Unicorn: a mythical, magical creature believed to be responsible for all things awesome.
More elusive than Sasquatch in board shorts and a Hawaiian t-shirt chewing on beef jerky, Unicorns are the rarest and most exquisite creatures ever to grace our planet. After months of searching, we located ours, and as it turns out, it was hiding in our backyard.
Earlier this year, we rolled our Toyota FJ Cruiser outside Ontario, Oregon (rollover article). Soon after that, the search for a replacement rig began. We narrowed the list down to a few vehicles within the Toyota family (FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Tacoma, Land Cruiser, GX460, and GX470). We did not want to rush buying and building our next off-road vehicle, so we took our time, weighed the options, and got feedback from people within the community.
Early on we were leaning towards a Lexus GX470, more specifically, a 2005 model. Reason being, they have more cargo space than our previous FJ Cruiser, larger engine (V8), higher towing capacity, and the average price for a used GX470 is typically much less than other Toyota options. Buying used meant spending less on the vehicle and allowing for money spent on the build versus modifying a brand new vehicle as we did with the FJ.
Even though we were reasonably confident we would go with a GX, we kept our options open and did more research (drinking cold beer while searching the internet) on all the vehicles on our list, including the GX470. While digging a little deeper into each one, we quickly learned the optional in-dash navigation system with integrated climate controls is prone to failure in earlier GX470 models. Also, if you want to upgrade the head unit, and maintain some of the auxiliary controls, it can be very difficult to do since everything is built into the stock display.
We narrowed a target year down for the GX470 we wanted. The 2005 had the highest producing horsepower engine available for the 470 models. We were also leaning towards the grayish (Ash Blue Mica) color with gray interior. A Sport variant was released that year too. Although the same basic vehicle, it did have some subtle differences, to include: smoked bezel headlamps, and black bird's eye maple wood trim pieces on the interior.
Now, here is the Unicorn part of this puzzle. Finding a gray (exterior/interior) 2005 GX470 can be somewhat difficult. Finding one without navigation can be even more difficult. Finding it in a Sport model, well, that would be a Unicorn!
In terms of a Lexus GX470, we knew what we wanted, but we were not entirely sold on the fact that this was the right adventure rig for us. We had a few questions that were completely subjective and could not be answered in a simple drive down the road in someone else's GX. Comfort on long trips, sleeping in the vehicle, and drivability after being built were some of the questions we had.
Those questions, plus some were all answered when Metal Tech 4x4 tossed us the keys to their 2005 Lexus GX470 and told us to drive it from the Portland, OR area to Asheville, NC for Overland Expo East (road trip Itinerary). Even better, they wanted us to take it off-road and see what life was like living out of it for about 15 days during the BA / MT Coast-2-Coast Road Trip (article coming soon).
Ashlie was not able to join me on this adventure, but my good buddy and professional photographer, Jonathan DeRise (Jon DeRise Photography) did. Here is what I learned from this epic road trip and in-depth, hands-on test drive. The GX470 is the perfect platform for our next adventure vehicle build. Not only was it comfortable and performed great on and off the road, but if two, middle age, bearded fat guys can be comfortable living out of it, I know my petite wife and I will be too.
Here is the when and where part of this story. While driving the Metal Tech 4x4 GX470 from Texas to Louisiana for another meetup during our road trip, we discovered there was a Unicorn sitting on the lot of a small dealership just outside of Lafayette, Louisiana (our home). The date was September 23, 2017, and it was late in the afternoon when we saw it online. Too late as a matter of fact to call them and ask questions about it.
Following our meet with members of the Bayou State Land Cruiser Association on Sunday the 24th, DeRise and I stopped by the dealership before heading out to Alabama. Because of the day and time, the dealership was closed, but that didn't mean I couldn't at least look at it. After some heavy breathing and creepy touching we left, but before doing so, in my best Terminator voice, I whispered to the GX, "I'll be back."
In my absence, another good friend of mine, Cory Landry (Cory Landry Music), test drove the GX for me. The next day, Ashlie went to the dealership and completed all the paperwork. This particular Lexus GX470 is a grayish 2005 Sport, non-nav with approximately 174,000 miles and one owner. Out the door with tax, title, and license we paid nearly $9,500 for it.
After waiting several months, and with the help of friends, Ashlie and I captured our Unicorn! LET THE MAGIC BEGIN!
Thank you to Jon DeRise Photography for providing some of the pictures and other media used within this article.
To learn more about Metal Tech 4x4, click here: Facebook / Website
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The world is a large place, and life is short. Together, we can accomplish much more than we ever could alone.
GX470 Promo Video
Baker and Ashlie are the owners of Bourn Adventure and together they author the majority of the articles and content found here.