'Desert Ute' ~ A pickup for the Sahara
in association with the Matt Savage Ute Institute (MSUI)


For the latest 2007-8 Desert Ute Project click this or this


I've always been attracted to the simplicity of a pickup in the Sahara. Where weather, payload security or (inside) passengers are not issues, what more do you need; a self-propelled platform with a steering wheel and a seat. The tray behind a single cab is big enough, loads low and is easy to get to.

Yes, yes, I've read all this... skip to final installment

First choice of course would have been a TLC 75 or an HJZ 79 (left) but the extreme scarcity of 70s in the UK and the expense of bringing one in from Europe or Australia meant not this time.

Tojo 60s are cheap and easy to find in the UK however, and have the same running gear and engine as an early 75. And heck, while we're cutting off the back body why not cut the dang thing in half and slap an extra metre into the chassis to make a useful US-sized bed?

So Matt collected this 60 sight unseen for 1100 quid; an ex-Saharan TLC in dire need of more TLC. But driving it around a bit more proved it was just too shagged in the transmission to be worth investing in, so I flogged it on to a mate in Niger with less reservations about its condition. I came across it a few weeks later near Bilma with a bunch of happy Eclipse punters in the back, following 5 days of intensive mechanical surgery in Agadez.

In the meantime I'd decided an extended pickup cut out of a 60 was not worth the din of the angle grinder. I'd always liked the idea of a Land Rover HiCap (right). If nothing else it would add a useful promotional angle to the Empty Quarter crossing which was first competed by prototype LR 101 'OverCaps'. But even before you've juggled with the 'Russian Roulette' scenario of buying an LR, new or used, the prices of HiCaps proved to be two or three times more than a Todje of the same age and in no better condition so no contest there. Old Todje's really are a bargain in the UK; you get a lot of car for your money. How about a marrying a HiCap tray with a Tojo then (left)? Stop, stop! we've been there already...

And then the obvious choice for a desert utility came forth and manifested itself.
Perhaps one of the all-time greats from the Encyclopedia of Load Carrying, the Volkswagen Taro!
Click the logo

© Chris Scott, 1998-2013