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Tuesday 6th December
Top Gear Advice

10 used cars for less than £20k we found this week

OK, cars might be a stretch, but each is perfect for escaping the insanity of humanity

Ford Bronco side profile
  1. Toyota Hilux

    Toyota Hilux

    Generally, when it comes time to scout the used-car market and write another one of these ‘Where’s the sense in sensibility’ articles, we choose things we’d happily have in our driveway. Whether they’d be capable of moving from that driveway is another matter entirely, but that’s the gist. 

    The Hilux, on the other hand, is one of those machines that gives one the impression that it’ll always be capable of moving you and whatever you feel like carrying to basically wherever you feel like going. In our personal experience – including using them in an underground mine back when we did such things – that impression seems to have pretty decent foundations. But would we happily have one in our driveway?

    Honestly, yes. Not springing from any particular desire to have one, or delusion that we need one, but purely because of another of the impressions the Hiluxes impart – that no matter what we needed to do, it’d find a way to get it done. It’d likely have to sit in the driveway, due to another impression we get from newer Hiluxes: that there’s no way it’d fit in our garage. 

    They actually called it the ‘Invincible’... now that’s confidence

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  2. Willys Jeep

    Willys Jeep

    So, just to get this out of the way, it’s pronounced ‘Willis’, as in ‘What you talking about, Willis, saying that what might be one of the most useful machines in history is pronounced Will-ease?’. Yep, we’re doing Diff’rent Strokes jokes. Contemporary. 

    In fact, one of the few things... let’s say more seasoned than that reference is the Willys Jeep. This is the paterfamilias of the entire off-roading world, which started in earnest during a little disagreement historians later called World War II. There were other attempts at truly off-road military transport before it – and beside it – but none had the measure of the Jeep. It was Lightweight, simple, agile, rugged and made to be assembled quickly – the current record is apparently one minute and 16 seconds by an 18-man team. And perhaps most importantly, it was reliable. 

    How reliable? Well, despite the link below pointing to a later M201, the picture above is actually of an M38A1, built under licence in the Netherlands. And which the Dutch continued doing for 40 years after the Jeep’s planned retirement date. So yeah, we’d say reliable enough. 

    No, you’re humming the theme to M*A*S*H 

  3. Unimog

    Unimog

    Yes, a Unimog is probably overkill. But, as the wondrous saying goes, overkill is underrated. If you have the space to actually turn one of these things around, if the road is wide enough that you’re not using dry stone walls like kiddie bumpers at the bowling alley and if you’re OK looking like an extra in Tomorrow, When the War Began, the Unimog will not blanch at any obstacle you point it at. 

    With, it must be said, the exception of icy downhill corners, when loaded to the gunwales. In fact, our very first in-the-wild sighting of a Unimog was a bit of a step-by-step lesson in just this. We first came across a group of soldiers standing by the side of an icy public road. We then saw a sizeable hole in the Armco. We then found, some 50 feet down in a ravine, the Unimog that had punched through it like wet newspaper. So, just something to keep in mind for when you buy a ’mog, which is definitely something we expect to happen soon. 

    We’d call ours ‘Meg’

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  4. Toyota Landcruiser FJ

    Toyota Landcruiser FJ

    The Landcruiser isn’t the paterfamilias of off-roading. It’s not even the son of the paterfamilias – that title is already claimed by the Land Rover, a machine that Toyota sought to emulate. So it’s the son of the son of the original, then?

    Well... sure, that’s one way to look at it, if one that’s rather lacking in any sort of illumination. A better title for the Landcruiser FJ, if you needed keep using the same sort of generational metaphor for some reason or other, would be the spiritual successor. Like the original Jeep, it was built to be simple, solid, dependable and largely indomitable in the face of conditions that most sensible human beings would consider impassable and retreat home for a bit of a sit down. 

    A great place to find FJs, as indeed we have, is in Australia – particularly ones from inland and further south, away from the coast and tropics. Old FJs are still abundant, given the challenges posed by Australian countryside and the needs of those who inhabit it, which helps to keep at least something of a lid on prices for all but the most tricked-out or restomodded examples. And helpfully, if you’re British, they’re also right-hand drive, which makes them an easier daily-drive prospect. Do go ahead and drive one before you make such judgements, however – a vehicle that was considered basic when it was new will hardly feel more luxurious after five or six decades have passed. 

    Must... resist... the urge... to restomod

  5. G-Wagen

    G-Wagen

    Speaking of all things basic and un-luxurious...

    Yes, it’s the G-Wagen – the simple, military-spec off-roader that somehow spawned the monstrous, Malibu-spec status symbols you now see burbling around city centres. 

    But why an old one with no toys, which has been thrashed by a bunch of army pukes every day of its life? Well, a few reasons. Firstly, they’re among the cheapest G-Wagens you can buy, secondly, being genuinely somehow much more characterful, and thirdly, the military’s maintenance schedule, even for general duties cars like these, is absolutely nuts. Sure, they’ve driven more miles over harder terrain – with less mechanical sympathy – than most privately owned G-Classes will ever come close to doing. But here's the kicker – they’re made to do it, and serviced with... well, military timing.

    Besides, the no-frills utilitarianism of the original (and the Steyr-Puch 4x4 system, but who’s counting) is what makes the G-Wagen a good off-roader. If you’re worried about getting mud on your lavish interior, you get taken out of the moment. If you have the weight of touchscreens, climate control systems and Burmester stereos to lug around, you’ll have that much more mass up above your centre of gravity and off-roading will feel like taking a houseboat through a hurricane. If you have massive wheels and wide, low-profile road tyres, you’re hobbling the G-Wagen’s natural utility and ability when roads disappear altogether. 

    This, it must be said, is rendered largely irrelevant due to the fact that trams go off-road more often. But if you actually want to use a G-Wagen for what it was made to do (crazy, impulsive fool that you must be), you’ll know where to look. 

    Make sure to really enunciate the ‘Gee-Vaaahgen’ when you talk about it...

  6. Land Rover Perentie

    Land Rover Perentie

    By now, you’re probably aware that the Land Rover 110 has something of a reputation for being a rather robust bit of off-road kit. 

    However, when pressganged into duty in the Australian Defence Force, the regular Landie struck upon the difference between use and service. It’s all well and good for Devonshire Dave and Knightsbridge Nicholas to pilot a 90 around their stomping grounds; it’s another thing entirely when it’s stomping around in someone else’s particularly sticky situation.

    So to deal with Australia’s habit of having a scrap in places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq – not renowned for being particularly gentle – and for just getting around Australia without coming apart at the seams, the Perentie was beefed up, the ladder chassis was galvanised to prevent corrosion and Land Rover’s ‘A for effort’ engines was replaced with a 3.9-litre four-cylinder (yes, really) from truck expert Isuzu, which will run on anything approaching diesel. Better yet, the radiators won’t rot, timing belts won’t snap, fuel systems won’t leak and all the other problems that Defender apologists will likely lynch us for daring to mention won’t surface. 

    The Perentie isn’t a Land Rover refined so much as a Land Rover that plain refuses to die. Which, we guess, kind of makes it a Commonwealth Landcruiser...

    Still slow as a wet fortnight – unless you spring for a turbo kit... then it’s just a week.

    Image: Australian Department of Defence

  7. Nissan Patrol Y60

    Nissan Patrol Y60

    The Nissan Patrol (or Safari, depending on where you live) seems to get a bad rap as a knock-off Landcruiser – or a two-tonne kettle, depending on who you ask. But back when the Y60 series Patrol launched back in the late Eighties, it was such a revelation that it actually caught Toyota off-guard: it was better than the Landcruiser. 

    It was every bit as tough, boxy and no-bull as the Landcruiser, but, thanks to coils in the back suspension instead of leaf springs, it clung onto and rode out the rough stuff in a way Toyota’s leaf-spring setup couldn’t hope to handle. 

    And yes, we know the Range Rover had it first... some 15 years or more before the Y60 came out. But the key difference here is that a Patrol does this really neat thing where it actually... y’know, works. 

    How long before you start thinking about an LS swap?

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  8. Bertone Freeclimber

    Bertone Freeclimber

    The trouble with a lot of off-roaders is that everyone seems to have one. 

    No, this isn’t the opening salvo of another invective against off-roaders in general – we’ve probably got that one covered by now. This is more a point about how, even with such a variety of off-roaders available, we always seem to default to the same few choices: Landcruiser, Land Rover, Wrangler, ad infinitum. 

    So let’s head off-piste in our search for an off-roader. And starting with an Italian design house seems an appropriately wild place to start. From there, we’ll add in alloy wheels from OZ, a range of BMW-sourced engines and much of the basic running gear from a... Daihatsu Rocky. Hey, at least no one else on the trail will have one...

    You trust continental used-car sites, right?

  9. Ford Bronco

    Ford Bronco

    No, not the new one. You’re unlikely to find that for the kind of money we’re talking about here, unless someone else has... er, ‘donated’ it out of the kindness of their heart and wholeness of their knees. And, unless much the same has occurred (what are the odds?) it’s unlikely you’ll get the first or even the second-gen Bronco. Such is life, inflation and speculation. We’ve moaned about all of that enough already. 

    So we look to the third-gen Bronco. It’s the last port of call before we get to the ‘Juicing down an LA freeway’ generation, sure, but it’s also everything the massive lumbering second-gen Bronco can’t be – light, rigid and efficient. Comparatively, of course – this is still an early Eighties American SUV. 

    But moving beyond comparatives, what makes the third-gen Ford Bronco worth considering? Well, it’s in budget (always helpful in articles like this), it was on the cover of a Choose Your Own Adventure book we had as a kid (perhaps less relevant) and was based on the best-selling work truck in the world: the F-150. So, much like... well, pretty much everything else on this list, it’s as simple, robust and no-nonsense as they could manage. 

    Oh, and if you’re keen on a classic Bronco as a daily-driver (or thereabouts), we should probably mention that it was one of a few series of Bronco and F-150 that was built in Australia, with right-hand drive and a 5.8-litre V8 from the factory. Just an FYI. 

    Can you get a sponsor for fuel bills?

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  10. Rokon... well, pick whichever one you like

    Rokon... well, pick one

    OK, it’s technically not a car, but it’s very much an off-roader. It may not have four-wheel-drive, but that’s really only due to lacking a third and fourth wheel. 

    It is, to its credit, all-wheel drive, which means that it’ll clamber over things you would not believe. You think a dirt bike is go-anywhere? You reckon a farm bike like an AG or TW200 is unbeatable when any semblance of roads disappears? A Rokon will do you one better than that – it doesn’t even need land. If you find your way blocked by a river, there’s no need to search for a ford; just ride straight in until it won’t go any further, lay it on its side – it’ll float – push it across and pick it up again on the other bank. Where it’ll kick straight over and keep going like nothing happened. 

    Just... pack light, no?

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