September '18

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22 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2018 I n the history of four-wheeling there have been a number of segments that have developed, usually marked by a certain type of vehicle used in a form of compe- tition. There have been rally or Dakar machines, off-road buggies and trucks, stadium trucks, and more recently rock- crawlers and racers. Lately, a new type of off-roader has emerged, one that isn't built to compete head-to-head at all but instead to wander freely without constraints imposed by checkpoints or lap times. Overlanders, a term previously reserved for rugged vehicles used to cross the Australian Outback or the jungles of Africa or South America, are becoming just as prevalent in North America as they have been for decades elsewhere. Surveying the wide variety of vehicles present at the Northwest Overland Rally (NWOR) this summer in Plain, Wash- ington, roughly two hours east of Seattle in the Cascades, it was noticeable that some were vintage while others were likely sitting on a showroom floor only weeks prior to the event. What was common to each of them was their adventure travel capabilities—from basic tents and sleeping bags in the back of a 4WD pickup with a camper shell, up to and including a purpose-built Mercedes- Benz Sprinter van fully outfitted to spend weeks in the wild with most if not all the modern conveniences. NOT JUST A FAD While there are plenty of truck and off- road shops throughout North America, the existence of specialists or shops that cater to overlanders is a trend that has been in Canada for decades and has steadily pro- gressed through the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, spreading as far and wide as Pennsylvania and Vermont and through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. What distinguishes them from other off-road shops, and how can you change and adapt to meet this growing trend? First, recognize that it isn't simply a fad. There have been adventure travelers dating back to the early days of Four Wheeler Magazine, epito- mized by journalists like Gary and Monika Wescott, who trekked across continents and recounted their expeditions in nearly every journal devoted to mechanized travel. That the Wescotts continue to enjoy overlanding today every bit as much as they did three decades ago speaks volumes of the allure of the open road and what they've experienced. While they might not characterize themselves as pioneers, they must realize the profound influence they've had on publications such as Over- land Journal, Tread, Wheels Afield, Gear Patrol, and Dirt Sports, not to mention online tomes like Expedition Overland, Pangaea Expeditions, Expedition Portal and Trip Savvy. Polling shops that cater to adventure travel, and looking over the hundreds of vehicles at the NWOR, here's a list of the vehicles most commonly modified, in no particular order: • Jeep JK Unlimited Rubicon • Toyota Land Cruiser • Land Rover Discovery • Toyota 4Runner • Mercedes-Benz G500 • Land Rover Defender • Ford Raptor Crew Cab • Mercedes-Benz AMG G65 • Toyota Tacoma • Land Rover LR3 Crossing Over Is your shop ready for adventure-seeking customers? Story & Photos by Jason R. Sakurai 22 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2018 The Earth- Cruiser helps overlanders take it all to the trail. The Toyota 4Runner is among the most popular overland models.

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