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We have decided to sell up and go traveling by some form of 4x4. We are currently resident in France and intend to go to India and around -Mongolia, China, Aus perhaps and the rest for a few years off the roundabout.
We intend to leave in 2 years which will hopefully give us time to prepare and by which time our daughter will be 5.
At the moment we are researching like mad for the right vehicle to take us on the trip, keep us safe and bring us back.
We have already been recommended Tatra 813 but to my eyes that is rather too extreme. LR are out as we want to be able to live aboard and keep warm inside when in the cooler climes. I have seen a DAF FAV 1800 old fire engine which looks like it could do the job and even a MAN 17,192 which has been kitted out for Africa.
We want to be able to get to places off hte beaten track. I am an Ethnomusicologist and want to meet, play and record with locals in the places we visit.
Well, I will be interested to hear from anyone who can offer us advice on vehicle choice or anything else you think we should know.
I have though how relaxing it would be to drive my tractor around towing a 'gypsy caravan' ( constructed for off road of course) . Naturally you would not move fast and have to stick to the smaller roads in west europe. But if you carry a few simple instruments ( eg, plough, cultivator) you could do favours for the locals as you travel through the countryside). I say this because you said you wante dto spend years 'travelling' and i took from that the travelling was more important than ticking off some list of destinations.
put russian trucks into a search engine, there is a guy in cambridge selling Ural trucks with a rear body on and minimal mileage, ex DDr stock and the puppies bits, and about half the price I expected. Also look at witham specialist vehicles. the reynolds broughton makes a good base for a mid size camper. don't go for a bedford unless you want to be overtaken by OLDBMW in his tractor! he will also be more comfortable and less damaged when he gets there! ex military dafs and mercs can be a good buy though. the ex military route is your cheapest but if you have money to burnm, or just want to look at some ideas then look at UNICAT. a second hand palace on wheels will set you back about 200E put search words into this site like truck camper and you will come accross lots of previous discussion regarding this. put the same words (or similar) into a normal search engine and you wil come across hundreds of options ranging from the cheap to the expensive to the ridiculous.
Hello Gavin, Hello Brenda,
congratulations! Getting everyone in the family to agree to WHEN is a major step. I find it brave to want to sell, we’re looking at renting our house so that we have something to come back to. But our WHEN is being put off by worries about not being able to bail out the kid(s) with some pocket money at university; (our first is only 17months old) talk about forward planning!
To see a bit about family life on the road check out anautica.free.fr Nice truck too.
Do you know about ‘l’association des camping cars sur les routes de la soie et du monde’? (www.camping-car-monde.fr) They often have members heading out east in all sorts of vehicles, even in ordinary 2wd motorhomes.
Vehicle: We were very comfortable 2up in our Daily 4x4 around western Africa. They’re a good, reliable vehicle, ours is coachbuilt (2.2m wide)and has a permanent double as well as a dinette which converts into a bed (+ the normal motorhome comforts). Problem is that the long wheel base (3.2m) ones like ours are extremely rare, and there’s not much space in the vans. Remarkably capable too, we had no trouble following a 90 on the boggy flood plain of Oued Draa.
BUT As we intend to expand the family the Daily has to go, I’m also looking at the Tatra, which is the ideal bigger base vehicle. Their tarmac towing capacity is 100T so you can be pretty sure the drivetrain will outlast you. The central spine means the chassis just doesn’t twist, so you can bolt the box straight onto the chassis. This means one can use a secondhand refrigerated lorry body directly without the fangled pivot mounting for off roading ( www.extremecamper.comwww.unicat.net etc.) Also simplifying the access cab-box.
The big headache with the Tatra and other ex-Soviet block trucks is their consumption. I haven’t bought my 813 Kolos yet because I can’t be sure that the French licensing authority will accept a Tatra with a RenaultMerc etc. engine (mechanically very easy to do as the engine is separate from the gearbox) as the original non-turbo 17litre V12 drinks about 50 l/100km! I would be happy with the 25-30 that the long distance 40 tonne truckers get out of their 350hp units. My decisions are also helped by how much diesel you can buy with the saving of not buying a loverly new MAN 4x4 (as much as 200000km!).
A smaller oldtimer option (still 2m wide) is the Tatra 805; from which the Pinzgauer was copied (and improved, apart from the width)
More places you could look for, or just at, trucks: (all www)
For complete vehicles: (drool)
As you might have guessed I have reflected long and hard over this truck project, it’s getting closer but not fast enough! It comes back to the WHEN. More inspiration (for my wife) from mums like Brenda and Gavin's wife is needed.
Pity France is so big, what with work and that, a get-together is difficult at these distances. I’m next to Grenoble, are either of you ever in the region?
I suppose that goes to show how few LWB ones there are out there.
Yep, mine's the MachZone. Marvellous beastie, although I don't know what they used for the box, it's bloody heavy. Then again it can carry 260l of diesel and enough fresh water for a week of european style living (dishes, two showers a night, washing salads etc.)
I think it must be the only one with twin rear wheels though (weight obliges)
I had thought about stretching an ex-mil one and adding an axle, but the French licensing authorities are really quite "enculé" about modifications. (possible solution: move back to UK. Perhaps not)
Thanks for the wide and varied replies, I'll try and get back to those of you individually who are preparing to take off like us. Perhaps we can meet or swap research as you suggest.
Hmmm – a tractor, we had considered using the horse and cart option and looking at the prices on some of the custom built vehicles I think we may have to go that route. 250,000 and 369,000 Euros from unicat.net !!!!! We weren’t planning on selling the house to buy a truck.
Yes you are right oldbmw time is not an issue for us we want to see the world and live it not scream somewhere and back for the hell of it, besides there won’t be a back because we will have sold up. We also hope to be able to help people out on route in return for food or diesel, we are pretty handy on the land and live in almost self sufficiency at the moment. I am, or rather was a musician by trade in London and I dream of busking for supper in the appropriate areas, meeting regional groups and recording with them, kind of Ethnomusicology Jam Sessions recorded. So we want to be able to get off the beaten track to find those areas we can do that.
Luke – thanks for the links and info etc. I take it there have been many posts of the same nature. Perhaps a little more background will help guide comments. Oh and we do have the perfect 2WD car to go in – 1976 Peugeot 504 Estate Diesel. It will go anywhere (almost) but it is not big enough to take our life in and with a 5 year old we need something a little more spacious.
I have been looking into just about every ex military truck from the Eastern block there is, Zil, Ural, Tatra, Praga. I think the Tatra wins out at the moment for price of purchase, comfort and possibility of conversion. However I can’t go for 45l per 100km (6MPG) , it goes against all sane reasoning – HubertsPeak is in effect, the planet is getting warmer and I would be a hypocrite to go that route. We don’t really want to be wearing anti-vibration gloves or ear defenders the whole way either. But a Tatra for £2500 with few k miles on the clock still sings loud when you do the maths.
Your comment about replacing the engine seems logical and I had considered it but are you sure you can get 25-30 (is that MPG?) from a different engine with 8 WD and 13 800 kg to pull along? What about the Perkins Diesel?
I like the look of the DAF FAV 1800 4x4 (old fire engines) but I have no idea where I can find one of those.
We are not really the type to worry about showers, baths and home comforts in our future truck (no we are not pikies either) as we are pretty down to earth people and happy living in harmony with nature. We want a wood burner in there doubling as cooker for the winter months. We want power too (solar and alternator) to power lighting, music and laptop etc. Double and single beds. Fresh water tank and purifier and storage.
So here’s al list of all the trucks I have yet to look into – which can I just forget out of hand?
DAF FAV 1800 (20 – 25 L per 100)
LR 101 FC
One place well worth a look is the German site Mobile (www.mobile.de). If you click on the 'motorhome & caravan' link on the left of the page and click the 4x4 option on the page when it opens you will see a whole raft of potentially suitable vehicles; some converted and others not. I got my MB 917 AF (4WD ex-bus, converted into a brilliant van) through watching this site. In the past I have seen a few of these vehicles for sale (un-converted) for not unreasonable money (!0,000€) but there are none about at the moment. Mine which weighs about 7.5 tonnes does 13 mpg but it is permanent 4x4. It is pretty easy to fix (unlike Unimogs) and get spares for. Worth considering....
Get your e-mail address off there before you get spammed to death!
Sorry to disappoint, not MPG, it’s 25-30 litres/100km for a 10/12 wheeler at 38 tonnes on an average crossing of France.
Peak oil: you’re right to be concerned, I have to admit wanting to go bigger piques my conscience. But remember over a year you’ll probably average about 100 km/day. You’ll consume less fuel in a year than a businessman who refuses to videoconference with his client/customer/colleague in the USA. Will in one trip.
A semi trailer whose cargo should be on the railways instead of the roads will use more in a month than you in a year.
It is unfortunate, but the example of your abstinence will only provoke an “all the more for me” attitude somewhere else. I don’t like what the “civilised world” has degenerated to, but unless you walk or cycle getting away from it involves some sort of fuel.
Depending on where you’re parked up jamming with cool musicians you could collect and filter a few litres of vegetable oil each day in preparation for the next move. Gordon wouldn’t approve but you won’t be in Gordonsland ;-)
The huge tanks that you can put under a lorry mean that when Veg oil’s available you can take a lot, and have time to find another source.
You want to put a wood burner in a plastic box? (I’m talking about the camper body)
Wood’s a good fuel, the global carbon input to the atmosphere is 0 (if you don’t count cutting and transport) but relying on wood for heat and cooking is the greatest cause of desertification in certain regions. Gas might be hard to refill; diesel; well we’ve already covered that problem.
I would go for a diesel cooker and heater, they’re astonishingly frugal. Radiators that use the engine cooling water so the box is already warm when you park up. Using some black pipes on the roof and a circulating pump for the hot water is a plan I hope to investigate, as is some sort of solar powered aircon because a truck is often too big to park in the shade and your batteries don’t charge (enough) if you do.
One of the reasons for splashing out on a diesel cooker (marine suppliers) is the previously mentioned “service des mines”. They have some draconian regulations concerning gas installations in campers, and they may completely banjax your attempts to register a foreign camper in France (if that’s your intention) My Iveco is perfectly safe, but because the gas bottle compartment has a wooden door and isn’t ventilated the way they want I can’t register it here.(it’s going back to the UK next spring to find a new home)
It might be worth contacting them before buying anything to see how difficult the office in your area wants to be.
Anyway, there’s some food for thought flowing from a calm moment at work.
Mercedes make the "James Cook" camper based on the 4x4 Sprinter with their subsidiary Westfalia (the same mob who made all those VWs in the 70s). The convesions are typical of the quality that MB are famous for, 4 berth, shower/WC, hot water, air conditioning, central heating, fridge, cooker, water tanks, well insulated, mozzie screens, LPG tank, etc. They are not serious offroad 4x4s but will cope with most muddy and rocky roads.
I've had two of the earlier models based on the 208D and now a 309D model and can only say that the build quality is excellent, but not available in 4x4. You can however still get a difflock to suit the earlier models which will give you about a 75% 4x4 capability without the ground clearance.
My wife and I lived in the 208D for 3 months, wild camped throughout Europe and never had any problems.
Mercs also have brilliant worldwide parts and service backup.
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