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Light Overland Vehicle Tech Tech issues, tips and hints, prepping for travel
Under 3500kg vehicles, e.g. Land Cruiser, Land Rover, Subaru etc.
Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #1  
Old 21 Jun 2015
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Looking for the optimum car for a trip to Asia

Hi there,

my girlfriend and are planning an overland trip to Asia starting from Germany. Our plan was to head through turkey to the stans and then north to Russia (or something along those lines). We are used to travelling but not with our own car and have little knowledge on cars.

We've done some research but are a bit unsure of what car we really need. We kind of want to keep the cost down in a sense that we do not want to have unnecessary but expensive stuff fitted. Mainly we are wondering if Landcruisers and Defenders (maybe not so common in Asia?) are our best bets or if other cars should be considered as well. Also I am not really sure what to look for when buying a used one. Like, where do I check for rust, what do I need to ask the owner etc.

I would appreciate some help here and since I likely forgot half the relevant information, please aks for it and I will try to post it asap.

Thanks a lot in advance!
fcms
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  #2  
Old 21 Jun 2015
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I did a trip through Russia, Mongolia, and the stans in 2014. My route is detailed on my blog, along with lots of info on the places visited. It might help with your planning - www.bermudarover.com

I had a land Rover Defender kitted out for the trip and it proved to be a great vehicle for the task. The Defender was particularly useful in Mongolia, where most of my off-road driving occurred, including water crossings that couldn't be avoided. For Mongolia, I'd say a 4-wheel drive is a necessity. But for most of the other countries, a decent car or SUV might have done just as well.

One consideration though, is the amount of kit that you will take with you. If you will be camping in some locations, you'll need all of your camping gear as well as normal luggage. Some of the distances between towns is significant, so finding a hotel isn't always possible. That's when the camping gear becomes very useful. A vehicle like a Defender or a Land Cruiser would enable you to carry more gear than a standard car.
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  #3  
Old 21 Jun 2015
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Depending on what your time of travel , and where you intend to go , a decent sized van with good size tyres and good ground clearance might fit the bill . In a landcrusr or defender you are more or less forced to use a rtt or freestanding , due to load area size constraints , which can be a bit of a pita mostly dependent on the weather . I have used a defender with a rtt in certain parts in good weather for the most , thats what i base my advice on .
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  #4  
Old 21 Jun 2015
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Going to Asia? You need a Honda Jazz.

Any car can handle the roads so your thoughts should be focussed on economy and nimbleness. The Jazz is probably the most space efficient vehicle there is - fold the seats flat and you can easily sleep inside (like my son and his partner do in his).

You'll also find parts for it just about anywhere - not that this will be necessary, they never break down.

Take it from someone who has done this journey many times before, a big lumbering 4WD is a waste of money and totally unnecessary - setting off in it might make you feel macho, but once you hit the road you'll stick out like a sore thumb and be a magnet for thieves.
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  #5  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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Any car you like

Yups,

Any car you like. As long as it's in good shape.
We used a lada break in 2007 (too long ago...).
https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadjen...57603287199966
And that was standard except from removing the rear seats.

I'd go with any lada in good shape again anytime. Most locals drive them, meaning that the roads tend to be just smooth enough to pass trough, mechanics understand them, and maintenance is cheap, and spares, if needed are readily available. Big advantage is that you don't stand out. By the time "they" realize you're a foreigner, you're past the checkpoint. Obviously, there are limitations too. Some of the out of the way places cannot be reached in a regular car (e.g. Mountain villages, or the darvaza gas crater), it will demand more driving skills and care when it gets rough, and you have less load carrying capacity (think backpacking when packing your stuff, and there will be loads of space left for comfort and treats.

If you want some more ground clearance and storage, I'd think a Honda CRV or toyota RAV4 wouldn't be bad. I've seen them around there, so I guess spares won't be to hard to find. You can't do much wrong with a toyota hi-ace either.

Land Rovers/cruisers/ nissan patrols... will carry whatever you want, as far as you want, and where you want, and they do look good on the pics (a factor I'd consider. They stay around long after your trip), but they also cost a bit (both in acquiring and maintaining). All are perfectly suited the way they come from the factory.

A lot of Vans and 4x4s have been abused. And a car that has been abused will cause much more frustration than any other car in good shape.

In the end it very much depends on where you want to spend your money on, and what makes you feel good. Most people leave very much over equipped.

Enjoy!
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  #6  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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Diesel van with mattress in the back & camping stove, worked for me & is by far the cheapest way, i often just pulled down a side road & climbed in the back (save on camp ground fee`s/motel fee`s) for one or two nights.

Loads of travellers from Europe come over for a look around OZ & do this conversion.

Build a Bed in the Back of your Van

I bought an ex bread delivery van, bread weighs nothing & the van`s running gear/suspension had an easy life.

My choice now would be a white long wheelbase VW Caddy van 1.9TDi with auto double clutch gearbox.



Mezo.
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  #7  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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Hey,

thanks for the recommendations. That sounds interesting! I was wondering how much more "freedom" (i.e. to go somewhere) a 4x4 gives you. E.g. on mountain roads in the stans. I have been to some of the countries there but never with my own car and thought that some of the roads might be a bit difficult with a "normal" car. We thought of getting a RTT. I am nearly 2m tall so the car should be relatively long if I want to sleep inside (I can fold a bit but not too much ) and I imagine it gets a bit sweaty in there, doesn't it? But yes, a RTT is expensive and probably you can stay in lots of hostels for the same price... We would definitely bring some kind of camping gear, but a small tent, sleeping bag etc. will do, we do not necessarily need chairs etc.

We plan to leave Germany around maybe April next year and then we will see how long it takes, there is no time limit and no schedule yet.

I will do some more research on the cars mentioned and see what I can find. Still if anyone else feels like he wants to add something I would appreciate it very much!
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  #8  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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I suggest you take a look around page 4 of this re-arranged sub-forum for info about the cheaper end of the market for "softroaders".
= posts from about 2012 or thereabouts.
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...vehicle-tech-4

There is also this thread which has some useful discussion of vans specifically (it also cross references to when the threads were re-organised).
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...nordkapp-72894
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  #9  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mezo View Post
Diesel van with mattress in the back & camping stove, worked for me & is by far the cheapest way, i often just pulled down a side road & climbed in the back (save on camp ground fee`s/motel fee`s) for one or two nights.

Loads of travellers from Europe come over for a look around OZ & do this conversion.

Build a Bed in the Back of your Van

I bought an ex bread delivery van, bread weighs nothing & the van`s running gear/suspension had an easy life.

My choice now would be a white long wheelbase VW Caddy van 1.9TDi with auto double clutch gearbox.



Mezo.
I am doing something similar to this with a light weight bike in the back for access to the rough stuff.
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  #10  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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I think Robbert has pretty much 'hit the nail on the head' with his post above.

If you want to stay on the paved roads, something like a Lada car would do the trick. The converted van option would also be great for the paved roads and would give extra storage and sleeping space.

I think a key point, as raised by Robbert, is whether you are prepared to sacrifice going to some of the off-road locations that some of the less expensive vehicle options are less suited to reaching. If a low cost vehicle is one of the primary aims, and you don't mind missing some locations, the car or van option would be a good solution for you.

What I can say is that, for me, some of the most memorable locations from my trip were those that required some off-road driving to reach. Those included Tsagaar-Nuur (White Lake) and Amarbayasgalant Khiid (monastery) in Mongolia; Song Kol (lake) in Kyrgyzstan and the Kaldama Pass between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. My Land Rover Defender came into its own in those locations and I'm so glad that I included them on my route.

Only you can decide what your individual priorities are and then you can narrow down your vehicle choice accordingly. As you can see from the responses, there are several types of vehicle that you can use, each with its pros and cons.

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  #11  
Old 22 Jun 2015
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Again, you'd be surprised what can be achieved off-road just using regular vehicles. When I crossed the Sahara 37 years back on my RD350 the preferred vehicle was a 2CV, VW van or Peugeot 404. In the Australian outback in the 60s and 70s everyone drove either Holdens or Falcons - including crossing the Simpson desert.

A couple of years back I bumped into 4 German backpackers pushing their bogged Toyota Camry in the painted desert .........

.... and in '75 I bought an old Austin/Morris J4 van for £25, put a mattress in the back and spent 3 months travelling around the UK and Europe free camping in lay-bys.

As for driving in snowy mountain conditions, I lived through 3 Toronto winters driving a RWD BMW 735. You very quickly learn all about traction and every driver learns it otherwise they become a hermit for 5 months each year. In my opinion, the gravel roads in the mountains make driving easier, not harder, as the gravel provides additional grip.
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Old 23 Jun 2015
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Yep - but it's not the gravel roads that are the challenge - it's the deep squishy mud that can be a problem :-) Such as these in Russia



..



But your point is well taken regarding the use of regular vehicles for overland travel.
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  #13  
Old 23 Jun 2015
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my cousin is driving round Europe in a 2wd Hymer camper and you wouldn't believe the places he gets that!!

I would go with something like a van or camper for a long term trip. 4wd options on most are available if you want the extra reassurance of that. How about something like a MItsubishi Delicia? mercedes also do 4wd versions of their vans.

For example:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/VW-T25-Cam...item463c900e57

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FRESH-IMPO...item3a82250bc8
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  #14  
Old 23 Jun 2015
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Cheap and Cheerful!

1989 Suzuki Sidekick JX -- 2dr -- 4x4

87 suzuki samurai

Best value around. Nothing tougher. Baja tested and survived. So fun to drive in deep sand or tough rocks.
Made for it. Expendable.

Got money to burn? OK, then.
Land and Range Rovers start at around $40K usd here and go sharply north of 90K usd for the best ones.
Most Jeeps are JUNK compared to Suzuki. In Asia, perhaps you can find some Suzuki's ??

My buddy who lives in Baja, bought a 10 year old Suzuki Sidekick 5 years ago for $2500. Replaced water pump and clutch, not a whisper of a problem since. LONG, unsupported Desert trips, no problems.
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Old 23 Jun 2015
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Yes, the Samurai (or Sierra as it was called in Australia) is the only 4WD I have owned. I bought mine new in 1985 and sold it 3 years later for more than I paid for it! It was truly a go anywhere vehicle but I had the 1 litre, 4 speed version which meant it had a top speed of 102km/h (or 107 on a steep downhill) and that was absolutely flat out!

85km/h was a realistic touring speed, and at that speed fuel consumption was 10L/100km (good for a 4WD but very poor for a 1 litre hatchback). As such, it meant I was restricted to back roads in Australia if I did not to want to end up with long queues of vehicles behind me. Mine was also a soft top with the only glass being the windscreen, so security was not ideal.
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