There is a culture for Thailand Jeeps and Jeeping, though it does seem it is reserved for those who have a bit of coin to spend on vehicles no matter if your talking new Jeeps or a vintage classic.
Looking back into Thailand’s history, there are huge numbers of Jeeps left over from the war, whether they be US military or coalition forces, they are littered throughout the country with the highest number being discarded around Kanchanaburi province.
Kanchanburi has an important history for Australian forces, with the Death Railway and Hellfire pass still showing tributes to Australian diggers to this day.
The M38 Jeep, essentially a CJ2 or CJ3 is the most popular, and in the second hand market a tidy one can start prices from 200’000thb ($7’500). When comparing these prices to what you would pay for a CJ2 or CJ3 in Australia, it is quite staggering to see them fetching such high prices in Thailand.
A large amount of these are even today being exported to the USA to find new homes and start a second life. One business I am aware of, currently buys these vehicles at Thai Military auctions, buying between 50 and 100 vehicles at a time and hobbling together working vehicles to export to the US.
The Ford built MB Willy’s, like everywhere else in the world is the most desirable model, and with this in mind they fetch a high price even in Thailand. I have seen a few on the roads, mostly in stock form and not molested.
Prices in Thailand are matched to what you would expect to pay in say America or Australia, so the proposition of buying a MB in Thailand and exporting to save a few dollars is not ideal. The Thai government does allow for the export of these, but having contacts ensure an easy transition.
The Kaiser M715 are fetching high prices also, being remnants from the war. I have seen some of these being sold in lots at Thai Army auctions and again being exported to the US.
The M715’s are running their original Dana 60 and Dana 70 diffs with a 24volt electrical system.
They are military original, and even being an auction are fetching international prices.
Modern Jeeps, for example the XJ Cherokee, are priced so high it’s ridiculous. Comparing a 15 year old XJ Cherokee in Thailand to say one in Australia, the Thailand version is over 6 times the price of Australia. This makes the Cherokee a not so common sight on the roads.
The modifications you will see on them include lifts and big tyres to tackle the mud, but make no mistake, the modifications are Thai style, and not in my opinion of high quality and durability, they are purely practical.
There is a few large national Thai club for the Jeeps called ‘Jeep Unity Club’ and ‘Jeep Cherokee Club’ which seems to be quite popular.
Exploring provinces like Kanchanaburi and Ractchaburi you can still find Jeep graveyards on old farming properties, but being able to move these old war time Jeeps can be a costly exercise in itself.
The opportunities to modify Jeeps in Thailand come from home grown necessity, given the high taxes on importation of products, you won’t see Jeeps with Rubicon Express lifts from the USA, instead there might be Toyota diff conversions, Isuzu engine transplants and custom fabrication all done on the cheap.
Within some of the tourist areas, Phuket is a good example, you will see the likes of CJ7’s for rent, which you can drive down the beach roads and catch some rays while you’re at it. These vehicles are pretty rough though. Expect to see lifts done as spring overs, with new leaf mounts plated to the chassis rails with bird crap welds.
Jeep Wrangler’s, in either the TJ or YJ range are around, with it appearing more of the YJ’s seen on the road. Same as the Jeep Cherokee, the prices to own one of these are quite expensive compared with other vehicles on the road of the same vintage.
With my personal history of Jeeping in Australia, owning a Jeep in Thailand would be an awesome proposition, but for me owning a late model is cost prohibitive, and then the idea of owning a classic military Jeep doesn’t seem overly inviting with the hot weather or the rainy seasons.
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