Long, meandering adventures are the real reason I like cars. Baja Mexico in particular, in all its rugged and remote glory, has been a favorite stomping ground of mine. A year ago, a big crash sidelined me from such things. Now, I’m increasingly back in the saddle, so I want to get off the grid again—and do it the right way.
I’ve been to Baja many times and have been lucky enough to have done countless miles of road tripping in some very interesting machines. Some were shitcans, some were bristling with the latest gadgets. But this little excursion, from my base in Los Angeles to about halfway down the Baja peninsula and back, will be the most serious test of a vehicle I’ve personally set up and been solely responsible for since I ran off-road tours in Australia years ago.
I’m ostensibly joining a convoy of travel writers and overland enthusiasts being led by folks from the company Dometic, which is bringing its latest line of off-road-optimized mobile refrigerators and other such equipment.
But I’m mostly excited for the chance to test my 1998 Mitsubishi Montero in a real rough-conditions, long-haul situation with the safety net of other cars around and without the pressure of running with a competing a race team.
Not only will we get to see if my cheap old Mitsubishi can have as much fun as much newer, more built-out rigs, but you’ll also see the validity (or not) of the various DIY overland inventions I’ve crammed into my machine in the last few months.
You can expect a more complete rundown of that soon, where I’ll detail the setup I think is one of the best dollar-per-functionality overland loadouts you can make. But for now, here’s a preview of my mobile nest. I should probably clean that giant sunroof window so I can, hopefully, see some stars through it at night.
I bought this Montero so I’d have an automatic-shift car to roam around in while my left hand healed from surgery. But I ended up falling in love with it and feeling compelled investing the time and money to dial it in to the point where I feel earnestly confident about taking it into the wilderness.
Just kidding, I’m actually going a little nuts worrying what I’ve forgotten to check on and what’s going to fry when I least want it to.
My prep style is not quite as fast and fearless as my dear friend David Tracy’s; I outsource most of my mechanical work to a local old Mitsubishi specialist. But I’m still fairly tightly budget-constrained. So while I’d like to be rolling around in a brand-new Land Cruiser, or at least pay for a fresh paint job on my humble Montero, I spent my money on making sure the SUV’s critical systems are in the best shape they can be.
Well, I’ll let you be the judge: major service on the timing belt and water pump was done about 30,000 miles ago, the wheels and tires are brand new Cooper all-terrains, the brake pads and DOT 4 brake fluid are fresh, the radiator’s been rebuilt and coolant’s brand new, nothing seems to be leaky and I’m satisfied with the condition of all my steering bits and boots.
Of course, there’s always something unexpected that could fail on a 21-year-old vehicle with 180,000 miles on it. But as far as preparation, I feel like I’ve ticked as many boxes as David Tracy usually does, and he always makes it home, with a lot more rust, doesn’t he?
Wish me luck. If all goes well, I’ll be on the road by early Friday, October 4 have a report or a series of posts to share when I get back around October 11. I will try to toss some images onto Jalopnik’s and my own Instagram when I get the chance.