Vehicle

Contents of this page:
  • Introduction
  • Final vehicle selection
  • Other types of Overland vehicles considered
  • Vehicle preparation 

Introduction

In this page we will show the vehicle that we finally selected for the trip and some of the options that we looked at before we made the final selection.  The Land Rover was our initial choice because we had owned them in the past (in fact still have a 90 that we are very fond of!) but we also looked at Toyotas and the Unimog.  We have just included some very brief thoughts on the options but in our view everyone has different reasons for picking a particular type of vehicle, and they should just go with what fits their budget and what they feel comfortable with. The important thing is that you take the plunge and go!!

Final vehicle selection

The vehicle that we finally chose for the trip is an ex hire Kea Conqueror with a ‘pop top’ roof. It was built in 2006 and came to the end of of its service in October 2009 after covering 146,000 km. We bought the vehicle in Cairns in Australia in October 2009 . The photos taken on first viewing are shown below:-

First viewing of Troopy

Interior before upgrade

If you would like to talk to someone about one of these campers try Norman at Kea Sales.  www.keasales.com.au

Other types of Overland Vehicles considered

Having spent several years thinking about a big driving trip we have looked at lots of different vehicles and trawled the internet for inspiration. Having done lots of travelling while living out of vehicles we thought we knew what we needed in terms of facilities. However, we also were constrained because we knew that we would need to ship the vehicle several times, and for cost effective/secure transit, this means a container. We were also convinced that while most of the driving would be on tarmac, there would be sections of the trip where roads would be really poor or non existent. We also like camping well away from the road (ideally near water) and this often involves rough tracks and sometimes sand.

Main considerations in no particular order

  • Good off road capability, rugged design
  • Easy to fix anywhere in the world / easily available spare parts
  • Would fit into a standard 20ft container
  • Minimal engine electronics for reliability
  • Good sleeping facilities and ability to sleep inside / get to driving position without getting out first
  • Good natural ventilation in sleeping area
  • Easily available spare parts
  • Internal cooking/eating when required due to weather or insects
  • Good size fridge and power to run for several days while not travelling
  • Air-conditioning in the cab
  • Good fuel carrying capacity / range greater than 1000km
I (Graham) really wanted to build my own camper, and probably will do one day. We even built a barn and a big inspection pit ready for the build, but for various reasons ended up buying something in Australia and shipping it back.

Very few vehicles that we looked at met all the requirements, and some met very few. I’m sure that whatever we had chosen, we could have adjusted the route and the trip to suit. There is a lot to be said for doing an overland trip in something very cheap and basic as the more you spend the less you feel like leaving it in dodgy places!

ANY CHARACTER HERE
Our first thought, when we started thinking about a trip was to  just drive our old (ish) Hymer to Australia. It was great fun as the kids grew up and had good facilities including a full size shower, heating, cassette toilet etc etc. The big problem for us is that travelling alone it would be easy to get stuck. We would need to be able to deal with rough slippery roads, sand, potholes etc, and being front wheel drive with lots of weight at the back, traction is often a problem. The short wheel base was acceptable but the departure angle was as bad as it gets!

Our old Hymer ….. not great off road ….. even flat grass!

The 130 Land Rover was a serious contender for a while. I managed to buy this one with only 19000 miles on the clock, which for a 1996 vehicle was amazing. The plan was to take the roof off along with the flat bed, and build a custom composite sheet body using some of the lorry body systems. I’m sure that it would have been great, but  as started to get stuck into the detailed design, I realised that it would take me a couple of years of spare time and lots of money to complete. In an embarrassing U turn I sold it and started looking for something that would be ready much sooner!

ANY CHARACTER HERE
ANY CHARACTER HERE

ANY CHARACTER HERE

This camper we saw at Billings (Land Rover show) and while we loved it, we thought that it would be beyond our budget and would fairly expensive to ship due to its height.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

We again looked at quite a few Land Rover ambulances, and the fact that the body was already there, would have reduced the build / fit out time significantly compared to the chassis cab 130. They were also readily available albeit at quite a high price. The height again was an issue in terms of a container, but overall a tempting option.

Another very nice conversion that can be supplied directly from OEC in Devon is the Azalai basically an extremely tough composite camper shell grafted onto the back of a  Land Rover Defender 130 double cab. Very nicely put together and fits with almost all our requirements. The only snag was the cost, which is not excessive when you consider how much all the ‘goodies’ cost that are fitted, and the hand built nature of the product. Definitely worth a look and the team at OEC are knowledgeable and really friendly.

Another popular system for overlanders is the roof tent. We have never tried them and so cannot say how well they work. For us we like the idea of being able to arrive at our chosen camp spot and have inside shelter when the weather is bad. We have had a trip in Australia where it rained for almost two weeks non stop. It was not great in the tiny camper but at least packing up and setting up was easy and fast. Many people swear by them but I think that they are often quite expensive when compared to the equivalent ground tent. They do look great though and I would like to try one for a week or two. Maybe not for a 7 month trip though.

The ultimate offroad overlanding vehicle has to be the Unimog and although it would be a great thing to own, it was perhaps a little too capable bearing in mind the sort of trip that we are undertaking. While perfect for Mongolia, maybe a little expensive for the European section of the trip. There is some great websites covering this vehicle, some of which put forward a good argument for the selection of the Unimog for the sort of trip we are doing. However any vehicle selection is a compromise, and for us the container shipping is a major plus and the Unimog with body is just too tall for a container. I’d love to have one, but not for this trip. Maybe for another trip to Eastern Siberia if I can pursuade Marjool to consider one!

Vehicle preparation

Kea arranged for some work to be carried out for us before we had the vehicle shipped out from OZ. This was due to the fact that some parts were easier to get there and the mechanics were also familiar with the fitting of the parts. Stefano also put his own time into this … Thank you! This included the following:

  • ARB bull bar to take a winch if we decided to fit one later
  • ARB air operated lockers front and rear
  • Reconditioning of prop shafts
  • Changing wheel bearings
  • Changing brake discs and pads
  • Upgrading interior of camper with larger fridge (80 lt Waeco chest fridge freezer)
  • Replacing canvas top
Once the work was completed we had a trial run for a couple of weeks heading down from Sydney to the Victorian border. Beautiful scenery and beaches, with plenty of wild camping. Lots of rain but the fishing was good!
Tailor fish …. in the rain!

The next job was to get the camper home to the UK. Time to see if it really fits into a standard 20ft container! We had booked the shipping from Botany Bay and so all we had to do was drop it off in the docks and fill in a few forms. It felt strange to leave it behind and head off with our rucksacks to the bus stop. Even stranger to think that the next time that we would see it, it would be in England.

There were various delays due to customs paperwork, but eventually we picked the camper up from VDS Automotive UK Ltd who had helped us with the import, testing and first registration. They are based in Derby and so it gave us a chance to give it a run.

Safely back in the barn that we had built a couple of years ago for the build of our own camper, we started the final preparation. This included the following:

  • Building a bumper for towing, jacking and storage and possible swingaway carriers later. (OK I know it’s heavy …….!) Note the lockable, removable endcaps for storing awning poles and fishing rods.
  • Fitting a side awning on that is capable of taking a mosquito net (four sided)
  • Changing the clutch … assisted by my good friend (and fishing buddy) Tony!
  • Upgrading the battery charging system, both alternator and mains
  • Adding extra leisure batteries (total 200Ah)
  • Replacing interior lights with LED lighting
  • Building and fitting exterior aluminium storage boxes (being built by http://www.devonengineering.co.uk )
  • Fitting storage nets internally (not yet done)
  • Fitting new radio for Ipod.
  • Fitting CB radio for any convoy situations!
  • New wheels and tyres. (Split rims and tubes seem to puncture too easily)
  • Fit rubber wheel arch extensions and bigger heavier mud flats (not yet done)
  • Add support to stop sagging (pop top not wife!)
  • Change worn damaged scissors supports and gas struts on roof (not yet done)
  • Vehicle graphics (being prepared by http://www.dsigns.me.uk )
  • Fitting rear awning for cooking, eating and washing in foul weather (being made by Joe at http://www.canvas-factory.co.uk )
  • Moving cooker out of cupboard and on to recess in worktop, make device to hold it down that doubles as windbreak



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One Response to “Vehicle”

  1. David Chamberlain May 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    I used to own the LR 127 ambulance H674OEE! It was so original I couldn’t bear to convert to a camper but the next owner did and duly took it to Australia and South Africa!!!! Good luck and happy travelling 🙂

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