Meet Puchunguita (Pooh-Choon-Ghee-Tah). Far more than a simple mode of transportation, she’s proven herself as a steady and loyal Sherpa, a persistent and knowledgable navigator, a workhorse in the thickest jungle when the rest of the team is spent, a wordless spokesperson in unknown territories, and a steady mount for one end of a hammock. She’s a psychologist who takes your music selections in stride, no matter what mood you throw at her. Like your favorite bartender, she’ll listen to your good and bad, your whining and celebrating, and if you treat her right (read: keep the secondary battery topped off to power the 12v ARB fridge), she’ll keep serving up your favorite trail-ready cocktails. In short, this 1987 Land Rover Defender 110 is more than 4 tough tires on a chassis with a fancy mark stamped on the hood. She’s a friend.
Ricardo Gonzalez of Caribbean Rovers, Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico, brought the shell of what was to become Puchunguita from Maine to Puerto Rico in 2008. His vision was to restore her from the chassis up, to make her in to a showpiece of a Defender like the Hollywood elite, or stalwart Wall Streeters, would buy. But he also knew that this truck would have to perform off tarmac, both for down-and-dirty off-roading and expedition style, self-sufficient back country overlanding. When lifestyles, priorities and budgets collide slowly, over years of steady use, study and investment, the result is a well-rounded beautiful beast of a Defender. A Defender worthy of the name: Puchunguita.
Among her adventures Puchunguita has carried tourists to all corners of Puerto Rico. On rain-swollen muddy maintenance roads in high-altitude coffee country, and at tranquil beachside campsites with a hammock strung between her roof-rack and a nearby tree (or another Rover), she’s done her job of both looking good and, unquestionably, getting the task at hand done, all the while offering cold drinks and fresh food.
She’s also been shipped from San Juan to Arizona, where she launched a 3,000 mile adventure from Scottsdale to Minneapolis, MN. No, there are not 3,000 miles between those two cities. But Puchunguita never takes the direct route. Who among us does? She went north from Scottsdale to the Hole In The Rock trail outside of Blanding, UT, back to Mormon Lake, AZ, for the 2012 Overland Expo, north again to Grand Junction, CO, over to Boulder, and north on I-25 in to Wyoming.
This beautiful truck from Puerto Rico, with no need for engine heat to warm the cabin until that day, with it’s tropics-ready primary battery that has never heard the term “cold cranking amps,” grumbled its way to life as Ricardo turned the key in 38 degree Wyoming sunrise weather. After the coughing and kerfuffling, however, she didn’t want to stop. She drove east to the Crazy Horse monument, and there, at the entrance to that historic and powerful site, Puchunguita drove through her first falling snow. So much snow that Ricardo got out and made snowballs to throw at his wife, Brenda, who certainly would not let such an aggression stand.
There’s a fine line between looking pretty and getting the serious work of overlanding done. Ricardo has brought this truck to life with enhancements that work, not just enhancements that you can spend money on. Puchunguita is as perfect of an example of the balancing act between “Get The Job Done” and “Cool” as I’ve ever seen.
So, what the heck does Puchunguita mean? Roughly translated from Spanish, it means little sweetie or dearest thing. It’s a name you’d use with only the best, only your favorites. This Puchunguita, she’s that, and so much more.
Here are a couple of video links featuring Puchunguita and her adventures: