Custom Land Cruiser Conversion - Part 1.
As I write this post, we are in the middle of converting our Land Cruiser Troopy into a self-sufficient 4x4 camper to explore the world overland. You can call it our tiny home on wheels, which serves as our transportation and home on the road for the next couple of we-don’t-know-yet’s. We don’t have a clue how long we are going, are willing and can finance our travel.
START OF IT ALL
It all started two years ago, Inge and I wanted to see more of the world. I quit my job and Inge could go on unpaid leave for 6 months. As we already planned our holiday we extended our stay to 7 months in total.
We travelled through Namibia and Botswana by 4x4 with a rooftop tent and as I never really camped before this was my first time. To be honest I had my doubts because I thought that I was not particularly fond of camping, but this changed when we had our first night in Namibia near the beautiful red sand dunes. The campground wasn’t your run of the mill kind of thing were everybody is cramped up together on 100 m2, here every car/camper/4x4 had its own 100m2. This become the start for our love of Africa and to travel overland with our own 4x4 which started from travelling the Pan American, but shortly changed after to the Pan Am and through Africa.
After returning to Holland after 7 months of travelling through Africa and Asia the lingering of travelling didn’t pass away. We still wanted to go out there and explore even more of the world. At the beginning of 2017 we started talking more and more about it and eventually we decided to go for it again. But to decide on it is one thing, figuring out how, when, where, how long and how much budget you need to have is another thing.
After our first trip we still had some money left and we also still had our apartment with our own furniture. The budget was nearly enough to travel for a couple of months in Asia as we experienced from our previous trip. So, we needed something more drastic as we wanted to have more than 3 times the budget we spent on our first trip.
The first thing we did, was moving to a cheaper apartment, although for Amsterdam standards we had a very low monthly rent. As rental apartments are scarce and the owner of our apartment could get a higher monthly rent we negotiated our exit and received quite a sum of money. Including the sale of all our furniture the base for our total overland budget of €90.000,00 was set. This was estimated on buying and making the vehicle overland ready and travelling for approximately 2 years.
Phase 2 was getting a new job for Inge as she wasn’t really satisfied with her current job. We thought long and hard on this and she took the gamble of setting up her own company which she could also take with her along our trip, Your Virtual Assistant was born. Quickly after she had her first client, Schiphol Group which is one of the major airports in Europe.
Phase 3 was finding a cheaper apartment and save on other expenditures like clothing, food and drinks, activities, etc. In one-month time Inge found 3 apartments with a lower rent which would save us at least €5.000,00 in total. New cloths were only bought when necessary and we did our shopping at the cheapest supermarket.
With all this in account we managed to save even more than our original goal of € 90.000,00.
Finding the right car is harder than you think as everybody has their opinion of what kind of car is suitable for this trip. We have seen many travellers on Pinterest who are travelling by converting their minivan into a tiny home, others only have and old SUV. Of course, both are a good option but not if you want to leave the paved roads and be camping in the bush. We were looking for a 4x4 vehicle.
As there are many, many 4x4 options we had to narrow it down to three cars: the Toyota Land Cruiser Troopy, the Land Rover Defender 110 and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. We used the summer to find them second hand, but we found out that Land Cruisers were very difficult to get in the Netherlands as they don’t meet European emission standards. The Wranglers and Defenders were easier to find, but the Wrangles were too small for our plan and although we fell in love with the Defender it is more difficult to repair when for instance you are stranded in Africa. Inge, after a detour, finally found the right car, a Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ78 aka the Troopy………in South Africa, Cape Town. That’s how are trip started here.
78 Series Land Cruisers go by many names, but the most common name is the Troopy. Troopy's are designed for commercial use in extreme environments. Often the vehicle of choice for everything from militaries and mining companies to NGO’s. You have probably seen it in news footage used by Red Cross or UNICEF.
The Toyota Land Cruiser can be said to be the ultimate overland vehicle, especially the Troopy. The car:
Has a lot of internal space to convert it into a small home with space for indoor and outdoor living and enough room to store food, water, and other supplies for extended stays in the bush.
Has a good, strong and reliable engine and it can almost handle all terrain conditions. The car needs to be able to drive through deep rivers, through high grass, battle deep mud and climbed rocky mountain passes.
Has no fancy computerized engine management systems or other modern electronics that are difficult to repair and could leave us stranded in the bush. If something breaks, it needs to be repairable by anyone.
Is reliable and when we turn the key the engine starts. We’d rather be off exploring than making vehicle repairs. Plus, there are times when our safety depends on our car going. In those situations, we don’t need the stress of mechanical issues.
Is available all over the world as spare parts do as well. If something is broken it is easy to get repaired and most mechanics can do this.
So now we had the car, but we still didn’t have a plan of what we wanted to do with it. After many hours on internet reading overland blogs, watching YouTube video’s and scourge through fora’s we came up with the following 4 important things:
Although we have chosen to live in a car for 2 years, which means we already cut back on comfort to begin with, we do like to make the car as convenient as possible. For example, a pop-up tent with built-in mattress gives us an extra room to begin with. We have added an extra mattress and bought fine bedding to give us the extra comfort we are looking for.
We have already reduced all our stuff we want to bring, but this can be done to a certain degree. You don’t want to lose too much on comfort and nice to have’s. In that sense everything has to have a logical place in the car as well as we have to utilise all the space we have in the back of the car. You don’t want to have too many dead spaces which we can’t use. Although, we haven’t set everything to a certain place yet because you need to be flexible.
Light and spacious
With the pop-up roof, adding extra windows in the back and building the cabinets just underneath the windows will give the back of the car a spacious look with lot of light coming in. Especially with the pop-up roof which we can tilt upwards so we can stand upright in the back of the car.
We need to be able to live in the car for days in a row without needing water, electricity or gasoline. The Troopy already comes with 2x 70 litre Diesel Tanks, adding solar panels and a water tank with tap will fill in the rest of the gaps.
So, having said that, here’s a quick look at the build objectives we defined:
Indoor/outdoor liveability including ability to cook, sleep, and relax inside the vehicle
Self-sufficient so we can be days in the bush without needing anything
Quick and easy to make and break camp
Sufficient storage for our equipment (camera, drone, laptop, etc), clothing and food
Go-anywhere off-road capability
Transforming those requirements into a finished product would take some time so we already started getting most of the prices before our departure to Cape Town. But getting the real work done, was by going to the different garages ourselves and be there every day to see how far they are coming as in Africa things aren’t going as fast as in Europe, this is Africa!
We already knew we would be working with Alu-Cab as they are the manufacturer of the desired pop-up roof with the cool name, Hercules. Unfortunately, they don’t place the roofs themselves anymore, this is now done by 4x4 Megaworld. They will also place the 270 degrees awning to have shade in our outdoor living space. As this is Africa, it will take 8 weeks to make the roof, but this gives us more time to sort out the interior.
The second company that we have contacted was R&D Offroad, they are a specialist as it comes to Land Cruiser conversion. R&D Offroad will take care of all the electric work in the car as well as placing a new rear bumper with dual wheel carriers.
Lastly, after a long search, we found this company called Creative Caravan Worx that can help us with the interior, from the cabinets until the cushions on the couch. It’s run by very friendly older couple that we are glad to work with.
These upcoming weeks we will be busy with finalizing all the details and buying the last few things for our car. So stay with us cause we will be given you updates (with pictures) on this shortly.