Its been over six months since our last Travelling Two adventure, the consequence of a family crises and personal health problems that took priority over the buzz of travel. During that period my cancer symptoms have continued to creep along and are now making it even more difficult to undertake basic camp duties, so remote and off grid overland travel is not only off the agenda but would be reckless to attempt.
This means that the magnificent 200 Series and TVAN have sat idle, parked on trickle charge waiting for the day they can return to red dirt tracks and outback roads. Although perfectly adapted for overland travel the Landcruiser is a heavy unwieldy vehicle for trundling around the suburbs and country lanes, so we determined that sadly it must go and be replaced by a vehicle that is a better fit for duty.
Within weeks of placing the TVAN for sale we had found a buyer who was interested in adding the 200 Series to the transaction, allowing us to sell the complete integrated package of car and trailer. This was a great outcome for us but we also believe a fantastic solution for the new owners who could head straight out on a trip knowing they were in a proven and fully functioning overlanding combination. The universe couldn’t have done a better job of aligning us with a buyer, Mark and Sue the new owners are great people with experience in desert adventures and who live in South Australia from where some great opportunities to explore commence.
A new chapter = a new rig
Although health compromises mean we won’t be undertaking multi-week overland expeditions the mental and physical benefits of getting out and about are real and we intend to still get outdoors when and where we can. Our new modus operandi will need to be shorter trips nearer to civilisation, mainly accommodation based but with the odd overnight swag trip still hopefully within my capabilities.
While we could have stripped down the Landcruiser to suit this new purpose it was better to move it on to somebody who could use its capabilities and features. This means a new trip vehicle is needed, but still something with genuine off road capabilities.
We have chosen a near-new low kilometre Ford Everest as a replacement touring vehicle which is light and nimble enough to work well around town but which still has genuine off road pedigree for beach trips or bush trails.
The Everest is a 2022 build with the Sport trim level powered by a 3.2l 5-cylinder diesel engine and 6-speed auto transmission. It doesn’t have the mumbo of a V8 Landcruiser but gets along pretty well and can still tow 3.0t if we decide to hire or borrow a camper trailer for a future trip. Its virtually stock standard other than a towbar package, so a few modifications are planned to make it a little better suited for the places we intend to explore.
Project Everest – Phase 1
To prepare the new rig for our future adventures a small project list of improvements is planned. When modifying a 4WD its all too easy to get carried away and fit accessories for appearance rather than function, and this inevitably leads to a heavier and often less capable vehicle. At nearly 4t the Landcruiser was certainly at upper end of the this range and it therefore needed a GVM upgrade, this time we plan to work within the factory GVM limit of 3,100kg.
I’ll bring readers along for the ride once I get stuck into the work, but here is a list of the main upgrades under way.
I’ve always believed that the biggest improvement you can make to a standard 4WD vehicle is a set of decent all terrain tyres and this certainly applies to the Everest. The new rig comes with 20″ x 8″ wheels with 255/50R20 aspect highway biased tyres. These would be okay on a firm beach or well groomed outback road but will soon limit where we can go due to their fragility on stony roads or their lack of grip when things get greasy. To convert our torque into traction we’re fitting ROH Vapour 17″ x 9″ wheels with LT285/65R17 Maxxis RAZR tyres, giving the bigger footprint and rugged light truck construction needed for reliable off road driving.
Next in importance is communication with other road users and for emergency back up, especially on those long outback stretches where coordinating over taking with truckies and other road users is useful. To address this I’ll again install the industry leading GME XRS UHF radio combined with a 2.1dB antenna on a Kaon bonnet hinge mounting bracket.
We won’t be planning a lot of night driving but a decent set of spot lights is good insurance for those times it happens. To minimise weight we don’t plan on fitting a bull bar to the Everest and will instead use a rally bar arrangement to mount a couple of Stedi spot lights, one pencil beam and one spread beam to give coverage down and beside the road.
In case we get stuck and need outside assistance its important that the vehicle has solid rated recovery points, so that recovery operations can be completed safely and effectively. A pair of 5t rated front recovery points will be added, while I’ve already adapted a tow hitch recovery point to suit profile of the Everest’s tow bar.
Electrical fit out is an area where I usually get a little carried away, electing to install a permanent auxiliary battery with fridge and associated electrical systems. This time we want ability to have a completely removable system so the cargo area can be kept empty but quickly be converted for trip use. To accomplish this I’ll make a small false floor for the cargo area onto which we will mount a small fridge powered by a Redarc GoBlock lithium battery, and Travel Buddy for hot meals on the go. This will mean running a couple of auxiliary power circuits with associated fuses, relays and other equipment under the bonnet.
And finally will be a few security and protection accessories. A Blackview dual dash cam will provide 24/7 monitoring in case of an accident or attempted break-in while decent floor mats, weather shields and stone protectors will help to protect and preserve the car from wear and tear.
Over the next month or so I’ll be happily engrossed in the above tweaking and sorting, because after all build up of a vehicle is almost as much fun as using it ;-). Along the way I’ll post on the blog giving some details of each modification and how well (or not) it worked out.
We’ll also start heading out on mini adventures so its inevitable that we’ll identify other changes or mods to make the Everest a better fit for our purpose, keep an eye out for some trip blogs soon.