I’ve managed to narrow down the model of Hilux Surf that would be most suitable for the type of trip we are planning. A 1994 - 1996 Hilux Surf KZN130 with a 3L 1KZT diesel motor seems to be the only model that has a reliable reputation, all the others, especially the 2.4’s have problems with over-heating and cracked cylinder head/blown head gaskets. From what I’ve read on many of the forums it seems other than the 2.4 engine issues the Hilux Surf is a tank. The Generation 3 (95 – 02) models also share a chassis with the Landcruiser Prado, only reinforcing the tank reputation. On the whole a great condition Surf tends to be a lot cheaper than the Landcruiser, which is great news for our bank managers and pockets.
My only concern is the availability of spares worldwide. A lot of Surf’s have been exported to South Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia; so hopefully the spares are out there. We will obviously carry a selection of essentials with us; tie rod ends, all belts, axle shafts, axle & driveshaft U-joints, spare wheels (x2), wheel bearings, spare hub, brake pads/shoes (full set), fuses, radiator hose, all other hoses, hose clamps, air filters (x3), fuel filters (x5) and oil filters (x3) seem like a good starting list, if anyone has anymore suggestions please comment. A great source for spares in the UK is Milner 4x4.
What is also handy is that if we can’t find a suitable vehicle locally, a local dealer who specializes in importing cars could source us one from the UK or Japan to our direct spec and have it fully checked before we buy it and get it shipped over for us.
Now all we need to do is decide on the Hilux Surf or Landcruiser. Maybe I’ll flip a coin.
Ok, so I’ve been searching ebay for possible vehicles and seeing what is out there. I have found a few expedition prepared vehicles for reasonable prices. Buying an already prepared vehicle does seem like a good way to save some cash, although it could also be a very easy way to flush some money down the pan. If a vehicle is already expedition prepared it is likely to have already taken some heavy abuse. It's a bit of a gamble.
It also makes sense to see what is available locally too. Living on a small island like Guernsey means that vehicles here don’t rack up a huge mileage and that they rarely get driven faster than 40mph, a good start when looking for a reliable expedition vehicle.
Ideally our perfect vehicle is a Toyota 80 or 90 series Landcruiser, which has been owned by a family and only used to do the school run, unfortunately there are not a huge amount of them on the island. We do however have an abundance of late 1990's Twin Cab Toyota Hilux and Toyota Hilux Surfs as well as many Mitsubishi L200’s or Warriors as they are commonly known around here. Unfortunately most of these pick-ups have been used as work horses and so the chances of finding one that hasn’t taken a battering are fairly slim, although I know there are a few out there.
Just checking the prices on ebay it seems that these two cars sell for much less than the desirable Landcruisers of a similar age. I’ve been trying to find as much research on these two vehicles to see if either of them are up to the job.
When selecting a vehicle you need to take several things into consideration. Firstly reliability, does the vehicle have a reputationas being reliable? I have already been warned about the 2L turbo diesel Hilux's and Surf's, as they are notorious for blown head gaskets and cracked heads. Apparently some of the 4 door Hilux's have a 3L non-turbo diesel lump which is a much better motor. There is a stack of information about Toyota's diesel engines on this website. I need to check up on the L200, but I think they have the same running gear as the same year Delica's, these 4x4 people carriers have a good rep in Canada. In fact there are plenty of these on the island too. Possibly worth a look? This website has plenty of information about an expedition Delica. The L200 had a build issue in 2003, so these are to be avoided.
Another point to consider is the availability of spares, the Landcruiser certainly ticks that box but do the Hilux and L200? Both the L200 and the Hilux have been exported around the world but not to the extent of the Landcruiser. Is this really going to be a problem? We are going to carry some essential spares with us and surely if the worst comes to it we can DHL them....Hmmmmm tough call! Whatever vehicle we choose, it needs to be comfortable as well as practical. The Landcruiser is obviously fairly luxurious in comparison to a utility vehicle like the L200, is this going to sway our selection?
One factor that I had initially neglected was the fact that the truck/car needs to fit into a shipping container, luckily our budget is pretty much the deciding factor to that problem.
If anyone has any queries regarding expedition vehicles a good place to start is the Expedition Portal website. They have a great forum with members from all over the world who can offer great advice.
Anyway, enough from me for now. I'm going to have another search on Ebay.