Daydreams are easy. Just sit back and let them happen - effortless
adventure. It's easy to be a legend in your own mind.
Real dreams are hard. You can't sit around making bun prints in the
sands of time if you want to make your dreams come true. Real dreams
aren't a trip to fantasy land. They are rock solid adventures
purchased with blood, sweat, and tears, and the most precious commodity of
I have always been something of a dreamer. I have gone walkabout in my
mind for thousands of hours, and that's ok, because I have spent even more
time going walkabout on planet earth. I spent eleven years sailing
around the world on my yacht, and ten years exploring the vast expanses of
the Arabian desert and Australian outback in Land Rover Defenders.
So I know a great deal about dreams and the dream machines that can make
them come true.
For me, there are two types of dream machines. One type makes it
possible to drive outback and beyond to remote corners of the globe.
The other is your passport to Water World, permitting you to sail anywhere you
have the courage to point your bow. In this Captain's Log we will
discuss the first type of dream machines, Land Rover Defenders.
What is the anatomy of a dream machine? What is it
that makes a dream machine into a dream machine? First and foremost, a
dream machine is honest. It's tough through and through. There
is no pretense; it's meant to take a licking and keep on ticking. I
have traveled in the desert with pretentious vehicles that looked tough, but
the moment you challenged them with arduous conditions, a demolition derby
begins. Cooling fans go through radiators with instant destruction of
the cooling system. Plastic fuel tanks crack and leak. Flimsy
roof racks disintegrate under heavy loads when driving on corrugations.
Computerized engines limp along when their computers fail. Car
suspensions come to a tragic end as springs break, shock absorbers leak or
shear off. The list of gear failures is as long as the list of
equipment made to look tough rather than actually being tough. In the
expeditionary off-road community, this type of equipment is called posing
gear. It looks great until you load it up and stress it out, and then
it disintegrates. My dream machine needs to be honest. I don't
care what it looks like as long as it's honest. It's tough and can
stand up to the rigors of expeditionary travel.
What kind of load carrying capacity do I expect from an
expeditionary vehicle? My minimum requirements are the vehicle should
be able to carry at least a ten day supply of water, and sufficient fuel for
1200 miles off-road. It should be able to carry enough food and
supplies to last for a minimum of ten days plus four people and all of their
gear. That is a big ask, especially when you put four adults inside
the truck. It's much easier when there are only two people on board.
My favorite expeditionary vehicle is a Land Rover Defender with a 110 inch
or 130 inch wheelbase. Both are honest expeditionary machines, and
with modest modifications, they can take you anywhere you want to go in the
outback and beyond.
So what is it that makes a Defender qualify as an expeditionary vehicle?
1. It's tough.
2. You can outfit it with long range fuel tanks. The Defender
has room for a replacement oversize main tank, an additional tank in the
right rear wheel well, and two forward tanks running outside the chassis
3. You can bolt on a Brownchurch galvanized roof rack along the
full length of the roof. It's unmovable and indestructible, and it
easily carries eight jerry cans of fuel, a roof top tent, and other
4. Six Michelin XZL tires for rough terrain, especially in areas with
thorn bushes and mulga stumps that have a predilection to destroy sidewalls.
5. Six Michelin XS sand tires if your expeditionary travel is
exclusively in the sand dunes found in the Empty Quarter of Arabia, or the
6. Piv Lock swing out spare tire carrier mounted on the back of the
vehicle. This makes the spare tire easily accessible when needed, and
at the same time keeps it out of the way when not needed.
7. A reinforced bonnet (hood) backed up with aluminum plates so you
can carry a spare tire on the front of the car without breaking the bonnet.
8. A bull bar that offers protection from wayward Australian wildlife
9. An eight thousand pound capacity winch mounted on the bulbar.
10. Twin heavy duty battery system. One battery for engine
starting, and one for refrigeration, lights, radios, and other accessories.
11. Off-road running lights for those occasions when necessity demands
you drive off-road at night.
12. High lift jack with jack mounts.
13. Upgraded rear air bag suspension.
14. Skid plate to protect the front differential and running gear
15. Windshield mounted hand held compass for gross navigation to tell
you if your are on the right track heading in approximately the correct
16. A GPS to tell you exactly where you are. (Global Positioning
17. Geologic survey maps of at least 1:500,000 scale for the region of
the world in which you are driving.
18. Roof top tents, side mounted tents, and free standing tents all
work well. Roof top tens give additional security from unwanted
critters like snakes, scorpions, dingoes, sand cats, and other undesirables.
19. Sand Ladders for vehicle recovery when stuck in soft sand.
20. Eutectic plate refrigeration similar to the Australian Autofridge
21. Built in sliding drawers in back of the vehicle. The drawers
can be locked for secure storage of valuable items.
22. One hundred feet of one inch double braid nylon for bunge jumping
a stranded vehicle out of sand and mud.
23. Snatch strap for towing a vehicle. Tree protector strap for
winching a vehicle.
24. Sand anchor for winching a vehicle when no other attachment point
25. Shovel, pick, small sledge hammer, full set of tools.
26. Inventory of spare parts to include left rear half shaft, hub
drives, starter motor, alternator, belts, hoses, differential oil, gear box
oil, engine oil, coolant, grease.
27. Snorkel to protect the engine from dust in the desert, and to
prevent water from entering the engine when fording streams.
28. Eight high quality jerry cans that can be positively locked to
prevent accidental spillage and leakage.
29. Camping gear.
30. Long range water tanks.
I have owned five Defenders and have driven more than 100,000 kilometers in
the deserts of Arabia and Australia. As an expeditionary vehicle, the
Defender does the job admirably - better than most pretenders. It's
built for expeditionary travel and can withstand the rigors of carrying heavy loads in severe
At present, I have two Defenders waiting in the wings. One is in New
Zealand, and the other in Australia ready for the next adventure. They
are both diesels with 300 Tdi engines. Since they have identical
engines, their spare parts are interchangeable, and you only need to carry
one set of spares for both vehicles.
The burgundy Defender has a 110 inch wheelbase, and is fully customized for
long range adventure. The white Defender has a 130 inch wheelbase with
a crew cab and enclosed truck bed.
These are the dream machines that just might take me on a driving trip
around the world. How does this sound? After trekking though the
Australian outback, I ship the Defenders from Perth to Capetown. Drive
from South Africa to Cairo and up into Jordan and Israel. Ship the
trucks to Greece and then drive overland to London. Ship the Rovers to
Buenos Aires, Argentina, drive over the Andes into Chile, and then drive up
the Pan American highway all the way to Alaska. Finally, ship the
Defenders to Auckland, and tour New Zealand, and the around the world tour
will be done. Sounds like a great adventure to me. Just the
thought of it gets me excited. I can hardly wait to get started.
Now, where is the phone number for my travel agent. "Hello, Can you
get me a Carnet de Passage for two vehicles traveling through
thirty-five countries for the next year and a half?"