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Posted: 12/29/2012 8:25:29 AM EDT
I'm looking for a camping/expedition vehicle that fits the following criteria...

- 4WD
- Large enough to sleep in. (I'm 5'9)
- Diesel
- Dead Reliable/Easy to find parts for

I don't mind older vehicles as I am pretty handy with a wrench. I like the styling of the older boxy Chevy/GMC's and Jeep XJ's. I've heard the Cummins, Duramax and Powerstroke engines are all good, but not sure what all they came in that fits the above.

What do you guys think?
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 9:02:53 AM EDT
[#1]
I am 6'0" and used to sleep in the back of a 6' bed Ranger with a shell over it.

A lot depends on what you really want including how serious your 4WD need/desire is, and your budget.

If you are looking for 4WD to do some serious logging roads you have a radically different need than for just normal snow and ice issues.

Diesel and dead reliable are not always something you can get in the same package. Diesel will always be somewhat pickier than gas engines. There really is no advantage to diesel anyway except in a very, very few cases.



Link Posted: 12/29/2012 9:55:01 AM EDT
[#2]
How handy are you? Enough to give a Crew Cab longbed K30 a 6bt?

Link Posted: 12/29/2012 10:41:04 AM EDT
[#3]
My main desire for diesel was the availability of alternate fuels and to minimize electric failures that could leave me stranded.

I would say the off-road capabilities are moderate - I plan on some Alaska travel.

As for handiness, I grew up in a car family so I know how to diagnose and fix alot of problems - but major things like engine swaps are beyond my experience right now.
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 11:35:32 AM EDT
[#4]
Quoted:
My main desire for diesel was the availability of alternate fuels and to minimize electric failures that could leave me stranded.

I would say that in general it is much easier to get gasoline than diesel, although these days diesel is more common than it once was. I am not sure that electrical failures are less of an issue with diesel than with gas engines, and diesel engines are a little pickier on other things. Overall, it may well be a wash reliability wise, with a slight edge one way or the other depending on your particular fears.

I would say the off-road capabilities are moderate - I plan on some Alaska travel.

If you stay on paved or gravel roads it is not a big deal. If you go off road you are really looking at a different animal. It needs higher ground clearance, skid plates, winches, different tires, etc.

As for handiness, I grew up in a car family so I know how to diagnose and fix alot of problems - but major things like engine swaps are beyond my experience right now.

My mechanic told me that swapping out an engine or a transmission is one of the easiest things for him to do. He said neither requires a lot of mechanical skill as everything pretty much just bolts together. He said the thing about swapping an engine is taking all the pieces off the old engine and then putting them back on the swapped in engine. He said most rebuilt or used engines are pretty much bare bones when they come into his shop. Apparently some engines can be had with at least some of the pieces attached as they can be put in place without them having to be removed, and other engines you can't get the engine in unless the pieces (alternators, etc.) are removed.
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 11:55:54 AM EDT
[#5]
Good points...

So... any suggestions?
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 12:11:35 PM EDT
[#6]
Quoted:
I would say that in general it is much easier to get gasoline than diesel, although these days diesel is more common than it once was. I am not sure that electrical failures are less of an issue with diesel than with gas engines, and diesel engines are a little pickier on other things. Overall, it may well be a wash reliability wise, with a slight edge one way or the other depending on your particular fears.


IIRC, fuel stations during Katrina ran out of gasoline, but not out of diesel.

The way I figure it, it's probably easier to run a gasoline truck with a wood-gasifier than it is to make biodiesel... but that's a bit reserved for fantasy land, no?
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 12:13:54 PM EDT
[#7]
Excursion
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 1:11:44 PM EDT
[#8]
Quoted:
Quoted:
I would say that in general it is much easier to get gasoline than diesel, although these days diesel is more common than it once was. I am not sure that electrical failures are less of an issue with diesel than with gas engines, and diesel engines are a little pickier on other things. Overall, it may well be a wash reliability wise, with a slight edge one way or the other depending on your particular fears.


IIRC, fuel stations during Katrina ran out of gasoline, but not out of diesel.

The way I figure it, it's probably easier to run a gasoline truck with a wood-gasifier than it is to make biodiesel... but that's a bit reserved for fantasy land, no?


I think it is hard to make any general statements about fuel availability in any particular case. Diesel does have an advantage in that it is much, much safer to store diesel in any quantity than it is to store similar quantities of gasoline.

The OP never asked about extremely unlikely situations where he might have to make his own fuel, although he did mention alternative fuels. AFAIK, a diesel engine will burn just about any vegetable oil, however as I understand it, most vegetable oils are not suitable for use in cold weather without additives being used to keep the oil moving. It is not real hard to make biodiesel, but it is not real hard to make ethanol either.
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 9:10:43 PM EDT
[#9]
Check out expeditionportal.com; most of the posters are more into domestic travel although there are some who do travel all over the world.  For what you're talking about most any modern vehicle will do as long as it's well maintained.  Personally, as much as I like diesel, gas is easier and cheaper for every day use.  Unless you're pulling a load, making your own fuel, or just need a diesel for some reason, a gasser will do what you want.  I've traveled all over the country and into Mexico in two different Toyota Tacomas; my first was a '95.5 and the current is a '05.  Both had camper shells, winches, upgraded suspensions, etc but the mechanicals I basically left stock for maximum reliability*.  A bit tight for two on extended trips, but no problem when traveling solo (how I usually travel).  A roof rack allows me to add accessories as needed including kayaks, canoes, bikes or a cargo box.  I'd like to switch to a true camper like a Four Wheel Camper, but I can't afford it right now and used ones never seem to show up on the east coast.      

I would highly advise putting in some time on decent forums and with someone who does this sort of thing to reduce your learning curve and save money.  I've posted tips on several forums and I think maybe this one, especially for solo winter travel and how to be found when things go wrong.  

Most importantly, know your limitations, your vehicle's limitations and know when to stop and turn around.  There's a huge difference between a group 4wd outing and solo remote travel.    


*Most modern trucks are pretty reliable in stock form and if you check the internet boards specific to your model you can usually find the weak points and correct them ahead of time.  Always keep up on your PM and replace parts on schedule.

Link Posted: 12/29/2012 9:38:15 PM EDT
[#10]
M1009 cucv
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 10:18:01 PM EDT
[#11]
Quoted:
I've traveled all over the country and into Mexico in two different Toyota Tacomas; my first was a '95.5 and the current is a '05.


Yep, it's been proven over and over, Tacomas (and the similar Hilux if you can find one in the states) are nearly bullet proof with basic maintenance, and fairly easy to work on.  There is also an almost unending supply of aftermarket for them as well.  As soon as I pay off my RAM, I plan on buying a Tacoma as a camping/BOV.

Just look at all the things that Top Gear did to the Hilux over the years and just how indestructiable they are (they dropped a building on one, and while it was quite crushed, it STILL started up).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Hilux
Link Posted: 12/29/2012 10:28:15 PM EDT
[#12]
Diesel will only eliminate electronic failure points if you go with an old, mechanical fuel pump with indirect injection.  If anything, modern diesels rely more on electronic controls than any carbureted gasoline engine (though probably on par with an equally modern injected gasoline engine).  Take my 2001 7.3 as an example.  The crankshaft position sensor is an extremely common failure point.  The glowplug relay is a common failure point.  The amount of electronic sensors and controls on the thing is ridiculous.

On the other hand, I have a John Deere 430 with a 20hp Yanmar diesel engine in it.  There are only two critical electronic parts on that engine, the fuel pump and the fuel shutoff solenoid.  



I'm not trying to convince you that gas>diesel, just that to get the advantages you're looking for, you'll have to go with an older one, and with an older vehicle you're talking about taking on 100 more failure points from age, wear, and lack of maintenance.  If you're talking about a 20 year old CUCV or Cummins 5.9 vehicle, now you have to worry about ball joints and spider gears and every moving part in the transmission, etc etc ad infinitum.


So, my suggestion on the topic, since I've daydreamed about it a bit as a future project is this:  Find the vehicle that suits your needs as a body, whether it's a 4 Runner or Landcruiser or Blazer or Bronco or Jeep or whatever.  Rebuild it from the ground up.  New seals, bearings, joints, gears, hubs, lockouts, springs, shocks, steering: every critical component.  While it's stripped down to the frame, get everything made of metal blasted and coated with Chassis Saver or CARC primer or powder coat or whatever you think is best.  Put the thing back together with a freshly rebuilt power plant of your choosing, whether that's a 6.5 GM or 5.9 Cummins or maybe for the smaller vehicles a 4bt Cummins or even one of those Isuzu diesels out of a reefer truck.

If that's too much work for what you want out of the vehicle, then I think you're money, and time ahead, just to get a modern capable vehicle with low miles and keep up on the regular maintenance.

I'm currently building my wife a Jeep Wagoneer with a freshly rebuild TBI 350.  When that's done, I'm thinking about finally finding myself an FJ60 or FJ80 and building the vehicle I described above.
Link Posted: 12/30/2012 8:10:15 AM EDT
[#13]
Buy a low mileage Tacoma and be done.
Link Posted: 12/30/2012 7:43:26 PM EDT
[#14]
Another vote for an Excursion.  I am 6' and with seats folded can sleep comfortably on pad in back.  My Tacoma is a ahort bed and while tough as nails, no way to comfortably sleep in it. (Own a 12 yr old Excursion and a 5 yr old Taco).

Doc
Link Posted: 12/31/2012 5:28:11 PM EDT
[#15]
Link Posted: 12/31/2012 5:31:57 PM EDT
[#16]
Suburban.  Some older models are diesel.
Link Posted: 1/1/2013 7:32:12 PM EDT
[#17]
With your parameter's, I would find an Excursion with a 7.3.  The early ones had them.  I'd imagine that 6.0 that they started putting in them is an electronically controlled fuel system where the 7.3 is mechanically injected.

Now, your parameter's aside, I'd find a low mileage Tacoma and put a topper on the back even though I love a diesel engine too.

Check out the forums over on expedition portal.  Hours of reading enjoyment over there.
Link Posted: 1/2/2013 8:22:42 AM EDT
[#18]
Tacoma! DannerTrax
Link Posted: 1/2/2013 5:25:07 PM EDT
[#19]
Older diesels; 6bt, 4bt, 6.2L Detroit, 7.3L international. These motors run forever and are NOT PICKY.. Buy one with a manual and add a good clutch, equals dead on reliable.

Right now I'm addicted to cummins but I've had powerstrokes and GMs before.

I run filtered waste oil up to 50% in my 95 12v cummins powered dodge without issue, my buddy runs similar % figures in his 99 F350 with the 7.3L powerstroke.

Just find something without rust, and a fresh front end.
Link Posted: 1/2/2013 5:25:08 PM EDT
[#20]
Link Posted: 1/2/2013 5:35:54 PM EDT
[#21]
I have a Ford 3/4 ton with a 7.3. One thing to consider is how much weight is out there in the front of a truck with a diesel in it as opposed to a gas engine. I've parked in several spots out in the woods and had the front end sink as soon as I wasn't moving. 4wd gets you out, but it's something to think about.
Link Posted: 1/2/2013 6:29:47 PM EDT
[#22]
DELETE
Link Posted: 1/5/2013 9:01:35 AM EDT
[#23]
Link Posted: 1/8/2013 8:45:47 PM EDT
[#24]
I have a 06 2500HD Diesel quad-cab, I have a short bed but would get a long bed next time, and I tow a 37 foot fifth wheel with a garage big enough to hold a four seat ATV.   I would rather tow a fifth wheel than any bumper pull anything.  It works great and has room enough for six without using the garage for sleeping.  Mine is a KZ Sportsman which, I think, is a little nicer than most.  It has the Arctic package with two big propane tanks and a 5500 Watt generator.  I don't know that I get another one with the generator as you don't use it much and when you do it'll go through propane pretty fast.  I'd just use the propane for hot water and the furnace the propane lasts a lot longer that way.
I took it from WI to AZ, CA, and back to WI and averaged about 12 mpg.  The weather never did co-operate it seemed like I fought headwinds the whole way.  The big advantage over a Class A or any motorhome is that you can drop the thing and still use the truck for trails or for going to the store or for more propane.  If you get a shorter fifth wheel you can still tow a boat behind it.  
If you want the perfect truck get a Dodge 5.9 Diesel (best engine) and put it in a Ford (best suspension) with a Chevy Allison (best transmission).  
Link Posted: 1/12/2013 6:16:59 PM EDT
[#25]
What he said. Tthe 6BT doesn't need electricity at all to run, you can add things like off the shelf air starters and is the least picky on fuel although I recommend additives to make up for the ULSD effect on wear.

A couple things thing about going off road in a diesel. They are high compression with limited space in the cylinder at TDC. If any water gets into the intake it will destroy any diesel engine instantly. Think about a snorkel or other protection, like using your better judgement to stay out of deep water. Pay attention to extended idle/low rpm run time, it does bad things to your engine. An exhaust brake isn't just for towing, it can help with warm-up or extended descents.
Link Posted: 1/13/2013 2:02:24 PM EDT
[#26]
I think this is what your looking for.

Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:18:44 AM EDT
[#27]
Top choices would be a Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 or FJ62 model years, or a Toyota Tacoma if you want the pickup bed versatility.

I have an FJ62 and their reputation is well deserved.

Another lesser expensive option is a Nissan Frontier truck. Again, I also have a Frontier that I have had for roughly 10 years and it is an excellent off road machine. Great in the snow.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 12:37:54 PM EDT
[#28]
HOME:

AWAY:
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 12:41:48 PM EDT
[#29]
Budget?



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