Robert Kim’s plans to drive his ’86 Olds wagon in the 3700 mile Banjul Challenge got me thinking: What cheap old beater would I take on that trip? When I hopped into my trusty rusty old ’66 Ford this afternoon to haul a load of brush to the yard waste recycling dump, the answer was of course at hand.
Knock on wood, but my truck has not had the slightest need of any mechanical attention for quite a few years now. Of course I don’t drive it much, maybe a couple of thousand miles per year. But I’ve certainly done well over that 3700 miles without any attention.
I literally can’t remember he last time I gave it a tune up, so that would probably be a good idea before setting off. Points, condenser, and plugs; maybe $15 or so. An oil change and filter. The single fan belt still looks good, but maybe bring an extra along.
The only mechanical breakdown I’ve had in the last 15 years or so was when the stupid fiber camshaft gear broke, but I replaced that with a steel set of gears for a HD truck engine. They won’t break, but they howl, and folks ask me if I added a blower to the old 240 six.
A set of new tires at Costco might set me back a couple of hundred. These are only the first new tires I’ve put on it some 15 years ago or so; the first ones were some great low-mile Michelins I got from a junkyard for $10 a pop. I’d probably go ahead and pop the drums off, and slap in some new linings. Maybe some new shocks too. And bring along a grease gun. What else would I need?
A younger back and butt, as well as some new ears. This baby is noisy at speed, and its getting worse as the holes in the floor get bigger. The real problem might be in leaving it behind in Africa; I have a hard time imagining getting rid of it. But if I get to the point of being ready to let it go, I’d much rather take it to The Gambia instead of The Crusher.
An old Unimog…
Something rugged but not crude:
-Peugeot 504 or 505 diesel, non-turbo.
Buick Century 3300.
If you are thinking of participating, I could set you up quite nicely.
“Trusty rusty old Ford”? um with out much exaggeration , i have seen worse trucks in car shows around here…
I think you could do a lot worse than a trusty old F-100. A Toyota pickup comes to mind as a second choice, though…they’re pretty common in the backwaters of the world and they’ve more than proven themselves. I think your F-100 would do a fine job of representing Detroit. Keep a few belts, hoses and other spares handy and you’re good to go.
If we wanna get really elemental, really rugged, there’s the Isuzu diesel pickup.
Although a non-turbo would be more appropriate, I’ve posted the picture of a turbodiesel, because they are rare-and cool-enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy.
I think an opera-lamped, landau-roofed 1985-89 Lincoln Town Car would be very amusing. And an EFI 5.0L would be just as robust as a 307.
Or how about a Cordoba? I could wear a Herb Tarlek outfit–with driving helmet, of course.
We are thinking exactly alike! An 85-89 Town Car was my default choice, since they are just as cast iron durable as a B Body wagon and far easier to find, being as common as Corollas where I live. A friend actually has two that he wants to get rid of because they are somewhat trashed.
The Cordoba also occurred to me, primarily because the official starting point is near Cordoba in southern Spain. (Most participants, being from the UK, gather in the UK and road trip together to the starting point.) But for me, the only possible outfit is a suit just like Ricardo Montalban’s.
“Or how about a Cordoba? I could wear a Herb Tarlek outfit–with driving helmet, of course.”
WKRP references (“Somewhere, a Volkswagen is missing its seatcovers”) are becoming as rare as Cordobas themselves (complete with “fine Corinthian leather”) these days. A definite thumbs-up to that!
On the other hand, this is starting to sound more like a LeMons theme…
Of course the right answer is Panther!!! Though I think I’d stick with an Aero for the 4.6 of course it would need to be either a P71 or a HPP equipped model. However I’d choose an EFI 5.0 backed by an AOD over a carbed 307 and 200R4 since that combo are far more bullet proof.
Toyota pickup or an old Land Rover. Parts, parts, parts. Though if I didn’t have to worry about that I would opt for something silly.I like Tom’s Cordoba idea with the matching outfit. What to wear with an Aztek? Blindfold? Invisibility cloak?
Drool. Great ute, great colour.
Take a Leyland Marina.
So small compared to the jacked-up, bulbous trucks of today. I would like to know whether the utility of the new trucks is greater than those of 20 or more years ago. Putting aside the very great technical advances, and in some instances, larger beds, their actual utility is probably no greater and perhaps less with the very high beds trucks have today.
You’ve got to compare apples to apples. In 1966, probably 10% of pickups sold were 4×4, and they were (nearly) as tall as today’s 4x4s.
I’ve said it before, I’ll probably say it again: There’s nothing to stop anyone from buying a 4×2 model (and yes, I realize that the 4×2 models are the same height in the back as 4x4s) and removing a leaf spring or two.
Load up a modern pickup to its maximum capacity, and you’ll see how low it can really get.
Since we’re talking about a Sahara trek, the first car that comes to mind is a 1st generation Jeep Grand Cherokee. Perhaps the Orvis Edition for added rugged flair?
Hey, my dad had a ’95 Orvis! I loved that car and actually got to drive it later on. He kept it until January ’99 when he got a black V70R.
I loved the green and champagne leather in the Orvis, with red piping separating the two colors.
I think Paul has it but not because it’s a Ford six. That’s a good reason by itself but the key is to dance with who brung ya. For me, I guess it would be a 91 S10 with 4.3. It’s residing in Florida now and I doubt I could get it back from the granddaughter.
Either a full size Blazer or Bronco from whatever years were the last you could get a truly low buck vinyl interior and manual trans with your 4×4. SBC for the Blazer and I6 for the Ford.
My trusty 1990 Chevrolet C1500 longbed. 4.3 liter TBI V6, roll-up windows, 4.10 posi. A simple, durable workhorse that’s very easy to keep on the road.
The only thing keeping it off the road right now is a failed smog check due to the rather impressive amount of oil smoke from the exhaust ( 230,000 miles, worn rings, bad valve seals ) .
Superb choice There are plenty of these in Texas. No all that cheap but impossible to kill. Hope more CC readers take the Banjul Challenge. I also like the charity aspect a lot. Leave someone with a vehicle that is really useful to them and you have really done something worthwhile.
Saab 900 base, Volvo 240 turbo/740/760/780 turbo, Chevrolet Nova, Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, or peugeot 404/504.
I would choose a Lexus LS400. I know those aren’t too old and not considered a beater but I think it would work great, at least for me.
Old Toyota Land Cruiser. The obvious choice, reliable enough and easily repaired due to it’s ubiquity in those parts.
Same here, Land Cruiser troop carrier with a pop-top roof and camper conversion. Then again if going through a risky area probably better to avoid driving something that might get hijacked
Give me a chance to throw one of my Beetles together… would be just the thing.
I’ll take my Beetle and go along with Ed, we can share spares.
Of course, it’s been done…
If we are talking classics Id take my Hillman tough as nails plenty of ground clearance and suspension movement and reliable.
an old 1991-1993 Subaru Legacy station wagon with the normally aspirated 4 cylinder.
my 76 monte carlo with over 200k miles on original&untouched 350 had made it from Winston salem(north Carolina)to Tucson&back without a single beat(almost 5000 miles both ways).simple&reliable work horse.
Preferably one with the 350 Diesel, just to ensure it makes the least amount of sense possible.
You win. But good luck finding a running one!
I would bring one of these:
1) EL or AU Falcon. I-6
2) VN or VP Commodore. 3800 V6
The Aussies have live rear axle, are built like tanks, have proper A/C and good ground clearance and there’s a wagon version. They were built to conquer the Outback and can go easily for 500K kms.
3) XV10 Camry. This one will find a home easily in Africa. Wrong Hand Drive and all.
4) Mitsubishi Magna. A V6 of these sounds AWESOME, goes fast, are cheap as chips and tough as nails. I think it’s even better than the Toyota above for the intended mission.
Fully sick choices mate. Make it a Verada and the Mitsi takes me there.
Mitsi V6 is likely the worst car that can be bought or got for free theres a g
ood reason they are cheap, they were junk new
@KB Hating much? I have one coworker who recommended me one of those as first car. The reasoning: they eventually got them right. And he knows his stuff.
@DA, yeah mate, make it a Verada.
I had in mind the most basic company car fodder: Executive-ish versions with A/C.
You are the ONLY person I have ever heard recommend a Magna Verada for anything and that includes people I know who owned them, nice to ride in I’ll grant you but mechanically rubbish, the Japanese versions are no better even the 4WD model I would not have for that trip.
Mitsu for me would be an Executive one. Don wants a Verada… I still think it would do the trick.
The AU would embellish Africa and the whole competition. It would introduce African people to the concept of “aesthetics”. Its slippery aero shape would be great to reduce fuel use. Think about it.
One thing is for sure, other than the Panda below or the Land Rovers, I wouldn’t touch most of Euro cars that have been recommended.
Whenever I see a car burning oil, it’s always a Mitsubishi Magna
VP VR VS Commodore yep EF Falcon like the panelvan but certainly no earlier and definitely not an AU or later
You obviously haven’t priced parts in a while Paul. A set of quality points will eat up the majority of that $15. You’ll need to about triple that budget to do points, condensor and spark plugs with parts you can trust nowadays.
We’re talking Africa, so anything from America is a needle in a haystack there. Probably no parts at shops and junk yards.
It has to be light, fuel efficient and as basic as it can get. Everything manual.
No heavy land yacht or huge pick-up with a big V8 engine. Remember that a 4 cylinder Suziki SJ is better in the sand and mud than any WAY too heavy V8 4×4 monster.
Do as the locals do, which means:
French cars, especially Peugeot 504.
Mercedes W115, W123, W124 and W201.
Any basic 4 cylinder car or van from Japan.
Toyota HiAce, HiLux and Land Cruiser. (the local warriors can’t be wrong)
+1. Couldn’t have said it better. Anything American and Swedish is to be avoided whenever possible. Frankly, even a late 80’s / early 90’s Corolla would do as it is an easy fix and would be an easy sell upon arrival. African demand for old Volvos will be we weak at best.
You’ve got the right answer in there somewhere. I’d probably pick a W123 or if 4×4 is allowed, a Mk 1 Range Rover or 70s Land Rover
You guys talk simplicity and just threw this massive spanner in the works?
A stripper 4 cylinder W201 diesel from the eighties is a “massive spanner” ?
My bad, I thought that was post W124 E-Class.
Right, the splendid 1982 W201 vs the crap 1995 W210.
My sister and BIL have recently been touring in Africa and nowdays only Japanese import 4WDs are considered up to the task of African roads, Jeeps and other rubbish from the US simply wouldnt survive the primitive roads and the older European cars are all gone, Land cruisers are weapon of choice here or a good reliable Landrover.
Yup, Toyota for me. I’d love to try my 83 Tercel at this challenge.
+1 for Tercel! Light (important for dunes!), reliable, low-gear and 4WD for really sticky situations, perfect car for Africa.
Other than that, W123 (preferably wagon), Peugeot 504 only (505 is fragile), Toy/Nissan/Isuzu pick up (in Africa, Mitsu’s are driven only by suburban posers..and for reason!), Toy/Nissan/Isuzu van…
Bryce, the point is that the Japanese off-roaders from Isuzu, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi are mostly too expensive given the max. purchase price of the vehicle. We agree that these are the best vehicles to do these jobs.
25 to 30 years old Nissan Patrols are quite popular here among the competitors of these challenges. They were very popular in the eighties and nineties as trailer pullers. It was the right mixture of power, (enough) luxury and decent comfort and handling on paved roads. The older ones have inline 6 diesel engines, 3.3 ltr. displacement if I recall correctly. Recent models have a 3.0 ltr. 4 cylinder.
I guess those are worth money where you are, old Jap 4WDs are very cheap here.
There must be way more around where you are. Japanese diesel 4x4s are and were only used here to pull 7,700 lbs (or heavier) trailers . Pure off-road capabilities are less important. Depreciation of these beasts is relatively low, certainly if you take good care of them and the car comes with a fully documented maintenance history.
Here’s a typical combo you see a lot here. This Nissan Patrol has blinded rear windows, a higher roof and a flat floor. No back seats. That makes it a commercial vehicle, which means far less road tax. (Photo: Grondverzetbedrijf Hans Janssen)
Yeah common as dirt and they do not hold their value well due to hard use, well beaten versions are cheap
Pigot as the Africans say !
For ride comfort, cargo space (in wagon form), and parts and service expertise availability in West Africa, it is hard to beat the Peugeot 504. It would be my first choice if doing the trip in an American car were not a no-compromise issue.
’83-’85 S10 Blazer with carbureted 2.8 and manual transmission. No electronica to go wrong but I’d have an extra distributor, alternator, & water pump packed up just in case.
I like Robert’s idea of making a go of it in a Yank Tank, and my choice would be something with a slant 6 – either a Dodge pickup or an old A body Valiant/Dart/Duster. Hang a fresh R-134 a/c unit under the dash of a Valiant and let’s go!
I’d go for a post-1987 FIAT Panda, probably a 4×4 like the one below (photographed completing the Mongol Rally) but i’d settle for a FWD.
I know first hand how reliable (and readily fixable when needed) that little 1000cc FIRE power plant is, and the rest of the car’s incredibly simple mechanically… so after a refresher course in basic mechanics (it’s been a while!) and possibly a spare coolant manifold (since I know it’s a weakness) I’d be confident setting out on this kind of journey in one of those. Comfy enough for two and plenty of hauling capacity for supplies too, expecially if there’s a roof rack.
Yup. Definitely a Panda for me thanks.
Excellent ! It won’t get much lighter and simpler than this, as far as “modern” cars go. And certainly no problems with the purchase price limit.
Indeed – for us RHD types the only problem would be finding one as they went out of production for Right Hand Drive in ’95, but LHD markets soldiered on to 2003 so there should be decent enough examples kicking about on the continent…
Always kind of fancied doing that kind of journey in a Panda (my first car was one) ever since I first heard about the Mongol Rally back in 2004. Would be a great adventure.
nice choice. Forgot about that little bugger.
Great minds think alike – the Fiat Panda is the car that I identified as the (theoretically) best choice for the Mongol Rally. I figured that if one has to do the trip in a tiny 1 liter hatchback, the 4WD of the Panda made it the best possible choice for a long trip with bad or nonexistent roads in places. Living in the US, though, I had no idea how I would be able to find a sufficiently old Panda that would be sound enough for the journey and make the necessary preventive work on it, without an infinite budget for living in Europe temporarily.
For an event with no size limits, on the other hand, I found it difficult to imagine taking a Panda, which would be the second smallest car that I have ever driven.
Small is beautiful 🙂 and they’re surprisingly good load luggers for such wee cars
Great choice on the Panda. I’d suggest Fiat Uno, early one.
Simplicity and ruggedness with a bit more space.
One of two. Either my old ’92 F-150 Custom with the 300 I-6, 2wd and stick shift. That truck was utterly indestructible, until it came in contact with a dually that pulled out in front of it. Still kept me safe even in a 50mph collision. Even two wheel drive it handled the local National Guard’s Humvee training grounds (repeatedly!) with ease. I loved that truck, only options it had were A/C and the tow package – both would do well in Gambia. It was surprisingly comfortable and rode really well, even over terrible conditions and did I mention it was tough?
Second is the ’93 Taurus GL I had for a couple years. With the Vulcan 3.0 I’m fairly certain that car is still alive somewhere, and sure did refuse to die when I had it. I rather hated to love the thing, it’s quirks and all, mainly because in two years of ownership it never once required anything except a set of tires.
I know this would be a challange and economically not feasible but I have a project in mind I have always wanted to build that could lend itself well. If money was no option I dream of buying a 4×4 fullsize truck and taking the body off the chassis. Disconnect the drive shaft brake lines, fuel lines, and electrical. Then find the broughamiest car I can find, I am thinking 70s Mark and ford F series pickup. And stretch the truck frame and lower the Mark onto the stretched truck frame. Get a custom driveshaft, new gas and break lines, and about 6 months of wiring this could be an awesome build… This car has been one of my wanna build just because car.
Let’s see in the driveway I’ve got either a 240 series Volvo or a 220D Mercedes. I’ll bet the diesel would be the better bet despite being older.
An ugly-but-functional CV Police Interceptor. The extra radiators will probably be useful in the desert, the a/c should be up to the task, and it can tolerate some pretty big potholes. Parts would be a problem, but I’d gamble that it could go the distance without a crippling failure.
lack of ground clearance would bash a panther tank to pieces better off going with an Aussie sedan or wagon at least they were designed with unpaved roads in mind, lighter, faster, better fuel economy and much stronger in the bodyshell than anything out of Europe or the states and cheap as chips to buy
Well, I don’t know about which has a stronger shell (though the Ford’s body-on-frame, solid-rear-axle construction is certainly renowned in the US for its toughness), but a CV Police Interceptor has the exact same ground clearance as an FG Falcon sedan.
I’ve never heard of this “race” until these posts here on CC, but I don’t get the impression that it’s about top speed or carving corners (in which case a full-sized Aussie sedan would doubtless be a better choice than a CV).
I guess we’ll see how it shakes out in a few years: some cities here in the US are using Chevrolet (Holden) Caprices as their police vehicles, so that should eventually tell us how their durability compares to Crown Vics in the same environment.
A FG with country suspension would have a additional clearance.
That said, I can’t see why a PI or even a regular CV would have issues doing the drive.
To earn the Interceptor badge a Ford has to pass the same off-road tests as an F150. The P71 Panther sits about 1″ higher than the standard Panther just so it can do light off-roading, go through hwy medians or over curbs at speed.
Considering some of the places I’ve been with my Monza 2+2, which was my woods-trail car and also did well on a trip to Fairbanks and back, in 1977 when the Alaska Highway was still mostly unpaved, I’m not so sure that the choice of vehicle makes a huge difference. Considering also the wide variety of rides already proposed….
If there were almost no fast paved road on the route my old man’s first-generation Scout would be the ticket. That was unstoppable in the woods but drove me crazy on pavement because everything on it buzzed, rattled, whined, or roared, and the wind coming in the open window tried to take my ear off at highway speeds. There would be no worry about it not completing the journey though.
My long-gone ’77 Silverado or a first gen Isuzu Trooper diesel.
From what little I know about driving in Africa, I think that this would be a good platform to use. Internationally available, with the smaller gasoline/benzin/petrol engines, it should be pretty decent on fuel.
The general size and the true off road capabilities of even a stock version should handle anything it might encounter. I think to be truly great it should be one of the Euro-market diesel powered ones, but one of the 4-cylinder gasoline powered versions should be just fine for this kind of driving. Plus, it would be a fairly desirable unit at the end of the rally.
After thinking a lot about it, I still can’t decide between my ’93 Subaru (non-turbo) 4WD Loyale wagon and the best car I’ve owned: an ’88 M-Benz 200TD (W-124 diesel wagon, NO extras). What would be worse? limited off-road abilities (MB), or the few Subaru weaknesses? I am quite sure my Benz lives now in Africa, and provided I can use the same extra-beer-cans technique than Robert to be towed out from the sand when necessary, I’d go for the Benz!