The start of building our own expedition truck

Height of our expedition truck

Winter 2014

We received the keys of our Steyr 12M18 (from Excap, Germany). Immediately, we had some improvements made:

  • bigger wheels, 14.00 R20, providing the truck more ground clearance and lower rpm.
  • new Koni shocks
  • a custom-made torsion frame with container locks to secure the shelter on the back
    • If you like to know more about what torsional stress is and the different subframes possibilities, we highly recommend the book “Build your own overland camper” by Steven Wigglesworth. He spends a whole chapter on this topic.
  • new lightweight wheel arches for the rear wheels
  • different started batteries: The standard ones are bulky and heavy, thus they have been replaced by the lighter and smaller Optima Red batteries.

Steyr12M18_Front_Winter2014 Steyr12M18_Back_Winter2014 Koni shocks OptimaRed-Batteries

 

And this is how the interior of the drivers cabin and Zeppelin shelter looked like before overhaul:

drivers_cabin_before_overhaul drivers_cabine_before_overhaul-2 drivers_cabine_before_overhaul-3 Zeppelin_shelter_before_overhaul

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15 thoughts on “The start of building our own expedition truck
  1. Hallo
    Ich bin auf der suche nach einem gebrauchten Expeditions Fahrzeug für eine Alaska -Sibirien Reise , Ihr habt wirklich vile gute Ideen und wenn Ihr jemanden kennt der ein ähnliches Fahrzeug verkaufen möchte lasst es mich wissen…..
    NB. Ich brauche es wirklich erst im Winter 16/17 , wenn aber jetzt ein guten Angebot vorhanden ist dann kann es auch früher oder sogar sofort sein…
    Ich will das Fahrzeug in den USA zulassen.
    Mit freundlichen Grüssen

    Heinz Peier
    mehr info über mich auf http://www.travelpod.com/members/hpeier12

  2. I’d like to reply to Heinz Peier: If you want to imatriculate your truck in USA, you might be better of with one of the Stevenson and Stevensons trucks, that’s a licence build from this model steier, and build in the US so you will not have as many problems with homologation there. for one, you are not allowed to import a vehicle less than 25 years old, when the manufacturer did not export that model to the USA.

    Have a good thought about that!
    good luck,

    Bart

  3. Truly superb build guys! I’m curious, in reference to your torsion frame and container locks improvements.

    What is the purpose of this improvement? The reason I ask is because I am exploring the possibility for my own conversion to have a completely detachable body of the vehicle, much like the concept around the Tonke campers whereby the body can be detached and stand independant of the vehicle via hydraulic legs: http://www.tonke.eu/en/lookbook

    I was wondering what your thoughts are around this concept for an expedition vehicle? What would be a good way to secure the body to the chassis etc? Any thoughts would be great as I have yet to see anyone doing this with their expediton vehicles? No doubt the weight of the body would factor into the equation considerably…..

    Keep up the great work guys

    1. Hi Josh,

      Sorry for the late reply. Your message somehow slipped our mind whilst we are busy with building our shower..

      The Zeppelin shelter comes standard with container locks, so it was an easy decision for us to use these as securing points; they are rocksolid. Already a couple of times we took advantage of being able to lift the living unit of the chassis and where very glad to be able to do so. We just put it on a few wooden blocks. In the beginning we used a forklift, later a small crane mounted on a truck. If we would ever built a second expedition truck we would again make sure we can completely detach the unit from the chassis and keep living in it (e.g., heating, water, solar, … is incorporated in/on the living unit and not the chassis).

      About the torsion frame, we used the three point system. This accommodates the twisting of the chassis on rough terrain, without putting your living unit under stress (since this is not built to twist). (We recommend Steve Wigglesworth’s book for more information on these frames)

      If anymore questions come up, just ask, and good luck with your build!
      Elmer & Nicole

      1. Thanks for the informative reply guys,

        I knew it was possible, just wasn’t sure how to go about it, the container locks definitely seem like a solid option, do you happen to have any more information or material i can read about them? I am about to purchase Steve Wigglesworth’s book as I have heard very good things about it! What are your thoughts on hydralic legs attached all 4 corners of the living unit? Would they handle the weight of the unit? on that note do you happen to know how much your living unit weighs? Thanks again for the info 🙂

        1. Hi Joshua,

          We see the benefits of mechanical legs on smaller size camper units, on a pick-up for example. It can make you more mobile in cities. But once you drive a larger size truck, we do not see that many benefits either in being able to leave the camper unit behind while traveling. As Bart says driving with a truck without any load on the chassis, is not that comfortable and the truck stays approx. the same width and height.
          Being able to detach the unit from the truck has more benefits when you’re not traveling, when you need to work on the truck itself, … Situations where you plan to leave the unit off for a while and you don’t necessarily need hydraulic legs.

          The container locks on the Zeppelin shelter are from Aluminium. It’s not completely clear if you want to build the entire unit yourself, but if you’re considering of buying an empty or furbished unit with container locks, Zepbox.de also offers them.

          (PS: If you haven’t purchased Steve Wigglesworth’s book yet, you still have a few days to participate in our giveaway 😉 )

          Cheers,
          Nicole & Elmer

          1. Thanks again Nicole and Elmer (and also thanks to Bart for the helpful advice!)

            I see total sense in your thinking regarding the ‘legs’ concept that the smaller slide-on campers adopt and I am veering toward the container locks option as it secures the vehicle, firstly, without adding weight but also with the ability to move the living area.

            My thoughts around having the ‘legs’ on the living area initially was just to always have that option to move it independent to the truck itself, if, for example the truck was in a really bad state the option is even available to fit the same living area to a different truck altogether (assuming the truck’s tray is the same width and length etc). I never had aspirations to have it slide off to leave at a camp spot then drive into town it was moreso just for the option to remove if and when needed.

            I have seen a lot of truck conversions where the builders weld the frame directly to the truck body itself and I always feel that they are ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’. The option to remove the living area seems just common sense really!

            I completely overlooked the giveaway, such a shame! However I have it now and no doubt I will consider this my bible!

            Once again, thanks so much for the insights guys, the last thing i want to do is make an almost irreversible mistake with my build

            Keep up the top notch work guys (Romania looked incredible!)

            Cheers,

            Josh

            P.S Would you happen to know if Zepbox.de makes bare frames with the container locks integrated, just the frame with no cladding or insulation? I have emailed them but had no response

          2. Hi Josh,

            You seem to think like us :-), keeping the option to move the living unit independently from the truck, just in case.
            We thank you to for letting us think with you on your project and for the compliments. They do keep us motivated working on this website! Hopefully we will see you and your truck one day in real-time! In the meanwhile keep up posted about the progress.

            Cheers,
            Nicole & Elmer

            PS: Regarding Zepbox, don’t know if they make bare frames. I’m sure they will answer soon (and if they don’t, your email probably has ended up in their spam-folder and they have no clue. Let us know when this is the case and we will pass it on to them).

  4. Joshua;

    Keep in mind that all those 4 hydraulic cylinders (and attached hardware to use them) are a lot of dead weight and you have to consider how many times on a trip you use them, the best goal for travelling is as light as possible. the more weight the more your truck will use fuel. second thought: if you use that system to go shopping with your truck while leaving the living unit somewhere else; a empty truck will bounce around enormously, you might be better off with a bicycle or motorbike?

  5. Hi again guys,

    It does make perfect sense to have the body detachable! My dream expedition vehicle is a way away yet but these things take time, I have actually just finished a conversion for an LDV Convoy ex-minibus and my partner and I are going to do Europe in it next year, looking forward to it!

    You’re very welcome regarding the compliments and it’s great seeing you reap the benefits and enjoying the travels that follow the conversion 🙂 Forgive me if you have the information on the site already but what are the dimensions of your living area of the truck?

    Kind regards

    Josh

    Thanks guys

  6. Hi again guys,

    It does make perfect sense to have the body detachable! My dream expedition vehicle is a way away yet but these things take time, I have actually just finished a conversion for an LDV Convoy ex-minibus and my partner and I are going to do Europe in it next year, looking forward to it!

    You’re very welcome regarding the compliments and it’s great seeing you reap the benefits and enjoying the travels that follow the conversion 🙂 Forgive me if you have the information on the site already but what are the dimensions of your living area of the truck?

    Kind regards

    Josh

      1. Hi guys!

        Absolutely, we will be sure you meet up when we are both on the road, will be super exciting to see your expedition vehicle too!

        Thanks for the continued inspiration 🙂

        Josh

    1. Our subframe is from Excap.de but they no longer built one. They commission it somewhere else, but no idea where. Sorry

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