Tom Sheppard and his G-Wagen

Scott Brady

I had the pleasure (actually, I consider it quite an honor) to meet Tom Sheppard in England during my recent trip to the Royal Geographical Society in London. Mr. Sheppard lives a few hours north of London, and Graham, Nick and I made a trip to meet him for lunch. He is a gracious host and talked with us for hours about his expeditions into the Sahara and even entertained our desire to see his G and newly acquired F800GS.

We had lunch in the little village near his home and walked there in the cold weather, the three of us, all less than half his age struggling to keep up. He admitted to riding his BMW to a local gym several days per week for weight training. He is quite an inspiration.

Here are a few images of his 2001 Type 461. This vehicle was featured in Overland Journal this past summer.

The limited number of modifications to this vehicle should be a lesson for all of us. He has over 100,000 miles of solo desert travel. He said it quite well "Buy the correct vehicle first".

Here are two of the modifications. A pure sine wave inverter for charging camera batteries and the laptop and a second battery, which is joined to the primary via a manual marine switch. Both batteries are standard Mercedes units (which are notably large). The Aux battery is stored in the box with the blue top behind the seat, down low, and in the center of the truck.

Look at this diesel filler. It was huge and so completely overbuilt, yet seemed quite commonplace on the G. It is installed to facilitate filling from all odd shapes of containers.

The weight of each axle, clearly marked.

Tom purposefully avoids air conditioning in his vehicles, clearly aided by the fact that he travels solo (i.e. little dust). It removes the weight and complexity of the A/C, which also adds heat to the cooling systems task. So instead, he installs this slick scoop, which feeds fresh air into the cabin. He did make the point of noting that the Defender has this available in stock form.

To show how redicoulosly overbuilt the G-Wagen is, this curved pipe you see in the image here is a snorkel for the alternator, which is sealed.


Scott Brady

I thought this was cool. Tom particularly likes good music (classical, etc.) and good technology. You should have seen his office, filled with Mac Pros, 30" cinema displays and MacBook Pros. Tom does all of the design work for the VDEG, etc. It makes sense that good music would be a priority, with all of his travel being solo.

More of the interior, which tom painted tan to bring in some light.

This is a commercial three-door model, this has security benefits and reduced taxes in the UK.

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Scott Brady

The other axle

One modification from Land Rover, the rear step from a 110

Storage area, obviously in transition, waiting for the next trip to Algeria

A small table, used for meal preparation. Tom uses no refrigerator (though he used to, only to keep film cool)

Another custom touch, a hand-carved tray for holding small items and mounting the outside temp. gauge.


Expedition Leader
"this has security benefits and reduced takes in the UK."

I think Scott means "reduced taxes." Brits pay less tax
on commercial transports than for private vehicles. So
people buy trucks that lack side windows and rear seats,
and add them after they pay the registration fees.

Also note how the fuel cans are forward in the vehicle, rather
than close to the rear door. It must be difficult to wrestle the
cans in and out, but the vehicle balance is less affected this way.

The G-Wagen appears to have no shelf for sleeping inside
the vehicle. I remember Tom Sheppard writing in "Quiet for a
Tuesday" that he sleeps in a sleeping bag on a collapsible cot
next to the truck when on his Sahara wanderings.

Thanks, Scott! I hope we will read more about this visit in OJ.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
living legend.
It is so much easier when you are solo..clean and simple. Everything changes when you add a wife, kids, or friends.

Mr Sheppard walks the walks that is for sure.

Harald Hansen

Thanks for sharing! There's a bit about his Defender in the VDEG, where the scoop is also mentioned.

Also note how the fuel cans are forward in the vehicle, rather
than close to the rear door. It must be difficult to wrestle the
cans in and out, but the vehicle balance is less affected this way.
From all I've read, if Mr. Sheppard has to make a choice between convenience and weight distribution, weight distribution wins out every time!
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Scott Brady

Does the above mean that there will be future version of the VDEG? Available for US purchase?

Tom is currently working on a photography book, documenting the remote areas of the Sahara. I have seen a pre-print version, and it is epic.


Expedition Leader
Would it be incorrect to assume that this G has no lift, and stock sized tires?

It certainly is one beautifully Gilded Lily.