Recently I visited Global Expedition Vehicles, spent two hours talking with owner Mike Van Pelt, and took a test ride. I flew from Seattle to Springfield Missouri to visit my parents and knew I would kick myself if I didnít try to see his vehicle, only 25 minutes south of Springfield.
Iíve followed the traveling and camping aspect of 4x4 travel since reading of the Turtle I in the early 70ís. The build-up of Turtle V and Earthroamer and have given us new information along with the European vehicles we can now see on the internet. I was clear with Mike that I am not a buyer, just someone who has the same interest.
Mikeís Global Expedition Vehicle is truly amazing, both camper and Unimog U500. His design has the emphasis on global travel, not just North America, and has dictated his choice of vehicle, capacities and systems. The Unimog capabilities are well known but the interior/exterior design, construction, and fit really catch your eye when seen up close. Mikeís camper is top notch using composite walls and built by a truck body manufacturer. It is attached to a sub frame and has the 3-point attachment to the Unimog frame, tilting member at the rear. The camper components are first-rate marine grade and are what you would expect on this type of vehicle. Some of the unique features are a 12-volt Dometic refrigerator and a completely separate 12v freezer located in a pull out drawer. The heating system is plumbed through a diesel boiler so there are multiple ways of heating the camper, heating hot water, and preheating engine coolant. Mike mentioned over 50,000btu/hr for heating capability. The camper air conditioning is unique with around 32,000btu/hr cooling capacity. 36,000btu/hr would be 3 tons of cooling, which is what some houses have. The auxiliary power unit, not just a generator, is also unique with a liquid cooled 3-cylinder diesel engine driving two alternators and the camper air conditioning compressor all through belt drives. Again, Mikeís emphasis is on global so the electrical system has both 110volt and 230-volt capabilities. Mikeís website, www.globalxvehicles.com, also has a discussion on diesel truck engines made in the US designed for ultra low sulphur diesel and traveling outside the US.
For the test ride, my first ride in a Unimog, included paved road, a dirt construction site and a short run on a four-lane highway. The truck really moves faster than I expected and it did get up to 70 mph. Saying the brakes are capable of stopping it quite quickly is a complete understatement. Looking down from the cab at the road is different for someone who is used to looking over the hood of a truck. At the construction site, Mike made a quick turn and I thought he was going to demonstrate the 32 ft. turning radius. Instead, he stopped at the bottom of a loosely packed embankment, flipped some switches and then drove straight up the embankment. The embankment seemed to be about 45 degrees, maybe a little less. While on the highway, I also noticed that you are actually high enough to look down into the cab of an 18-wheeler.
From previous posts, there have been questions about the weight of this vehicle. To set this issue to rest, Mike pulled a weigh bill from his file that showed the weight at just under 22,000lbs.
If you are seriously looking for an expedition vehicle like Earthroamer or Unicat then you should definitely make the trip to visit Mike. For such a serious dollar investment, the cost of the trip would seem to be cheap.
Thank you Mike.