While it may feel like overlanding is the hot new thing, there have been companies selling quality vehicle-dependent adventure equipment for decades—the godfathers or original gangsters of the industry. There are few organizations as fitting of this title as Expedition Exchange (EE) in Southern California. EE was incorporated in 2001, founded by John Lee and Ho Chung, two Land Rover enthusiasts with a penchant for quality equipment and thoughtful modification to backcountry vehicles. Their backgrounds as attorneys and chemists made the process of vetting manufacturers their forte, and their roster of gear included ARB, Engel, Snow Peak, and others.
John Lee, during our crossing of the Altar Desert of Mexico in 2012.
When I purchased my first Land Rover in 2002, I perused their website in awe of the vehicles, accessories, photographs, and insights John and Ho presented on their pages. Their trips were equally impressive, showcasing stunning imagery and proper backcountry travel. Their semi-secretive, customer-only forum was equally memorable, and a quick education for the uninitiated. While it was difficult for me to admit at the time, I learned a great deal from that community, which adjusted my perceptions on vehicle modifications (certainly), but also many diverse topics from bird hunting to cameras. Admittedly, it could be a challenging environment for the willfully ignorant—in some ways I miss it. The first Old Man Emu springs and shocks I ever purchased were from Expedition Exchange, sometime around 2002 or so. I still call John regularly for advice on everything from watches to Heckler & Koch.
Ho Chung, in the Sierra Pinacate of Sonora, Mexico (2012).
With time, I got to know John and Ho, and my respect for them and their business deepened. They kept product in stock and operated their business debt-free. When a customer needed support, they always seemed to do the right thing. Just the other day, I received an email John Lee sent to his customers admitting to a shipping pricing error. That isn’t some faux customer service mission statement—that is just taking care of people.
In 2006, we launched Overland Journal, and John and Ho stepped up to be one of our first charter advertisers. They also had one of the most attractive ad campaigns in the 13-year history of the magazine. Overland Journal would not exist without the support of those early advertisers.
The Expedition Exchange ads ran in Overland Journal for several years, and are some of my favorite ads ever run in the publication.
In 2012, Jack Quinlan and I hatched a plan to bring a small group of friends to cross the Altar Desert with coil-sprung Land Rovers. John brought his pristine Defender 90, and Ho came with his Trek Discovery II. Other friends in attendance included Sinuhe Xavier and Greg Hirst. It was one of the most enjoyable trips in all of my travels. Shortly after that adventure, co-founder Ho Chung left his full-time role at EE to pursue a career in real estate (Ho’s Brokerage Page).
John’s NAS Defender 90 in the foreground, and Ho’s 2004 Discovery II descending the Altar dune field. John has since replaced the Defender 90 with an NAS Defender 110. Less has always been more with John’s vehicles; it took me a few decades longer than John to learn that lesson.
Expedition Exchange was located in Torrance, California, for most of its 20 years, but recently moved to a brand new commercial storefront in Gardenia. They sell premium overland equipment supported by decades of product knowledge. Congratulations John Lee and Ho Chung on 20 years with Expedition Exchange. Your positive influence on the industry (and me) is appreciated. Check them out online and have a chat with John about your next project, and don’t be surprised if your perceptions might change. 310-817-5004 | expeditionexchange.com
Editor’s Note: Expedition Exchange is not currently an advertiser, and this is not a paid promotion or feature.
Ho’s 2004 Discovery II, parked at the edge of the maar craters in Northern Mexico.
Seeking shade in the Altar. Sinuhe, Greg, Scott (me), Jack, and John. Ho snapped the pic.
John’s Defender 110, parked in front of the Torrance facility. Photo by EE