Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Question: What's the Smallest Vehicle You Could Drive Around the World?

Driving around the world in small car

Mercedes and I just returned from our second-annual trip to the Overland Rallies & Workshops in Leavenworth, WA. Of course we took the Teal Terror (project '95 Suzuki Sidekick). Being that this is the second time we've done this trip, we've come to learn how to pack for it and other subsequent multi-day camping excursions.

The regional Overland Rallies and Workshops, as well as the big daddy, Overland Expo in Arizona, bring together people who love to travel in their vehicles. Some people may like to camp out for a weekend, others might overland across the country. There are even those who quit their day jobs and travel the world in a motorized vehicle. One couple, Pablo and Anna, have been on the road for 13 years in a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Delica, which is a four-wheel drive minivan with some Montero/Pajero components and a diesel engine. Some people even live on their motorcycles—talk about living the subcompact culture.

On the four-wheeled end of the spectrum, our Suzuki Sidekick is often the smallest vehicle there. However, this year, there was a 1979 Suzuki LJ80, which is the precursor to the Samurai, as well as a lifted Subaru GL Hatchback. Granted, none of us intend to circumnavigate the earth in our vehicles. But for a few days on the road, any of these vehicles would suffice. If we were, however, to take longer excursions in a smallish vehicle, we would probably obtain something slightly different.

But let's go "big" here for a moment. Say you were going to take the journey of a lifetime. You'd quit your job and hit the road. Here are the rules:
  1. You will drive from your current residence around the world at whatever pace you'd like. 
  2. Before you'd hit the road, you could modify it for a variety of conditions. Say, adding a lift kit, a roof rack, all-terrain tires, and auxiliary lights; maybe a bigger fuel tank. But keep in mind, you'll need enough places for you and your passengers (assuming you have any) and your gear (cooking stuff, clothing, water, and everything else). 
  3. Overall length has to be under 175" (417cm), or about the overall length of a Nissan Versa Sedan.
  4. You have to be able to make it home (e.g. you can't buy a Ferrari and say it only made it to the Nürburgring for hot laps.)
Also consider the fact that you'll likely have to make repairs at some point. Broken tie rods, a bent drive shaft, cracked manifolds, etc.—will you be able to get parts easily for your expedition-ready Fiat 500, or would it be best to stick with a Toyota Yaris for your journey? Would you want 4WD, AWD, FWD, or RWD?

Me? I'd be bringing my wife and would probably opt for a later-model four-door Suzuki 4x4 of some sort, likely a 1999+ Suzuki Vitara four cylinder. It's decent on fuel; Suzukis are (or were) sold nearly everywhere; rugged; and it's still comfortable and capable enough to tackle most situations. I'd add a three-inch lift, a roof rack, a rear locker, bumper, lights, manual hubs, and a winch. It'd ride on 235/85/16 tires and steel wheels, which are cheap to replace or bang out with a mallet. Plus, whether it's Texas, Tokyo, Tazmania, or Tanzania, there's probably someone that can fix the vehicle.

What's the smallest car you could drive around the world?


Steve "SailDesign" Baker said...

I always dreamed of doing it in a 500 Giardinetta (wagon) with a tent-in-a-box on the roof.

Unknown said...

Can we pick 2? Me and the wife each with a Kawasaki KLR outfited with all the luggage and goodies possible :)