The story of our car: HZJ75-000026452


HZJ75-000026452 as we purchased it in May 2000.  


Place of birth : Japan, 1996
HZJ75-000026452, now more commonly known as Troopie, started its life in Japan. It was born at the Araco factory which is responsible for the development of the body, assembly and final production of this type of 70 series Land Cruisers. This factory has been producing Land Cruisers for the last 47 years starting with the BJ type, the 20 series, 40, 50, 60, 70 Prado and 80. Now it is churning out 70 and 100 series units one after the other.  


The Land Cruiser 70 series is now exported to more than 150 countries in the world. The models most commonly seen outside developed countries are the heavy duty models that are most often used by the army (we saw many pick-up versions in Pakistan) or by NGO's. These are the LWB - Long Wheel Base models (available in wagon HZJ 78 such as ours or in pick-up version HZJ 79) that are popular around the world because they can both take a large number of passengers or lots of cargo (such as heavy machine guns).


Different stages in production (from left to right) : steel presses, assembly of body panels (with the distinctive 2 fuel tank openings), welding of doors and window panels, cabin assembly with spot welding.


The next stages (from left to right) : welding of the finished cabin, completed body assembly before painting, assembly of body to chassis, assembly of the dashboard, exterior parts.


Looking for owners : Denmark, 1996
Having been assembled in Japan with great care, HZJ 75 000026452 was shipped to Europe. It was bought by Bukkehave Ltd in Denmark to be sold to its first owner. Who its legal first owner was, was either the Hungarian Government or the Red Cross. 


First task in life : The Red Cross, Croatia, 1996 to 2000
HZJ 75 000026452 was given by Hungary to the International Federation of the Red Cross to be used in Croatia. Troopie got its first papers in Zagreb. Between October 1996 and the first months of 2000 it was used by the red cross as its papers suggest. For what purpose, we don't know. We were told the car had never done much off-road and Troopie looked as though it hadn't. Instead, the amount of km done in just 3 years, 108,000 km or more than 35,000 per year, suggests it did a lot of good and smooth motorway. 


The traces of Red Cross stickers are still visible on the car 


Looking for new owners : Belgium, 2000
Troopie was sold by the Hungarian embassy in Brussels to a specialised 4wd dealer. We found the car whilst surfing the internet in Hong Kong as it was put on sale on the website of Autoccasion. Kathleen's brother went to have a look at it and posted these pictures for us to look at. 


Going back East : Antwerp to Hong Kong, 15 January to 15 February 2001
After checking all mechanical parts were OK, getting Belgian papers and insurance and doing a lot of work to make it our home for 10 months, we shipped the car by container to Hong Kong. It left on the 18th of January and arrived 24 days later in Hong Kong. 


Going on holiday : Hong Kong to Brussels overland, 2001-2002
This page is being written from the medieval city of Jaisalmer in the Thar desert between India and Pakistan. Troopie is now on an extended holiday and driving its owners back to their home country Belgium. After 18,000 km on the road since Hong Kong, she is still going strong ! 


Troopie went on a little further than that as we extended our journey from 9 to 14 months. The total journey looks like this :


We have to say goodbye to Troopie
For the last months of the journey, the two of us faced a very difficult question : what do you do with a car that has become part of your life ? For the last year and a half, Troopie has traveled with us to incredible places, has shared good days and bad days, has sheltered us from snow storms and sand storms. Troopie has been our home on wheels as we traveled the world. We had many mostly financial incentives to sell her and only one sentimental reason to keep her. As we decided to continue our lives in the USA where Troopie has never been imported, the last thing we wanted was to leave her rot in Europe for several years with no one ever driving her around. So we decided to find her a good new home and nice new parents !


Troopie with her new parents (left), pulling a face as we board a train to return to Belgium (right)

Walter Metzke and his girlfriend are the best parents we could find for Troopie. They live in Erlangen, Germany, and plan to take her on short trips to Turkey or North Africa. They even told us they'd keep our large green map of Europe and Asia. We arranged to meet in a small city near Cologne and went out for a meal. That night we slept in Troopie for the last time. Boarding the train in Cologne to return to Belgium without her was tough. Both of us shed a little tear at some stage. Guess what our new car is called ? I mean we have to speak to her one way or the other, don't we !


Our last picture of Troopie in Cologne, Germany


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