Hero Builds at 4xOverland
Let's Go Back
It’s been 48 years since my obsession with 4x4s began, and 38 years since I made it a life-long career. Recorded in 2021, this is my journey through every 4×4 I’ve ever owned. At this time, the odometer reads 16 4x4s. I’ve driven about 1,3 million kilometres across 19 countries on five continents.
Chobe River, Botswana, April 1975.
My first day driving off-road. March 1982
The very first time I used a winch. DOn't laugh!
Range Rover. Obsession or mental Illness?
… and purchased a brand new Land Rover One-Ten V8
1993 was the year my first book was published. It went on to be sold in South Africa uninterrupted for 24 years. This was the first cover.
As a result of the book, I was then asked to drive and review a lot of 4WDs. I was even given some long term vehicle loans. The two most memorable ones were a Landcruiser Prado 2nd gen, and a LR Discovery-4.
Toyota South Africa offered me a long-term loan of a Prado 90. I drive it as my primary 4WD. At this time I was building a house, and raising a young family, so sold my Defender to assist. The Prado was an excellent, stable, frugal and a good performer. Not as good off-road as the vehicles I was used to, but a great all-rounder.
The one and only time I drowned an engine.
Range Rover was called the Classic to distinguish itself from the new P38 which was launched in 1996. For a while both were built, and this one was one of the last. It had the ‘soft’ dash, later to be built into the Discovery, and air suspension designed for the P38. It was a 1996 model. I didn’t keep it for long and only did one big trip in it. The air suspension was so too complex, how would I fix if if it went wrong in the bush?
The last of the Range Rover Classics
The search for my next 4WD that would fulfil my desires was long but fruitful. In 2000 I was offered an ex-demo 290GD by Mercedes South Africa. Offered to me at around two-thirds its real value, I learned to adore the G.
I sold it after 127 000 kms, several major expeditions and three years, after I was made a can’t-leave-it offer. But I was then left high and dry. What to do next?
The start of a second love affair with a 4WD. The Mercedes G 461.
The G was going to be a hard act to beat. And it took several years for that to happen. Next I tried a a two-year-old Discovery V8. I knew when buying it that it would be a stop-gap while I decided on my next path. I kept it for about 9 months and did very little to it or with it.
My long-term relationship with the Land Cruiser began with one that was not a success. It was also my first intro into the ute/pickup was well as my first intro into major vehicle modifications. It was based on a Land Cruiser 1HZ powered VJ79 single-cab converted into a double-cab. (Double-cab Land Cruisers were not yet available at this time). It was grossly underpowered for its weight. I kept it for about 20 months but it appeared in two TV series.
My first foray into pickup/utes.
Another Land Cruiser, and this time a new 105 GXL 4,5 petrol. I was going to have no more under-powered 4WDs. I set about to make the engine use less fuel and did an engine top overhaul with new valves, head grinding and a chip. And it made about a 1% difference. What an excellent 4WD. But thirsty. So thirsty that is was no good as a long distance tourer. It couldn’t carry sufficient fuel for desert travel.
The Land Cruiser 105 was to become another absolute favourite.
Unhappy with the 105’s fuel issues, my next move arrived in the form of a used Nato spec Mercedes 290GD for sale in Lesotho. I bought it to try and bring it into South Africa where I lived at the time. It is the best off-roader I’ve ever owned by quite a long way. Its hill-climbing ability is extraordinary. I sold it after two years because there was no path to legal ownership in South Africa. Almost unstoppable in mud!
The best off-roader I ever owned. I doubt if it will ever be beat.
In 2008 the new shape 70-series Landcruiser was introduced and Toyota South Africa made getting a new one irresistible. I like it, but missed the 105’s handling, space and ability. I loathed the steering wheel and it was under-powered.
The VJ76 was a nice car, but didn't give me what I was hoping it would..
A pre-owned 105 with the 4.2 diesel, which I added a small low-pressure turbo-charger gave me a vehicle that I really loved. I had found the vehicle I had been looking for!
The 105 makes one of the best al-round 4wd overlanders ever made.
At last I had found a Land Cruiser that I loved driving.
While driving my 105 on a solo trip traversing the Namib desert, while stopped in northern Namibia, I came on the idea for a roof tent conversion for a Troopcarrier. Until this time, Troopcarriers were not available in South Africa. Toyota South Africa first loaned, then gave me the very first one imported into South Africa. It makes a great story. Watch the video.
My relationship with Land Rover had been severely battered because of my honest appraisals of their vehicles, was temporarily mended when their brand new South Africa marketing chief contacted me and asked if I wanted a long term loan of a Discovery-4. I welcomed this with excitement. The LR4 is a great all-rounder.
It's such a pity about the LR4's inability to run smaller rims and higher profile tyres.
During this time, the family had moved to the UK, during which I did not own a 4WD, although I still had the Troopy in South Africa, which Toyota South Africa finally donated to me in 2014. It was shipped to the UK and sold in 2015 to finance the family’s move to Australia, which occurred in November 2016.
In Australia, the huge and diverse 4WD accessory market greeted me with so many exciting products I had never had access to before. And also the full range of Land Cruiser 70-series with the 4.5 V8 turbo-diesel engine. So I bought a Troopcarrier and built it with all I had learned from my African 1HZ Troopy. It turned out to be the best overland tourer I’d ever built, and ever driven.
The restoration of a 20-year old, tired and abused Land Cruiser 105 in Cape Town, South Africa in September 2019. The idea was that an African-based tourer would be parked there for yearly expeditions. That part failed and it was sold in 2021 due to COVID
Thinking I could make a version of the Troopy overlander even better, I tried with a Landcruiser VDJ79 chassis-cab 4-door, with a stretched chassis and camper on the back. It was better than the Troopy in some ways, but in many, worse. The chassis was really good, but the camper was a disappointment. And so it never filled me with a longing to get in it and get out, which is the hallmark of any great overlander.
So I decided not to keep it.
In a quest to find and find my 1972 Range Rover, a 1975 Classic was purchased in Melbourne VIC, and driven 3550 kms across Australia to my home in Perth. Watch the 15-part series now. This is my third Range Rover Classic.
Delivery took place July 2021. This is my third Troopy. I turned this into the ultimate 2-person overlander, without increasing the GVM. It has completed the Canning Stock Route and several shorter outback adventures. For now, it is my main mount for Aussie expeditions.
Friends Cross the Canning is the story of the 2021 Troopy supporting the Range Rover successfully crossing Australia’s longest and some say toughest desert crossing.
It’s the best TV work I’ve done in decades. Watch 13 episodes now.
Purchased January 2023, this is my 10th Land Cruiser. It replaces the 105 build completed in 2019 and will be based in South Africa, and global events notwithstanding, will be used yearly expeditions and shoots in Africa.