11 Adventure Rigs from This Year’s Overland Expo
A crew of our editors recently attended the Flagstaff event to check out the latest overlanding gear and the thousands of vehicles that drove in from around the world. Here are 11 of our favorites.
An overlanding setup—a vehicle equipped with camping gear and off-road upgrades—is an instant base camp for whatever you do in the backcountry, be it biking, skiing, or hiking. Outdoor enthusiasts are running with the idea, and the marquee event to show off your rig is the semiannual Overland Expo, which takes place in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the spring and Asheville, North Carolina, in the fall. A crew of our editors recently attended the Flagstaff event to check out the latest overlanding gear and the thousands of vehicles that drove in from around the world. Here are 11 of our favorites.
Above: Mike Montanez, a former Air Force pararescueman, modified his 2014 Toyota 4Runner for his new business, Ten8 Rescue, which teaches rescue techniques to the overlanding community. Since such vehicles are often on high-consequence roads, Montanez wants people to be prepared in the event that, say, a car rolls down an embankment. He carries a rope kit in the back and chose parts, like his 4x4Labs front bumper, that can act as an anchor if he needs to repel down to rescue a driver. He also plans to outfit the inside of the 4Runner to accommodate a wilderness stretcher.
2004 Subaru WRX Wagon
Vans, Tacomas, and Jeeps were the most popular vehicles at the expo. But there were also a handful of tricked-out Subarus, which we’ve always loved for their smart all-wheel-drive systems. This one, owned by Parker Pulido of Las Vegas, Nevada, still has its stock turbo engine but came to the Expo outfitted with all-terrain tires, a new front bumper and light bar, undercarriage armor to protect the differential, and stiffer Forester struts. All that turns an already capable little car into an off-roading beast.
1991 Toyota 70 Series Land Cruiser
We admit it: we have an obsession with vintage Land Cruisers. Toyota built many of them with key off-road features like locking differentials and solid front axles. This right-hand-drive version caught our eye because it’s a rare import from Japan, with a diesel engine that has tons of power for when you’re weighed down with overlanding gear like a rooftop tent or a trailer. It also has better fuel economy than its gas counterparts. If you’re interested, these beauties are becoming slightly easier to get, thanks to businesses like Land Cruisers Direct.
1976 Chevrolet High Top Van
Modern Sprinter vans are sexy, but we also dig this old-school Chevy. It’s owned by Wendy and Bill Spencer from Greeley, Colorado, and still has the original pop-top bed area and four-wheel-drive system. Over the past three years, they’ve added a 350 small-block Chevy engine and transmission, plus off-road features like Bilstein shocks. (You can watch the conversion process on their YouTube channel.) Inside, there’s a full living space with kitchen, heater, and solar-powered electrical system.
2012 Toyota Hilux with MotorHome Time Slide-In Camper
At first glance, it looks like a standard Tacoma with a camper. We chose it, however, because it’s actually a Toyota Hilux, the tougher, diesel cousin of the Tacoma. You can’t buy the Hilux in the States, but the truck is legendary among overlanders (thanks in part to the guys from Top Gear). This one is owned by Monica Amato and Mariano Barros, who drove it north from Argentina through 13 countries, logging almost 19,000 miles. They’re now headed to Vancouver, then Chicago, New York City, and Miami. From Miami, they’ll ship the truck to Uruguay, then drive it back home.
1993 Jeep CJ-8
Toyotas get a lot of love in the overlanding community, but the venerable Jeep Wrangler (in all it’s many forms) is a classic American 4×4 that we’d be remiss to leave out. We chose this heavily modified Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler because it’s both rare and awesome. Produced between 1981 and 1986, it has a longer wheelbase than the CJ-7 and a truck-bed-like rear, meaning you got more storage space and the same trail worthiness. Owner Ken Josten swapped in heavy-duty axles and is running 35-inch tires.
2016 Mercedes Sprinter Van
The Mercedes Sprinter is what everyone with even the faintest interest in #vanlife aspires to. Kristen Bor’s 2016 4×4 model is one of the coolest examples we’ve seen. Her custom build included 180-watts of solar with a 375-amp-hour battery bank, an onboard shower, and a cabin layout that maximizes interior space.
1964 Forward Control Series 2B Land Rover Military Vehicle
This super-rare Land Rover, owned by Jan and Leone Vorster of South Africa, has been on the road nearly full-time since 1998 and has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles. The modifications are many, but some of the highlights include a GMC 6.5-liter V-8 diesel engine, as well as pedals and steering-wheel slots on both sides of the cockpit, so it can be driven in whichever country the couple find themselves exploring.
1995 Bluebird School Bus and 1967 Volkswagen Beetle
Larry Stuber calls his bus the Ark, and he specifically chose a Bluebird model because repair parts are available in various countries around the world. (He plans to take it to South America eventually.) Inside, there’s enough room to sleep four, plus a toilet, shower, kitchen, and solar electricity. Stuber tows his 1967 Beetle with all-terrain tires and uses the car to explore once he and his family have picked a camp spot.
1986 Volkswagen Type 2 T3 Vanagon High Top
Kristen and Steve Zaporowski of Tucson, Arizona, own this Vanagon High Top, which has an engine from GoWesty, the country’s most well-known VW-van restoration shop. It’s also lifted, with all-terrain tires and a bike rack, and has a totally renovated interior.