Overlanding continues to grow (as much as 5 to 10 percent per year, according to the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association), with the pandemic only spurring it on further. That increased interest has also grown Overland Expo, a series of four trade shows across the United States that gives automakers, accessory manufacturers, and independent DIYers a space to come together and show off their rigs and gear. Whether they were riding on two wheels, four wheels, or no wheels, below you’ll find the craziest factory vehicles and passion projects that caught my eye this past weekend at Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona.
New Legend 4×4
This custom International Harvester (IH) built by the artisans at New Legend 4×4 is one of the best Frankenstein builds I’ve seen. Keen readers will know that the only vehicle resembling a proper pickup truck within the Scout lineup is the Scout Terra. If it wasn’t immediately apparent, this custom build has a much longer wheelbase, cab, and bed. I’ve left the model name out as the end product is an amalgamation of different vehicles that have been beautifully mated together.
The clear focal point of the build is the double cab constructed from three different Scout canopies. It’s nearly impossible to find where the disparate roof sections come together within the final product. Even with New Legend’s founder and owner, Sean Barber, walking me through the build, I had to look really hard to discern the welds.
Aside from the custom fab work, the build is typical New Legend 4×4, blending the beautiful exterior and interior aesthetics of the Scout with modern technology and overlanding accoutrements. Under the hood, it’s powered by a burly Cumins R2.8 diesel engine, which makes enough torque to move a medium-size mountain. Out back, the vehicle comes fitted with Leitner Designs’s ACS Classic rack with three different Gear Pods.
You might be surprised to hear that this Unimog—which appears to be a 406 variant—I spotted at the Bilstein booth is more of a restoration job than modification. The only obvious mods involve a set of Bilstein shocks at the front and rear axles, along with a Warn front bumper. Everything else, including its 5.7-liter diesel engine and 47-inch tires are factory options. The short wheelbase combined with the gargantuan tires make its appearance nothing if not striking.
Daimler fanboys know of the mystique behind the beastly Unimog. The name itself comes from the German phrase “UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät”—gerät being the German word for a piece of equipment. The callsign was eventually shortened to Unimog, and the car was announced in November of 1946. Since then, it has made a name for itself as a go-anywhere vehicle.
Land Rover Series IIA Forward-Control Fire Truck
Most everyone is aware that Land Rover is best known for its Defender and Range Rover models. However, it’s a little-known fact that the British motoring giant briefly made a fire engine. This particular example spent 14 years serving as a fire truck for the community of Waldkirch Bernhardzell in Switzerland. It then sat for 20 years in the Swiss Transportation Museum before being imported into the U.S. Unsurprisingly, it’s incredibly rare, as only 611 of them were ever produced. If you can believe it, the Forward-Control actually sits on the same chassis as the Series 2 Land Rover that you see farther down; the only real difference is the subframe that supports the cab.
With a very modest $39,995 asking price, the vehicle itself is actually pretty capable. What it lacks in raw power it makes up for with off-road necessities—the 2.6-liter diesel engine under the hood is only good for a meager 90 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque, but a proper low-range gearbox that will give you extra traction when the going gets tough. You’ll also notice that it has beefy off-road tires along with plenty of ground clearance at both ends.
Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear
When it comes to Japanese-Domestic-Market (JDM) vehicles, most car enthusiasts will likely think of sports cars like the Datsun 240Z, Honda Integra Type R, or even the Mazda RX-7. However, there’s no shortage of JDM vehicles with off-road running in mind, none more so than the Mitsubishi Delica van. This particular Delica belongs to Andy and Mercedes Lilienthal. (Mercedes successfully finished last year’s Rebelle Rally in a lightly modified Volkswagen ID.4 AWD.)
As standard, the Delica was actually a fantastic platform for going off road. It has four-wheel drive and a proper low-range gearbox. However, this custom build—a 1994 Delica Space Gear—features myriad modifications to further optimize its off-road acumen. Despite having a top speed of roughly 60 mph, these things are super fun to drive and to look at.
Being one of the display vehicles at the Warn Winches booth, it of course had a Warn front bumper with accommodations for a winch, recovery points, and auxiliary lights. Along with the bumper, the vehicle also has Ranco shocks, a mild lift, bigger tires, and a bigger endurance fuel tank.
Sporting the same “Pink Pig” livery as Porsche’s 917 LeMans race car, this Cayenne was hard to miss. And this thing is one fast pig—its lightly modified 4.0-liter V8 cranks out just under 600 horsepower. However, the list of modifications outside of the flashy new wrap and light engine mods wasn’t all that extensive.
Officially part of the Goal Zero booth, the Cayenne was outfitted with a plethora of the brand’s mobile power stations sitting on a set of Frontrunner drawers in the trunk. Outside of its electrical systems, the vehicle was riding on a beautiful set of stark white Rotiform STL wheels (made to look like, you guessed it, steelies), which were wrapped in General’s Grabber All-Terrain tires. Under the skin, the vehicle boasted a 3-inch lift and new upper control arms.
Dometic Series 2 Land Rover
Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Series 2 Land Rover is one of the best looking of the bunch. Every bit of the vehicle is fit for purpose while being absolutely gorgeous to look at. This example I spotted at the Dometic booth was driven over 250 miles off-road to get to the Expo; once there, they left it as it was with everything dusty and full of overland patina. With a plethora of brand new Ford Broncos, Toyota Tundras, Jeep Wranglers, and other frankly spotless vehicles on display at the Expo, this seemingly untouched classic was a breath of fresh air.
Very few pickup trucks can draw a crowd quite as well as the R1T. Amid a sea of other vehicles in the show with cut bumpers, lift kits, and flashy wheels, Rivian’s booth was clearly the place to be. Some Expo-goers had never seen the vehicle before and simply wanted to find out what it was. Others were reservation holders that wanted to see what they were getting.
While the truck itself hadn’t received any aftermarket modifications—just do it already, please—it did feature the optional camp kitchen. While Rivian’s product expert told me the package is an extra $7,000 on top of the vehicle’s $67,500 list price, you do get quite a lot for your money. Along with the three-piece modular kitchen and the sink, it also includes a full 30-piece kitchen set from Snow Peak.
This was the first time we’ve had the opportunity to see the all-electric behemoth in person. And it’s instantly clear that the vehicle aims to be as much an exercise in design as it is in engineering.
The Hummer pickup is class-leading among EV pickups in nearly every measurable statistic. Case in point, the spec sheet includes a collection of numbers that boggle the mind. Horsepower: 1,000. Torque: 1,200 lb-ft. Price: $110,395. Length: 18 feet. Unfortunately, the display wasn’t able to show its crab-walk feature—where all four wheels can turn in the same direction—but we’ll leave that for a future test drive of our own.
As for the design elements, GMC’s plug-in Hummer doesn’t stray far away from its roots. It’s still inherently a Hummer with its big and boxy aesthetic. However, it looks much more futuristic. Whether that’s the stormtrooper-esque white-and-black color scheme or the high and tight body lines, you be the judge. Either way, there’s no mistaking the latest Hummer for anything else you’ll see on the road right now.
GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X
This custom-built GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X couldn’t be more different than the Hummer. It’s already super capable with its 6.2-liter V8 powerplant—cranking out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque—and low-range gearbox. However, if you couldn’t tell by looking at it, this has been heavily modified with virtually every Overland accessory you can think of.
Curated by the Overland Expo show organizers, this build was dubbed the “Ultimate Overland Vehicle.” Thankfully, with such an accolade to fulfill, the final product includes components from 21 of the exhibitor’s brands and partners. Of the expansive list, my personal favorite is the custom 3-foot canopy at the back made by MITS Alloy North America. It’s no surprise then that the standard bed was replaced with a 6.4-foot metal tray.
Team Sand Mode Honda Ridgeline
This lightly modified Honda Ridgeline also ran in last year’s Rebelle Rally, competing in the same X-Cross class and taking fifth place. Team Sand Mode featured two Honda engineers, with Tasha Krug behind the wheel and Liz Long navigating. While the race itself focuses heavily on navigation skills, it still requires precision driving to get to all of the waypoints.
The vehicle itself—a 2021 Honda Ridgeline—is largely stock, with the exception of recovery points, a custom tire carrier, and other off-road touches. Mechanically, the vehicle is nearly identical to any Ridgeline you’ll find in the showroom. The photos may be deceiving but the trail damage on the exterior of the vehicle give it away as no mere show pony.
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