This truck was inspired by the Turtle Expedition (a round the world expedition truck with dozens of high-dollar sponsors). I wanted a rig that can travel just about anywhere, set up camp and live comfortably for a week or more and get you back. I wanted the simplest, most reliable diesel made. It needed to run on whatever fuel was available, have considerable range, and have good parts and mechanic availability. I chose the hammer-reliable 7.3 IDI diesel
. In 2004 I replaced all 8 injectors for less cost than 1 Powerstroke injector! I don't like modified engines. I don't like sacrificing reliability. These motors routinely make it to 500,000 miles. I use diesel additive with every tank to lubricate the new injector pump and keep things moving with the new low-sulfur diesel.
Expeditions or hunting trips mean lots of gear. After months of searching, I found a Koenig utility bed in great shape. Huge lockable storage bins hold camping gear, clothes, extra fluids and tools. Each family member has their own personal storage locker. One of the side bins has a fold down door that is the perfect height for a camp stove, so it has become the kitchen. The bed is attached at 3 points so the frame can flex as it was designed to. Built in jacks let you drop the bed/camper if you want to stay for an extended period.
My dad was always angry on camping trips and after one trip with a pop-up trailer I knew why: those things are a real pain. I wanted a camper that was easy to set up and wouldn't take up space when I wasn't using it, but still sleep my family of four. I located this slide-in camper with a pop-up top. At first I was skeptical, but I swear the thing is bigger on the inside than the outside. The roof is 6'4" when elevated
, and drops down low profile for travel. Here's how easy it is to put up: Flip down 4 latches, hop inside, turn the crank and push up the roof. You're home! A full sized bed fills the cabover section. A sofa bed lines the side under the window. Both fit six-footers easily. It has a big water tank, a small chemical toilet (that I put in just for girl emergencies and have never used), plenty of storage space for food storage. A huge cooler fits under the bed. Nobody likes to sleep in the heat, so I installed an air conditioner. You'll need blankets in August. In winter a small electric or gas space heater will keep things toasty on the coldest nights. All electrical is powered an extension cord to a plug or generator outside. The camper has jacks so you can slide it out of the bed and use it as a heavy duty work truck if needed.
While off-road capable, the rig had to be able to pull highway speeds and get decent mileage. Fully loaded weighs about 10,000 lbs. I cruise at 70 MPH and get 14 MPG. The dual tanks put the range right at 500 miles
. That takes me from Austin to New Orleans, or Roswell, New Mexico without stopping.
I chose the 5 speed manual transmission
, manual locking hubs
, and solid axles front and rear
. Strong and simple. At flat highway speeds 5th gear pulls 1600-1800 rpm. If it's hilly or I'm bucking a serious headwind, I use 4th and hold 70mph at about 2100 rpm.
The 4 door is roomy enough for 6. The kids enjoy all the room in that big back seat and nobody has to climb over seats.
"What kind of tires are those?' I get that a lot. I wanted improved ground clearance and a smoother ride off road, so I picked Michelin 1100R16 XL military tires. The choice of Canadian loggers because of its durability and traction in mud, the tires are 10.9" wide and 38.7" tall with a Load Range E rating (5766lbs at 50psi) These are also the tires used on the Stryker APC, so yes, they are tough. Surprisingly no lift was required. Approaching full lock they do touch the leaf springs. I just don't turn that sharp.
A friend of mine hit 2 deer within a mile one night. To keep the Hill Country critters out of the radiator, I installed an extreme duty pre-runner style custom bumper. It holds a 100 psi air supply with gauge and quick connect, has 4 off-road lights, and makes a handy place to stand to check the oil. The rear bumper holds the spare (I have two) on a swingout carrier. The tire carrier is the only feature I would design differently. A Class III hitch rides underneath, should you need to tow a trailer.
Miles: I bought this truck at 220,000 highway miles. It now has right at 250,000
and is still running strong.
Oil: Delo 400
Diesel Additive: Stanadyne
Recently serviced AC holds charge, but isn't cooling.
Cruise control isn't working
Left front locking hub sticky (likes to stay engaged)
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