Really want a Defender? Quit your bellyaching and just buy one.
We always want what we can’t have. It's human nature. Someone in the UK pines for a HEMI and all of us on Expedition Portal dream of owning a 2013 Defender or 70 Series Land Cruiser. If we are willing to set aside novelty for just a bit, we will realize that nearly the same vehicle is available in the US. Some will take a little imagination, but these alternatives are way closer in DNA than they first appear.
A note about diesel: The US is cursed with cheap fuel, so we are never going to get cool turbo-diesel trucks—ever.
Dying for a Defender 110?
Buy a Discovery I
Yes, the Defender looks so much cooler than the Discovery on some remote African track, but there are few differences between the Discovery and Defender beyond that. Axles – same on most models. Frame—same design. Both have available V8's and a manual or automatic transmission. The transfer case and suspension are essentially identical. Sure, the Defender has more storage space, but you can actually carry on a conversation in a Discovery and you don’t need to roll down the window on a Disco to turn left. . .
Or, you can get a 25 year old Defender fit for nearly any budget
Green Mountain Rovers
They have a dozen used Defenders for sale.
Screaming for a 70 series Land Cruiser?
Buy an FZJ80
The primary reason to buy a Land Cruiser is durability and reliability. I own a 70 series, have raced a PZJ73 in Africa and have driven around the world in a VDJ78. The 70 is the most serious of expedition vehicles, but there is not a single scenario where a 70 will outperform an 80. A 70 will carry more weight, but I would submit you should take less stuff.
Pining for a Prado?
Buy a GX470
The Lexus GX 470 has the heart of a Prado, sharing much of the Land Cruiser 120 platform. Underneath all of that leather and glossy paint, the GX470 is a super legit exploration platform. Although it does not have a diesel, the 470 utilizes the well-respected and incredibly reliable 4.7L V8. These trucks are a legitimate exploration option.
Hyped on the HiLux?
Buy a Tacoma
The Tacoma is awesome and proven. There is no solid-axle HiLux available anymore (anywhere in the world), so we can all have a moment of silence and move on. The Tacoma is sweet and completely legit. I would not hesitate to drive one around the world.
Gushing for a G-Wagon?
Well, go buy one.
This proves my point. The Gelandewagen, one of the greatest overland vehicles of all time is available right on Autotrader.com and (nearly) no one is running out to buy one. The G-Wagon is as good or better than a Defender, 70 series and a Prado, but they are relegated to 22” spinners instead of Copper Canyon. I would submit that anyone screaming about how unfair it is that North America doesn’t get a Defender should go right out and buy a used G500.
In the end, what we are really looking for in an adventure vehicle is novelty, not function. We are looking for form, not specifications. The perfect trucks to drive to Ushuaia are available right here in the good old USA, but that would require us to emphasize the travel over the truck, and I believe that is the most difficult modification of all.