Although always interested in off road activities such as ATV’s, mountain biking, and desert trucks, it was not until the move to Denver, Colorado that we would become so heavily involved in the 4×4 scene. Interested in exploring more of Colorado, we had to look for a replacement vehicle to replace our under-powered and low slung Honda Element that had been our adventure vehicle of choice until then. Looking for something of equal utility, we ultimately chose the Nissan Xterra.
After extensive modifications and upgrades, the Xterra made an incredibly capable vehicle, ready to tackle just about anything that the Colorado trails could throw at it. We explored every nook and cranny of the front range.
Malissa, decided that riding co-pilot was no longer an option, and decided to purchase her own off-road vehicle. After months of decision making, she landed on the iconic Land Rover LR3. We found one already outfitted for exploration and added it to the family. Meet “Carlisle”.
By – Dustin
Late summer of 2015 I was exposed to a new trend in the off-road community, one that included the outfitting of vehicles to allow for fully self-reliant travel and exploration into remote off the grid locations. Until now, we had only participated in basic weekend camping, and day trips to local trails so this new form of adventure struck a cord.
I approached Malissa with this brilliant idea that we become involved in this new growing scene (within the United States. Come to find out Aussies and South Africans have been doing this for quite some time now), and I was going to outfit the Xterra, since it was my vehicle and Carlisle was OFF LIMITS to modifications. So I set off to outfit the Xterra, (who remained nameless during time of ownership) with all of the needs for overland exploration.
I quickly found out that the Xterra although capable off road, and a very good looking vehicle had some short comings, one of which would quickly kick it out of the running to be a proper overland vehicle for our needs. The complete lack of interior space. With two dogs, and lots of gear that would need to support us in the back country, I was forced to accept the cold reality that the X was not going to cut it.
So at this point, you must be asking, why not outfit the Land Rover. Well, we contemplated that option, and went back and forth regarding this very topic. But the LR3 too had a serious Achilles Heel that was one I was unwilling to overlook. Adjustable Air Suspension. Great in theory, but a mess when travelling alone in remote regions. One failed air coil and you are dead in the water. Countless hours of research went into finding solutions to replace the aging air springs, but nothing was offered that met our needs without sacrifice the true heart of the vehicle and destroying resale value.
After some tough decision making, we decided to sell both the Xterra and the Land Rover, and purchase a vehicle known world wide for its reliability and off-road capability. Meet the Gram Cruiser. (Aptly named by Malissa, who swears that the only people who drive Land Cruisers are Gramma’s, hence the nickname, Gram Cruiser.)
Meet our 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser, outfitted with equipment from some of the most trusted names in overlanding, Old Man Emu suspension, ARB bumpers, and a compliment of other accessories such as a Gamiviti roof rack, and Hefty Fabworks rock sliders.
Our new vehicle of choice was the perfect fit for the next chapter of our adventures. It was roomy enough to house 2 passengers and our 2 dogs comfortably. The rear was spacious enough to house a storage setup that included an ARB fridge / freezer and slide out stove. The Gram Cruiser was equipped with 100 watts of solar and dual battery setup to meet all of our electrical needs. It was clear why the Land Cruiser got voted the best overland vehicle available in North America by Expedition Portal.