Today may mark the moment when the hype surrounding the new Land Rover Defender truly jumps the shark. They say it's going to be the most capable Land Rover product ever; the toughest, the most dependable. It's also able to lap the Nurburgring nonchalantly, tow a herd of cows across Yorkshire and smash out the Surrey school run in style. It's all things to all men, but right now, it's all just talk, unlike those heroes of overland adventure which have already put their money where their mouth is, and taken on the world.
And that's what the Adventure Overland Show, which is held twice a year on the challenging terrain of Stratford-upon-Avon Racecourse, is all about. It's a celebration of those vehicles which have already faced their baptism of mud in the far-flung corners of the planet, and not been found wanting. The new Defender may be talking the talk, but most of the ten globetrotting heroes we've picked out for this article, from the hundreds of vehicles which gathered for the show, have already walked the walk. And you'll be amazed by just how diverse they are.
01 - Land Rover Defender 110
Well, we had to start with the obvious choice, didn't we? But when it comes to overlanding, you can't get much more evocative than the iconic Land Rover/Rooftent/Awning combo. From the sands of the Sudan to the jungles of Guatemala, I've spotted many these handsome beasts roving many corners of this fair world - generally with a few issues, but this never seems to irritate their proud owners hugely, who seem to stoically see problems as part of the rich Land Rover experience.
Of the many defenders at the show, I've chosen this one for the photo as while it may not have the winch, sand ladders, snorkel and other paraphernalia required for serious travel, it just looks so classically good in its black-on white, big-wheeled goodness. It may not be ready for Africa, but it's just so damn cute I'm sure we can let it off.
02 - Scooter/sidecar combo
Hats off to these guys. Earlier this year, they returned to the UK following a 50,000km trip around the world. In this. And not being a bike guy, I don't even know what 'this' is, other than that it has three wheels and an engine, and a curiously serious-looking bucket seat for the terrified passenger. But it did it; it lapped the globe. For all the talk coming out of Land Rover at the moment, when it comes to heroic travel, their mighty new Defender still hasn't beaten this rickety contraption and the stiff-upper-lipped Brits who took it deep into the unknown, probably with only pith helmets and a couple of fine moustaches for protection.
The world needs more of this kind of inspired stupidity.
03 - Toyota Land Cruiser
There's an oft-repeated saying which circulates in the Australia 4x4 scene - 'If you want to go deep into the outback, take a Land Rover. If you want to get back again, take a Land Cruiser. While I don't think this is fully fair on team Solihull, It does reflect the fact that when it comes to exploring the world with the minimum of fuss, these days a Toyota is probably the number one choice. With the Adventure Overland Show being held in the UK's heartlands, it's predictable that Land Rovers far outnumbered their Japanese rivals, but the mighty Toyotas were still out in force. And given they're the UN's go-to choice for the world's rough spots, as well as being terrorist organisations' first choice as a 'technical' gun platform, people whose lives depend on toughness and reliability clearly rate them.
It's a shame they'll never look quite as iconic as a Land Rover when out in the wilderness, however.
04 - Mercedes Dakar Rally support truck
Can you only get two weeks off work to explore the world? If so, you'll be needing one of these - a converted Dakar Rally support truck. At least, that's what I think it is.
The Dakar is one of the toughest motorsport events around, and sees competitors cover scarcely-believable distances across deserts and sand dunes, day after day, for many thousands of miles. Short of flying, it's truly the cutting edge way to see the world flash past at high speed. So, if that sounds like your kind of travel, you'll be needing something like this support vehicle, which looks able to acquire such momentum that no landscape could possibly resist its progress.
05 - Toyota... Something or other
That Toyotas are the most reliable way to travel the world is a fairly well accepted viewpoint, but that doesn't mean that everyone interprets the fact in the same way. Just look at this thing, for instance. Sure, it's got a roof tent, awning and extra load space, but it also has fancy low-profile alloys, glitzy exhaust, less ground clearance than a woodlouse and a down-wif-da-yoof rear window sticker which doesn't exactly shout 'Trans-Africa'. I have a hunch the irreverent people-mover hasn't been built with that in mind, however, and I'm sure its owner really enjoys getting out and about with it over the summer. Which let's face it, is justification for anything, right?
06 - A Cold War era missile carrier
4x4 is so passé. If you're really serious about your overlanding, then you'll be needing 8x8. With armour. And a massive load area to kit out as a zombie apocalypse-proof living space. And a camouflage scheme which will make your modest motor blend into the background of any situation. Maybe.
In short, you'll be wanting one of these. Except with single-figure fuel consumption and a size which immediately makes half the planet's interesting roads impassable, you probably won't. I'd bet good money that it's never even left the UK, though saying that, I can definitely see the appeal of rocking up to a National Trust campsite in the Lake District in it, on a busy July weekend...
07 - Bajaj 4RE Auto-Rickshaw
I drove one of these 2,000 miles across India and Nepal once. It was terrifying. I almost died, every day of the trip. The engine would barely run when we took it to 4,000m in the Himalaya, and despite it being brand new, it was about as reliable as the Greek economy. In short, it was utterly terrible.
But despite all that, it was also brilliant fun. The 8hp engine seemingly had no red line, the rear-drive chassis could be coaxed sideways on gravel and if you're the sort that enjoys terrifying passengers, there's no finer machine than one of these, in a typical Indian city centre. So, seeing a fully expedition-ready Bajaj mixing it with the big boys at the show really brought a smile to may face.
You can get one for about a grand on the subcontinent - if you do one thing this summer, it's important that you make it going out there, buying one, and setting off across Rajasthan...
08 - Nissan Micra K11
Nissan Micras. They're the cockroaches of the automotive world. Utterly unkillable. Take these two for instance - one completed the Mongol Rally, while the other has circumnavigated the world. They've notched up about 50 different countries between them, and their adventuring days are far from over.
And they just go to show, you don't need some fancy new Land Rover to go off on the best adventures. A £200 Micra and a healthy dose of the plucky British underdog spirit will do just fine. Just make sure you wear a top hat at all times, and strap a shopping trolley to the roof before you go, right?
09 - Mercedes Camper-van
Want to go overlanding, but can't face life on the road without your own shower, toilet, kitchen and bedroom? Relax, Mercedes - and many other brands - have you covered. This one here has been toughened up for the long haul, with raised suspension, winch, roof rack and, I suspect, four wheel drive. However, it serves to prove a point - that you can explore the globe with a normal camper van, or van conversion. While I was on the road in South America last year, this approach outnumbered the Land Rover option hugely, and I met everything from a Brazilian couple touring the continent in a bay-window VW camper, to some Brits who'd bought a Ford van in the US and just kept on driving south. If you want some comfort while on your adventures, this approach makes a lot of sense.
10 - TVR Chimaera
Finally, we have my latest choice for overland glory - the TVR which I recently drove 27,000 miles across 25 countries from the northernmost bar on the planet, to the southernmost. While it may have looked somewhat incongruous parked among all the more conventional 4x4 beasts, like the options described above it serves to illustrate that there is no 'right' approach to automotive adventuring - any car can help make memories which will last a lifetime. And if even an old TVR can survive temperatures of 53 degrees in Death Valley, and altitudes of 4,700m on the Bolivian Altoplano, then your daily driver may be capable of a lot more than you think.
So, what would you chose for a lap of the world? And what have you driven on your past adventures? Share your inspiration with us!