When the balloon goes up on 21 December 2012 you want to get yourself and your family to sanctuary as fast as possible. One of the best ways to do it is with a modified 4×4 SUV. But it can’t just be an old SUV for reasons I’m about to explain.
The first thing you need to consider is how many passengers you’ll have. For a family of three or more you’ll need to look at large 4WD SUVs to get enough seating and load space. Beyond that the main selection criteria is the three Rs: Reliability, Ruggedness, Readily available parts.
For all of these reasons we recommend either a 1970’s or 80’s Chevy Blazer or Suburban, or the Series 70 Toyota Landcruiser Station wagon.
These vehicles are common everywhere – they don’t scream Survival Bug-out Vehicle to everyone, and you can paint them in drab camo colours without attracting attention.
By the way, I have nothing against Ford, Dodge or anything else, but the two mentioned above are ultra-reliable, tough, uncomplicated, simple to work on and above all you can find parts for them just about anywhere. But there’s more to think about:
Diesel Power. I also strongly recommend that you choose a vehicle with a diesel engine. Diesel engines are better off-road than petrol engines because they produce a lot more torque at low revs. The fuel is much less volatile. Mileage per tank-full is much greater. Plus diesel engines can run on biodiesel or vegetable oil (aka drip oil).
Carburettors versus fuel injection. Electronic Fuel Injection is the default option on SUVs these days because it delivers more power earlier in the rev range, better economy and it is self-tuning for different driving and atmospheric conditions. However compared to carbs fuel injection is extremely complicated, making working on it in the wilderness difficult unless you are an expert. This is just another reason why I believe you are better off with an older truck. Carburettors are simple, reliable and easy to keep in working order yourself.
Auto vs Manual transmission. This is a tricky decision. Manual gearboxes are simple and robust. However they take skill to drive properly off-road and with an injured left foot or leg, can be impossible to drive at all.
Automatics are easier to drive – even kids can do it at a pinch, and many people think they are also superior off-road. On the other hand, they are massively complicated and if they break they are virtually impossible to fix in the field. So which do you choose? If you are travelling with several other adults I would go for a manual every time. But if it’s just you and the kids an auto might be the safer, easier choice. Just make sure it’s been properly serviced and thoroughly checked over by a transmission specialist. In fact that goes for the whole vehicle. Make sure it has regular services to keep the fluid levels up and fresh engine and transmission oil to reduce internal wear. You do most of this work yourself in an hour or two in the driveway.