Much, Much better: more comfortable (it had power steering and air-conditioning) my Defender served me extremely well, although I did have to replace the gearbox main bearings, rebuild the steering box, repair the radiator and several other things, it gave me great pleasure. This was my wedding and honeymoon vehicle, and my father scrawled in the dust on the spare wheel cover “Dust Married”. Gwynn and I travelled Southern Africa flat, with only a spade, a fan-belt a tool box and not much else. The defender is an extremely capable vehicle, but in all but the most extreme off-road conditions, performance, even with the latest version, is so far behind other, more modern designs, I can only think of one reason for owning one today; and that is that it always manages to look just right.
1996 Range Rover Classic auto (used)
1 year, ±35 000km
After I was sponsored a Toyota Prado 3.0 diesel for a year, I wanted a Range Rover again, so I purchased one of the last ‘Classics’, with 3’9′ V8 engine. A nice vehicle, but the electronics and air suspension didn’t give me a lot of confidence, and I only did two long distance trips in it. I was soon yearning for something a bit tougher. I had very few accessories fitted to this vehicle.
2000 Mercedes 290 GD auto (used)
3 years, ±75 000km
What an amazing vehicle: The G was a revelation: better than a Defender off-road, better than a Discovery on road. I had ARC Engineering make me some fuel tanks, but they proved very unreliable. Also, I was introduced to the concept of a 12V fridge/freezer which was a 40L Engel. Safari life had never been so good. It carried a load well and was an absolute pleasure to drive. But this vehicle was my second least reliable vehicle, second only to my first Range Rover. Financial pressures combined with an over generous offer meant I sold it at 127 000 kms with worn out shocks.
1996 Land Rover Discovery 3,9 V8 auto (used)
1 year, ± 25 000km
The Discovery has to be the most disappointing vehicle I have ever owned. It had 66 000kms when I bought it and it went well and was reliable, but this Disco is an ergonomic mess: it is cramped, and has a poorly designed and small packing area. Good off-road, pretty good on road as well, but just not a particularly nice vehicle to live with. Maybe it was the brilliance of the G that affected my reaction to it. But the disco remains an ideal inexpensive vehicle for first time four-wheelers.
2002 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ79, 4,2D pick-up converted to double cab, ±26 000km
My first try and a double-cab was a mixed success. I chose the diesel because of fuel consumption, but turned out to be a bad decision. The conversion was by Meanos, to which I added OME suspension, Baillies Offroad 170-lit tank and Outback racks and roller drawers. this was the first time I have let myself loose on all the accessories out there and I had a ball. But the extra weight meant it was underpowered and I didn’t enjoy driving it much. Neither did Gwynn, so I sold it at 26 000kms after it was an important feature of my first 4×4 TV series.
2001 Mercedes 290 GD auto (used)
2 years, ±65 000km
Another G meant I felt at home again, but it wasn’t to last. G-Wagens are very rare, so I bought this one into SA from Lesotho. No matter how hard I tried I could not register it in SA, so I had to return it to Lesotho and sell it. This one was one of the very last RHD G’s built and had heavy-duty springs with better clearance and was untouchable off road. I fitted a Proto roof-rack and rear ladder and outback roller-drawers. Before I sold it I took it on an extreme off-road drive – and it proved to me yet again, what an outstanding off-roader the G is, and it isn’t just its diff lock that makes it so great!
Toyota Land Cruiser 105 GX 4.5 (new)
2 years, ±41 000km
The Cruiser 105 is fantastic and I soon fell in love with this vehicle. I selected XJS suspension and shocks as I felt it was time I made a comparison between OME and XJS. I also I fitted a TJM bullbar and Outback roller drawers and roof-rack. I was very happy with these modifications, I also had Steves Auto Clinic work the head, in an effort to lower the very high fuel consumption, but nothing seemed to make a difference, although it was now very powerful. I was sad to see it go because this is truly a capable off-roader and an extremely comfortable on-road machine as well – probably the best combination of the two ever owned – but such a pity about its thirst.
2007 Toyota Land Cruiser 70-wagon (new)
18 months, ±35 000km
Call me a sucker, but this time I went for the newly introduced Land Cruiser 70 wagon. It is only available in the 4.2 diesel, but with less weight I was willing to try again. The 70 is cramped and passengers in the back often complained. It’s practical and gives a wonderful sense of unbreakability, but the ride is hard, and the drive is just like a pick-up, which I didn’t enjoy much, but I found it to be a better performer than the pick-up. I added ARB bullbar, OME suspension and my usual Outback roller drawers and roof rack. I sold it after only 18 months.
2005 Toyota Land Cruiser 105 GX 4.2D (used)
I had to try one last time to get the Cruiser right: and I think I may have done it. For some reason it is a better performer than the 70 wagon and has a brilliant chassis with comfort and fantastic overland performance built in. I fitted ARB bull bar, OME suspension, Outback roof-rack and roller-drawers and BF Goodrich AT tyres. Steves Auto Clinic fitted one of their low-pressure turbo-chargers and performance wise, it is fantastic. I did five major trips in this vehicle: Mozambique (2009), Botswana (2009), Angola (2010), Botswana (2010), Namibia (2010) and I just love this vehicle. And I love the BF Goodrich AT tyres… not a single puncture in all this. Fantastic!
2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 78 Troopy with Autograph-4×4 conversion
Between 2010, when I conceptualized the vehicle, and now, mid 2013, this has been my vehicle. I call it, the World Cruiser. It is designed to take two people around with world, with as much reliability, practicality and comfort as I could conceive of. I did not go the truck route, because they are too large to be practical. But I wanted the convenience of a truck. This is my compromise. There is so much in this vehicle, it deserves its own page. Click here.