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Our dream car

Posted on 28 Jan 2021 | 28 comments

We wanted to build our dream car, so we would have a forever car with all the creature comforts we want, plus space enough for all our toys that have to come on a long trip. But which car would we buy to build this dream car? That became the million-dollar-question…

We want to build a BOB (‘box on the back’), so we needed a car that can carry all that weight. We learned about empty weight, GVM, kerb weight, and payload. We needed to find a car where we could build a box that would be big enough to build a king-size bed (north-south facing of course so we don’t have to climb over each other to go for our toilet stops in the middle of the night), have space for a toilet inside as well as a fridge and some seating. So we learned about wheelbase, width of car and how to calculate how far you are allowed to ‘hang over the back’ (thanks John M).

We quickly whittled it down to a few contenders and discussed the merits of a Mercedes G-wagon professional, a Toyota Landcruiser (79-series) and a Landrover Defender 110 and 130. We even created a spreadsheet with all the details for those (and several other) cars. It came down to a few key-things for us.

  • Weight
  • Fuel-consumption
  • Cost to buy the car

The weight of the car was quite critical for us as we anticipated a BOB including all toys and essentials would weigh quite a bit. ‘Payload’ especially became our favourite word of 2020,

Payload = GVM – kerb weight.

Or, in words, payload is the maximum a car is allowed to weigh (Gross Vehicle Mass) minus what it already weighs (this is what most car manufacturers call ‘kerb weight’, which includes some fuel, a weight allowance for a driver and all other things that are normally attached to a car to make it a car). Here is our summary spreadsheet for the main options for us.

  max weight (GVM) kerb weight payload
Mercedes G-Wagon 4500 2346 2154
Toyota Landcruiser * 3780 2180 1600
Defender 110 3050 1842 1208
Defender 130 3500 2117 1383


* the Toyota Landcruiser doesn’t come standard with a maximum weight of 3780. It needs to have an upgraded suspension etc to achieve this, which means they are quite hard to find on the second-hand market.

Next we looked at the wheelbase and the fuel consumption of the cars.

  wheelbase fuel consumption
Mercedes G-Wagon 3428 17
Toyota Landcruiser * 3180 19
Defender 110 2794 11.1
Defender 130 3226 10.7


*a standard Toyota Landcruiser has 2 back wheels that DO NOT follow the tracks of the 2 front wheels…. Only some cars that have been modified have this, making it again harder to find one on the second-hand market.

And finally we looked at the cost of each type of vehicle. This is a bit hard as of course the price tag greatly varies depending on how well it is looked after, how many km it has on the odometer, how old it is and how many modifications have been added to the standard vehicle.

But simply put, a Mercedes G-wagon Professional G300 sells for around twice or three times the price of the other cars. You can pick up a decent Toyota Landcruiser 79-series (with the necessary modifications of a GVM upgrade and axles widened properly to ride in one-tyre-track) for about 50% more than a Land Rover. And Defenders are an odd bunch. As they are no longer made, they seem to have gone up in value significantly. A Defender 110 should be a lot cheaper than a Toyota Landcruiser, and the 130 a little more expensive (also not as common to find for sale), but in these crazy times with covid we often saw Defenders that were more expensive than a Landcruiser. We also found several Defenders for sale with hardly any kilometers on the clock. Their owners bought them brand new with the idea to sell them several years later (now) and make money selling them at a higher price as they get scarcer as the years go by…

We’d be very interested to hear what you would pick based on the information above. We went around in circles for a long time. Looking for G-wagons, hoping a reasonably priced one would pop up one day (dreamin’!!), then shifted our attention to the Landcruiser with all the modifications and even went for a test drive in one near Townsville. The payload of the Toyotas with increased GVM made them appealing and we dismissed the Defender as it seemed it wasn’t possible to build a box on the back (BOB) with only 1200 or nearly 1400kg for the 130.

But then we realized that:

  • we simply love the Defender
  • you would need to subtract about 150kg from a Landcruiser’s payload to allow for more fuel to be carried to be able to drive the same distance as a Defender
  • the fuel economy of the Mercedes and Toyota is pretty poor
  • we found several Defenders that had a BOB, if they can do it, why wouldn’t we be able to do it?
  • there were some cheaper Defenders with low km still for sale (occasionally), we would just have to wait for the right one to pop up, the Mercedes and Toyota (with all the modifications) were quite expensive
  • the Defender 130 can still be driven with a normal car licence, also in Europe so there would never be an issue with type of licence (in Australia you can drive up to 4500kg on a normal car licence, Europe limits it to 3500kg)
  • we really didn’t like the fact the Mercedes and Toyota are such heavy cars to start with, and that the Toyota can’t even build it with all 4 wheels in the same track, seems pretty poor for a 4wd
  • we realised the Toyota 79-series is very, very agricultural and basic, probably more so than the Defender and we wondered why we would want to pay more for less?
  • did we already tell you we just love the Defender?

A random bunch of reasons, but we finally decided to start looking for a Defender 130, preferably a single cab, and preferable one with low km. We won’t tell you what it’s like to find a needle in a haystack….

In the end we settled for a dual cab with low km that already had a snorkel fitted, a bull bar plus winch as well as a long-range fuel tank. We found her towards the end of 2020, and picked her up mid January 2021. She was located on a farm in northern NSW, so last weekend we drove down together with Mingyuan and Hugh (thanks again for all your help guys! wouldn’t have been able to do it without you), and after spending the weekend in Wooli getting to know her a bit, we drove her back to Queensland on Australia Day.

And here she is, meet Lara 3, she doesn’t know it yet, but she will be undergoing some major surgeries and modifications in the next months. But we think she looks pretty cool already.

Stay tuned to see where we are going to be working on the car as we had been looking for a while for a house with a garage that is high enough so we can park her inside and start working on the modifications.

By buying this car we are nowhere near finished with our journey to build our dream car…. It is just the start…. You’ll be able to follow our progress over the next 6-12 months right here as we will try to capture it all and tell you about it!


  1. What a project!! Good luck! B&G

    • Thank you! Hopefully we can come and visit one day when the borders are open again! Hope you are all doing well and enjoying some great skiing?!

  2. Wow. That’s great news!
    Lara is a beauty, isn’t she 🙂 Those rosy cheeks <3

    I hope she will show you the world and you will have the time of your life.
    Adventure time!

    Following this 🙂

    • Thanks 🙂 Hopefully you will meet her too one day when the borders are open again!

      • Enjoy Lara 3.
        Looking forward for more photos.

        • Thanks! Photos and (hopefully) videos will definitely be coming! 🙂

  3. What I miss is the Hummer, lots of weight, huge fuel consumption and spacey, all what you mentioned in the criteria 😍

    • hahahahahaha, yeah I think a stretch (limousine) hummer would have been great hahahahaha

    • YES!!! We will be a little Defender family 🙂 looking forward to sharing some travels with you guys!!!! (sorry, we’re no longer on FB so this is it I’m afraid!! How is your website coming along? Are you posting there yet? Can I follow you on the website?)

  4. I am glad it is a double cabin, so I can hop in and come with you! 😉

    • the double cab is the second thing that gets taken away!! (the tray is the first :-)) not enough space otherwise for the bed and other things!

  5. Awesome adventure on the horizon! Would love to live vicariously through you both. Please keep the reports coming. Good luck.

    • 🙂 thanks! we are jealous of your adventures at the moment! wish we could come to visit, enjoy the ski fields and exploring new parts of the US (and love the drawings of the new house!)!

  6. Exciting challenges. Any plans drawn up yet? I’d suggest you have a word with John Maxwell who will have practical and experiential experiences to share on this sort of work.

    • very exciting indeed! yeah we have plans and John M has already been shooting holes in them 🙂 He has been extremely valuable already and no doubt will be going forward! We’ll see you at Robyn’s party I assume (if not before)?

    • Stoked you went with another Defender. The Land Rover community is a strong one. Goodluck with the build, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

      Max (Lara 2’s current owner)

      • Thanks Max! We’re happy Lara 2 is still in good hands! Come and visit once she is finished for a look and we can have the 2 Lara’s side-by-side 🙂

  7. Cool. She’s a beauty. Good luck with the mods! G

    • Thanks Graeme!! We think she looks pretty hot already too 🙂

  8. Congratulations on Lara 3. We are looking forward reading all about your dream car and hopefully see some videos on Youtube.

    Best wishes from Switzerland

    • Thanks! And yes, we are hoping to make some you tube videos! Hope all is well in Switzerland? Are you waiting for covid to disappear before you travel again?

      • Well, yes. Still waiting that we can return to our beloved Troopy. She’s still in South America.

        • Hopefully soon, fingers crossed! We might join you 🙂 We’d love to explore South America!!! Love the fact that you were in Esk so many years ago already!

  9. Such fun!

    • 🙂 we’re so excited!

  10. Great start guys. Cheryl’s brother said he’d love a chat if you want to talk through the + and – for the 130. We’ll watch with interest, let me know if we can help with anything.

    • Thanks! We’d love a chat too! Let’s try to arrange that somehow? And all help is welcome, any time! We will need loads of it!

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