Getaway Vehicles: EarthCruiser’s Creations Define Off-the-Grid Cool
These overland-expedition vehicles aren’t made for RV parks, mate.
Some people really know how to plan a great getaway ride. For example, Lance Gillies, the Australian founder of EarthCruiser, completed the 2019 Borneo Equator Expedition—an endurance run along the Equator (plus or minus a degree) driving east to west across the world's third-largest island.
"It was an incredible amount of fun," he says. "It took the best part of a month and we pretty much winched our way across Borneo. It was an excellent month. It really was. There's no road through the jungle, so a couple of times we had to put cars on canoes and float them down rivers."
Sign us up, please. Last year, three EarthCruiser EXPs and an FX completed the dusty Baha XL Overland Rally in Mexico. The year before that, another EXP crossed the Sahara and completed the 2018 Budapest to Bamako Rally down Africa's west coast.
If this sounds like your kind of adventure, Gillies has you covered. This past summer, his company introduced the nifty, new Dual Cab 4x4 FX and EXP rigs both with a Fuso chassis and a retractable top with 360-degree views that will make the ultimate home or office on wheels.
This fall, the company revealed designs for an EC Terranova Expedition Camper that looks ready for battle. The all-season cab-over trucks are available with a choice of Chevy, Ford, or Dodge chassis for owners that prefer a more domestic rig.
Gillies and his wife, Michelle Boltz, established EarthCruiser in Brisbane, Australia, in 2008 and moved the headquarters to Bend, Oregon, in 2013 to be closer to family.
"Michelle's American, right, and so she's spent a long time in Australia," Gillies says. "And her mum literally rang her up and said, 'Listen, you need to come home because you sound too much like Lance. '"
The adventurous couple met on an extreme 4x4 rally in the Malaysian jungle. When they couldn't find the perfect overland-expedition vehicle to tackle the Great Sandy Desert, they decided to design and build one themselves. And the prototype EarthCruiser was more than capable of trekking across Russia and Mongolia.
Naturally, vehicle requests from friends and neighbors started pouring in. Today the company employs more than two-dozen people who hand-build several EarthCruiser models Down Under and in the Pacific Northwest. Speaking to us by phone from Oregon, Gillies estimates every second vehicle in his state has a rooftop tent or is a Sprinter van.
"It is very interesting," he notes. "When we first came here and we talked about building EarthCruisers, people looked at me as though I was from Mars, but now it's funny isn't it, how quickly things change?"
Several hundred builds later and despite a slowed economy, business is good—especially when the result of writing a six-figure check sees you sitting behind the wheel of an expedition vehicle and planning your next adventure.
"We don't build vehicles for RV parks; we build vehicles for people who typically do not have a neighbor," Gillies says.
Not that there's anything wrong with next door neighbors, but EarthCruisers are designed to confidently go further than your average getaway. The EXP and FX 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 powered models have a driving range of 600 miles or so, and the diesel variants can easily push 900 miles between fill ups.
"As you get older the ground gets harder, and if you want your wife to come with you, you better figure out a toilet and a shower," Gillies adds.
To see all of the amazing things in America's breathtaking backyard, a light truck platform makes the most sense, and that's where Gillies and his team of enthusiasts begin.
"We've just never really changed from that. It just works," Gillies admits.
Indeed, the Fusos or Isuzus chassis that most EarthCruisers are built upon feature a wheelbase that is almost identical to a Land Cruiser.
"And so, we can go pretty much anywhere a Land Cruiser can go. And that means a whole lot of world, doesn't it?"
Plus, the EarthCruiser expedition vehicles are designed to fit inside a shipping container with all of your gear so you can ship it across the ocean and drive it out to wherever you choose to go.
"If you love to travel, it's great to have as many limitations removed as possible. It's just about choices, right? That's all it really is," Gillies says. "But our job is to engineer as many choices for our customers' travel as possible. That's what we get paid for."
EarthCruiser builds about 30 expedition vehicles per year, including the all-new for 2021 EC Terranova Expedition Camper. You can order it built upon a 2020 and 2021 Ford F-350, RAM 3500, or Silverado 3500 heavy-duty truck. Prices start at $270,000, with early orders expected to start rolling out in January and early February 2021.
EarthCruiser USA Models:
- GZL 300 & 400
- MOD 300 & 400
- EC Terranova