Editor’s note: This vehicle was sold while I was formatting this article.
Dreaming up an overland build often starts with contemplating whether to use an old or new vehicle as your platform. There are pros and cons to each. Do you have the budget for a new vehicle? Are you comfortable with electronic components versus analog ones? Is it essential to be able to drive down narrow, cobbled European or Latin American streets without taking down a restaurant umbrella? This 1981 Toyota Sunrader offers up many pros of choosing a mature vehicle as an overland platform.
With 119,000 miles, this Sunrader might not be fast, but it is a capable off-pavement platform with lots of clearance, worldwide parts availability, ample living space, and the ability to fit in a small car parking space. It has also undergone many upgrades, including a new upsized 1-inch bore brake master cylinder from LC Engineering, a new muffler, rear brakes, Koni shocks and springs, headlights, and resealed exterior windows. A Northwest Trail Innovations front bumper and a custom aluminum roof rack and rear bumper add a modern touch to this cute-as-a-button antiquated Toyota.
“I love the capability of the vehicle off-road in 4WD low-range with the rear locker. [I’ve been to] some campsites no one else could get [to] on a 3,700-mile trip with my fiancé, from Washington to the Southwest and Baja California over seven weeks. [It] starts up and runs like a dream, keeps up with modern motorhomes on the passes, and cruises [at] 60 mph down the highway comfortably. Parks in a regular grocery store parking space [too]. Next upgrades would be an outdoor shower and mix the blackwater tank for a Nature’s Head marine composting toilet.”
5-speed manual transmission, 22R engine
Toyo Open Country AT 30×9.5R15 tires
New upsized 1-inch bore brake master cylinder from LC Engineering
New Flex-A-Lite fan
New rear brakes
GM 8.5 Posi-Track rear axle
Rear airbags with Koni shocks and springs
Auxiliary gas tank with switching valve by the driver’s seat
New paint on the truck cab
New Northwest Trail Innovations front bumper with powder coat
Custom aluminum roof rack with solar setup
New custom-built rear aluminum bumper
New aluminum rear ladder
Resealed exterior windows
New headlights with integrated turn signals
New Ventline Ventadome manual vents in the roof
New insulated blackout curtains with extra curtain fabric included
Newly reupholstered rear cushions with marine canvas
New vinyl flooring
Force 10 marine propane stove and oven
All lights upgraded to LED
Two batteries located under front step with Blue Sea Systems fuse panel
40-gallon water tank with a Shurflow pump
System updated with Pex plumbing
Propane on-demand hot water heater
Located in Port Townsend, Washington, this 1981 Toyota Sunrader is listed for $39,000. Check out the full vehicle specs or contact Johnny via the original Craigslist ad here.
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