With the election of Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister and the prospect of Brexit becoming inevitable, we formulated a Brexit Busting plan.
“Let’s go to Mongolia!”
With Big Blue & Kismet, we truly did courageously split our infinitives and ‘Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before’ – across the Carpathian mountains and along a footpath in Romania. However, we need something more substantial to ensure our safe conduct across the Gobi desert, so we started our search for a 4×4 overland truck.
What We Wanted
Our rough specification was;
- Four-wheel drive essential.
- Something large enough to live in full-time, with the ability to be self-sufficient off-grid for weeks at a time.
- Ideally, a vehicle that could carry a quad bike for sightseeing, shopping and as an emergency form of transport, should we get stuck anywhere remote.
- Ten tonnes is the suggested sweet spot for overland trucks. Above that, the possibility increases that the vehicle won’t be able to access some places, cross certain bridges and is at risk of getting bogged down in soft ground.
- It must be mechanically simple, easy to repair and with good availability of spares worldwide.
- Doesn’t look too threatening militarily, when driven in places like the Pamir highway, along the border of Afghanistan.
- Our budget is flexible within reason, but not unlimited. To maintain our state of retirement, we have to watch our pennies – but The Beast is a lot cheaper than buying and running a house!
The Decision Process
Freedom of Movement is scheduled to end with the Brexit Transition Period on 31st December 2020. So long as his pants are not on fire, Boris Johnson has stated that there will be no extension. On previous form, it would appear that our Prime Minister’s pants are made of asbestos, but if he has not lied to the electorate once again, Brexit will instantly limit our ability to spend time in the whole of the E.U. and the Schengen area.
As such, we wanted to avoid a lengthy conversion, so that we could use the truck straight away to travel outside of countries with 90/180 Schengen Visa restrictions.
We considered the following;
- Off the Shelf – We looked at trucks for sale that had already been converted, since this would be by far the quickest route to getting on the road. The ones we saw were relatively expensive and none had anything like a perfect layout or specification for us. We did like an ex-army ambulance and German army fire engine, particularly on the basis that they might not get shot at. However, all the off-the-shelf vehicles we saw would have required considerable additional expenditure to set them up to our requirements. We have toured in Caravan Kismet for four years, so we have a clear idea of what we need. Mark is also a genius at configuring small spaces and has some stunning ideas on how to create multi-functional areas to maximise the space available.
- Closed Box Truck – We decided to purchase a truck with a box already fitted on the back, to avoid the hassle, expense and time required to source and fit one ourselves. It is not the easiest thing to do, since there are technical aspects to take into account such as torsional strains etc. Although there are suppliers who will design and fit a box, eg Zeppelin de and Bespoke Bodies, they are expensive and this would potentially add months to the build. Few closed-box trucks were available for sale and most were smaller than we wanted; with boxes 4 to 4.5m long.
- Quad and Trailer – If we did purchase a smaller truck, we considered having a trailer to carry the emergency quad, but our research suggested that towing has the greatest potential to present issues when travelling overland on rough terrain. In addition, an expensive quad in full view on a trailer would be less secure and the cost of a trailer sufficiently robust to carry a high-spec quad off road was considerable; around £8,000.
Why We Chose The Beast – A Volvo N10 Truck
- 6 Wheels on our Wagon – A chap we met in Romania was in the process of upgrading his 4WD truck to a six-wheeler. When we saw the Volvo N10, she looked like a good solid, robust option. She is a 6 x 4 – a six-wheel truck with four drive wheels – and can allegedly be driven on the moon!
- Is She Too BIG?!
- Weight – With her twenty-four-and-a-half tonne gross weight, The Beast is way over the ten tonne sweet spot, but we will not be running her at full capacity. Her tare weight (unladen) is ten tonnes and realistically, we expect her to weigh in at around fifteen tonnes when converted, including her full complement of water and fuel; enough to keep us self-sufficient for at least a month on the road.
- Length – Her train length of 32ft (9.6m) is four feet SHORTER than Big Blue and Kismet.
- Width – she is only slightly wider than Big Blue; 2.5m compared to 2.35m.
- Height – this might be more of a problem in some places. At 3.7m, she is within the legal height limit of 4m for Europe. However, for driving on rough roads, we need the height to give us ground clearance. We also need the internal height to accommodate Mark; a 2m tall (6’6”) bloke.
- The Coca Cola Rule – wherever I have been in the world, however remote, there has been Coca Cola. How did the Coca Cola get there? The answer is almost always, “In a truck.” While there may be some places that The Beast can’t go, I think we’ll manage.
- Spec – Here is a link to her specification.
- Does She Look Too Militarily Threatening? – She’s going to get a paint job!
If you want to see a video of her in action, click here. The incorporation of dancing girls and anacondas is a little peculiar, but the video shows off what creatures like The Beast can do. I haven’t yet got tired of watching!
Where to Source an Overland Truck
There are surprisingly many options. Here is a baker’s dozen of the options that we investigated:
- Dekker bv – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Crouch Military – Kibworth, Leicestershire UK. We use Crouch for service, MOT, unparallelled advice & part seeking. If we’d known about them at the time, we might well have bought from them.
- Expedition Truck Brokers – Eindhoven, The Netherlands
- Globalxvehicles in Springfield, MO, USA
- Jacaranda Trading bv – Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Brendan, the lovely owner, supplied The Beast
- Lys-Tout Terrain – Northern France
- Mascus – UK
- MOD Surplus – UK
- MOD Auctions – UK
- Nene Overland – Peterborough, UK
- The Overlander – UK – offers a forum, advice & sales. Run by Steve Wrigglesworth who wrote the highly recommended Haynes ‘Build Your Own Overland Camper Manual’
- Transautomobil – Brussels, Belgium
- Overland & Expedition Trucks for Sale Facebook Group by the Overlanding Association. The page has links to regional buy and sell sub-groups worldwide.
A few Truck Body Builders, from Alloy Bodies to Zeppelin!
Companies Who Specialise in Overland Conversions
- The Adventure Overland Show, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK (June & September)
- Abenteuer & Allrad Show, Bad Kissingen, Germany – the largest offroad show in Europe (June)
- Overland Expo, run events throughout the US
- List of The Best Overland Events throughout the US and Canada – from We’re the Russos
Overland Websites & Forums
- The Overlanding Association is an excellent resource for advice on paperwork, customs, visas etc.
- Facebook – Groups from the Overlanding Association
- Overlanding Association
- Overland Sphere
- Overlanding Europe – there specific groups for overlanding on every continent.
- Overlanding Pets
- Overlanding Morocco – Group by Overland Morocco Expedition Portal Forum is THE place to share overlanding build tips, information, help, and adventures with the overland community online.
- The Overland Bound Forum is free to all visitors and contains information provided by groups’members.
- The Reddit r/overlanding group is a very active online overlanding community with over 160,000 members and a great resource for overlanding information and inspiration
- Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forums are one of the longest running forum resources for travel-specific information and community online. While not strictly overland-specific, it’s archives contain a vast amount of applicable overland travel information.
- The Overlanders’ Handbook by Chris Scott.
- Haynes Build Your Own Overland Camper by Steven Wrigglesworth
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