The $15,000 Expedition Vehicle: How would you build it?

lamontagne

Adventurer
11 pages and not one mention of Suburban!

'85-'91 model, can be found for under $2500 (rust free here in the desert) till the cows come home.

PLENTY of room for two. No trailer or rooftop tend needed. Remove rear seats and let your imagination run wild!

It would need a full tune-up and all new suspention, but I would keep it stock height and cut the fenders to run 35's and buy the best shocks I could afford. Add a second fuel tank from Blazer at a junk yard for a 600+ range and hit the road!

I estimate this could be done for as little as $8000.
 

SWbySWesty

Fauxverland Extraodinaire
Just to be naughty:

I'd drive my Jeep XJ to South America right now...

BUT: I'd love a pickup, four wheel camper, and a few knick knacks and you've got a $15K expo vehicle that'll go anywhere...
 

CA-RJ

Expo Approved™
$500 forum sourced and like new 35X12.5X18's with 18x9.5 wheels. Hankook MTO3's
You'd have a hell of a time finding a replacement 18" tire if you were to blow one out. Heck, you'd have a hard time getting one at most tire shops here in the US, good luck outside of the US.

Why 18" anyway?
 

alexfm

Explorer
For that price, I'd go with either a late 80's or early 90's model Suburban. Diesel swap, small lift, 35's. Take out the rear seats, add a whole bunch of electronic gizmos. :) Sounds great to me. That, Or I'd throw all 15k into my XJ. Then I'd go with a 2.5in, maybe 3in lift, 31's, ARB Air Lockers front and rear, Rear Tire Carrier, StumpXJ-esque roof rack/RTT thingy, some lights, an ARB front bumper, and a nice winch, Im thinking a new Warn Powerplant just for the cool factor. Oh, and the requisite Safari Snorkel and dual battery set up. I figure I could source all that for about $15,000. :) Oh, and an Engel 45qt. :snorkel:
 
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KLAKEBRONCO

Adventurer
You'd have a hell of a time finding a replacement 18" tire if you were to blow one out. Heck, you'd have a hard time getting one at most tire shops here in the US, good luck outside of the US.

Why 18" anyway?

Lots of places sell those tires. They are however expensive.

I tossed the idea around in my head awhile if I really wanted to go this route.....Ignoring costs, I like this way because I stepped up from a 31 to a 35" tire, and only gained 1" of sidewall. Which is fine by me. This will help maintain decent highway handling.

On top of that I got the tires and wheels together for $500 and the tires are like new.

The 18" 35's have less tire than a 15" 35. So they are lighter. Wheels are of course heavier. Comparing these to stock, I'm probably only gaining 10lbs per wheel. The tires are 20lbs heavier than a 31, but the aluminum wheels are probably 10lbs lighter than my stock steel wheels.

More clearance, more traction, not much more weight, and good highway manners.

The downside is when these tires wear out they will be expensive to replace.....I was going to sell them and go with 15's because of that but the wife was on board despite the future costs so :wings:
 

evldave

Expedition Trophy Winner
11 pages and not one mention of Suburban!

'85-'91 model, can be found for under $2500 (rust free here in the desert) till the cows come home.

PLENTY of room for two. No trailer or rooftop tend needed. Remove rear seats and let your imagination run wild!

It would need a full tune-up and all new suspention, but I would keep it stock height and cut the fenders to run 35's and buy the best shocks I could afford. Add a second fuel tank from Blazer at a junk yard for a 600+ range and hit the road!

I estimate this could be done for as little as $8000.
x2

Get the 2500HD with the 3.5L & TH400, add $2200 for a brand new crate motor and $2-3k for a new tranny & TC and you almost have a completely brand new vehicle that's indestructible but easily fixable :)
 

Outback

Explorer
Part 1

I know this is an "old" question but it is an excellent one! I too have been researching what the best bang for your buck expedition rig would be. For what most of us do (U.S. Members) I would believe that the off road capabilities would not have to be very extreme. In fact even our Overland brothers in other countries would most likely see pretty easy to moderate trails. I am always amazed to see some of these expedition rigs so decked out that it even comes to hamper them on trails. I.E. roof racks with 10 jerry cans full of fuel and a roof top mounted tent. All this on a Series III platform! That thing must have been tippy as hell on the parking lot let alone on some mountain side hill! No thanks! Sure they look cool as hell but what do you really need in the off road capability department? I have been on several Mojave runs (alone and with groups). Only one of those runs required a yank (I believe Scott Brady did the yanking) of a fellow members rig. Other than that most of the run could have been done in 2wd. In fact my first run on the Mojave trail was done in my stock Jeep Sahara years ago all in 2wd. Around here in Nevada you can travel almost all two track roads in 2wd and explore almost all of Nevadas Outback that way! Moutain passes ect do require 4wd for safety reason. Of course 4wd capability is a must for any serious Expedition use. I also wouldnt go out in the Outback in anything but a "well" equipped 4x4. But for most of us a good well maintained 4x4 is all some of us will ever need. Yes we all want to be that guy or Gal who has "THE" expedition rig. Who wouldnt! But 99% of the time its really not needed.

Ok down to the nitty gritty. For me as I said I have been researching just such an "economy" expedition rig. The only exception is I need it for 2 adults and 2 children ages 6 and 9. After all my looking around at exotic (anything not normally available in the U.S) and domestic the choice was pretty clear to me. I wont be going over seas on any expeditions with my family. While some Toyotas like the series 80s ect are very cool I just dont need anything like that. Hell I even checked out a Volvo C306 and a very used C304. On road driving is out the window for anything long distance and while they are very capable off road, and I mean VERY CAPABLE they just are not practicle especially when I need to hit the highway for hours and even days at a time. Parts availability for most of these "exotic" rigs is a joke for the most part. Even the beloved Toyotas can fall into this catagory. Land Rover in my opinion really screwed the pooch on this as well. A few years ago Land Rover stopped its parts program for the older Series rigs at the Land Rover dealers. Now you have to go through I believe Caterpillar to get the older parts. There are several excellent part sources online like Rovers West ect. But still not practical when your stuck in some little town (Like ELY Nevada) with a broken part! I live in Ely so dont say Im bashing it. Also there is a HUGE misconception that Toyotas and the like are so much more reliable than anything U.S. Made. Now thats laughable! While they make a great vehicle (Toyota) They sure as hell break as much as anything U.S. Made! OK so maybe they are better than the "latest" crop of vehicle coming out of the Government Motors Company (GMC). Man I can hear the moans and groans about those last two comments! (my last two work trucks have been Chevy 3/4 and 1 ton Duramax 4x4 trucks. Trust me you dont want one.)
 
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Outback

Explorer
Part 2

For me the obvious decision was something from the domestic market. I preffer the older style vehicles without all the "electronics" and stout running gear. I chose a mid 80s Suburban for my families "Expedition" rig. Specifically the 3/4 ton 4x4 Diesel. The older 6.2 diesel was an excellent very reliable diesel engine. Yes she was under powered but has excellent fuel economy 18 to 20 mpg in stock form and will last as long as 400K if taken care of. These Subs came with Corporate 10 bolt front axles and 12 bolt rears. Np 208 transfer cases and a Turbo 400. Again all pretty stout gear. The 10 bolts are as strong as Dana 44s and the rear 12s are even stronger. If you stay with 35" tires or less I doubt you would ever have any problems. With a Banks Sidewinder Turbo installed you will have one great performing engine and better fuel economy. My brother was getting a real world 22MPG on the highway with his after the install of the Banks kit and it out performed his later model 6.5 turbo Suburban with out the "weak" cylinder issue the 6.5 had! When I was driving it around in Ca for a week I was getting 24 MPG on the highway cruising at 55MPH. Thats several tanks worth of milage testing taking my dad to and from the VA hospital. Of course he had stock size ATs on it (235 85r 16s?) and was stock height. My brother sold his "Old" suburban with over 300K of miles on it. He rebuilt his Turbo 400 at least once that I know of. Not bad for a Big heavy rig if you ask me. To this day he kicks himself for selling her. I kick myself for not buying her!
 
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Outback

Explorer
Part 3

There are several people on here who have the "BIG" Suburbans. Most have the 350 gas V8s in them. They have been proven to be very capable in the off road department and can be built pretty easily with tons of Off Road after market goodies. I like the diesels better since they get almost twice the fuel economy as there Gas brothers. Yes they have there weak points (what vehicle doesnt) but overall they make an excellent platform for an expedition rig! On tight trails one could always go with a 6.2 diesel 4x4 blazer for 2 adults. These can be found pretty cheap as well. For me the Full size Suburban can fit my family of four and also carry all of the supplies including the kitchen sink! Another benefit of the 6.2 diesel is you can covert it to burn Veggie oil! Thats pretty much free fuel and its great on the environment to boot not to mention your wallet. For me this will be my next Full size expedition rig build.
 
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pskhaat

2005 Expedition Trophy Champion
I've never seen an engine swap (unless grossly similar like a Toyota 2F block under a 3F-E head) I'd want to drive around the world, much less outside my own country. Anyone else?
 

Toyotero

Explorer
Part 1
Also there is a HUGE misconception that Toyotas and the like are so much more reliable than anything U.S. Made. Now thats laughable! While they make a great vehicle (Toyota) They sure as hell break as much as anything U.S. Made! OK so maybe they are better than the "latest" crop of vehicle coming out of the Government Motors Company (GMC). Man I can hear the moans and groans about those last two comments! (my last two work trucks have been Chevy 3/4 and 1 ton Duramax 4x4 trucks. Trust me you dont want one.)
I think that statement is true for vehicles made in the last 20 years. In the 1970s and 80s, it was a different story. Toyota forced the American companies to improve quality if they wanted to compete... and even helped in the case of the NUMMI Toyota+GM collaboration.

I think an old Hilux or 4Runner would be a solid and cheap platform to start with. I've seen a lot of 20R/22R/22R-E powered ones in Latin America (except Mexico) so parts shouldn't be too scarce to source locally, at least from a local Toyota dealer.

With that said, I once waited for a week in a little town called Bluff in Utah for a waterpump for a 20R engine. I bet that it could be double that somewhere like Nicragua.

Nice ones can be found for ~ $3-4000. Example 1, 2

Spend another $6k on new parts (alt, starter, plugs, wires, all fluids, 5 tires, bumpers, lights, etc) and you'd be pretty set for $10K

I think that a rig like this is almost exactly like what I'm thinking.
http://www.ramblewriter.com/buythetruck.htm


It wouldn't be the cushiest ride, but it would be a great budget Expo rig.
 

JayGannon

Adventurer
Here's roughly what I would/am doing:
Europe based but giving all these in dollars so some things cheaper some more expensive.
  • 1999 Nissan Patrol GU 4.2TD : 3000
  • Service, Tires and Cleanup : 1500
  • Wood, Runners and Carpet for rear sleeping on drawer platform : 300
  • Nav + Comms Equipment : 1000
  • Warn Winch with Synth Line 2nd Hand : 1000
  • Fridge + Food Storage Containers: 1000
  • Awning : 500
  • Aux Water Tank : 500
  • Stove, Cooking and cutlery, Gravity shower: 500
  • Full Length Roof Rack: 1000
  • Storage: Zarges Cases etc : 1000

Thats about 11k dollars for something that was well kitted out I think. Leaves 4k of wiggle room for parts and unforseen expenses when building.
 

Photomike

White Turtle Adventures
I have been reading this thread for a while, some good ideas.

I do have to laugh because back in the 70's my dad bought a Ford Pinto wagon ~ brand new :wings:. That car went places that many trucks could not go, we slept in the back if the weather was bad and in a tent if it was nice. Roof rack for the extra gear. We would go places in northern Ontario and pass vehicles that were stuck in the snow and mud. In western Canada that car made it to the top of a number of fire tower roads and down many cattle trails in the foothills and in BC we would take it up and down logging roads. With all the bad things about Pinto's this thing ran and ran. One trip the gear shift rattled loose and came out so we needed to use a screw driver to shift (standard), on one trip in northern Ontario we pulled the fuel gauge wire off on a 4x4 road that we high centered on and the car kept running and running.

With all that being said an expedition vehicle is ANY vehicle that works for you. I had a 1991 Toyota Tercel that would go any place I pointed it, in any weather. I loved that car and would still have it today if the drunk that ran the stop sign would have seen us.

Keep up the great ideas on this thread, but remember the best expedition vehicle is the one that you have and can afford.

Back to reading for some more ideas :coffee: :coffee:
 
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