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The Pros and Cons of a Toyota Land Cruiser Camper for Overlanding or Van Life
With the coronavirus pandemic restricting travel, we have found ourselves stranded in Australia. We are 10,000 miles from our van in Mexico and we have no idea when we might be able to return to resume our travel through Central America. Rather than sit on our hands we have decided to pivot and plan a trip overland through Australia. But first, we need a vehicle. After many robust discussions, we have settled on the Land Cruiser Troop Carrier commonly known as a Troopy. These are the pros and cons that we have wrestled with choosing a Land Cruiser Troopy Camper for overlanding.
+ Go Any Where
The purpose of this vehicle is to take us around Australia. Australia in a vast continent and many places are unreachable by a two wheel drive car. The Toyota Land Cruiser is recognised as one of, if not the best, four wheel drive vehicles for exploring Australia’s rugged and varied terrain.
These cars were designed from the ground up to be reliable. And the success of the design means that while technological improvements and tweaks have been made, the design of the car has changed little in the last forty years. The focus here is heavy duty components and simple reliable mechanics. Often at the expense of efficiency, speed, and comfort.
+ The Motor Keeps on Going
The big diesel motor in the Troopy has a reputation for longevity with the anecdotal evidence that the car will last well into the 500,000 km+ range if looked after properly and stories about cars that have gone as far as 1,000,000 km.
+ Practical Extras
One of the cons of this vehicle is the lack of creature comforts. However, the Troopy makes up for this with practical extras. Additions like an a sub tank (a second fuel tank) and snorkel fitted as standard mean this car doesn’t require further additions before taking it out bush.
Warning: If buying second hand, make sure the sub tank is still installed. It wasn’t until we had driven away from the dealership and went to fill up that we realized the sub tank has been removed from the car 🙁
+ Built Tough
As mentioned above, the Land Cruiser Troop Carrier series are heavy duty. They are not hybrid cars but purpose built off road vehicles. They are overbuilt, with things like thicker windshield glass, thicker frame metal and rigid leaf springs. Their rugged, heavy duty design means the components are less likely to break when driving off road.
+ Easy to Repair
Troopy’s built after 1984 and before 2007 use Toyota’s 1hz diesel engine. This 4.2 liter diesel inline 6-cylinder engine has been around for 40 years. It uses next to no electronics or sensors. If you run into trouble, any bush mechanic should be able to get you going with basic tools and parts. This is a huge asset when planning on traveling through Australia’s expansive, unpopulated outback.
+ Looks Friggin’ Sweet
This classic style has been more or less unchanged since the 1980s and is a unique and classic style like a Volkswagen Kombi. Definite points for style on this one.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this car is the premium price it attracts. The Toyota Land Cruiser is a legendary car, known for its reliability, toughness, and simplicity to fix. It’s legendary status has a downside though. These coveted cars hold their value so well that buying even an older or well used model can be expensive. Especially compared to other vehicles of the same age or mileage. As an example, we had a budget of $25,000 AUD to buy a vehicle and our options were cars more than 15 years old that had travelled between 250,000 km and 500,000 km.
Fitting a kitchen, bedroom and lounge into a troop carrier is a squeeze! Definitely less space than modern vans with their high roofs and boxy designs. We have had to be extremely efficient in our build, and even so, it is clear we won’t have room for lots of gear.
One way we have addressed this issue is by buying a car that has an aftermarket ‘pop-top’ installed. This addition means we can raise the roof for more space to live and sleep in the car when it is parked. This of course narrowed the scope of our search and added to the end price.
These cars are thirsty. They need a lot of fuel to power a big diesel engine that will take you anywhere. A fair price to pay when navigating off road. But driving Australia’s long straight highways, the Troopy’s high fuel consumption can be a downside. As an example our 2006 uses 13 liters per 100 km.
– Rust problems
What do people do with the car that can go anywhere? Take it everywhere. In Australia’s northern state of Queensland, known for its beautiful coastline, that means the beach. Shopping for a car here means it is extremely difficult to find a troopy that hasn’t spent a lot of time on the beach. Because we are looking at car fifteen plus years old, rust is a big consideration. Beach + metal = big rust issues. Once rust gets into the frame of the car the safety of the vehicle of the car can be compromised. Check these cars carefully for signs of rust.
Big diesel engine, a lack of insulation, and older design, mean this car is noisy inside.
The Land Cruiser Troop Carrier has hung its hat on its reliability and rugged good looks for decades. When it comes to luxuries and extras this car is as barebones as it gets. A couple of gauges and air conditioning is about all you’ll find in the cabin.
Choosing a troop carrier conversion
For us, the decision to go with the Troopy came down to its reliability and ability to get off the highway against its high price tag and small interior space. We decided to really get the most out of a trip in Australia, off-road capability would be really important. We also decided that in a country like Australia, where we would spend a lot of time outside we could deal with a smaller interior.
The high price tag of the Troopy is a bit harder to deal with. The bottom line is that it is economically not a sensible decision. Given the premium attached to the car, you will need to spend more money to find something you want in terms of age, mileage, and condition, or give up one of those categories. If you buy second hand like us, there is a risk that you will need to tip some money into it. And while resale values on Troopys are good, this is not the case for aftermarket additions and you will quickly overcapitalize converting it for overlanding (to this point if you can find a Troopy already converted for touring in good condition it should be a serious consideration). Don’t expect to get anything back for aftermarket additions.
Despite knowing we could have done it cheaper, in the end, we decided to invest in the best vehicle for the job, and that vehicle is Land Cruiser Troopy Camper.
Do you have a Land Cruiser Troopy Camper? Thinking about getting one? Let us know in the comments!
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