I like the Montero, but they stop making the 2dr variant for the North American market, and the older 2drs are a bit harder to locate, and some of the ones I have seen are a bit over priced too.
As for the rav4, would the 2dr, or 4dr be a better starting point? Also would the better starting point be gen 1 or gen 2, wasn't clear on that? I want to make it less of a rally, build and more like a regular 4x4 that can handle solidly on the streets, like in the same vain as the VehiCross.
The montero and vehicross are really trucks the RAV is at its core a car.
I have never ridden in a VehiCross but I have ridden in a trooper and its a terrible choice for traveling on interstates at interstate speeds.
If you want the off road ability of a body on frame truck with a 2 speed 4wd transfer case, solid axles and leafs you will be disappointed with the RAV. In my opinion the RAV handles better on road than a camry of the same year and is certainly more fun to drive.
The best RAVs are from 1998-2000 (late 1st gen) and from 2004-2005(late second gen). The 2door was only available for the first Gen in the US. Protecting the under body is a fully custom affair so it makes no difference in the choice of 1st generation or second generation. The 2az-fe engine is only available from 2004-2005. The arb old man EMU suspension is available for all RAVs from 1996-2004. I would avoid the 1AZ-FE even though it is a good engine because those cars have transmission problems. All the RAVs seem to have the same better than average tire clearance.
Dean titanium soft tail-very custom, Salsa Fargo-adventure bike, Azonic steel head dirt jumper
Bike transporter http://servicedriven.org/about-service-driven/our-car/
2004 Toyota Rav4 - still mostly stock because we keep spending all our money on gas
I think the VehiCross is actually based on the Rodeo platform, but then tuned a bit up for better handling vs the Rodeo/Passport. However, I am not sure if the VehiCross off-road capabilities went down a notch by making it a sportier handler.
The Vehicross was based off of the Trooper RS. A shorter version of the Trooper which was a 2 door. It is extremely capable however, the back seat is a little cramped
Also, the trooper at highway speeds is extremely comfortable. However, it depends on which version you are talking about. I have a 97 with 33s that I have no problem traveling 80mph but I also had a 88 that I would not have done that with.
How does the 2dr Trooper compare to the Vehicross in terms of handling out of curiosity(either gen available in the states)?
The VX has much stiffer shocks and suspension than the soft Trooper suspension. Of course, both are upgradable with OME coils etc.
RS Troopers are quite rare in the US. But at 17" shorter than the 4-door, it makes for quite a nimble trail rig.
1995 Isuzu Trooper LS
I take the 2dr Trooper is bigger than the Vehicross and less nimbler of an on road handler.
Yes, the RS Trooper has more rear overhang and is taller, plus a softer stock suspension. Much more room inside, though. I am headroom challenged and can't fit in a VX comfortably.
1995 Isuzu Trooper LS