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Vehicle Specification

Tatra 815-2
2002 220,000km
Yes 6!
Tatra unique central spine chassis - no body flex!
Yes - tbd
Yes lockers and internal
3 triple bunks for kids, double bed, convertable table bed.
Two Nav or PC based system tbd
Gas hobs, grill, oven, electric microwave
hallway between the the cabin body and truck cab converts into the bathroom shower.
tbd - lift bags, shovels, straps etc. No winch.
Yes Waeco Compressor
Bathroom and Shower
8kV Generator, 5x80watt solar panels
LED lighting inside and out.

Five Quick Questions

Best Gadget

Whatever is on the tail lift!

Best Space Saver

Shower in hall

Can't do without...

Trips Planned

South America 2012. Complete circumnavigation. Then who knows....

Dream Vehicle

Unicat - Raising roof 6X6!

Tatra 815-2 6X6 Expedition Truck

Tatra 815-2 (2002 220,000km)
by Jago

Hi All

Just introducing our truck for anyone who's interested as we aim to be at the Overlander Gathering in July 2011 so come and say hi!

PS - sorry if this is long - too exciting to shorten! ;-)

We are currently building a long term expedition truck with Ed Perry at Overland Vehicles Ltd (www.overlandvehicles.co - highly recommended as a knowledgable, flexible and innovate overland vehicle builder). We are planning on taking our kids aged 4, 5 & 6 around South America for a year or two (or three? ;-) in 2012 after I complete the Dakar Rally (on a motorbike not in the truck!)

The truck we chose is a Tatra 815-2 6X6 off road truck from the Czech Republic! Tatra aren't too well known outside of Eastern Europe although they have some fame in Rally circles winning a lot of Paris-Dakar Rallys in the 80s and 90s. They are the third  oldest vehicle producers in the world but the Soviet years behind the Iron Curtain killed them off from being competitive with Western manufacturers and they stopped producing cars only to concentrate on off road capable trucks, used mostly by the miltary and heavy industry (quarrying, forestry, mining etc).

With a family of 5 on the road for two years we did struggle with the perpetual compromise of size: big and comfortable but less agile, heavy and difficult to blend in! Smaller and lighter is more subtle and maneuverable but means less space and comfort! No clear winner, but we wanted as much space and comfort as possible with permanent bed areas to ensure we could continue for as long as possible. We wanted a a big body (7m) and a crew cab. This meant we needed the length of a 6 wheeler.

We looked at M.A.N.s and Mercedes but affordable 6X6 crew cabs variants are virtually non existent in the UK and pretty rare in Europe. Those we found seemed to be asking a high price for them too. We looked at military vehicles as they often have crew cabs and came across Tatras. After being seduced by their 8X8 trucks plowing through pretty much anything we made contact with Malcolm Douglas - a UK Tatra expert and ex Dakar Truck racer. He introduced us to Dealers in Czech and we found one in January 2011.

Our one began life as a tipper in 2002, it was then thoroughly overhauled by IPEX a Tatra dealer in Frenstat near Ostrava where the Tatra factory is.

They made it like new, completely replacing the cab (we ended up with an extended cab instead of a crew cab as the Tatra crew cab is over 3m long and would have forced a smaller body size).

We brought it back to the UK in April and have been having regular trips to Suffolk where Overland Vehicles are based to supervise (and drool excitedly ;-)  over the build. We hope to have it finished for August but have electrical systems and internals yet to finish.

If we can do a shake down tour we may head to Europe for a few weeks to try and make it to Turkey (for a motorbike rally in September) or even sign up for the Caucasian Challenge - check it out - www.caucasianchallenge.com/

What made you choose this one?
Our requirements meant we wanted a long cabin body, therefore a long wheelbase. Not to limit off road/rough road this meant a 6 wheel truck. Again for off road effectiveness but also for durability an off road 6X6 truck. Add a crew cab (originally) for 5 passengers and there's less donor vehicles out there than expected! Also we liked the off road potential (lets not kid ourselves - it's not really needed 95% of the time), but we do hope to do some desert crossings and off track exploration.

Main criteria for this project?
To design the internal layout with as few compromises as possible, to allow us to have an effective space for 5 comfortably. Never possible without some compromise and as we have found out no matter how big the truck you always end up short of space! I am no mechanic, so we also wanted a mechanically sound and reliable vehicle with international parts availability that wasn't too complex or modern. We have since found out there are no truly global vehicles (even Mercedes!) and it's difficult to get the mix of older (less complex electronics) and reliable right. Our Tatra is old enough to be simple and after spending a couple of days at Tatra on basic mechanic courses I know most of the drive train is international enough for parts. The thorough overhaul by IPEX also gives reassurance that whilst this is old enough to be simple (just upgraded to make Euro III for this years London LEZ) it should be sound mechanically.

Modifications undertaken?
We had the wheelbase lengthend (between the first and second axle) to 4.5m to allow a long body length but with minimal overhang, and also to fit in the kids triple bunks before the cabin door which was dictated to some degree by the wheels and diesel tank.

Modifications yet to do?
To finish the cabin build - we have gone for a mix of insulted steel frame for strength and repairability but with an internal layer of GRP honeycomb for insulation without cold bridges. A total thickness of about 50mm should see us well insulated. The usual (big truck) internal requirements are also being done - 12/24/240v power with 1000Ah batteries, 8kv gennie, air con, 1000litres of freshwater (for mucky kids and desert crossings!) and 840litres Diesel tanks. One problem with a truck this big is that we won't be able to get close to the action, i.e. may have to stay outside small villages and roads. Small kids add to this problem as they can't walk or ride too far (e.g. day trips) so we have considered a satellite vehicle to get about locally. We are having a tail lift on the back - originally to hold a removal garage (box) for a motorbike and push bikes but we are now looking at the possibility of mounting a UTV (side by side quad) instead so will keep you posted!

How does it perform?
Very good! Driving back from Czech Republic it was quiet and could go to 110kph! (OK without a body but it will still be more than capable with).

What would you do differently?
Mmmm - ask me in few months when we have used it!

Comments (10)Add Comment
written by Mick, June 28, 2011
Good luck with the project and the adventure with the family. IMHO....Don't overload with externals, such as motor and pushbikes, as they will become a security headache.
written by Mick, June 28, 2011
Good luck with the project and the family adventure.
I MHO, externally mounted bikes, motorbikes etc are a security headache and should be avoided as much as possible. Bits, will just disappear.....
written by Jago, June 28, 2011
Thanks for the advice Mick - a good point unfortunately!
We had thought of this when we first designed the lift to include a removable garage - basically a light steel box we could take of and chain to a tree or something and then lock push bikes and stuff in there every night.

That's not possible if we go with the the UTV buggy option. We will be coving it up but you're right as this will be a lower and easier target (especially the wheels I reckon!)

Will have to think about this one....! smilies/grin.gif
written by Mick, June 28, 2011
Speaking off the top of my head (as it's a while since I drove in SA) , there may be a good chance that many of the bikes/quads you are after will be available locally for hire and therefore no need for the hassle of taking them along. Mountain bikes can be put on the roof away from preying eyes...
Driving licence
written by Nick D, June 30, 2011
Did you have to sit a HGV licence for this vehicle?

Were you able to just drive the vehicle back all the way from Czech, how tricky was it to get through customs?

I'm thinking of buying and ex military tatra from Czech and would like to be able to drive it in the UK.
Driving Licence and Importing Tatras
written by Jago, July 04, 2011
Hi Nick -
Sorry for the late reply - your comment was emailed to me but I didn't see it on here to reply to!

I bought mine secondhand through a dealer in Czech, took my HGV test and drove it back on Czech plates. Once it's built with the cabin body we will get it MOTed and registered in UK.

You will need an HGV or rather LGV licence for all trucks this size. I checked out all the loop holes and couldn't get away without one as the licence requirements are based only on weight even if it's just a chassis you are transporting between garages.

Getting through customs wasn't a problem (even though they X-rayed the chassis!).

You can get good ex military vehicles (especially with central tyre inflation systems CTIS :-)

I have a few contacts to help if you need them - I know www.russianmilitary.co.uk do a complete service to import Tatras for you, otherwise you can contact the stockiest directly as they speak English.

Let us know if you have any questions and how you get on.
written by Phil, August 05, 2011
Hi Jago

You have a great truck, we did enjoy building ours but letting somebody else have the worry may have been a lot easier!

Are you going on the Caucasian Challenge it looks fantatic

Hope to see you out and about


written by Jago, August 07, 2011
Hi Phil

Thanks, it seems we are getting more hands on (interiors and finalising specs!) as the build nears completion smilies/cheesy.gif

We won't be ready for the Caucasian challenge, it does look good but the truck probably won't be finished uny Sep now. The shake down trip will probably be closer to home in October half term.

We are now at the exciting stage of finslising the interior, the windows are going in and over the next couple of weeks the interior fabrics and wall coverings will all be up so it should be looking nearly finished soon. We still have gbe tail lift and buggy mount to do and done cab/cabin AV installations to do once the cabin is done.

Michael Green
written by Michael Green, November 03, 2011
Times change. We spent 3 years in SA ending in 2004. Bigest problem was getting oil filters. We overcame the problem by having a washable/reusable filter. I assume that you will be travelling with Grimaldi Lines to BA. All the best. Have a good trip.
Off to SA!
written by Jago, November 30, 2011
Hi All

We took delivery of our finished truck about a month ago - only had it a week before it was stickered up and in the Dakar Team GB London D Day convoy - parading Dakar vehicles through town! (See www.dakarTeamGB.com) A couple of days and some frantic packing later it was off to Le Havre for scrutineering and shipping to Beunos Aires with hundreds of other Dakar vehicles in a Grimaldi Lines ship!

It arrives at the end of December but when I collect it but we won't start properly until the end of the Dakar in late January. smilies/cool.gif

After that it's a few finishing touches - like curtains and small snags as well as replacing all the locks as since leaving it to be shipped I have managed to loose the master/only keys to the cabin !! smilies/shocked.gif smilies/sad.gif

Still all part of the adventure! so it's adios for now - I have a few jobs like winding up a business and packing up a house to do in the next 10 days!


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