Our Motors editor debuts his new overland adventuremobile this week at the largest car show on the planet, the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. He built what might be the nicest and most capable Lexus GX460 out there and set it up for outdoor adventure travel.
I’ve dreamed of a new overland adventuremobile ever since I sold my last one. I lived in that custom truck camper full-time for about 4 years.
While I don’t live on the road full-time anymore, I still need and want a four-wheeled adventure partner. My needs have changed, and it was time for a more nimble and capable off-road machine that could also be a comfortable daily driver.
After much research and debate, I landed on the Lexus GX460. It’s basically a modern 4Runner with a V8 under the hood, curvy body, and luxury interior.
While it has the capability and reliability of the trusty Toyota 4Runner, it does gulp down premium fuel at an alarming rate. I currently get around 12 mpg when fully loaded with gear and kayaks.
The other fun fact is that you can get a cherry used example for less money than a comparable 4Runner.
Any adventure vehicle that I’m willing to call mine will have a few key features. Number one is that it will be able to carry a lot of outdoor adventure gear. Specifically, it must be able to carry a bunch of whitewater kayaks, bicycles, and skis/snowboards, preferably all at the same time.
Number two is that I’ll be able to sleep in the vehicle. I love to stealth camp wherever I might end up while out traveling, and being able to lie down inside the vehicle is just easy, comfortable, and safest for you, all your gear, and your vehicle.
The final key feature of any adventure vehicle I build is that it must be small enough to fit in a single parking spot — and down tight off-road trails. This rules out trailers and most hitch mounts. It also basically requires the roof to be for gear and the inside to be for sleeping.
With a few key upgrades, the GX460 checks all the boxes for me. I worked with some great companies to create products that make this vehicle work perfectly for me.
Up top is a full-custom roof rack that I designed with ROAMBUILT. The rack is super lightweight, as it’s all-aluminum. It will carry three-plus kayaks and a Yakima roof box at the same time, or one kayak, a bike, and a roof box.
I also set up this rig for comfort — both while driving and while sleeping. I installed Scheel-mann seats because I have lots of back issues and they are crazy-comfortable and supportive, a key component to being happy on long road trips for me.
In the back of the truck, I worked with Goose Gear to build out a sleep platform and drawer system that maximizes the room available in the vehicle.
I’m 6’3” but still can lay out completely flat. There’s room for only one person to sleep inside with this system, but when my wife is along, we either ground tent camp or stay at hotels on our travels.
I also worked with Trail Ready Bumpers to create a super-compact, full-featured, functional winch bumper, as I wasn’t happy with anything on the market. I worked really hard to reduce the cleft chin look that most off-road bumpers give the GX460, while also adding things like soft shackle-compatible swivel recovery points and integrated PIAA lighting into the grille guard.
Suspension, Tires, and Wheels
The other big modification that truly transformed this vehicle is a top-of-the-line Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension system. It’s the Stage 7 Tubular system, with upgraded 3-inch dual-rate rear springs and air bump stops. This suspension not only makes the truck handle smooth as butter on and off road but also provides the lift needed to fit 33.8-inch BFG KO2 tires.
I fit those tires to the smallest wheels that will fit over the disc brakes, 17-inch EvoCorse Dakar Zeros, in order to maximize tire sidewall. This allows for a plusher ride and effective airing down for maximum traction when off road.
These are the same wheels that won the Dakar Rally last year on the Hilux, so they should be more than strong enough to handle my adventures in this truck.
I could go on forever about all the modifications I’ve done and am going to do to this rig, but none of us have time for that. Instead, I’m going to grab a cold beer from my National Luna 12V fridge, conveniently mounted on the impressive MSA 4×4 drop slide, and admire my creation.
So many amazing people and companies have helped me bring this build to life. I’d like to thank the following build partners: Icon Vehicle Dynamics, ROAMBUILT, Goose Gear, Scheel-mann, Trail Ready Bumpers, BFGoodrich Tires, EVO Corse Wheels, WARN, Yakima, PIAA, National Luna, MSA, Mach1 Motorsports, Step 22 Gear, Switch-Pros, Maxtrax, Garmin, Primus, Cobra, Factor 55, Canby Graphics, Lifesaver, and 7P Overland.
If you’re in Las Vegas this week, be sure to stop by the SEMA Show and check out this build. It will be in an outside featured vehicle spot. If you can’t find it or get in to see it, stop by Friday night at the SEMA Ignited event, where it will also be on display for the public.
I’ll be sharing more about this build and the adventures I take it on here soon. Stay tuned!