tell us about your Overlanding machines
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|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.|
Whatever is on the tail lift!
Shower in hall
South America 2012. Complete circumnavigation. Then who knows....
Unicat - Raising roof 6X6!
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.
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!
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