In June 2022, when our overlanding Africa in 2023 idea first emerged, I started perusing the Internet for a vehicle. I considered all types: Land Rovers, Jeeps, Unimogs, Mercedes trucks, Sprinter vans, etc.
In the end, my uncle Rob, who is a Land Rover expert and an experienced African overlander as well, recommended we take a Land Cruiser. What? Why would a Land Rover expert recommend a Land Cruiser? Simple, they are less finicky and you can get parts anywhere in Africa. And so, I narrowed my search to a Land Cruiser with the following features:
- Double cab
- Left-Hand Drive (for right-hand driving like in the USA)
- Manual Transmission
- No new-fangled electronics that I couldn’t repair while off-road
Unfortunately, this still left me with countless possibilities. The first Land Cruiser was made in 1951 and there have been numerous models since and innumerable options and variations on each model. Also, I came to find out that there were no diesel Land Cruisers in the United States. No such car was ever manufactured here. I continued to scour the Internet. I contacted a seller in the Phillippines and looked at shipping from there. I connected with an Overlander in the UK and even met up with him in Scottland (when my family happened to be there) to take his Land Cruiser for a test drive.
During our trip through the UK, I connected with a seller in Sandpoint, ID who happened to have a vehicle that met all the above criteria (well, except the double cab). I informed him I was interested but that I couldn’t see the vehicle until I returned in a couple of weeks. He told me to check in with him when I returned.
Lo and behold, it was still there when I got home and I went up to check it out over the weekend. Eric Edmonds accompanied me as my advisor. (Elisabeth pre-approved any decision I might make – making her obviously exceptional.) The fact that I found a unicorn, a 1996 manual, diesel 80-series Land Cruiser, so close to home, was remarkable. Furthermore, it had been outfitted for Overlanding, with a rooftop tent (RTT), lifted suspension, flood lights, and numerous other enhancements. The car had been imported from Honduras. In addition, it had recently returned from traversing the TransAmerica Trail (TAT). (“… a 4,253-mile (6,845 km) transcontinental vehicular route, intended as a recreational pathway across the United States using a minimum of paved roads, traveled by dual-sport motorcycles, off-road vehicles, or touring bicycle.”)
All this to say, I’m now the owner of a diesel 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser HDJ80L which I have named the Codiwompler. Codiwompler a derivative of coddiwomple, “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination” – a very apt description of my traveling style.
This is the vehicle we have chosen as our trusty steed as Benjamin and I traverse cities, towns, villages, deserts, forests, mountains, storms, mud, rivers, more mud, and so much more in our Overlanding adventure across Africa.