As our journey came to an end, the moment we have to say goodbye to our trustworthy travel companion Hank The Tank is coming closer too.
If somebody would have told us beforehand how well this car would treat us, we probably wouldn’t have believed. I’ll give a complete list of repairs we had to do during this trip, that can’t be classified as regular maintenance:
- A weld of rear axle
- A tire fix
Yep, that’s it. Two items.
The rocky mountains of Teth, Albania, shipping across the Mediterranean, the extreme heat of the Sahara, climbing up to the highest point on the continent reachable by car in Ethiopia (above 4000 m), across 750 kms of literally no-mans land between Ethiopia and Kenya, dragged through the mud in the East African national parks, up the rainy, slippery, muddy mountains in Malawi, over the most intense corrugations in Botswana, over the (mother-f-ing) van Zyl’s pass in Northern Namibia, right to the southern most point in Africa. All that, with only two repairs, together less than 60 minutes work and at negligible material costs.
And Hank’s not done, there is simply no ground left here to defeat – there are no signs it couldn’t do it all over again.
To think that humans can engineer something capable of a trip like this, is already pretty amazing. But what really strikes me, is not that it did all this, but that it did all this basically as a pensioner. This car didn’t come fresh from the factory, it has had an entire live before this trip. At 360.000 km and 17 years, most cars are long gone – rusting away at some scrapyard. But not Hank. At that time it was sitting in a snowy lot of a car dealership in Emmen.
The advertisement wasn’t exactly your typical “as-good-as-new, previous owner was an old lady, always been parked inside, never been smoked in” car ad. On the contrary. The ownership papers showed that the previous owner was a company dealing in wooden pallets (hinting at the heavy trailers it must have towed in his younger years), the timing belt had not been replaced in 7 years and the cigarette burn marks were in the drivers seat.
Still, the Land Cruiser badge appealed to us. After a short test drive we took a leap of faith and bought it on the spot. Without any work done whatsoever, we went on a 3 week holiday through Scotland with zero problems.
In all fairness, we didn’t rely on its 17 years and 360.000 km of experience alone for the big trip. We did bring it in and invested in it seriously. We replaced the 17 year old shocks with ones that are engineered on a constant 300 kg load, we replaced the road tires by All Terrain tires and as a precaution, replaced the power steering assembly. The rest was, again, just (thorough) maintenance.
As a European, we had never experienced taking a car like this to the terrain it was made for. Cautious at first, It took some time for us to understand how much further this thing would go than we would initially take it. In the mountains of Teth in Albania, we first experienced how little fucks it gave about rocks and steep inclines. Over the next six months, we would push a little more in the mountains of the Ntchisi Forest in Malawi and over the van Zyl’s pass in Namibia. We now know that no incline is steep enough for this machine geared in low-range, and no rocks can destroy a BFGoodrich tire (a bolt can though – but that’s just bad luck).
Another example is corrugations – I should probably explain. Corrugations are series of little bumps created in a dirt road by previous traffic. The road turns into something that resembles one of these old washboards, each bump being about 10 cm high and long. Driving a car over it, you feel like you – and the car – are shaken to pieces. Everything shakes, rattles, vibrates and resonates as you go over a seriously corrugated road. Everything that can become loose, will eventually become loose. We had to secure the battery at some point, because it had almost started a second life as a loose wrecking ball in the engine bay. Same thing to the roof tent, we noticed just in time it had been wandering over the roof bars – that could have been a nasty surprise. But these old man emu shocks, or anything actually, took the pounding as if – as if it was made for it probably.
We are thankful for the great moments we had with this masterpiece of engineering. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to keep it in the heavy/old/diesel-tax hell that is called the Netherlands – and Hank would probably be bored anyway. So on to the next adventure for Hank, while we submit ourselves to asphalt and office hours: Salute old friend! Go forth and prosper!