical note, there is also saving to be found. That is, as long you can turn a wrench. Doing repairs yourself is messy work that takes time, but it also takes far less money. Even if you only change your own oil, you have already saved a little. But it is about more than money. There will be a time, whether on a highway or some lonely dusty trail, when something happens. Something is going to break, it always does. Knowing your way around a tool box is best chance for a speedy recovery that won’t kill your wallet.
Sure, you can buy a brand new vehicle that comes with a great warrenty. You could do that. In point of fact there is a very large segment of the population that does exactly that. Even I have done it. But what is the real cost?
With a new vehicle there is always the fear of voiding said warrenty, doing a modification that will negatively impact resale or trade-in value for your next new vehicle, and, you guessed it, monthly payment that stretch for up to seven years. Think about that for a minute. Seven years of $500, $600, even as high as $800 every single month. How much could you do to your ride if that payment didn’t exist? How much could you do if you took that $600 a month, every month, and put it into your overland vehicle? Or even your daily driver?
That was the impetus for my idea, building an amazing overland rig that could also be a daily driver. In truth that has always been my idea. However, paying for a $40,000 vehicle from the start, and building that into a dream machine just isn’t a realistic goal. Not with my budget anyway. This is what started my search for finding the platform that could, realistically, realize my vision of what is, for me, the perfect combination of daily driver and adventure vehicle.
There are a myriad of options out there. After all, four wheel drive was invented in 1893, and a lot have been built since then. The real question would be, what platform? There are iconic names like Jeep, Toyota, Land Rover, and more, and they are all great vehicles. Each has its champions and detractors. Building from these platforms would relatively easy as the aftermarket support is quite large. Aftermarket support for these vehicle exists on a global scale.
So why did I choose Isuzu over there other, munch more common and available names? Because Isuzu is a global name. It is only in North America (United States, Canada, & Mexico) that the name recognition tapers off. In fact, the Diesel engine in the new Chevy Colorado is built by Isuzu in Thailand.
So why the Vehicross specifically? Because it is awesome. There are many in the off-road arena that will say good thing about an Isuzu Trooper. But if you can find someone who even knows what a Vehicross is, they will most always advise against buying it even though it shares many parts with the booth the Isuzu Trooper and even a few models of Honda vehicles.
The number one argument is that body panels are getting hard to replace. This is true. I have a body trim piece on order now from Japan that I will have to wait two months to receive, but I will receive it. There is, of course, the counter arguments of don’t go out to destroy your vehicle, actually take care of your ride, learn how to drive off-road responsibly, and learn how to fix it yourself.
When you have the mentality of don’t buy a vehicle because body panels are getting hard to find, I have to wonder what your ride looks and runs like? That is just not the type of “wheeling” I do. I go into some very remote places, and the vehicle must be able to get me back out again. It is not going to do that if I spend every other weekend bashing the body into every rock and tree I come across. Doing so is just irresponsible.
Yes, I understand accidents happen. They do. However there is a lot that can be done, and should be done, long before you get to that point. I am not saying to baby your rig. They are adventure vehicles after all, but don’t go out looking to see how much you can break your ride just for the bragging rights of crawling over a rock that no one in ten years is even going to remember you did. Unless of course you total your rig. In that case I am sure your friends will give you a hard time for the rest of your life all the while convincing you that its all in good fun and forcing you to accept your lot in the pack as the idiot that ruined what used to be a good off road vehicle.
If, and that is a big if, you want to build an amazing overland vehicle that is truely unique, then buy an Isuzu Vehicross. If you want to buy the same prepackaged, off the shelf, run of the mill parts as everyone else and try to convince others you have assembled them in a “new” way that makes your rig “special”, then buy a Jeep.
Until Next Time …