Vehicle choice

Why is it that so many continental European people, in particular the Germans and Dutch, have such a strong sense of adventure and desire to explore off the beaten track, while that spirit is all but non-existent in Britain?

Don't get me wrong, these people exist in the UK, and they're passionate about it too (all the more necessary, because they're not the most prevalent bunch of souls!) This means there is a wealth of information to be found on the web, detailing their exploits from preparation to expedition. However, getting your hands on an overland ready vehicle is not as easy as it is in say Germany or the Netherlands. (If you're looking in continental Europe I found a fantastic source of potential expedition campers.)

We were looking for a 4x4 (obviously), but one that offered more space than that provided by an SUV. Unfortunately in 1997 I was in a bad car accident which resulted in a whip lash injury that bothers me still today. We decided that the luxury of a permanent bed (which would allow me to use an orthopedic mattress) was something we would allow ourselves. I have my doubts about how long I'd last if I faced a year of sleeping on the mattress in a roof-top tent. That said the added bonus of not having to make camp every night and break camp every morning for a year isn't something to sniff at! So we were looking for a 4x4 vehicle that offered the kind of space necessary to allow a permenent bed.

There were other design considerations too: 

Would we want to cook inside the vehicle? My feelings were this is not that necessary as in Africa I envisage a lot of open fires and braais. However, in Europe this is not that possible, and if we found ourselves caught in the rainy season in Western and Central Africa, it's not possible at all!

Would we want to have a shower and/or toilet inside? A shower is not that important inside the vehicle, as it is easy to rig up one on the exterior of the vehicle. A toilet on the other hand can prove to be a boon when faced with some of Africa's less than savoury long drops! I was umming and ahing about this, but with a bit of gentle persuasion from Roxy, we decided it would be a nice-to-have if we could fit it in.

I also wanted the luxury of space. I am looking forward to shopping in some of the excellent African markets and bazaars and bringing back some cultural reminders of our expedition through Africa. In particular I am hoping to build a collection of traditional masks, ideally one from each country we go through. These things take up space and if our vehicle was chokka block with all our gear, we won't have the option...

...unless we take these guys' aproach!

This image was borrowed from Kudu Expeditions.


So we started to get an idea of what kind of vehicle we were looking for, and now the hunt began.

After a lot of searching (a LOT of searching) we eventually lucked out and found this beautiful truck, a 1996 ex-military Leyland DAF GS 4-tonner.



Originally used by the British Army, the previous owner bought it from Withams Specialist Vehicles with the intention of converting it into an overland campervan. However, as these things do, his situation changed, and he found himself without time to complete his project.

What he had managed to do was perfect for our needs. He has created the structural body for the living cell, and attached it to the chassis with a torsion free mounting. This is what it looked like when we got it.

Truck frame


Essentially providing us with a blank canvas, all we needed to do was skin the shell and fit out the living cell as we saw fit.



    1 .
    I have learned and enjoyed this entire site, thank you. I have a military 4x4 MFR Bedford that I am converting to diesel and using a shipping container as the base for the living area. Your site has been helpfull. I am in Australia and we have all of the similar landscape to South Africa. Mike.
    Mike Haines - 2 Feb 2010, 4:02
    2 .

    One other comment, that when you arrive in cities could ship the stuff that you have picked up along the way back to London, obviously finance depending, but I love the mask idea I think you should do it without a doubt.

    Andrew Field - 11 Feb 2008, 19:15
    3 .

    The Lorry Way Round

    Andrew Field - 11 Feb 2008, 19:14
    4 .
    hi my name is steve. i am living in south africa....looking for a truck to make conversion. please help with links to buy used trucks. kind regards
    Stephen Ritchie - 12 Apr 2010, 15:56
    5 .
    I have been thinking about this as I did not want to use my Range Rover as it doesn't have diff lock and I don't want to fit it and tow a caravan over Africa. Why not just fix a caravan to the back of the truck? minus the wheels obviously. This negates the need to source everything and you can just throw out anything in there you don't want and fit a proper bed.
    George - 26 Apr 2015, 22:00
    6 .
    Hi there, I am working on building a Stewart and Stevens, US Mil surplus. Would you be able to send photos of the torsion mounting.
    don - 4 Feb 2017, 2:45

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