Hooniverse Asks: What vehicle would be the starting point for your overland build?

Let’s say you were looking to pack up the wife, kids, and maybe a dog. You want to get out and explore, and you want a vehicle that can take you far off the beaten path and then provide shelter once you’re away from others. The world of overlanding is calling you. What vehicle would you use to answer that call?
There are many excellent platforms out there from which to choose, and all cater to a wide range of budgets. Our own Christopher Tracy is doing entertaining day trips and weekend getaways with his Land Cruiser. Friend of Hooniverse Zach Bowman packed up his family for an entire year on the road and he used a Dodge truck fitted with a large camper shell. 
If you were looking to head off into the sunset, what vehicle would you want rolling beneath your feet?

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57 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What vehicle would be the starting point for your overland build?”

  1. FastPatrick Avatar

    Are we planning on a life on the road here or just a weekend (or week or so) in and past the hills?
    For anything less than a mobile-home situation: A brand-new Jeep Wrangler with a bunch of good camping gear in back.
    Longer-term? Oh, the planning.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Your choice!

    1. kogashiwa Avatar

      That’s only Slightly Off-Kilter Max. Needs more random components welded to it.

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      “I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Pontiac.”

      1. Alff Avatar

        Pontiac always followed along in Chevrolet’s wake.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Pontiac was never more than half the car Chevrolet was.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    Boring answer, but plenty of space, and you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere in North America where you couldn’t get parts and service for a Chevy Express.
    For whimsy, why not a Matra Rancho?

    1. Alff Avatar

      Kundalini wants his hand back.

    2. Alff Avatar

      I like the Rancho but would go Holden Sandman for maximum whimsy.

    3. Alff Avatar

      The Rancho would tread lightly, perhaps too lightly. How about this? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db9e72f0385fd2eb74239cd35eef60573b707ea2c3adfaf80b680210fd932a5d.jpg

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Overlanding and zombie apocalypse do go together pretty well.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Is there any research whether zombies are color blind?

          1. Alff Avatar


          2. nanoop Avatar


          3. Alff Avatar

            Zombie Magnet Yellow. Play on a tired meme.

      2. Maymar Avatar

        Paint job isn’t as rad as I would expect from a Sandman, but I think I mostly just fixated on Rancho for being plus Francais.

      3. outback_ute Avatar

        Great suggestion, for US readers this is an aftermarket Overlander conversion to turn the Holden into a 4×4. The 308 V8 is pretty stout, Turbo 400 trans, I forget what transfer case, and Dana 60 diffs from memory. Overall they are pretty overbuilt – finding one will be the hard part! I’d be surprised if there are more than 50 Overlander vans in existence.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Airstream B190 converted to 4wd.
    Or a slide-in camper on an H3T Alpha.
    Or a custom build on an H2. (I can’t find any images online of anyone having done this, but this is what I’m leaning toward)

  4. Victor Avatar

    I have had this for years it works for camping,just not long term. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ef9d65bf0aa6190f57f5b5f14aa5a907af5ab37b80ef5c7412ac48c404567281.jpg

  5. Sjalabais Avatar

    Arctic trucks has that covered:
    Bonus: In most countries of the world you’ll look like mafia and will get the right of way without asking. Also, a tent will do fine for overnighting purposes.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Rooftop tents have come pretty far since the 50ies, also adds to the rear-mirror profile’s intimidation -> more right injustice of way!
      I can’t take these too serious, a neighbor in downtown Dresden had one in white, with snorkel, new. I thought it was a cool car to have, until I saw him plucking a maple seed off the hood with a handkerchief. I may be too judging, but that’s one of the cars where a dirt crust looks more than appropriate.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Yeah, I agree. Dunno about the German fascination with survival vehicles. But when I see them, they carry their own traffic jam, and are not allowed to go offroading anywhere but in designated areas anyway. But for spending a couple of months in Central Asia, such a rig would be tolerable.

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    I’d go with something recommended by the factory for such exploits:
    with the demonstrable advantage of being easy to push when stuck.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      I always saw you more as a WildGoose type of person specially given it’s claimed top speed, perfect for the car racing type.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    The answer depends. Are you doing a year or more around-the-world trip like the guy here: http://transworldexpedition.com/? Then a 80 or 100 Series Land Cruiser is your best bet. Parts are easily sourced around the world, especially in areas that don’t have an auto parts store on every other corner, since the UN has used them for years on peacekeeping missions.
    Are you cruising the highways and biways of North America with an occasional excursion into the backcountry? I would go with a LR3 or LR4.
    Are you doing the Trans America Trail and will be spending a month or more off road? I’d go with a Jeep Wrangler outfitting with recovery gear.
    Do you have stupid amounts of money? Your answer to all three above should be this:


  8. Professor Boonanahot Avatar
    Professor Boonanahot

    I’ve always liked the no-nonsense early Troopers.
    Most of what you need from a Land Cruiser, for 1/6th of the cost!
    Just uh…be gentle on the IFS.

    1. kogashiwa Avatar

      Along the same lines of overlooked Land Cruiser alternatives, I’d seriously look at a 1st gen Montero.

      1. Troggy Avatar

        They were good machines, but the early generations were renowned for transmission issues. Over here they were called the Pajero, but they had to be renamed for the Spanish-speaking market. Apparently Pajero is a naughty word in Spanish meaning… owner-operator… if you catch my drift.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Has there ever been a Mitsubishi that hasn’t had transmission issues? It’s the #1 thing to pip up in my head when I see the three diamonds.
          The Isuzu Trooper is such a perfect piece of cubism. I loved them as a kid.

        2. Alff Avatar

          So they renamed it Rendezvous?

          1. Troggy Avatar

            Really? My knowledge of Spanish is restricted to a few naughty words and how to ask to find the toilet.

  9. Jakub Kedzierski Avatar
    Jakub Kedzierski

    The IH SCOUT, of course.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      I love ’em, too, but in all honesty, it would rust out before you got very far.

  10. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    Unimog is always the right answer for these ocassions https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ef/fa/7e/effa7e4a3b897ad5f705743253e4813d.jpg

    1. nanoop Avatar

      My thought, too. The middle straight hoods (5th from left) are optimum between price, repairability (as in: blacksmith can fix), and modernness (as in: workshop can fix).
      One or two generations after that they reduced the cross-country mobility, since they were forced to negotiate gravity constant G if they wanted to continue – and 99% of the drivers would never see the limits with a telescope.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        The newest Unimog doesn’t have a hood? Multicar’s belated victory!

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Kudos to those overlanding a Multicar – I tried finding an image, but that seems to be uncharted territory.

  11. nanoop Avatar

    Last Call-ish reply:
    I’ve met a Swiss couple in Kirgizstan that drove a 4×4 VW LT from the Alps to Pakistan, China, India, and criss-crossing the Silk Roads. They said it was a good choice if it had been a RWD. They had more than one situation where they had to wait for 4×4-specific parts, whereas there were RWD parts cars at arm’s length.
    So ten years ago, a RWD LT would have been my answer for Europe->China, but I’d stick to established “secondary roads” (farm tracks) in the hinterland. Since the German cars from the 80ies have started to disappear from K’stan (@Sjalabais:disqus told us so) I’d probably take something Japanese for Central Asia.
    For Africa, probably a Landy Defender.
    For North America, whatever you are recommending here.
    South America, Toyota has my money, too.
    Now I wonder if there are Arctic Trucks with insulated living unit around?

    1. Maymar Avatar

      At least on Vancouver Island, there’s a disproportionality high number of Delicas pushed into surf van duty (given how VW vans are getting prohibitively expensive), and I think every time I’ve been to BC, I’ve quickly ended up on Auto Trader looking for one.

      1. kogashiwa Avatar

        I see quite a lot of Delicas here in Manitoba as well. Obviously not as surf vans. They are a very excellent combination of cool and useful.

    2. Texlenin Avatar

      whoot!!! Tatra 813/815 Quadcab Flapside- exactly what I would have chosen. And add Dakar race truck mods….

  12. Troggy Avatar

    For when a trip involves looking for the best back roads to the destination
    It carries everything I need and when I’m in the mood, I can still carve up every land barge wheezing its way through Cunningham’s Gap. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/37b00b03905f07b920dcebb9e92361e3b79ee75ed2d8797f95e6f285c74b7791.jpg

  13. Kerry Manning Avatar
    Kerry Manning

    For weekend warrior my silverado is almost perfect. For full time overlanding a Geolander.

  14. 0A5599 Avatar

    Room for sleeping, room for stuff, and is so adept that it will even go off-road when you aren’t trying!

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Don’t forget the asynchronous four wheel drive.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Sometimes it has asynchronous three-wheels-plus-one-hub drive.

  15. Zentropy Avatar

    The practical but un-sexy answer is the 4th-gen Toyota 4Runner with the V8. It’s reliable, has plenty of torque to handle the add-ons and gear, and has a good stock suspension to start with. It doesn’t have the cool factor of a LR, G Wagon, or LC, but the reliability and potential are solid.
    Alstrom Point 2011  L4-2

  16. Alff Avatar

    I’d like to change my answer. I really think a Jeep-based vehicle makes the most sense for overlanding. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/00fdc854ec4a946b27ebb8448d862a26169a7598ee6831b97e34c19f8d0602ee.jpg

    1. Troggy Avatar

      The front mounted gas cylinders would be one of the best safety features ever conceived to prevent speeding and late braking.

      1. Alff Avatar

        Something tells me speeding will not be an issue.

    2. Vairship Avatar

      ” I really think a Jeep-based vehicle makes the most sense for overloading”/ FTFY.

  17. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I think the optimal choice depends on how capable the vehicle needs to be and parts availability in your travel area. An Econoline 4×4 is fine in the US, iffy in Africa while Land Cruiser 78 parts are rare in Rapid City SD.
    I like the look of the Earthcruisers built on a Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4, plus the factory is just on the other side of town