The power’s out, the phone is dead, you haven’t seen the cat in days and there are bodies stacked like cord wood in front of your sandbag-and-plywood reinforced house. The screams from neighboring houses died off a few days ago, and you’re down to your last room temperature Michelob Amber Bock. Time for a beer run, but the roads are blocked and your Toyota Camry just isn’t going to cut the mustard; if only you’d prepared for the zombie apocalypse like your neighbor Kurt did.
The real problem with the zombie apocalypse is that you won’t know when or where it begins. By the time you realize that a bombproof SUV would be a good thing to have; well, it’s a little late to go down to the dealer and buy one, isn’t it? You could try stealing one, but given the number of Americans with guns, that may not be the best solution.
While an M1 Abrams tank is probably the best vehicle for the apocalypse, they’re hard to find on the used market, especially with guns intact. Even if you do find a clean one on eBay, where are you going to put it? Do you really think that the neighbors will believe it’s your new lawn tractor? Think the missus is going to green light that purchase? You need a practical vehicle for the zombie apocalypse that doesn’t raise the suspicions of your neighbors or local law enforcement. Something that you can drive the kids to soccer practice with, yet still run down those flesh eating bastards like you’re playing a video game.
So here’s the deal: below is a list of vehicles, across a broad price spectrum, that will get you ready for the end of days. Most of them will be a relatively easy sell to the significant other (compared to an M1 Abrams tank, at least) and all are comercially available to civilian buyers. Here’s my criteria:
• They have to be production vehicles, available within 6 months
• They need to be street legal, licensable and drivable on a daily basis
• Four wheeled vehicles must be able to hold two go bags, two rifles and a thousand rounds of ammo. SCORE Trophy trucks and buggys are therefore excluded.
We’ll start on the low end of the price scale and work our way up:
• Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
Cheap, plentiful and easy to work on, you’ll have no problem keeping this baby running for years after civilization collapses. No, it isn’t four wheel drive, but Crown Vics aren’t averse to driving over the occasional curb, median or zombie. Since you’re going to be buying one at auction, take your time and find one with push bars already installed on the front; bonus points if you can find one with a shotgun rack and limited slip differential. Depending upon condition, expect to pay anywhere from $4k to $10k for a used but serviceable example.
• BMW R1200 GS
Yes, this is a motorcycle. No, it offers no intrusion protection from flesh eating zombies (although a full face helmet and an Aerostich riding suit will slow them down a while). Why is it on the list? Because a properly ridden BMW GS will get you anywhere you need to go, on road or off. Ford streams, jump curbs, ride over dead zombies – the big GS doesn’t care, as long as you keep it upright. Sure there are faster motorcycles and there are more agile motorcycles, but the GS is built like a panzer and relatively easy to keep running with a handful of tools and a shop manual. The twin opposed cylinders give the bike some width, not a bad thing when you need to pin the throttle WFO and ride through a horde of zombies. Expect to pay around $12k for decent used R1100/1150 GS; new R1200 GS Adventure models with all the farkles will set you back somewhat north of $20k.
• Nissan Xterra 4wd
Think of this as the entry level anti-zombie SUV. Xterras aren’t bad trucks, but they’re just that – trucks. Buyers expecting “cute ute”, Toyota RAV ride quality are generally put off by the Xterras harsh ride, top heavy feel and brutish road manners, so used examples are plentiful. Off road, Xterras are capable if equipped with the right tires and suspension components, and a good front bumper and winch should get you unstuck from nearly anything you get yourself into. Aftermarket parts are plentiful, so you can build up a ride as stout as your budget allows. Used 4wd versions can be had for around $15k and up; new Xterras can top $30k if you get option package crazy.
• Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Sure it’s small, sure it’s harsh to drive everyday, but a Jeep Wrangler will get you into places almost no other vehicle on the planet can. Why the Rubicon? Because it gives you heavy duty front and rear axles, Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4wd system, electronic locking front and rear differentials and includes parts you’d need to add anyway (like rock rails). Do I need to tell you to order it with the hard top? Used Jeeps are plentiful, though used Rubicons (which were introduced in 2003) may be harder to find. If you’re the do it yourself type, clean used Jeeps start at around $10k. If you really need a Rubicon, used examples start at around $20k, while new ones push $30k.
• Toyota FJ Cruiser 4wd
I own one, so forgive my bias: the Toyota FJ Cruiser may be the most under-rated truck ever sold under the Toyota name. Manufactured by Hino, not Toyota, the FJ Cruiser is equally comfortable driving at 75 mph on the highway or rock crawling at 2 mph in 4wd low. It will get you anywhere you ever need to go, limited only by tires and the amount of testosterone in your bloodstream. Stock, it will ford 27 inches of water, has nearly 10 inches of ground clearance and will hit 60 mph in under 9 seconds. Throw on an ARB front bumper, reinforce the front skid plates and watch zombies explode like meat grenades when you hit ‘em. Although FJ Cruisers haven’t sold particularly well, they do retain their value better than other trucks in their class. Expect to pay north of $20k for a clean used 4wd FJ, and new ones can top $30k if you opt for a special edition.
• Mercedes Benz Unimog
I struggled with adding this one to the list for several reasons. First, most of the ‘mogs you find in the US are soft top, ex-NATO troop carriers completely unsuitable for the zombie apocalypse. Second, unless you buy a radio truck, ambulance or crew cab, there’s no access to the back from the cab, which isn’t that big to begin with. Finally, a lot of used ‘mogs (1984 and up) are difficult or impossible to license for road use in the United States. None of that matters, because the Unimog is the cockroach of all purpose vehicles. When the last H1 Hummer has turned to dust, when the final Land Rover has rotted into topsoil, there will still be Unimogs roaming the planet. You can’t kill them, they go anywhere and you can fix ‘em with a hammer and a screwdriver. Sure, parts can be hard to find, but you can always make your own. Sure, most ‘mogs won’t hit 60 miles per hour downhill with a strong tail wind, but who cares? It’s about getting from point A to point B when nothing else can. Pricing is a tough call; you can find Unimog “works in progress” for under $10k, but buyer beware; if someone else hasn’t done the paperwork to license it for road use in the U.S., that becomes your responsibility. Better to go for one already refurbed and federalized, which will set you back $25k and up. Expedition ‘mogs, with camper backs and all the toys, sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
• Land Rover Defender 90
Sold in the United States form 1993 to 1997, Land Rover Defenders are perhaps THE icon of a rugged, go anywhere four wheel drive. Built primarily as a utility vehicle for agriculture, industry and the military, Defenders were never designed to be driven by trend-humping-fashion-lemmings, one upping their buddy’s Range Rover at the country club. Ride quality is primitive and occupant comfort in non-US versions is an afterthought. Air conditioning? Why would a farmer in the UK need A/C? Designed to be serviced in the field, under harsh conditions, Defenders can be taken down to their ladder frame with hand tools. Like the Unimog, Defenders can survive the harshest of off road challenges; unfortunately, all this capability and snob appeal comes at a price. Unable to meet side impact and airbag regulations established in 1998, Land Rover stopped importing Defenders in 1997. Demand remains high, so prices for clean used vehicles haven’t budged. Want a Defender 90 hard top? The going price starts at around $35k and quickly goes up from there.
• Hummer H2
They’re big, they’re heavy and they’re not particularly good off road, so why include them in this list? Because with the right push bar on the front and the airbags deactivated, they’d be a fine “plow your way through trouble” vehicle. Not as huge and ungainly as the H1 and more serious than the H3, the H2 strikes just the right amount of compromise between utility and practicality in the apocalypse. It’s not like you’re going to be paying for the gas you use, so why not drive something large enough to have it’s own gravity? Plenty of room in the back for guns and ammo and enough ground clearance that you don’t have to move those rotting corpses out of the way; just stick to paved or gravel roads and you should do fine. Used H2s can be had at around $40k, but good luck finding one that hasn’t been pimped out. Dubs may look cool, but trust me – you want more tire than wheel when the fertilizer hits the fan. New ones can be had for $60k or or so, but GM is anxious to get rid of remaining inventory; Hummer dealers may be the only ones looking to take used Camrys on trade.
• TLC Icon FJ40
Imagine a Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser built with absolutely no compromises, using the best available modern components and technology. Want a V8? No problem. Prefer the fuel economy of a diesel? They’re good with that, too. In fact, Icon’s can be ordered in just about any configuration you’d want; just don’t forget to bring your checkbook. Icons start at about $105k and quickly go north from there. Loaded, they’re pushing $150k, and that’s before you tell them you’re going to need a custom, all steel body (since Icons are currently built with soft tops only). Think of it this way: when you’ve emptied your bank account of $200 large, you’ll have the only zombie apocalypse ride built to your exact specifications. You won’t be worrying about whether it’s good enough, either, and isn’t peace of mind worth an extra few dollars?
• Earthroamer XV-LT
Take a Ford F550 Super Duty, cross it with a Winnebago and leave it parked in Frankenstein’s lab for a few weeks, and you wind up with an Earthroamer XV-LT. At a gross vehicle weight of nearly 9 tons, this baby is going over or through anything that gets in its way. The best part? Even during the zombie apocalypse, you can still use it to enjoy a nice merlot on vacation at the Grand Canyon, while appreciating your granite countertops and leather seating. No electricity? No problem, this rig relies on solar power and diesel fuel for all of its needs. Just in case the going gets tough, it’ll ford 24 inches of water and gives you a minimum ground clearance of about ten inches. All this care-free living comes with a hefty price tag; XV-LTs start at $215k and top out around $280k with all the option boxes checked. Better get your order in soon – build time is about four to six months.