April 2018

Handover is on April 18, 2018 and we are very happy to drive Benny to its new homebase in Switzerland.

Before the handover, Benny has received some more technical improvements like stronger shock absorbers, a better oil drain plug and a diesel filter. Furthermore, Woelcke did some test driving in the green:

We also completed our video documentation about the completion process. Please see Videos.

 

March 2018

End of March our Benny is 99% ready. Woelcke finished its work and now our vehicle is going to another company for some more work to be done on the chassis optimisation (stronger shock absorbers) and other details (entrance steps and fenders still missing).  More photos about the completion process on Conversion.

 

February 2018

February starts with the wedding of the chassis and the body. More wedding photos on Conversion After the wedding, doors and storage compartment doors are installed. Also  the furniture production starts and technical equipment is installed inside the body. More photos on Conversion.

 

January 2018

Paintwork on the chassis and the body is finished. More photos on Conversion.

 

We visited the CMT caravan expo in Stuttgart and got some ideas for our travel trips in the summer.  Because we want to combine our summer trip with an offroad training in Germany, we plan a tour to East Germany (Saxony Switzerland) and the Giant mountains in Poland. 

 

And finally we found a barn, where we can park our Benny when we take him over. Only 8km away from our home.  The search wasn't really easy, as our vehicle has 7m in length, 2,37m in width and 3,60m in height.

 

December 2017

In the last two months we have been at Woelcke almost every week to review the progress made. So far so good. Time for a winter break in Andermatt / Switzerland.

 

The construction of the body is now finished. More photos on Conversion. The chassis and the body have been transferred to Brixner in Ilsfeld for the paintwork and the remaining chassis work, which will last until end of January 18. Furthermore we start to finetune the interior layout (see Conversion), as the furniture construction will start in January.  

 

November 2017

The subframe is now galvanized and finally mounted on the chassis. Also the body construction started and the bottom plate  as well as the side walls are ready. More photos on Conversion.

 

Furthermore we took decision regarding our toilet system. Because it makes no sense to flush filtered water through the toilet, we decided for a Kildwick composting toilet instead of a water-flushing toilet. This not only saves electricity, water and weight, but also facilitates the dumping process. 

 

October 2017

The subframe (not yet galvanized) is ready and mounted on the chassis. More photos on Conversion .

Despite the ongoing conversion work we do not forget to travel. We use the pleasant autumn temperatures for a 2-week road trip through Israel and visit Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tiberias, Arad, Eilat and Jerusalem.

At the Caravan Salon in Bern we did not get many new inspirations for our Benny. But we can purchase some accessories at reasonable prices (grill, pots, etc.). We also see a nice Vario (not 4x4), which is for sale and looks quite similar to our Benny. However, this Vario is significantly longer (8,20m) than our rig (7m).

 

And: Benny goes overland is now on Instagram.

 

September 2017

The anti-corrosion treatment and the paint on the chassis is finished and the larger tires are mounted. More photos on Conversion .

 

August 2017

We received the cost estimate for the chassis work and work starts. More photos on Conversion .  

 

July 2017

Our new "Benny goes overland" logo is finished and implemented. It was created by Michael Quadflieg of www.herman-unterwegs.de. We strongly recommend working with him.

 

To gain some experience with an expedition vehicle, we made a three-week trip with an Exploryx Impala on Mercedes Sprinter chassis through the Pyrenees. The cabin construction for our Benny starts in autumn. Until then we definitely need to know what we want. We summaried our experiences on page On tour.

 

June 2017

After having contacted several truck dealers for their interest in buying the flatbed (unfortunately without success), the flatbed has now gone for little money to scrap dealers. The aluminum can still be used.

 

The 4x4 expo in Bad Kissingen offered huge new information for us, but unfortunately we have not seen many converted Varios. We have seen three Varios and a few older T2 versions. The following is a beautiful Vario, built by the owner himself. Vehicle length 6.50m and height 3.20m. The super single tires with size 285/70 R19.5 on Gabo wheels are a real eye-catcher, but unfortunately not allowed in Switzerland.

 

For us, the 4x4 expo brought some clarity in several ways:

  • Originally we wanted a gas-free design and an induction cooker. Cons: power usage, no oven (too much power consumption), high battery capacity (weight and cost of lithium batteries), special induction cookers, and Omnia oven does not work with induction. So at the end we will take a gas solution.
  • Fridge: A compressor refrigerator by Kissmann is first choice.
  • Shock absorbers: Due to the vehicle's height, the vehicle is more exposed to swing movements while driving. The serial shock absorbers are not sufficient for this. We will  therefore install stronger Marquart shock absorbers.  
  • Windows: There is still no reasonable alternative for the very expensive KCT windows. So we have to accept these costs.  

Still in discussion:

  • Blackwater: tank versus cassette versus composting toilet
  • Awning
  • Spare wheel: under the chassis (as installed now) versus inside or at the back of the vehicle

Here's another Vario, which was presented for sale at the 4x4 expo:

With the alcove the height of this Vario is huge (3.50m).  With the short wheelbase of 3.70 m the Vario looks somewhat compact overall, but this is individual preference. Our longer wheelbase of 4.25 m allows for better proportions in our view, although this  will limit offroad capabilities.

 

May 2017

We visit the Swiss Travel Festival in Meierskappel and listen to some interesting presentations among others on the PanAmericana. Unfortunately we still have to wait a few years ...

 

April 2017

We already made some investments in our equipment. This includes on the one hand a new camera (Canon EOS 80D) to become better in travel photography. On the other hand we purchased the new Garmin Navi 770 with some additional features for traveling with motorhomes. During our Pyrenees trip in this summer we will test both devices.  

 

We visited the Bimobil expo in Oberpframmern (near Munich), to confirm again that the Bimobil interior design is not ideal for us and that the decision for Woelcke was right. However, the presentation of the Iveco Daily 4x4 with the new long wheelbase was exciting, and at the 4x4 expo in Bad Kissingen Bimobil will present a cabin for this longer wheelbase. 

 

In April the work on Benny started. The flatbed was removed and the double driver cabin was shortened. More photos on Conversion . And this is how our shortened Vario looks:

 

March 2017

Apart from a few clarifications regarding the tires and transmission, not much happend in March regarding our conversion project.

 

To get already a taste of the PanAmericana and to bridge the 12-month waiting period, we made a two-week motorcycle trip with a Harley on the Baja California peninsula and made 3'800km from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas and back again. Best weather and temperatures around 30 degrees.  We discovered beautiful desert landscapes and beaches and enjoyed excellent Mexican food and hospitality. When Benny is ready, it is for sure: we will come back to Baja!

 

February 2017

Now the conversion project begins. For that we had to bring Benny to Stuttgart first.  Benny woke up in the barn after a deep winter sleep. Key is turned, and: The engine started after 6 months winter sleep without any issues.

The next morning the ride started to Stuttgart. At the customs station in Bargen (near Schaffhausen) we handled the customs formalities.

After a 250km drive we reached the glory halls of the Woelcke company in Heimsheim (near Stuttgart). We discussed the  work to be performed and left our Benny with Woelcke for the next 12 months.

Unfortunately, we did not manage to sell the flatbed so far. And unfortunately the flatbed with 2.55m width is too wide for a Sprinter or Daily so we do not have too many sales options.

 

January 2017

Our to-do list for the chassis work and cabin construction is now complete.  The book by Ulrich Dolde "Motorhome - self build and optimisation" really helped us  and we highly recommend it.

 

December 2016

The dates for 2017 are now fixed with Woelcke: End of February 17 the chassis work will start. In winter 17 the cabin construction will start. Completion of the vehicle scheduled for April 2018.

 

October / November 2016

We visit the expo of Exploryx in Isny (D) and Tartaruga / Bimobil in Kleinandelfingen (CH), admire beautiful and less beautiful expedition vehicles and listen to an exciting travel presentation about the PanAmericana. We take home some new ideas for our project.

 

Out of curiosity, we check with Achleitner about the Iveco Daily offroad version and why nothing was shown at this year's IAA expo. Answer: The project is "postponed indefinitely". Well, good that we decided for the Mercedes Benz.

 

Winter is coming, so we provide Benny with a battery maintainer  in the barn.  

 

September 2016

Benny is handed over to us in Germany and we drive him to Switzerland. The 260km to home was a nice first experience with the Benz. You have a good overview over the road and the diesel engine runs relaxed at 80km/h. The registration formalities at the border were easy. Now, Benny is at Mercedes Benz Lucerne and is prepared for the Swiss vehicle inspection.

 

After more than two weeks Benny gets "Swiss citizenship". The vehicle inspection is carried out without any issues. Not surprisingly, after being inspected by TÜV Süd and by Mercedes Benz in Germany based on a 100 items checklist and the further preparation by Mercedes Benz in Switzerland. Now, Benny stands well protected in a barn and enjoys early winter sleep until the transfer to Stuttgart in spring 2017 for the start of the conversion work.

August 2016

We look forward to the IAA expo in September and the presentation of the Achleitner offroad prototype. Nevertheless we still hope to find a good Mercedes Benz Vario 4x4. We had already given up hope. And then we surprisingly found a very well maintained ex-army vehicle with little mileage in the Stuttgart area. This Vario has a double cabin (which we did not need) and a flatbed (which we might be able to sell). We scrapped the plans with the Iveco and purchased the Vario immediately.  What we never did before: Buy a vehicle only on the basis of photographs on the phone. Our confidence in the Mercedes Benz dealer is endless. Now we have to get the Vario to Switzerland. For more infos see Vario .

June / July 2016

We made our driving lessons on a Mercedes Sprinter bus with 17 seats and a total weight of 5.3 tons. We made the practical driving examination in the first attempt. Such a licence is quite expensive. We paid about 3'600 CHF per head for everything (learning material,  medical examinations, theory test, practical driving lessons and final exam).

 

May 2016

We visited the 4x4 expo in Bad Kissingen and gott some good ideas which we will consider in our cabin concept.

 

May 2016

Achleitner announced that in 2017 a new offroad version of the Iveco Daily will come on the market, with larger single tires and more ground clearance. The vehicle will be presented at the IAA expo in September. We are excited and change our plans from Achleitner allroad to the offroad version. A major problem is, that the off-road version only has a maximum total weight of 6 tons because of the single tires. That will limit our layout plan.

March / April 2016

We prepared for the driving exam. For vehicles over 3.5 tons to 7.5 tons gross weight, a driver's license C1 / D1 is needed. In April we passed the theory exam.

 

March 2016

The Iveco Daily is still our our first choice, but our dream is to have a real 7.5 ton vehicle like the Mercedes Vario 4x4. But production of the Vario ended in 2013 and the chances to find a good used Vario are low.  Of course, there are some 7.5 ton vehicles available where the load capacity is reduced, like a Mercedes Atego or a Unimog. But with these both vehicles we can not realise an alcove. In addition, the payload is low, as these vehicles  are built for over 7.5 tons.  The search for a good Mercedes Vario 4x4 is extremely difficult as 4x4 Vario's with little mileage are rare.  On the Internet, you find Vario's with very remarkable mileages of more than 500'000 km. Then we received a call from Mercedes Lucerne: They have a Vario 4x4 for sale. But: 160'000km mileage in only 3 years, because it was in daily use as a milk truck (see photo). Moreover with a short wheelbase (3.7m) and in very poor condition. In addition, the chassis is extremely stressed by the swing movements of the liquid tank. We estimate total conversion costs -including wheelbase extension to 4.25 m - and then scrapped this idea.

 

February / March 2016

We visited several rig builders within 400km radius (Bimobil, Exploryx, Woelcke). When construction starts, several on-site discussions are necessary, then it is good if the builder can be reached in 3-4 hours. The Woelcke company in Heimsheim near Stuttgart seemed best for us.  The quality and the experience is very impressive. But we need a lot of patience. Woelcke has over 2 years waiting time until delivery. So we have to step back to the end of the queue. But this also has its advantages: Until the construction in autumn 2017 starts, we can optimise the cab concept and do not have to decide too quickly.

 

The vehicle choices we made relatively quickly. Out of current available new chassis on the market, the Iveco Daily seemed to be the best option for us, at it offers a total weight of up to 7,2 tons. However, the 7,2 ton version is only available with 4x2, so if we want 4x4, we have to buy the very expensive conversion package from Achleitner. Finally, our vehicle would look similar to that on the photo. The Achleitner 4x4 conversion has higher ground clearance but offroad capabilities are still limited due to the small tires. Also, the overall impression is not convincing for us, as the vehicle still looks like a "normal camper". 

January / February 2016

We investes a lot of time in building concepts, layouts and potential vehicles. There are a variety of websites with very useful information, so we quickly come to an idea how the whole thing should look like and what it may cost. 

 

December 2015

Finally infected with the expedition vehicle virus through the beautifull book "Off the road", followed by many discussions about the concept, the pros and cons and the costs. It is an important phase because here we decided on our concept of life for the next 10 to 15 years. 

In 2015 ...

With the motorbike we traveled many countries. At some time the following dialogue happened:

 

He: "In a few years we make the Silk road on a motorbike"

You: "No, on the motorbike I will not do this long trip"

He: "Ok, so we have to look for a more comfortable alternative to the motorbike"

 

And so the idea of an expedition vehicle was born.