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  #1  
Old 16 May 2008
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the practicalities of using a 2wd truck

Hi all,

For a long time I have been keen on the idea of getting a truck for living in and travelling, I am finally saving some decent money and so I am now doing serious research rather than far flung dreaming.

My background is probably different to many of your in that the truck will not only serve as a home when I’m travelling but also during the periods of time that I am in London, these will realistically compromise the bulk of my time for many years. Full time travelling is something I can aspire to for the future. I will live in the truck on traveller sites and so my choice of a large truck is based on the necessity for having a toilet and shower amongst other things. Camping is fine when you know you have a house to come back when the travels are done to but is obviously totally impractical for day to day working life in a big city.

I am not interested in testing my vehicle through masochistic excursions into Siberian tundra or through war zones in Africa, however when I travel I want to get far and do not want to be limited by being in an inappropriate vehicle. I expect much of my travelling to be in Asia and Europe and I eventually want to drive to Singapore, I do not expect to be going further into Africa than Algeria and Morocco.

For years I have been totally set on the idea of buying a large 4x4/6x6 military vehicle such as Bedford TM, man kat or magirus deutz but as the time to spend money draws near the reality of living with such a vehicle become more important to me. What will ultimately be important to me is that I have a vehicle which I can easily service, which will be reliable and which will be adequate for the areas which I want to travel.

My budget is in the region of £10,000 for the truck chassis, although it would be nice if a basic insulated box could be included in this price. My searches have basically shown me that I can get an excellent 4x4 truck for this money, but it will be a truck that is more than 20 years old and often will be from a manufacturer that either no longer exists such as Bedford or Magirus, or that has limited service or parts distribution in western Europe or beyond such as tatra or kamaz. If I want a 2 wheel drive truck I can get one which is around 5 years old from a major manufacturer such as Mercedes or Volvo. However well looked after and low mileage the military trucks are, I find it to believe that they will be as reliable as a modern freight vehicle, am I wrong about this?

My question is whether a truck such as the one shown below (with small modifications to improve ground clearance and approach/departure angle) will be adequate for round the world travels? If I am honest with myself much of my travelling will be on roads, but is 4x4 necessary for the times when good roads are not available? For information the truck below has a rear axle difflock as do many trucks in this weight class.



I am looking at trucks in the region of 10t to 18t, I want something which is operating well below its maximum weight limit and I am aware through experience that trucks in this weight category are built significantly more ruggedly than lighter ones.

Do most goods truck operating in the areas I intend to travel have 4x4?

I would not consider the use of a 2 wheel drive car but the improved ground clearance and more robust construction of large trucks may make them more suitable for travelling, is this the case?

many thanks for your help,

Nick
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  #2  
Old 16 May 2008
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Hi Nick

As an Ex-Overland driver I have watched as Dragoman Overland have pioneered overland expeditions in 2wd trucks successfully.
Most of their trucks are still 2wd, some have Diff-lock. They now have a number of 4x6 trucks but these are bigger than you would need.

The advantage of their trucks over the Bedfords I was driving were:
Comfort, speed, reliability, consumption... just to name a few.

With steel sandmats for desert, and snowchains for mud I saw them all over the place.

For some daft reason -they dont seem to mention their trucks on their website. Most (if not all) of them from memory were Mercedes.

HTH
Graham
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  #3  
Old 16 May 2008
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........Floppy?
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  #4  
Old 16 May 2008
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Adding a winch that can be mounted both front and rear, as the stuck may dictate, is good insurance for lapses in judgement.

A rear locker can take a 2WD truck to some interesting places, and can also get you into more trouble.

2WD is lighter and cheaper to maintain.
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  #5  
Old 16 May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onlyMark View Post
........Floppy?
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  #6  
Old 17 May 2008
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2wd??

Hi Nick

nearly all of the Overland truck companies run 2wd trucks - most popular seem to be Mercedes, closely followed by Scania and Volvo. Also consider Iveco - there are some 4x4 and possibly 6x6/6x4/8x4/8x6 versions available - as there will be with Mercs.
Other options might be Leyland type trucks.

4wd trucks are Bedford MK's and TM's, various versions of many mainstream trucks built pre-dominantly for the military markets, Unimogs and of course MAN.

The MAN if you can find one in your budget with 4wd and not too old would probably be the best choice or a Merc, Scania or Volvo if going 2wd.
Definately get a truck with difflock if poss and also look at power/power to weight ratios of the various models.
__________________
ChrisC
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  #7  
Old 18 May 2008
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As ChrisC says, most overland companies use 2wd trucks.

I've done a number of such tours and the main thing that the drivers swore by was the diff-lock.

I've had, on my tours, had to dig out both 2wd drive and 4wd drive trucks (several times when crossing West Africa on a 4wd drive Merc run by Bukima). And in all the bogged places, I've never noted any major advantage to having 4wd.

One place comes to mind while I'm typing this - the border from Morocco down to Mauritania. You got escorted (by the army) to within a couple of km from the border and then you face the worse soft sand anywhere. Our 4wd Merc ged across with the tyres sinking in and needing sand matting just to get them up onto the surface. In the same convoy was a number of Peugeot 405 cars (2wd) which coped with the assistance of people pushing.

have fun
Tony
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  #8  
Old 18 May 2008
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I don't think you can compare a 4wd truck to a 2wd car. Apples and oranges.

Also, have you had a 2wd truck and a 4wd attempt the same piece of mud at the same time? Even without a diff lock I'd have a 4wd any time.
However, the majority of the reason one vehicle gets through compared to the other is surely down to driver ability, the minor reason is the vehicle.
I've gone through deep sand in a saloon car and passed less experienced drivers in a Toyota Landcruiser and HiLux.
And more than once.

I'm far from the best driver in the world, but there are people with less skill than me.
If the price for the same vehicle, but either 2wd or 4wd, was within a couple of hundred pounds/Euros I'd go for the 4wd. But if there is a large difference I'd have no problem buying one with 2wd and diff lock and expect I'd get most places I wanted to go.

But a 4wd, in my opinion anyway, with all things being equal (route/driver) has a big edge.
Bear in mind that if it is soft sand, and you have a truck with double rear wheels - you can't let the tyres down far otherwise they rub together and overheat.
I followed one time a 2wd Overland company truck with a diff lock, but twin rear wheels, through that section near the Morocco border whilst I was in an underpowered but single wheeled 4wd ex-army Bedford - my waving arm hurt after passing them so many times.
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  #9  
Old 18 May 2008
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As mentioned above, tyres make the real difference - and single tyres beat duals off road. In addition to the heat problem when duals are let down, they are a real pain in mud.

Graham
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  #10  
Old 19 May 2008
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Thanks very much for all your help.

I feel that I understand the advantages and disadvantages of each fairly well; however I am pleased to hear that companies like dragoman use both. I expect that my driving in sand will be limited; I anticipate much of the non-tarmac driving will be in areas with poor roads rather than non-existent ones.

I am in agreement over the use of single wheels rather than twin wheels however from my experience and research it seems that most (if not all) trucks with single rear wheels are serious off-roaders. If I buy a 4x4 I would prefer one that is mostly designed for road use, but with the added availability of 4x4 for difficult situations. Such vehicles are often used as road gritters and as aggregate trucks. I did consider the use of modern tippers, many of which have 4x4, however they regularly have back axles with ratios that limit road speed massively. They are generally designed for short trips from site to site and aren’t designed to travel large distance.

I am under the impression the off-roaders such as the Bedford MKs, unimogs and magirus’s all seem underpowered and handle poorly during fast highway use. I have a friend with a Bedford MK and while it has proved massively useful in pulling many other trucks out of fields when it is time to leave, he often curses his choice when we drive long distances through Europe.

How much of a hindrance can twin-wheels be? I was aware of the heat problem, the issue of debris becoming stuck between the tyres and the problem of dangerous amount of weight being transferred to one of the two tyres, but why is there a problem in mud? I would have thought that added surface area would help?

I’ll keep my options open for now and keep you updated if I decide to buy.

Many thanks,

Nick
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  #11  
Old 19 May 2008
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4x4 trucks

I have a Mercedes 4x4 truck (a 917AF) so can speak with some knowledge on the subject. Tyres are key. I had no problem in sand, mud and all manner of surfaces (including the extra sandy bit on the Maroc/Mauri border to which Tony and Mark refer-took the wrong turning!) as I had single tyres (14.5 R 20 MPT). I came across a Merc 1017 AF which had standard road tyres and duals on the back with rear and central diff-locks which had been parked up at Zebrabar because the driver was fed up getting stuck. Perhaps it's still there? Mine had low speed axle ratios which limited speed to about 70km/hr with the revs hitting the red-line so I changed the ratios and now I can cruise happily at 80 with the revs in 'the green'.
I'm not sure what Nick means by trucks handling poorly. Compared to what? I've driven trucks for more than 30 years and my Merc is no different to any other truck I've driven. It can't match a TLC or a Range Rover's handling but neither can any truck. Yes it's hardly the most powerful machine (170 bhp, GVW 9 tonnes) so it takes a while to get anywhere but it gets there and without knackering me. But then I wouldn't want to drive long distances in a Bedford MK or it's 2wd brother the TK particularly. They are 1950's technology or earlier, noisy, have cart springs, no air seat and precious little sound insulation. No wonder your mate doesn't relish doing long trips. Modern latest generation 4x4 trucks like Ivecos, Renaults, MANs and Mercs are in a completely different league (and price!). That said, I found my truck too big for sub-Saharan Africa so on my next trip I'll probably take a TLC or a converted rear wheel drive van with some proper tyres. Front wheel drive is a no-no.

Q
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  #12  
Old 19 May 2008
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I've also driven London - Kathmandu and back quite a few times, all, except once, in a 2wd with twin rears and towing a trailer, and it was fine.
Got stuck one or two times going off road to camp but got out again readily enough.
You can drop the tyre pressures, it doesn't mean you can't touch them at all, it just means you can't drop them as much.

To give you the idea of the type of set up you can look at overlanding and click on the second picture up from the bottom on the middle row.
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Old 19 May 2008
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Great site Mark. Kept me laughing out loud and avoiding work for ages.

Q
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  #14  
Old 19 May 2008
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Lovely to see Q400 again.
Drove its 1st trip to Nepal after it was built.... The fastest thing in the fleet!!!

As said before Bedford MK's were slow... we fitted 5 speed gear boxes to them which helped, and tried to get the 440cu inch engines as opposed to the 330 cu inch engines, when we could. Off road, fantastic but gutless especially as we were towing trailers.
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Old 20 May 2008
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Thanks Quintin.

Q400 was the truck I had the longest and it was one of the best. It took me across to Kathmandu and back 6 times plus around India a couple of times.
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