What to drive from Colorado to South America?

#1
Hello All,

I'm new to this, so I hope I'm posting correctly.

My wife and I are planning to drive from Colorado to Argentina starting this fall, and we are not sure what to drive.

We have a 1999 4Runner, and a 1974 VW kombi westfalia.

We like the 4runner for 4x4 and for reliability, but I've seen others do this and it looks pretty cramped.

The van is "cool" and it has a new engine, but it won't have much power or 4x4.

Any suggestions? I'm open to all ideas, and I'm even open to buying or trading if someone has something worth driving to argentina.

Thanks!
 

redthies

Renaissance Redneck
#5
I love 4x4s, but if given the two choices you have, I'd put the best set of traction tires you can fit under the combi (which will be pretty capable in 95% of places you need to go) and take that. You will be far more comfortable and if you do run into mechanical issues, pretty much any shade tree mechanico from CO to Tierra Del Fuego can fix a VW with a pipe wrech and a rock. You will also not appear to be as wealthy in an old VW. As for speed? Well, you're not doing a trip like that in a hurry hopefully. Friends of mine are doing the same trip right now in my old '97 F350 diesel and while that truck has a monster engine easily capable of 75 mph even with a big camper on it, they just entered the second YEAR of their trip and are only in El Salvador!

Link to their trip: http://www.dealaskaapatagonia.com/en
 
#6
We went as far as Panama in a Montero and I've gotta admit, we had to seek out opportunities to use 4WD. A comfortable place to hang out and sleep is way more valuable than 4WD. Granted, that could be different south of Panama, but that's our experience.
 
#8
We are currently doing the same exact trip from Colorado in a well equipped Jeep Rubicon and mention almost daily that we wish we were in a Westy or something similar. Indoor space rather than a RTT and the ability to stealth camp would be invaluable. Next time we will be taking a van.

www.adventureornothing.me
 

modernbeat

Jason McDaniel
#9
I've done Dallas to TdF in a '67 Microbus in '91 and visited every state of Mexico and Every Province/Territory except Nunavut in Canada in my '62 VW Camper in '99. Those T1 engined, link pin spindles and swing axle transmissions take a lot more maintenance than your newer Bus does. You just have to plan to do regular maintenance to the van on the trail.

I'm about to take another trip, this one originating in Columbia and sticking to the west coast and the east coast of Argentina in a lightly lifted '73 Beetle. But there will be limited camping on that trip and I'll carry a tent.

As others have said, you can see most of South America in a Toyota Tercel. Anything better than that just opens up your options. Me, I'd just try to get across sandy beaches and muddy roads.
 
#10
I will say that while the older toyotas are typically supported in almost all of S.A. I've heard that many of the countries get difficult with newer Toyota vehicles for replacement parts (And yes 99 is new for most of south america). So, the Kombi might be a better option. While I haven't watched much of it, there is a youtube channel called "The Kombi Life" (I think) and that guy is going from Chile to Alaska (?). I know that in a couple of the episodes that I did watch, he said the reliability of the vehicle was his issue. Not due to the work needed, but because finding a mechanic who can, and is willing to do good work on your vehicle is almost imposible to find. Believe me. I live in Chile, and I do all my own work, or use one other mechanic that it took me forever to find, because it's just not easy to find trust worthy people. So, no matter what you bring. Make sure you learn EVERY BOLT and NUT of that truck so you will be able to do any repairs needed.

Just my suggestion though.
 
#11
I'd go with reliability and 4x4 capability over sleeping in the car. I'd rather have an RTT on a rig that I know will get me from point A to B everyday, even when my curiosity wants to take me off the beaten path, over having extra space to sleep inside my rig.....breaking down more for extra space is not an economic return I value. Further, 4x4 capability expands your limits; the Kombi limits them. You're going to want to treat yourself every now and then with a hot shower, food cooked in a proper kitchen, a comfy bed, with coffee served at your leisure - it's inevitable. So the interior space inside the Kombi, to me, would get old just as quick as sleeping on top of my rig. Again, reliability and capability over interior space would be my choice.
 

Tony LEE

International Grey Nomad
#12
As for speed?
Not really a consideration. Some countries have a countrywide limit of 50mph, and much of the rest - off the main drags anyway - have roads bad enough that 50mph will be a dream.

One consideration that IS important is the ability to start the engine when it is well below freezing and at an altitude of 4000 metres. Not a trivial task for some diesel engines.
 

Tony LEE

International Grey Nomad
#13
It would be rare for anyone driving south through Peru to miss camping at Quints Lala in Cusco, so what drives in here could be considered pretty representative of "suitable Vehicles"

These are the vehicles here over the last few days. Not shown are a couple of 2WD small vans.





https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-W_l494zw3G4/VGaNZN7BnpI/AAAAAAAAZXA/Uay37GmJ5AY/s800/DSCF3376.JPG

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-pjV69IVduSg/VGaNaj-YCNI/AAAAAAAAZXI/9u9qWliQg5c/s800/DSCF3377.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-ISUZTLHliwc/VG8z3caFPyI/AAAAAAAAZYM/smFhzu7m5CE/s800/DSCF3408.JPG



As you can see, there are a few US vehicles, but none driven by US adventurers. German, Swiss, Australian, French, Brazilian and Argentinian


and since getting right to the bottom is the ultimate goal, all these vehicles at Ushuaia last christmas are suitable too



 
Last edited:

coax

Adventurer
#14
A few thoughts after being on the road for 3 months in Southern South America.

  • There have been multiple times I have wanted one or the other type of vehicle (4wd high clearance vs. van).
  • Numerous times it would have been really nice to be able to camp/sleep/cook inside the vehicle. Primarily in the south where it was raining and cold. To a lesser extent in the northern desert where it was cold and windy. But I can deal with cold and wind, rain sucks. Also being able to camp inside the car with some semblance of stealth would also have been nice on occasion.
  • Numerous times it was nice to drive a vehicle with larger tires, full time 4wd and low range. Knowing I could go up a road without having to worry about getting stuck or what the conditions are mitigates one more thing to worry about. Yes you can do the whole pan american in a 2wd car. But, even in Chile, most of the roads to national parks border on 4wd. Less wear and tear on a vehicle designed for these roads than a car.
  • The ability to move fast, safely, over rough terrain should not be dismissed lightly. Whether its for convenience/fun to have more time at your destination rather than on the road and reduce driver and passenger fatigue, if its to avoid undesirable situations (when someone tells you they have finished paving ruta 40 but really they haven't and your 10 hr drive just turned into a 13 hr drive), or if its an emergency/life/limb situation and you need to make it somewhere quickly, having a vehicle designed and configured to travel safely on rough terrain at speed while carrying heavy loads can be very valuable.

In the end the vehicle choice is not a correct/incorrect one. Its more of a personality test based on the kind of trip you want to have, and what car you want to take with you. In the end, the "material stuff" really doesn't matter...its who you take with you, what you get to see and experience along the way.

HTH,
Corey
 

RMP&O

Expedition Leader
#15
A few thoughts after being on the road for 3 months in Southern South America.

  • There have been multiple times I have wanted one or the other type of vehicle (4wd high clearance vs. van).
  • Numerous times it would have been really nice to be able to camp/sleep/cook inside the vehicle. Primarily in the south where it was raining and cold. To a lesser extent in the northern desert where it was cold and windy. But I can deal with cold and wind, rain sucks. Also being able to camp inside the car with some semblance of stealth would also have been nice on occasion.
  • Numerous times it was nice to drive a vehicle with larger tires, full time 4wd and low range. Knowing I could go up a road without having to worry about getting stuck or what the conditions are mitigates one more thing to worry about. Yes you can do the whole pan american in a 2wd car. But, even in Chile, most of the roads to national parks border on 4wd. Less wear and tear on a vehicle designed for these roads than a car.
  • The ability to move fast, safely, over rough terrain should not be dismissed lightly. Whether its for convenience/fun to have more time at your destination rather than on the road and reduce driver and passenger fatigue, if its to avoid undesirable situations (when someone tells you they have finished paving ruta 40 but really they haven't and your 10 hr drive just turned into a 13 hr drive), or if its an emergency/life/limb situation and you need to make it somewhere quickly, having a vehicle designed and configured to travel safely on rough terrain at speed while carrying heavy loads can be very valuable.

In the end the vehicle choice is not a correct/incorrect one. Its more of a personality test based on the kind of trip you want to have, and what car you want to take with you. In the end, the "material stuff" really doesn't matter...its who you take with you, what you get to see and experience along the way.

HTH,
Corey
Well said. I like all my bases covered, 24/7. So my truck reflects that, more as I do more to it.

Cheers