Big Trip transportation

After having agreed to pursue our Big Trip we started to consider how we would transport ourselves. In general the choice needs to be made to either use the public transportation and to travel light with a backpack, bringing us in close contact with the local populations. On the other hand you can travel with your own vehicle, which provides more liberty with the disadvantage of travelling more individually.

Anyhow, we decided to travel with our own vehicle as we give priority to going where we want, when we want to. After checking the possibilities, we realised it would be more practical for us to purchase a car in Belgium and ship it to the destination after. This is mostly justified by the fact that we are travelling a long period and because we would start our trip in the USA, where it is not easy (or possible to our understanding) to purchase and inscribe a car if you do not have a domiciliation there. In addition, by buying the car in Belgium, we could be more relaxed to search, find and transform the vehicle to our wishes.

At that time two of our friends, Bea and Nacho, had just bought a VW T3 in the UK together with a friend of them. Having seen the car, we were immediately in love with the charm that this car has. On top, it has served as a basis for camper for decades already making it an accessible and practical option.

Having done some research into the T3 models, we saw that VW also made a 4X4 version of the hippy van, which was a mayor requirement for us, as we want to travel through Central and South America. Being already charmed with the regular version, we were entirely in love with its off road variant and started our search for our proper car.

After searching for a few months, we found one model in Belgium nearby Namur which convinced us entirely, so we just went for it and purchased it!

The camper looked great! But we were charmed to much by it's beauty: it was from 1988, it had done 260.000 km on its tiny 1.6 TD engine, it only had 4 forward gears, the heater was broken, and there were some mechanical issues. But even with all this, it was a great vehicle, with place for four people to sleep, a fridge, lots of storage space and enough room to stand straight without opening the roof!

We immediately use the car for several weekends in Germany and the Netherlands and had great fun! Still, it was at that time that we realised that the car needed a lot of work to make it ready for our Big Trip. With every mechanical malfunctioning we lost a bit of our faith in the car. This feeling was only increased as we were not really convinced by the skills of our mechanic (who apparently is the expert in these T3 syncro vans).

So we decided to sell the van and start our search for the ultimate travelling vehicle again. Our main criteria for the car where that it had to be 4X4, it had to be big enough to sleep in the inside and it had to be as normal as possible, as we want to be able to drive around villages and cities without asking for too much attention. Luckily there are plenty 4X4s, which mostly are large in size. Two brands and models immediately came up: the Land Rover Defender 110 Hardtop and the Toyota Landcruiser HZJ 75 or 78. Both are excellent off road machines capable of much more than we will require and both have only two seats in the front with a large covered loading area in the back.

Considering we are going the American continent, we found out that very few people drive with a Land Rover there, making it more annoying to find replacement parts when needed (and apparently the defenders need a lot of spare parts ;) ). So we decided to go for the Landcruiser... The search for a good model is not to be underestimated as these cars are very pollutive and are not very popular anymore in Belgium. On top, the model which we wanted was not imported in Belgium since 2001 or 2002 as they did not meet different regulations.We therefor had to search a car which is older than 13 years, with few kilometres and little rust (the enemy of the Landcruiser - although our model is galvanised). Searching a car like this within a budget you only have few options, so we only checked out three cars and ended up with the following beast:

The car was being sold by a car dealer, who per definition tries to steal from you! He had, as every car dealer, installed new big steel rims and all terrain tires on the car, which makes it look better directly. After some negotiating, the dealer agreed to sell us to car together with the installation of an air snorkel and a front bumper. Below you can see it together with a roof rack which we got in Amsterdam from a nice couple who installed a roof which can be opened on their Landcruiser.

The car has a 4.2 litre diesel engine (no turbo) with 155.000 km, which is peanuts for this basic engine which can run up to 800.000 km! It serves as the perfect basis to be our house for one year! Together with Peter Thuwis ( we constructed an interior which is super solid and practical and which provides a bed for 2 (1.2 metres wide)
Tinting of the interior windows: Alex as master tinint foil shrinker, Mireia as master tinting foil cutter

The back of the Landcruiser with a first storage compartment and the compression fridge on the right. The old interior plating has removed to isolate the car further on the inside and have been replaced by aluminium plates.

Completing the puzzle with glue and squeezing everything together

All comportments are connected to the bottom of the car via the aluminium plates, which are used to squeeze the different compartments to the floor

The right rear door has been completed with a table, giving us some additional place to cook outside

An overview of our king size bed
Ready for departure!

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