Greetings and felicitations Overlanderists!

Piha

Active member
I hope you are all keeping safe during these unusual times we are going through?

I have recently signed up to E.P to gain access to the fabulous wealth of experience and information on here. I'm based in the S.E of the UK, up on the Surrey Altiplano for those that are familiar with the area. I've been planning a trip for around 18 months now and with the vaccination roll out progressing well and a hint of restrictions loosen up, my thoughts have turned towards getting my vehicle ordered/bought.

I am planning to start off heading north to Sutherland in the north of Scotland then heading south through France & Spain and then into Morocco and onwards into Western Sahara, Mauritania etc.

Apart from the usual comforts of a kitchen, bed etc, I would like my vehicle to have the following

- shower
- toilet
- space on the floor for my 45kg dog
- ability to cross uneven, loose ground (but not to a level that requires a specialist off-road vehicle)
- a bit of luxury, I'm (a young) 53 years old!

My budget is around £80k'ish and at the moment I'm looking at a VW 4Motion LWB Crafter conversions. RHD is preferable as I am planning to return to the UK for a month or so every year and if things don't work out I can sell the van in the UK. I'm not mechanically minded so reliability is important.

So my question to you all is am I looking at the correct vehicle or should I be looking at other vehicles? All suggestions welcome.
 

tanuki.himself

Active member
well the obvious other contenders would be mercedes sprinter and iveco 4x4 conversions, and i think there are some transit 4x4s as well ,but i have no idea on availability or prices.

UK vehicle prices are generally a bit lower than many european countries, but it does mean you are limiting yourself on supply to a much smaller market.
 

Piha

Active member
Thanks for your reply 'tanuki.himself'.

All good suggestions and I'd include the new MAN vans (based on the VW Crafter) in that lot too. Do you think I should be concerned about he strength of the chassis on these types of vans?

There are considerable discounts - up to 25% - available on the VW Crafter at the moment.
 

Lovetheworld

Active member
Please check the 4x4 system you are getting. For example, with Transporter vans, T4/T5/T6 4Motion doesn't feature low-gearing and center lock. For the Crafter and the Sprinter, that can sometimes also be the case.
If it doesn't feature these things, I wouldn't go for the 4x4 versions. I would rather go for a RWD version, possibly adding a difflock in the rear.

Also check with other travellers about diesel quality experience. If Mauritania and more south has diesel good enough for your new Euro 5 or 6 van.
 

Piha

Active member
Please check the 4x4 system you are getting. For example, with Transporter vans, T4/T5/T6 4Motion doesn't feature low-gearing and center lock. For the Crafter and the Sprinter, that can sometimes also be the case.
If it doesn't feature these things, I wouldn't go for the 4x4 versions. I would rather go for a RWD version, possibly adding a difflock in the rear.

Also check with other travellers about diesel quality experience. If Mauritania and more south has diesel good enough for your new Euro 5 or 6 van.
Good advice, thanks Lovetheworld.

I'll take a closer look at the fuel issue. With ICE becoming politically toxic and emission controls only increasing, getting something that I can drive, tax and insure in the UK and Europe without incurring extra costs is something that I feel I need to consider.
 

Lovetheworld

Active member
I have done 2 big trips in old diesels, but if I would buy a completely new vehicle I would consider electric. However, electric vans of the size of Crafter and Sprinter are hardly available and come with a low driving range.
Petrol sometimes makes more sense, since diesel engines have become more complex and on the road the quality is lower. And you can find petrol more easily than diesel, because passenger cars outside of Europe typically always run petrol. However, if you drive a lot it will be more expensive to use.

If you want to stick with diesel, it is not easy. I would consider a second hand one, but some cities might block you.
And if the discounts are so good that the difference is small, then of course second hand makes no sense.

You are looking to buy a vehicle that is already converted?
 

alanymarce

Well-known member
Welcome: I'm tempted to write a lot, however will seek to be concise.

Petrol is a better choice in my view, not only for viability in Europe but because petrol is available everywhere, pertol engines are capable of managing fuel of lower quality these days, and diesel of the right quality is often not available.

I'd say that you could start with any of the vehicles mentioned, however I suggest looking at whether the vehicle is sold (and hence service and spares will be available) everywhere you plan to go. Now you can always have bits shipped (most places) however if you need something it's a lot more convenient if it's available locally.

Key question - could you elaborate on "- ability to cross uneven, loose ground (but not to a level that requires a specialist off-road vehicle)". There's a range here between a vehicle which you plan to use on unsurfaced roads (gravel, sand) and one to go "offroad" in terms of crossing rivers, climbing rocky inclines, and travelling through dunefields. I wouldn't describe our vehicle as a "specialist off-road vehicle" (Montero (= Shogun)) but we certainly go "offroad" routinely. The point being the clearance and geometry of the vehicle - approach and departure angles, track etc. Vehicles with a wider track than the usual Land Cruiser, Montero, and Patrol for example can run into problems in sandy tracks because they hit stumps or rocks which are not a problem for the "usual" vehicles.

PS: love the idea of the Surrey Altiplano - Hog's Back I assume?
 

Piha

Active member
Lovetheworld - Thanks your your responses.
I am looking at the Vanworx Maxtraxx conversion and I will admit I'm a sucker for a bit of bling, sad I know but there you go! To be honest, I like the look of the product but I feel it's overpriced. There are similar alternatives to the Vanworx Maxtraxx that are around 17k-22k cheaper, and that's a lot of travelling money. Vanworx conversions come with a 3 year warranty and are VW approved, which is good but I haven't looked into the limitations of the warranty as Vanworx are understandably reluctant to have customers on site. As for electric vans, I'd be tempted as I feel that this is the way forward but the tech for electric just isn't quite there yet for me to have confidence in making such a large (for me) investment, although I'm generally quite happy to embrace new products and technologies.

alanymarce - Please feel free to write a lot, as I enjoyed your post!
The diesel/petrol issue is something that I really hadn't thought about, so I'll be looking into this some more.
Your query regarding "- ability to cross uneven, loose ground (but not to a level that requires a specialist off-road vehicle)" is a good one and something that I should have spent more time describing. My plans are to travel along roads, main roads, smaller roads, lanes and tracks to get to destinations that I want to see and experience by spending a bit of time there. I envisage that once I reach the less densely populated parts of our world then the quality of the roads will be variable and having the ability to travel on these less well travelled highways appeals greatly to me. Additionally, I would like to have some ability to be able to drive 100 meters or so across a muddy field or sandy stretch of land to camp overnight instead of finding a campsite or official parking place.
I'd love to be able to just head off across a track that leads out across the more remote areas of northwest Africa or the 'Stan's but I need to be realistic, I have no 4x4ing experience, I'm crap at mechanics and most of all, I simply don't have the budget for a suitable vehicle.

P.S - I'm ever so slightly east of the Hogs Back but very close to Guildford village. I was in the Surrey Hills proper earlier and it was glorious!
 

tanuki.himself

Active member
Thanks for your reply 'tanuki.himself'.

All good suggestions and I'd include the new MAN vans (based on the VW Crafter) in that lot too.
Do you think I should be concerned about he strength of the chassis on these types of vans?

There are considerable discounts - up to 25% - available on the VW Crafter at the moment.
Sorry, i have no actual knowledge or opinion on the relative merits of the different vans, i just know they are out there as i have met a few on my travels. Different motorhome body companies and converters around the world use all the platforms so i doubt there is much difference between them in strength. I drove 2wd VW and Ford based rental campers around NZ back to back and really there didnt feel to be much difference in the way they carried the weight. I've spoken with Swiss in Mexico in a 4x4 sprinter they were very happy with, and kept meeting the same guys towing a large 5th wheel around Oz with a dual cab Iveco, and they were very happy with that. You pays your money and takes your choice....i would be much more concerned with the quality and design of the camper part than the base vehicle as that will make far more difference to your enjoyment - again, there is no right answer, you just have to work out what will work best for you and then find the closest option.
 

Arjan

Fossil Overlander
The wish list basically rules out most vans as the 4WD versions either lack low range / diff locks / pay load / living volume.

I suggest the Iveco Daily / Mercedes Sprinter with proper chassis / low range / diff locks. etc. and def. diesel.

RHD will limit the number of countries you can visit.

Bon Courage
 

alanymarce

Well-known member
We too use roads to get to places we want to experience rather than as a challenge in themselves – much of the time if there’s an easier way to get from A to B we’ll take it. However you’re right that you need to be able to handle a variety of road conditions to get where you want to go. What’s fascinating is that in much of the world, in areas which are seen as challenging in terms of access, when you get to the further reaches of these regions you find that the local people are travelling in 2WD Toyota Corollas and similar vehicles. You can certainly get to most places on the planet in a standard Land Cruiser, Patrol, Shogun/Pajero/Montero, or Jeep; you don't need to spend a lot of money on modifications other than those you may want for living in/with the vehicle. Now, you may want to upgrade the suspension and/or lift it a little; a winch can be useful, a snorkel will give you security for wading rivers, and it’s good to have basic recovery kit, however for your plans you don't need rocksliders or “bashplates”, for example. Many will say that a “bullbar” is essential, however it’s more weight and may be illegal (you’re not permitted to have one in Colombia for example). The first thing I think you need for global overlanding is AT tyres, a compressor, and a repair kit - you could drive from one end of the Americas to the other or from North Africa to the Cape with nothing more than this.

My own view is that you should start with a standard vehicle, in good condition, which doesn't have to be new, and spend money on the most useful modifications, avoiding adding a lot of unnecessary “toys”. My first “overland” vehicle was a Peugeot 404 Station Wagon, which I bought for ZAR 600 – I welded up the cracks in the rear door structure, added a potable water tank, and it took me into the Kalahaari Desert with no problems.

You’ll gain experience quickly – I suggest that the key is to develop this step by step – which I suspect is your natural approach. Learn your own capability and the capability of your vehicle in that order. A sandy track which is intimidating the first time you see it will be almost unnoticed after a few months. If you’re heading out on a more challenging track which will push the boundaries of your skills, then I suggest that you should seek to do this in company with someone else: the Salar de Uyuni presents little challenge other than the potential to get lost and the possibility of driving into an area where the salt surface covers deep mud, however either of these could be a serious problem if you’re on your own, so seek to travel with someone else. We may be comfortable setting off across the Simpson Desert on our own, however if you have little experience in dunes, you’d be better off in a group.

The quality of the roads/tracks in the less densely populated areas varies greatly, and is often relatively poorly publicised. The old Michelin maps showed routes in terms of their quality, whereas most other maps, particularly those published by national agencies in “developing countries”, but also current online maps, tend to show routes in terms of the importance they were/are seen (or hoped) to have. An example: if you look at google maps to find routes from Babati to Mbeya in Tanzania, you’ll see two alternatives – one via Dodoma, estimated at 13-1/2 hours travel time, and one via Rungwa, with an estimated travel time of 12 hours. The roads are identical in how they’re shown. In fact the Rungwa route is a lot less “driveable” than the Dodoma route and took us 3 days…! Sometimes you’ll find that a road is far better than you expect (lots of excellent roads have been built by the Chinese and others in Africa in the last few years and many of these are not accurately shown in maps currently available), and sometimes worse (Federal highway 070 west of Brasilia, at least when we drove that route, was in large part a dirt track…). So, look for information from multiple sources and ask for advice from locals (bear in mind however that this is a bit of a probability distribution – when we asked three different police officers in Jaen how long it would take to drive to Chachapoyas the answers ranged from 5-1/2 hours to 13 hours – it actually took us 2-1/2 hours…).

P.S., When I last worked in the UK I lived for about a year in Knaphill, only about 10 Km from Guildford.
 

alanymarce

Well-known member
[QUOTE="Arjan, post: 2901677, member: 68241"
RHD will limit the number of countries you can visit.
[/QUOTE]
Not much though - I think that KSA is the only country which does not permit RHD vehicles at all. There are a few countries which make trouble but it seems that showing a CPD and explaining that you're in transit (along with tact and friendliness) surmount the challenge. For what it's worth my opinion is that if you had a LHD vehicle in these countries then you would be challenged for other alleged infractions (old tyres, incorrect fire extinguisher, whatever).
 

Amazigh

New member
(Ignoring the issue of us Brits not being able to enter Morocco at the moment and the Morocco Mauritania border being closed at present due to COVID)

A 2WD van will limit some of your choices of pistes in Morocco and the WS but there is still a huge amount of routes that are accessible without 4x4. The locals use these routes in everything from a Mk1 Transit to Dacia Dusters. Carefully selecting you routes, knowing when to turn back and carrying some basic recovery equipment will be a help.

For more detailed travel information there's Chris Scott's fantastic Morocco Overland Guidebook (I contributed to a couple of routes in the latest edition). There are also a couple of very good Facebook groups that cover the region - Overlanding North Africa and also Overlanding West Africa and Morocco.

With vehicle choice, consider what spares you can get locally, the North of Morocco is reasonable well catered for by good mechanics, main dealers and spare parts. Mercedes, VW, Isuzu, MAN, IVECO etc all have a presence locally. If not, shipping in parts from europe isn't too bad but can take a while to clear customs etc. As you get south of the High Atlas things get harder with parts and good mechanics the further south you go.

Fuel quality and availability is good for both petrol and diesel. But I would never run a petrol overlander after experiencing a devastating vehicle fire in the WS. We lost a vehicle in the group and were just leaving for week or so exploring the old Dakar routes before needing to resupply, the landcruiser that caught fire had over 200l of diesel on board, if it had been petrol someone in the group could easily have been seriously hurt or worse. Diesel is much safer to transport than petrol.

I'm from SW UK but spend half the year in the region overlanding, running tours etc and have been exploring the regions for over 20 years now, so if you need any info I'm happy to help (I can also do tours customised to suit all vehicles and skills with Fly/Drive options as well, a good way to get started as a beginner ;) )
 

Arjan

Fossil Overlander
You will need more space than most 4WD's can provide - I know : tried and failed so dogs don't come with me at the moment..

Get a young Iveco van - 150 BHP onwards - and get it converted to 4WD.

Several places offer that option and it will be all you need.

Bon Voyage !
 

Gren_T

Adventurer
Hi Piha,
Possibly a bit late to the party but here's my tuppence..
I have very similar requirements to yourself, I currently have a VW T5 pop top that I converted to a camper that we use for travel around Europe, and a Landrover 90 that we also travel in mostly the Pyrenees, North and west Africa - pre covide.!
Both very different vehicles for very different uses, We are also looking at the MAN / Crafter AWD van and I'll convert it myself into an ALL roads camper(with toilet and shower), I have looked at the Iveco and Sprinter 4x4's but realistically I wont need a true 4x4 or difflock as I'd rather be stuck 10m from a road than 100m from a road. & If I really want to do difficult roads or dunes I'll take the 90.

So for my all road camper an AWD van like the MAN/crafter with a seikel suspension lift would suffice as a base vehicle, as has been said with petrol/diesel etc another thing to consider is age.. many towns and cities in Europe are LEZ with vehicles 10yrs or older restricted or banned outright and more will follow so buying an older vehicle like an Ex-utility merc sprinter 4x4 and getting it converted to your taste does not make long term sense for European travel.

Something else to think about is the availability outside Europe of AD-blue and the ability of some vehicles to run without it, I know Mercedes will adapt its engine software on some of it's van and truck fleet to run without ad-blue for world wide use.

I would suggest a visit to some of the upcoming shows and have a look at what is available, The Overland show in Stratford is coming up as is the Abenteuer & Allrad show in Germany - this show in particular is also good for buying a "pre loved post trip " vehicle as they are frequently up for sale in the camping areas.

If you are intent on a VW/MAN I suggest the Busfest VW show in Malvern - Yes its a VW show but there will be lots of van converters there showing their wares...

good luck with your search.
Regards all
Gren
 
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