00 Introduction & vehicle specs.
Introduction by Jan Vorster
When we were in our mid twenties, we packed our rucksacks, flew to Europe, bought a little Citroen 2CV car in Paris and proceeded to travel around Europe and America for three years. When we finally shipped it back to South Africa, from Argentina, virtually the only additional items we had added were tools and spares for the car. So we are fully aware of the advantages of travelling light, but also of the disadvantages and hardships. When young and fit, one can take it, or, as most long distance journeys have a finite, relatively short (3 to 12 months) time duration, one can look forward to when it ends, even if not admitting it openly! Over subsequent years we traveled extensively in Southern Africa by Land Rover. We also did another one year journey around South America, when our daughters were 4 & 6 years old. (We started with a Land Rover FC motor home, but it was wrecked on the ship. Thus we did it in a Brazilian made camper. But that is another story).
On the Equator in Ecuador
When, 30 years after the 2CV journey, we were planning this one, our prerequisites had changed. The vehicle had to comply with the following, non-negotiable, requirements: We wanted to be on the road for many years, with few interruptions to recover. Because of this, we wanted to have all the comforts of home living. Due to financial constraints and lack of facilities in places where we like to go, we could not rely on using hotels or restaurants, other than to sample the local cuisine. The vehicle had to be able to go anywhere that any wheeled vehicle could go, which meant that it had to be compact and powerful with 4WD and high ground clearance. Since we wanted to go to some of the most remote places on earth, it had to be able to carry an adequate supply of fuel, water, food, etc., to do so with a margin of safety. As we usually travel alone, this then also means that we have to be as self-sufficient as absolutely possible, particularly in terms of maintenance. Consequently it also has to carry all equipment, tools and spares necessary to handle virtually any situation which may arise in some obscure corner of any of six continents. The vehicle we ended up with, meets all of the above requirements!
This was proved by the fact that by the time we commenced the Americas part of our journey, we had traversed Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia, Asia and Australia. The actually on the road time (excluding home visits), then, was over 3½ years, through 65 countries, over 154000km of roads, including some of the roughest and remotest to be had anywhere. The catch is that you either pay the fortune that international builders of such vehicles charge or you build it yourself, as I did.
At the time when the vehicle had to be constructed, I had been a Land Rover enthusiast for over 30 years, so it was the natural choice. The problem was that no off-the-floor model fully met all of the above requirements, but the Forward Control came closest. As only 2300 of the Series 2B were made by Land Rover at the turn of the 60s decade, they are also practically collector's items. About 500 of them had been supplied to the South African Army and many were fitted with, aluminium framed and covered, panel-van type bodies. This was the ideal starting point. Although the vehicle as originally made, could be used for the purpose in mind, it would have meant too many compromises with our abovementioned stringent requirements. So I set about extensively modifying it: The entire body shell was taken apart and, by use of much aluminium welding, re-assembled to have windows and hatches where required and internal standing headroom of 2m. This also provided sufficient height for a double Luton bed above the cab (in case we had overnight visitors, which we did.)
The interior caravan furnishings were professionally done and included:
A rear dinette which converts to a double bed, numerous lockers;
a kitchen unit with 2 burner gas stove and grill, sink with gas geyser, fridge,
freezer (rolls out of cupboard into space at doorway; this enables use of efficient top-opening unit without wasted space);
cubicle with cassette chemical toilet, hand basin, hot shower, water filtration & sterilization unit.
Some rough calculations showed that by the time we had added all that we wanted to and with a full load of fuel and supplies, the gross mass would be about 2 tons over the capacity stated by Land Rover.
Consequently some serious mechanical modifications were called for:
The engine I decided on was the GMC 6,5 litre V8 Diesel, naturally aspirated. This was to obtain an acceptable road speed and incline capability with 5,5 tons gross. A gearbox which could handle the engine's torque, with selectable 2 or 4 wheel drive and a good spread of high and low range, was ex the Toyota Landcruiser 4,5l petrol. I tried to obtain heavier duty axles, but in South Africa nothing suitable was available. They either provided no improvement in load capacity or were so large as to be unusable. The closest was from a Bedford 4WD truck, but the track was so wide that the wheels would have run outside the body! Hence I decided to go with what it had, knowing that much on-the-road-maintenance would be needed. My expectations were well exceeded!
When reading Leoné's account of the first part of our route, from South Africa to Germany, it will be noticed that she frequently mentions breakdowns involving the axles. The reason for this is obvious: we were overloaded in terms of the design load capacity of the Land Rover axles. I solved this problem permanently by installing axles with a heavier load rating.
Having finally reached Germany, I bought axles with all the right specifications of load and track width and have not looked back. Note that regardless of which make of vehicle is used, many spares would be required over say 160 000km on often rough roads. They would also mostly not be readily available where one needed them. I therefore worked on the principle of carrying whatever I could foresee might be required, and then replacing whatever had been used at the earliest opportunity. I estimate that I have needed about 75% of the items I carry. (Of course I do not carry duplicate spares enough for the entire journey). The alternative, of waiting until something breaks or wears out and then having to cope with third world communications and languages to obtain the part, at great cost, from across the world, after paying to be towed in, just does not appeal to me! (Since replacing the axles 200 000km ago, this scenario only happened to me twice, as one cannot carry everything!).
Dual steering controls (takes about 2 hours to convert between LHD & RHD)
Due to complaints from Leoné, I no longer leave the second steering wheel in position!
Summary of overland vehicle additions:
Solar Panels: 4x75W (Siemens)
Solar Regulator: 30A with charge & load protection (ProStar)
Alternator: 12V/135A, 220V/2500W, welding 185A (Unipower)
Split 12V battery charging: (from alternator)
Transformer: 110V to 220V
Battery charger ex 220V: up to 20A continuous rating
Generator: 220V, 650W (Honda)
Batteries: 3x105Ah deep cycle (Delco Voyager); 1x140Ah (685) for engine.
Battery isolators: (Very heavy duty to handle starter motor current)
Freezer: 80 litre upright, 80mm wall thickness (Minus 40), 12V Compressor type
Fridge: 100 litre, front opening (Waeco Coolmatic CR110), 12V Compressor type
Water filtration unit: 10 micron pre-filter, activated carbon, UV radiation 12V
Inverter: 250W, 12V to 220V (ProWatt)
Lights, fans, water pump
Note that brand names quoted are simply what I used and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the product. There are alternative makes available.
Camper rear door: upper and lower dead bolt locks, internal sliding bolt.
Front doors: external original locks, internal sliding bolts + padlocks.
Hinges on old Land Rovers: weld nuts to hinge pins, fit epoxy filled cap screws.
Windows: Padlocked sand ladders or steel mesh screens, over all of them.
Windscreen: Now 13mm thick (4 layers glass) laminated shatterproof glass.
Previously padlocked steel mesh screen for shipping or longer parking.
Padlocks: keyed alike, on all external items and screens. (We use up to 44)
Fire extinguishers: In cab and in rear.
Security spray (Oleocapsicum): At all doors & above bed.
(We may not have survived in Poland if it were not for this).
Hi-lift jack: Fitted mounting & jacking points.
Winch: Hydraulic, (& kit).
Attachment points for up-righting when overturned (I needed them).
Axle diff locks, if side shafts can handle it (I had to remove them).
Compressor: & tyre pump hose. (Useful for sand driving).
Split wheel rims: To enable field repair of high (10,12,14) ply rated tyres.
Lug/ road tread combination tyres: 2 spare wheels.
Very high air intake with ram & water release valve. (Height keeps dust out)
High capacity, two stage air filter. (Donaldson)
Electric radiator fans: 3x two-stage units (AEG/Audi) (4 thermal switches).
Radiator mesh screen: removable Nylon.
Oil cooler: (not mounted in front of radiator).
Fuel tanks: main 280 litres, reserve 65l. (1500km range).
Fuel filter system: sedimenter/water trap, filter, second filter with water warn.
Exhaust system: straight through, but well muffled, large diameter, s/steel.
Dual steering controls: takes 2 hours to switch between RHD and LHD.
Power steering: ram type plus oil cooler for fluid which is also used in winch.
Axle breather extension tubes.
Springs: re-inforce & modify for field blade change (bolted vs. forged clamps)
Heavy duty shock absorbers: gas filled.
Mirrors: for all round view.
Head lamp stone guards.
No roof carrier, only alu flat strips for if tying on is needed.
Propane Gas cylinders: 2x20kg, externally mounted
Lifting slings & ratcheted tie-down straps: To lift vehicle into/out of container.
Awning; wind out type (Fiamma F45S 350)