EarthCruiser EXP: The Perfect Quit-Your-Job Vehicle
Work got you whining? Job got you down? If you spend 98 percent of your waking hours fantasizing about dropping out and leaving it all behind, perhaps a trip around the world is in order. Or maybe just a jaunt into the South American jungle where no one — including that nut job of an ex or even the tax man — can find you. If quitting your job and traveling the world is your fantasy, meet your fantasy machine: the EarthCruiser EXP. It’s the self-contained, off-grid overland adventure vehicle of your dropout dreams.
Just ask Lance Gilles and Michelle Boltz, the couple that started EarthCruiser Overland Vehicles Pty Ltd. Originally based in Australia, these world travelers searched for the perfect vehicle to satisfy their profound wanderlust. When their dream ride didn’t appear, they did what any frustrated traveler would do: They built their own.
Years of research and development landed them with their initial prototype. For their first test, they drove to the wildly remote Dragon Tree Soak in Western Australia. Now, if you’ve ever driven 450 miles deep into uninhabited desert, your vehicle of choice isn’t exactly a Camry. After a successful Western Oz trip, they turned it up a notch by taking their vehicle to Russia and driving across to — you guessed it — Mongolia.
When the founders are this hands-on about travel and adventure, this translates into a very carefully conceived machine. Now based in Bend, Oregon, their team builds each vehicle to order for an astounding number of adventure seekers, starting with the Mitsubishi Fuso 4x4 diesel delivery truck.
Not sexy enough for your adventure? Well, consider this: The Fuso is ubiquitous in Asia and partially owned by Daimler trucks, so finding parts around the world is way quicker than translating “Land Cruiser” into Norwegian. The 3.0L DOHC turbodiesel I-4 is equipped with 161 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. With an overall length of height of 8'6", the EXP fits easily into any shipping container — because you can’t drive to Tahiti (yet). Off-road military spec tires and approved single wheel conversion in the rear mean that maintaining the truck’s tires are as easy as, well, a Camry.
The shell itself is designed to support two travelers comfortably for longterm use. Living off the grid means standard features include water purification, solar-powered systems and a 12-volt electrical system, making it serviceable at any boat yard. Once parked, the pop-top roof expands 24 inches with the push of a button — no latches or locks to wrestle. The roof’s screened windows transform this living area from a pretty nice camper into a breezy, completely livable, glamping-mobile.
The vehicle I tested was an EXP fresh off the 2016 Rainforest Challenge in Malaysia, where it ran as the support vehicle. Our testing grounds were a slightly less vicious avocado grove in Southern California. Driving the EXP wasn’t exactly luxurious. I basically felt like a fearless delivery guy in Thailand or Singapore — you know, the type that zooms through narrow streets and over dirt roads without a worry. And no wonder, the transmission was simple and easy to maneuver, and the turning radius was an astonishing 535 inches. I would’ve done donuts if they’d let me.
Once we reached our destination, I headed to the back where, once the roof was popped, it was perfectly dreamy. Not being a camping enthusiast myself, I was delighted to find two 40-gallon water tanks as well as water draw accessibility from under the rig like a river or creek. As for the toilet, it’s a cassette system, which, as it turns out, doesn’t mean it plays hits from the '80s, but it enables waste to be removed and wheeled away for easy disposal, like a suitcase. Two solar panels and batteries mean you’ll never take a cold shower. The rest of the shell feels like a boat, in a rugged, utilitarian kind of luxury.
Of course, being able to transverse any snowy, muddy, dirty path in the world doesn’t come cheaply. The EXP starts at $225,000, which may have you wondering why you don’t just buy a condo in Arizona and unplug your phone for a while. But then, when you consider this cost against comparable trucks or even a fully equipped bus, it starts to make a lot of sense. So if you don’t hear from me for a while, you may want to check Malaysia.