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


11 pages and not one mention of Suburban!

'85-'91 model . . . Add a second fuel tank from Blazer at a junk yard for a 600+ range and hit the road!
Where would this second tank mount? I've already got the 40 gallon stock tank in the rear between the frame-rails on my '90 Suburban.


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:
Any ideas on where to source an ARB front bumper for a late 80's or early 90's model Suburban?

Recommended books for Overlanding

Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
by Tom Sheppard
From $147.5
999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
by Dan Grec, Dan Grec
From $19.62
Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around ...
by Elspeth Beard
From $19.95
Motorcycle Messengers 2: Tales from the Road by Writers w...
by Jeremy Kroeker, Ted Simon, Lois Pryce, Billy Ward,...
From $9.99


$15000 Question

Hello Scott
This is my first posting, and hello all. This question is totally inline with my newest purchase. One difference, sleep in. Timing not being optimal for domestic vehicle, I now have a 1985 2dr 110 Hi Top Ambulance coming from South Hampton, for less than a decent 80 series LC. Finding the very best base vehicle, was the top priority with a limited budget. HD everything, rebuilt engine and trans, maintained regardless of cost, and complete history. There will be no roof rack, due to storage capabilities at frame level on LR wagons. Hi Top roof provides a drop down bed, so no worries with high winds, or heavy rains, and a low COG to boot. A simple PVC coated plywood interior. Just need to add solar panel to roof, water filtration with shower hook up, fridge, and fit Porta Potti, to complete living area. Your parameters, means a good winch will be needed, and new rear carrier also added. Having a head start with vehicle being in top shape, and I have a bit of $ leeway to add a few goodies, to make the trip more comfortable. IMHO
Greg Sr


Fauxverland Extraodinaire
considering that many routes can be done on established roads, I'd buy my Westy, load up my camp gear. Sell my belongings to recoup my costs and start with all my $15k to put towards gas. hehehe Ask me when I have my next vehicle (if)


Osage Hilltopper
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 owned a Ford and now drive Mopar. I agree the gaps in reliability have narrowed.

But if traveling to the southernmost tip of the Americas, I would take a Toyota if for no other reason than parts availability. IMHO of course. Probably a 80 series but maybe a 100. I know they are EFI which is more uncommon, but at least the parts network is better supported for this marque above others.
Last edited:

Mike S

Sponsor - AutoHomeUSA
Most people who make similar trips just buy an FJ60, do some engine baseline work, put tires and suspension on it, add an RTT, HL jack, fridge, storage boxes, etc. and drive. Less than $15K - easy.


I've already built it! When do we leave?

One overland expedition vehicle=simple, frugal on fuel, reliable, easy to repair, room for the gear, Ability to travel in bad conditions/weather.

She only has 113k original miles. She's been completely rebuilt from the frame up. All lines and rubber hoses replaced. OME suspension, Big late model brakes, extended vent lines, and tons of other little details covered. Still have $5k or so left over to do a LITTLE outfitting for South America. Like put my ramsey winch on the front. If I went luxo and pulled the M416 I might add one of compact campings Moab tents. Trade the cooler for a fridge. A couple of fuel and water juggs in the trailer.

There are some great ideas here. I love the premise of this thread. Do it cheap and make it happen. Way too many people get caught up in the gear. What do you really need? Reliable transportation for rough roads. A warm place to sleep out of the rain. A way to carry and cook food. some spare clothes. That's it. Travel in general is much more about what you keep between your ears than it is about what you are driving or the equipt yoou carry.

My '88 Trooper original build.

Current project thread.


I am presently building my budget expedition/bug out vehicle

1999 Ford f250 Extended cab, long bed, 4x4 with the 7.3L Powerstroke cost me $4500

Procomp Shackle leveling Kit $189.00 delivered new

315/75/16 BFG All terrains $900 out the door

Turbo back exhaust $375.00 Shipped used

DIY Intake $80.00

Cobra 29LTD Classic $65.00 shipped

Sportsmans Guide "Guide gear" truck tent $69.97 plus shipping

still more to come such as gauges, 6 position custom burn chip, HID headlight conversion, Bilstein shocks, Eaton steel wheels, etc
Last edited:


New member
I know this is an old thread, but as I read it I am struck by something. Over and over again see people saying that they would choose a Toyota pickup and load it down to what must be close to the vehicle's GVWR (if not over in some cases) and upsize the tires, creating more stress on the axles and frame than it was designed to take. It would be one thing if this were being done to new vehicles, but people are saying that they would do this to vehicles that are 10 or 20 years old (or more). I question how reliable these trucks really are under these circumstances. Don't get me wrong, I think that older vehicles can be reliable - I am currently having a 1986 Chevrolet military pickup redone. But one of the reasons for that choice was the beefy nature of the vehicle and the fact that those 80's GM trucks are still all over today. The question becomes, will a Toyota pickup running around close to its 5,000 to 6,000 lb. GVWR really be more reliable than a full size heavy duty truck running around 1,500 to 2,000 lbs under its GVWR?



I only found one post that mentioned the time frame.... 6 months!

Have no idea how the motels are or the costs but I'd bet you'll be staying in them taking any SUV.

It was an interesting thread to read and as to the over building SUVs.

I'm pretty sure the trip can be done with a pretty stock vehicle, add under armor for peace of mind. I'd take off in my stock F150. I'd also pull a trailer and take the Transalp.

6 months on and off road is a long time to be living off the grid, I didn't see anyone mention a gen set. I'd sure like to have A/C at base camp. I'd be using a microwave too, can't always start a fire just anywhere with security issues. I'd also think that while I like solar, I wouldn't go there for this overland.

A Van, Suburban or Expedition could carry the loads required, but I can't imagine 6 months out without taking stuff and there just isn't room for stuff in the mid-size or small vehicles. There was a requirement as to comfort. Taking a motorcycle means very limited assets on the road, basically homeless for 6 months. It's going to take a full size truck for comfortable support assets for 6 months. Remember there are 2 people.

I like the RTTs, very cool for a few weeks, I'd not want to live in one half the year. Being in any small tent over 30 days, the fun wears off. A large wall tent, 10x18 maybe, but a hard sided camper will make life easier. A tear drop as a minimum. A pop-up would work, probably modify a small travel trailer lifting it a few inches. A bob-tail truck conversion would also be good. Mild off road stuff, heck a small schoolie might work.

I'm say some members, initially would think nothing of living in a pup tent for 6 months, I did over 30 days years ago and traveled light, not fun, I'd doubt many have actually been out that long. It can be done, but why?

So, I'd suggest a larger vehicle with fewer mods, couldn't count the times ARB bumpers were mentioned, why ? :coffeedrink:
Last edited:

Dan Grec

Expedition Leader
I'd do exactly what I did...

Buy a stock Jeep TJ for $6k, and spend the rest of the money on gas driving to Argentina. I'll still have $2k for beer money along the way :)
(I spent $7k on gas getting there).

Perfect adventure on the cheap vehicle.


Recommended books for Overlanding


Yes Dan, you're right, but I suppose we're going to ignore the 6 months living outside part for two people. Didn't some young lady do a zap down trip in a VW bug?

Dan Grec

Expedition Leader
Yes Dan, you're right, but I suppose we're going to ignore the 6 months living outside part for two people. Didn't some young lady do a zap down trip in a VW bug?
I threw in my 5 year old two person tent and used it almost every night.

Tons of people drive the PanAm in Civics, Jettas, Subarus, etc. etc.