Choice of vehicle- Landrover Defender 110 hardtop, 2.5l TDi, 43,000 miles, £8000, 6 years old. Diesel - really the only sensible option when it comes to overlanding due to their reliability.
We went looking for an ex-utility vehicle since they come in the most basic form and you don't end up paying for trimmings that you are just going to strip out. We found what we were looking for at Agricultural and Cross Country Vehicles, near Stourbridge. She had previously belonged to Northern Water. And no, we didn't get her cheap because of the colour! We had ACCV paint her before we collected her. They also put the windows in the hardtop for us for improved driving visibilty (particularly with all the right hand driving we are to encounter) and comfort.
We considered it important to get as new a vehicle as possible to provide the highest level of reliability we could expect en route - previous groups had spent the whole time trying to get theirs fixed! Besides, she should then have plenty left in her for future expeditions.
Having spent a couple of months getting to know her, and poking about to get to the bottom of all the little rattles and whistles, it was modification time. This is a very serious business that preoccupied Robin for months, both during his waking and sleeping hours. After mechanical soundness, security is our primary concern, and it is hoped that the configuration we have opted for will deter would be thieves. A secure area for storage of most of our gear has been created in the rear half of the hardtop by installing a security load guard half way down, window grills on the rear windows and a deadlock on rear door. Then we have installed a 120 litre Longranger fuel tank in place of the standard one, and an additional 48l in the wing between the filler and the main tank. This allows a full fuel load approaching 1000 miles, without the need for messy, smelly and space consuming jerry cans, nor the need for elaborate fuel pumps etc. An inline fuel filter, and diesel heater have been incorporated too (the heater to help us out with fuel waxing in the Turkish winter and the Himalayas. . . hopefully!).
Other mods include a tyre carrier on the back to stop the door falling off, and another spare on the bonnet, proper ARB bull bar (with spots for dusty desert driving), steering guard, the all important dual batteries so we can run electric accessories off one and reserve the other purely for starting, a water filter unit, cubby box in place of the centre seat, and a seat in the forward section of the hardtop for our Chinese guide and anyone else we befriend along the way. Access has been improved by lowering the bulkhead behind the seats. We plan to carry our water in black plastic jerry cans in the forward storage area (not valuable). Finally, a few comforts in the form of a fridge, stereo and a roof tent.
However, it is important to recognise that before any of this work was carried out, we had a full and thorough inspection and service to ensure the vehicle is in tip top condition. All this work carried out by www.frogsisland4x4.com. Whilst we may have paid a lot for this preparation, we felt it to be crucially important to have quality equipment and to have the installation and modification work professionally carried out to avoid unnecessary problems en route. Frogs Island have tremendous experience in this line of work, and the preparation carried out and the equipment supplied by them have proven to be faultless (writing this having covered 12,000 miles over deserts and mountains, in temperatures from minus 20 to plus 40 at altitudes of up to 5000m) - touch wood, this will still be true by the end of our journey!