Real Overlanding: 1978 Jeep Expedition of the Americas

Overlanding is a word used to describe a method of long-term off-road exploration and travel that is vehicle-based and self-contained in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Nowadays, it’s a hip term. Yet to some off-road enthusiasts, it seems overused and incorrectly attributed to just about any off-road trip that includes an overnight stay.

However, there is a lot of real overlanding going on today and it’s not a “trend” that began just yesterday. The featured video above is all about the 1978 Jeep Expedition of the Americas, one of the most adventurous overlanding expeditions ever made.

They floated the Jeeps down rivers on a ferry where they could on this incredible, six-month-long journey across North, Central, and South America.

The 1978 Jeep Expedition of the Americas was a bold plan to traverse the entire length of South, Central, and North America. The expedition was led by Mark Smith, the man who created the now-famous Jeepers Jamboree and Jeep Jamboree that run the Rubicon Trail.The 1978 Jeep Expedition of the Americas was a bold plan to traverse the entire length of South, Central, and North America.

The Jeep Expedition of the Americas was a six-month-long overlanding adventure that started in Ushuaia, Argentina. It went all the way to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Mark and a few members of the expedition did two planning and exploration trips before the start of the full-length trip. One of the most treacherous sections of the Jeep Expedition of the Americas was the Darien Gap. The Darien Gap is a 100-mile-long, insect-infested stretch of swampy jungle between Panama and Columbia. To get the six Jeeps across, they had to cut through the jungle with machetes.

Cutting through the Darien Gap took 30 days to go about 100 miles. Imagine setting out every day with a machete in your hand, chopping down bushes and overgrowths just to progress three miles!

Although they were the first to cross the Darien in Jeeps, Mark and his crew learned much from the experience of those who had been the very first to get through. Years earlier, a 250-man group made up of British Army engineers, Columbian sailors, and Panamanian Guardia had broken through the Darien. It reportedly took them 100 days to get two vehicles across. Mark and a nearly 50-man crew took 30 days to make it. Talk about efficiency!

Aside from the most dangerous Darien Gap stretch, there were still thousands of miles of treacherous driving for the 1978 Expedition of the Americas and its six Jeeps. This was no overlanding cruise in air-conditioned comfort with a hot meal at every night’s stop. But we’re not here to tell you the whole story. You need to see it and hear for yourself. The 27-minute video of the 1978 Jeep Expedition of the Americas is a must-see for every off-road enthusiast. Sit back with some popcorn and a cold one. And get ready for an overlanding adventure like no other.

The Jeep CJ-7s used were stock except for Goodyear tires and Ramsey winches.

About the author

Stuart Bourdon

A passion for anything automotive (especially off-road vehicles), camping, and photography led to a life exploring the mountains and deserts of the Southwest and Baja, and a career in automotive, outdoor, and RV journalism.
Read My Articles

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