The Road Less Traveled: Unique Vehicles of Overland Expo East

William Cowper once said that “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor,” and after attending seven Overland Expos I’d have to agree. You see, while the attendees’ experiences can change year to year with new classes and instructors, those of us working the booths wind up seeing the same things over and over again. I have to admit that it can be a little bit maddening, which is why last May I wandered out into the campground to try something a little bit different. Instead of only focusing on the expert craftsmanship and cool features of the vehicles in the vendor sections, I wanted to see the most unique vehicles of the event. From carefully executed DIY builds to outrageous camper conversions, we’d cover anything that left us staring in admiration or plain confusion. I was certainly amused, but as it turns out so were others, so now we’re back at it again for Overland Expo East 2017.

VW buses aren’t known for subtle paint jobs, but this awesome van has really taken earning its stripes seriously. Check out where it has been at

Many of us have a passion for both motorcycles and four-wheel drives, which can make choosing just one to travel with a difficult choice. Of course if you’re like this owner, you could find a way to take both.

We’ve seen some impressive four-wheel drive conversions to E-series vans over the years, but this one below just might be the largest. We wouldn’t want to take it down any trails, but it would be a perfect beach camper.

How many odd things can you find on these Suburbans? We found quite a few, including some very aftermarket upgrades…

Hey, it’s sort of a four-wheel drive—just with paws. Honestly, this little guy was so strange to see running around on a leash that I had to grab a photo. I’d say he drew almost as much attention as the EarthRoamer.

This certainly isn’t a traditional way to sleep in a roof top tent, but you can’t argue with what works! We just hope they don’t get up in the middle of the night and forget where they are.
We’ve been digging four-wheel campers for some time, but there’s usually a lot of wasted space with the slide-in design. This owner solved that issue with a flatbed and storage boxes beneath the camper. We think the final result came out pretty well.
Can you spot what’s weird with this FJ? It’s just peeking out!
The more we look at the van above, the more interesting it gets. From the rear extending slide out, to the side ventilation and hard walls, we’re dying to know how it sets up and breaks down.
This FJ60 seemed pretty normal at first glance, but then I began to notice things. The stripe that suddenly ends at the front quarter panel for example, or more importantly the tent ladder. I just can’t stop wondering where they store it! What do you think?
There are more than a few lifted Subarus running around these days, but this one really takes it up a notch. Just look at that suspension! It’s almost as impressive and crazy as this guy’s porch below!
There are very few times that I truly do a double-take, but I certainly did for this Jeep. Why you ask? One word—bazooka.
This gorgeous Landy really stole my heart. I love my A/C and ability to do highway speeds in North America, but sitting in this DIY custom pop-top truck, I felt like maybe taking things a little slower could be a good thing. Expect a full feature on this truck shortly!

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Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Senior Editor while living full-time on the road.