The annual Overland Expos — be it the West (spring) or the East (fall) — are the events to attend if overlanding is your passion. Overlanding, you ask? It's the practice of driving cross-country with as little use of paved paths as possible. It's done using vehicles that allow you to go anywhere and live off the grid, so serious money is involved.
The Overland Expos are three-day affairs that showcase overlanding vehicles, equipment, demonstrations, slideshows and films. Participants can visit for a day or camp on-site for the duration. We attended the recent . Here are six of the coolest things we saw.
1. Cummins Repower 2.8-Liter Diesel Engine
Got a classic Land Rover SUV or Toyota pickup truck that you've turned into an overlander, spending thousands of dollars to get it just how you want it, only to have the engine quit on you? Replace that old, worn-out mill with a turbo-diesel 2.8-liter crate motor from diesel engine supplier Cummins Repower. For $8,995 plus installation, you can have a new four-cylinder with everything you need to drop it into a 1999-and-older vehicle. It's a surprisingly complete kit, including wiring harnesses for both the engine compartment and interior, a new throttle pedal, engine control module and a hook up for an air-conditioning compressor (not included). Cummins Repower even has an extensive list of suggested installers around the country; nearly a half-dozen exhibitors showed trucks with the Repower engine.
2. All the Restored Toyota Land Cruisers
Older trucks and SUVs have been hot on the collector market for a few years now, and the number of restored classic Toyota Land Cruisers on display at the expo was astonishing. There are a few companies that will take an old, busted rig and turn it into something far more luxurious than anything that left a Japanese factory 40 years ago. Check out these two examples from The FJ Company. The two-door is a 1983 FJ40 Land Cruiser (above) that starts out as a restored Classic model for a hefty $85,000. This one adds equipment such as a Warn Zeon 8 winch, Corbeau sport seats, a hardtop, a premium sound system, foglights and a digital instrument cluster to bring its as-configured price to $100,500. But if you want to go all-in, have a look at the 1983 FJ43 Signature model (below) that starts at an even $200,000 and includes things such as Recaro sport seats in honey-colored leather, a custom stainless exhaust, an Old Man Emu suspension, 2017 Toyota 4Runner disc brakes, custom bumpers, rear jump seats, a digital gauge cluster, LED headlights, air conditioning, premium audio and a backup camera. Extras that bump the as-configured price to $210,900 include a bumper-integrated Warn 8274 winch, Recaro steering wheel, four-wheel drive with ARB lockers and a full custom roll cage. It's actually far too nice to take anywhere dirty.
3. DEFCO Trucks/Hallmark Campers Combo Rig
So, say you really want a Ford F-150 Raptor and you really like the idea of a pickup truck bed-mounted camper. Those two ideas don't coexist well, thanks to the Raptor's payload rating that's less than that of a Ford Explorer. Enter DEFCO Trucks out of Denver. The company has taken a Ford Super Duty and basically thrown away everything but the frame and powertrain, adding a completely custom DEFCO/Lewisbuilt cantilever rear suspension, King coilover front shocks with a triple bypass reservoir and a custom fiberglass body wide enough to accommodate the massive Continental MPT 43-inch tires underneath it. DEFCO makes three stages of trucks ranging from the $45,000 Stage 1 BA350 through the $120,000 Stage 3 (not including the price of your supplied Ford Super Duty). The company partnered with Colorado-based Hallmark RV, manufacturer of lightweight pop-up truck-bed campers, and presented this monster at the expo based on the BA350. Now, we're not sure that the camper would survive what DEFCO likes to do with its trucks, but it sure looks pretty bad ass.
4. EarthRoamer XV-HD (and XV-LTS)
Maybe you've just won the lottery and want the ultimate in an off-road recreational vehicle. Maybe you've decided to take your winnings and leave it all behind, go live off the grid, be a self-sustained community unto yourself. Then you need this: the EarthRoamer XV-HD (above). It's a Ford F-750 4×4 crew-cab chassis truck onto which a super-luxurious RV box has been grafted to make a rig that's 35 feet long and 13.5 feet high. It features all the comforts of home, and then some: There's a 20-kilowatt lithium-ion battery bank to power everything and a massive 2.1-kW rooftop solar array to power it. It has an enormous 250-gallon water supply and a 115-gallon fuel tank to get you well away from civilization, and allows for a full-size shower and a washer/dryer combination. The bunk over the cab contains a king-size bed. The cost for all this is a cool $1.5 million, but you can't have this one — it's already been bought and was on loan from its owner. If that's too rich for your blood, have a look at the XV-LTS (below), a Ford F-550 chassis with all the same amenities that stickers at about $600,000 as pictured (although rumor has it that this one sold for about $450,000 at the expo).
5. American Safari JXL
If you're a Jeep Wrangler JK owner who's tired of being jealous of the Land Rover Discovery owners who have all that extra room for junk in the trunk, now there's a solution: the American Safari JXL. It grafts a bolt-on 15-inch extension onto the back of your four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK model. The modification includes a new hardtop that has a pop-up camper tent and allows for a bunch of interior configurations from full-on overlander with sink, toilet, shower, cooking surface and dining table, or just adding 50 percent more cargo room behind the rear seat. The resulting Jeeps can sleep anywhere from one to four people, with one of two camper configurations. The JXL conversion is available as a kit or as a turnkey vehicle from Red River Rigs, but no pricing has yet been published.
6. Coffee! The Java Can
As much as we love heading out into the wilderness in a super-capable off-road rig and leaving it all behind, we're not about to leave our coffee behind. Let's not get crazy, now. Thankfully, there is a company with a solution for feeding your coffee addiction when the nearest Starbucks is 500 miles away. The Java Can is a self-contained system for making espresso while on the trail. Take one army surplus ammo can and stock it with a moka pot, a battery-operated milk frother, four double-walled insulated cups, a manual coffee grinder, a liquor flask and a tiny gas-fueled field stove to bring your water up to temp for making espresso. Designed by a U.S. Army Green Beret and tested in the field over several deployments to Afghanistan, it's the best way to get that morning fix, even if you're not taking hostile fire. It retails for $149.95.
Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman; manufacturer image