'Desert Ute' ~ A pickup for the Sahara
in association with
the Matt Savage Ute Institute (MSUI)
For the latest 2007-8 Desert Ute Project click this or this
I've always been attracted
to the simplicity of a pickup in the Sahara. Where weather,
payload security or (inside) passengers are not issues, what
more do you need; a self-propelled platform with a steering
wheel and a seat. The tray behind a single cab is big enough,
loads low and is easy to get to.
I've read all this...
skip to final installment
choice of course would have been a TLC 75 or an HJZ
79 (left) but the extreme scarcity
of 70s in the UK and the expense of bringing one in from Europe
or Australia meant not this time.
Tojo 60s are cheap and
easy to find in the UK however, and have the same running
gear and engine as an early 75. And heck, while we're cutting
off the back body why not cut the
dang thing in half and slap an extra metre into the chassis
to make a useful US-sized bed?
Matt collected this 60 sight unseen for 1100 quid; an ex-Saharan
TLC in dire need of more TLC. But driving it around a bit more
proved it was just too shagged in the transmission to be worth
investing in, so I flogged it on to a mate in Niger with
less reservations about its condition. I came across it a few
weeks later near Bilma with a bunch of happy Eclipse punters
in the back, following 5 days of intensive mechanical surgery
In the meantime I'd decided
an extended pickup cut out of a 60 was not worth the din of
the angle grinder.
I'd always liked the idea of a Land Rover HiCap (right). If
nothing else it would add a useful promotional angle to the
crossing which was first competed by prototype LR 101 'OverCaps'.
But even before you've juggled with the 'Russian Roulette'
scenario of buying an LR, new or used, the prices of HiCaps
proved to be two or three times more than a Todje of the same
age and in no better condition so no contest there. Old Todje's
really are a bargain in the UK; you get a lot of car for your
money. How about a marrying a HiCap tray with a Tojo then (left)?
Stop, stop! we've been there already...
And then the obvious
choice for a desert utility came forth and manifested itself.
Perhaps one of the all-time greats from the Encyclopedia of
Load Carrying, the Volkswagen Taro!
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