What 4x4 truck? A 4x2 van!
I'm going to propose something that might seem 'ridiculous' to some, but I feel like it's worthy bringing up regardless…
We've been in the process of planning an overland trip from Oz to Europe for some time now, and have looked at many trucks and weighed up the pros and cons, and have come to the following conclusions:
- The vehicle needs to fit in a 20" container, to keep the cost down on multiple shipments over an 18 month period. So:
- Max length 5.75 and height 2.28
- We need to be able to get from sleeping position to behind the wheel, for security purposes
- We need to sleep 2 adults, 2 children
The above cancels out rooftents, as well as any existing camper conversion based on either landrover or landcruiser, incl. troop carrier, what's available in Australia anyway.
So, I've ended up been 'convinced' that building a camper to go on the back of a landcruiser '79 cab chassis is the best approach.
See sketches below.
Here's the catch:
As many past-overlanders have pointed out, Europe to India doesn't really require a 4wd, neither do the bits between Australia and India.
As many aboriginals proove, driving old holden utes (2wd), 99% of the area's in Australia where we'll be travelling, will be fine in a 4 x 2 with reseanoble ground clearence as well. Of course 'most' ozzies will not venture outback unless they're in a $70k landcruiser with $30k with of extra kit, but many of these vehicles have never seen the simpson dessert.
So, now I'm thinking: Should we really go to all the expense and effort of kitting out a landcruiser with a camper on the back, with as end result a vehicle that is most capable 'off road' (how much off road will we really be going - 5% if given the chance?), or are we better off with a Ford Transit van, 2.4 diesel, heaps more room, as it's a 'cab-over' design, which means more room for the kids, more room for camper fit-out, and ultimately a more 'comfortable' travelling experience purely because of the extra room?
- I can pick up an early 2000 transit bus and do a relatively 'simple' camper conversion myself, by installing a pop-top in the existing roof, and doing the usual camper kitout inside the existing shell,
- Buy an early 2000 landcruiser and go the full hog with building an entire camper from scratch, including cutting open the landcruiser cab to allow for an open connection between camper and the cab…
Note that We'll be avoiding the rainy seasons in all relevant countries we're travelling through, however we will be travelling on 'high' roads, such as the road to Kathmandu and the Karakoram Highway however these road to get travelled by transits as well far more capable vehicles…
No, you can't get a 4x4 transit in Australia :-)
What is wisdom? At this point I don't know… I'm weighing the above issues up… I'd be interested in your thoughts!
- The vehicle needs to fit in a 20" container, to keep the cost down on multiple shipments over an 18 month period.
I'm still not 100% convinced that using shipping containers is the cheapest way to go if you can have access to RoRo vehicle carrying ships. The initial port to port prices seem to be competitive but when you add in additional port handling charges and transport charges (the container has to leave the wharf to be unloaded) RoRo comes out even or just a few dollars more expensive.
You just have to make sure that you have access to the car carriers schedules and have a bit of flexibility on timing.
Point taken, however RoRo is not available for every sea crossing, and unless we can go on the same ship it isn't that safe either.
Malaysia to India is probably the main one where container is the only option, and at around US $1500 quite reasonable.
We have to ship back from Europe to Oz in the end as well.
I've also worked out that there's a company in Oz that can convert a transit to 4wd and lift it. Have to look into total costs though…
If i was in your position id go for the transit.
4x4 would make it alot easier but with a decent bit of driving you can get
transits pretty much any where(ish).
But if you managed to convert it to 4x4 then ya laughing.
I travelled round in an old merc508 for a while and even that big oath we managed to get up and round and down some pretty mental tracks and passes in northern africa.
The other plus for the transit is the converting.:thumbup1:
Piece of cake compared to other option.
Well thats my 2 penny's thrown in.
Good luck whichever you choose.
From your description I’d go with the Transit. With careful, well planned driving they are actually quite capable off road. I’ve proved it. Going places Series III LR’s struggled with. (1.5 metre snow drifts did defeat it though:clap:
Way more room than a LC or any other equivalent 4X4 and pretty good comfort. Oh and you can fit proper seats with integral seat belts in the back for the kids. Waaay safer than some home made camper conversion. Pretty important don’t you think? That single thing would swing it for me if they were my kids.
Maybe you could find a limited slip diff or even a diff locker if you think there maybe off road / poor roads encountered?
I have no knowledge of the new 2.4 diesel but I don’t hear good things about this unit when fitted to LR’s. You may want to investigate that further.
Can you get Mercedes Sprinters in Australia? They come in 4X4 with 3 locking diff's. Best of both worlds.
Malaysia to India is a RoRo problem, but you can go back to Singapore and ship to India on the host of regular car carriers that do the USA - Japan -Singapore - Europe voyages. Go up Malaysia's West coast into Thailand, come down the East Coast and back into Singapore.
Shipping with RoRo ex Europe is very easy, Bremerhaven, Europoort, Felixstowe, Bristol, Tilbury, Le Havre all have regular sailings to Australia via Singapore.
Doing conversions is always a bit dodgy, that one part critical to the conversion will not be available off the shelf if it breaks - if at all. A diff locked Tranny would be good, a Merc with worldwide spares support would be better.
If you can get mercs over there go for a 208/408.
I'd go for one of these over a transit any day.
They all turn on a sixpence due to the rack and pinion steering.
Solid motors and as you said parts every where.
I read in your introduction that you've done a lot of travelling with a Merc yourself, not sure where you have or haven't been, the times that you did get stuck, was this due to lack of ground clearance, lack of rear diff, no front wheel drive or all of the above?
I could probably get the merc lifted a bit and a rear diff lock shouldn't be too hard to organise either…
The idea of travelling in a proper 4x4 obviously really appeals to my maleness, being able to go 'everywhere', but don't want to go down the big truck route, and starting to realise the limitations of having 4 in a converted landcruiser… possible but perhaps not the best choice for being on the road for 18 months…
Roger - thanks for your feedback on RoRo, great tip on Singapore to India RoRo, will certainly look at that. It would be great if every crossing is RoRo, but there are a few unpredictable crossings, such as Darwin to Dili (somie have been lucky to hitch a ride RoRo, others have had to do container), and if the shit hits the fan in Pakistan as we're about to cross from India to Iran, we need a backup plan there, which could possilby be shipping from India to Iran or Dubai (or shooting up to the stans via China and dropping down into Iran from there)… in short, too many unkowns to travel with an oversized vehicle… plus, i like the idea of keeping things 'small'(ish)!
"I read in your introduction that you've done a lot of travelling with a Merc yourself, not sure where you have or haven't been, the times that you did get stuck, was this due to lack of ground clearance, lack of rear diff, no front wheel drive or all of the above?"
Pure driver inexperience!!!
Sprinter every time. Hi top containers.
Would not touch the Ford. Ford are useless at support especially in countries where the van is not sold.
Go with the Sprinter it is sold worldwide and has better track record of reliability.
The landcruiser will be cramped - dont do it. Too long on the road and friction will heat things up too much.
Would definitely go container every time for security - the extra dollars are worth it for peace of mind rather than handing over keys and trying to seal off the sleeping compartment.
Forget the 20ft container - difference between cost of 20 and 40 is insignificant. Plus a lot easier to get a 40ft high top which gives you the extra height you were looking for with a sprinter. 20ft high tops are v rare.
We travelled in a Ford through the americas (Top to bottom) - it was kitted out by Sportsmobile and had a 4x4 conversion. The clearance was needed more than the 4x4. It fitted in a container (hi top) - but it was hell to get serviced especially common rail diesel. So avoid electronics.
Good lights - 360 degrees is more important than 4x4 (lights are better than an audible alarm). Actually a great water filter is probably the no 1 requirement way above 4x4.
Do you think it's worth getting the Merc lifted? There a company in Zaire that supplies springs that lift it 45mm
Merc and not Transit
I might have to let the idea of 4x4 go for this trip…
Good feedback on 4x4 versus lights and water filter Neil, i need that at the moment, putting things in perspective…
I'll certainly look into the cost comparison between 20' and 40' hitop, this would open up the possibility of LWB, although i don't want to become the traveller with the big fat RV… it's a fine balance :-)
come-on guys - any more votes for the landcruiser with camper option? anyone? :unsure: 230 viewing, and no opinions?
With four travellers that configuration of Toyota will be a real pain.
Have you seen the conversions of the same model station wagons to 6x4, remove the bit behind the second row of seats, put a tray back on with your camper.
BTW there is a 4x4 Transit for sale in one of the Aus 4x4 Trader mags at present.
The T1 Mercs were not sold in Australia.
The other thought I had was go to Europe and buy a 4x4 Sprinter or T1 Merc Campervan and do the trip in reverse. If you own the vehicle for more than a year overseas you can import it - just have to be aware of converting to RHD - I've done that twice.
Getting a Transit converted to 4X4 doesn’t sound a good idea. You just know the conversion will be the weak link. I’ve used a 4X4 Transit County. They were an official Ford conversion carried out by County Tractors. When you looked closely at the conversion it was a real bodge.
First time I used it in anger it broke. Ride/handling was pretty nasty too:(
One for the LC camp... what about doing a conversion on a Troopie - I saw one in Morocco owned by a Fench family and it looked pretty good.
What route are you taking?
With some of the vans I would be concerned if the suspension will be up to some of the roads.
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