In search of a Land Cruiser
Perhentian Island (Malaysia), May 11th 2011 

It is already a dream for years to travel a part of our journey by private car. A car gives you the ultimate freedom. You do not depend on the public transport, which means that you can visit places that are not or difficult to reach by public bus. Besides that, you can stop wherever you want, for a stop-over or just to take a picture. In the spring of 2012 we hope to start with the journey with the car, and the route will roughly take us through Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. And because finding a suitable car isn’t an easy task, we started already at the end of 2010 with the search.

The first task in the decision process was to think about the most ideal car for us. In the beginning we thought about a 2-wheel-drive car. The reason is that we met several travellers before who travelled with a ‘conventional’ car in Asia, even in the less developed areas. We met for example a Dutch couple who travelled with a 1980s 2-wheel-drive Ford Transit Van through Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to the Far East; and that without problems. So for a while, we also thought about buying a van because of the huge space such a car offers. We also shortly thought about an old Mercedes Benz Station wagon from the 80s. They have reliable engines and because of the fact that these cars are popular in the Middle East and Africa, it is probably a good choice if you need to have the car repaired.

Another issue that was important for us is the age of the car. Cars of 25 years and older, get the ‘old-timer’ status in The Netherlands, and that means that you do not have to pay road taxes for them. And that is a huge saving for a heavier diesel vehicle. Besides that, cars of 30 years and older only need to be technical checked once in the two years in stead of once a year. And that is also an advantage if you are on the road for a longer time. An older car of at least 25 years old, which eventually also get the age of 30 years, had for these reasons our strong preference.

Our Land Cruiser as found in France

After an intensive search on the internet, reading the blogs of other travellers who travel by car, we eventually made the decision to go for a 4-wheel-drive car. The reason was simple: we didn’t want to limit our choices for the route as result of the choice for the car. Especially in parts of Africa, roads and paths become impassable for 2-wheel-drive cars after rain. Roads to and in the national parks are often most effected in rainy seasons. And that is something we do not want. Besides that, we also got the strong preference for a car in where we can sleep. Of course, we also take a tent, but the option to sleep in the car is valuable, especially in bad and cold weather, or if you want to camp unnoticed in a town.

Eventually, the picture for our ideal car was complete. We wanted a 4-wheel-drive diesel jeep, with an age of at least 25 years, and big enough to sleep in it. And that means that only two reasonable options are left: the English made Land Rover or the Japanese made Toyota Land Cruiser. And because reliability of the car is probably the most important issue of the car, we made the choice for the Land Cruiser. This decision was partly taken after reading on internet blogs that some Land Rover drivers had to replace their engines already before it reached 100,000 kilometres, while other Land Rover owners called their cars the worst product ever made in the world. From our travels last years, we also know that the big NGO’s, the International Red Cross and also the UN, almost unanimously choose for the Land Cruisers, which means that the car must be a reliable option, and an option with a surplus of spare parts available around the world. Two Land Cruiser models are available within the brackets of our wish list, the older BJ45 (also called ‘troop carrier’) or the more modern HJ60. It didn’t take long to choose for the BJ45. This models isn’t only larger with more space, but it is also much more characteristic.

Keeping informed via Skype
Because we are still travelling, we asked Edwin’s father, a real car lover, to look around for the car for us. But that wasn’t easy. Nowadays, the Land Cruiser BJ45 (or HJ45 in some countries) is a heavily wanted collector’s item, which means that supply is limited and demand is high. Besides that, the car also has a big disadvantage which makes the search even more difficult. The BJ45’s are very susceptible for rust, which makes it extremely hard to find a good one. Roughly spoken, the BJ45’s can be divided in two groups: the reasonable good and good copies which are expensive, or the rusty versions which are cheaper, but still too expensive for a car that can be better driven to the demolition firm than to Africa. For that reason, people often advised us to focus our search on the HJ60 model in stead of the BJ45. The HJ60’s are not only wider available; they are also in better condition, cheaper and less Spartan. However, we fell in love with the BJ45.

In the previous months in our search, Edwin’s father grew into a real BJ45-specialist. He saw many cars and spoke to numerous people with extensive knowledge of this car. People often warned him for bad cars on the market. Some cars look good, but are a disaster if you take a closer look at them. Many owners of bad copies want to make quick money by taking the car from the scrap heap, do some window dressing and sell the car to uninformed people. At the end of April, we see an interesting car available on the internet. The car is for sale in the southern part of France, but because we hadn’t seen reasonable cars for a while in Belgium and The Netherlands, we decided to go. We spoke to the seller several times by phone and he guaranteed us that the car was in good condition. Edwin’s father took Edwin’s brother-in-law, a 4x4 enthusiastic, and drove the 1000 kilometres to France. The disillusion was huge. The seller described the car much better than it was. The restoration wasn’t done well and also the technical condition of the car was doubtful.

But when it almost looked that they drove 2000 kilometres for nothing, our luck changed. Edwin’s father also printed an advertisement of a blue BJ45, for sale in the same French area, around 150 kilometres north of the place where they saw the other one. We never spoke to the seller and Edwin’s father decided to go for an unannounced visit. The seller was an old-fashioned farmer, far from the developed parts of France, who used the BJ45 already for years to feed his cattle. The car was dirty but Edwin’s father immediately saw that the car was ‘honest’. The engine ran smooth, didn’t exhaust blue or clack fumes and was dry (no leakage of oil). Also the bodywork was in reasonable condition. Of course, still some work to do, but this BJ45 was absolutely a car with good perspectives, especially for a car in this low price category. Edwin’s father bought the car, checked the oil and other necessary fluids and drove without any problems the 750 kilometres back to The Netherlands. The car looks like a winning ticket in the lottery. Now we just have to hope that it is one!

© copyright - / 2011