Expedition Vehicle selection thoughts?

Zybane

Member
I'm looking for a self sustaining rig to explore North America. Fitting in shipping containers isn't a concern for me, but I'd like to keep the vehicle 25 feet or less in length. The budget would be $250,000. I am not at all opposed to a good quality used unit.

The requirements:

1. Really good off-road 4x4, rear and front locking differentials, winch, decent approach/departure/breakover angles, 3 point camper mount etc.
2. Have or be able to be modded for large solar+lithium battery bank. Electricity the main power source.
3. Bellow/portal access from cab to camper.
4. Large freshwater/grey tanks, cassette or composting toilet, large diesel fuel tank(s).
5. Must be 0F to 110F capable. Double pane windows, interior or heated tanks and lines. Air conditioning and heater systems that are commensurate with these temps.
6. Parts have to still be available.
7. A vehicle cab that you don't have to put ear plugs in at 65 MPH and doesn't beat you to death.
8. If foreign, must be left hand drive and registerable in the US.

I've been checking Unicat and Expedition truck brokers but haven't found anything that meets my needs yet. What route would you take for $250K?
 

Siberian888

New member
Zybane, vehicle for how many people? If you dont want too large a vehicle a good option for North America would be a new RAM 3500 Laramie Chassis Cab, fully upgraded for offroad, with an XPCamper V1 camper on it. From your list you would not get the pass through, but you would have money left over.
 

Grenadiers

Adventurer
Don't get a military vehicle conversion if you value your hearing! However, they make a great platform for everything that you have listed. We remodeled a Saurer 6dm, a very large Swiss military truck conversion. Have about 66 grand into it! The previous owners spent the big bucks, painting the truck, adding the cabin, adding everything else. So, buying someones project/truck is one way to go. You've checked the sites we first went to, and there's one more in Europe we looked at, https://www.mobile.de/. You can select 'english' as your language when searching.

Not sure if this is still for sale, but on a Stewart & Stevenson platform: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/176304-Expedtion-Vehicle-Trucky-McTruckface?p=2360562#post2360562

Also, quite a few S&S trucks for sale, check searchtempest.com to find them. A M1083, 6x6 in Lena, WI is a great platform to start. Same length as a M1088, but with a flatter bed to start with. Spendy though.

I'd go to the Expo in Flagstaff, AZ this May and see if there is anything there for sale, or just for ideas. Last year, a guy was selling his Unicat for around 350K I think. Same one that's been on Expedition Truck Brokers for a long time. Good luck! We're happy with our Saurer, since it does what we wanted. Have had RV's, truck camper, tents, and this one combines all three. You can sit in there and not feel like you have to go outside as you do with an RTT, or tent.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
For a great expedition vehicle with a budget of $250K I suggest you look at purchasing a used Robinson Air helicopter that has plenty of room for camping supplies and purchase a good tent. You can then go ANYWHERE you want to explore in North America with this "Rig"!
 
Consider a remanufactured Steyr 12M18 by excap.de with a Krug cabin. A previous forum poster is doing just that and $250k is about what it cost. US registerable.
 

DCGibbs

Observer
Zybane,
The conundrum that you have posted, has multiple failures, because either the Truck does not exist or the Cabin doesn't. I've been at this also 30 years. First camper with built,
was on a Turbo-charged Toyota LandCruiser. Last Camper was mounted to a 98 Stewart–Stevenson LMTV.
The requirements:
1. Really good off-road 4x4, rear and front locking differentials, winch, decent approach/departure/breakover angles, 3 point camper mount etc.
“Really good Off-road 4X4” are built… You could have 100K into the Chassis alone. Mercedes and Toyota have factory installed lockers, but you can't mount a descent size Cabin on it. The FUSO/Canter would have to have custom Lockers installed. A CabOver would give you good Approach, cabin design can give you good departure. The 3 point mounts are solid.
2. Have or be able to be modded for large solar+lithium battery bank. Electricity the main power source.
This needs to be balanced. With a Diesel Truck, you can purchase diesel fueled Stove, Fridge, Heater and generator.
3. Bellow/portal access from cab to camper.
This goes back to the Truck (CabOver) and Cabin designs.
4. Large freshwater/grey tanks, cassette or composting toilet, large diesel fuel tank(s).
What is “Large” to you? 20 gal, 300, 50 etc.
5. Must be 0F to 110F capable. Double pane windows, interior or heated tanks and lines. Air conditioning and heater systems that are commensurate with these temps.
“Most US Rec Mfg are 3 season, to have a Cabin that can be camped in at zero degrees, you're leaning to custom built”
6. Parts have to still be available.
7. A vehicle cab that you don't have to put ear plugs in at 65 MPH and doesn't beat you to death.
8. If foreign, must be left hand drive and registerable in the US.
This last 3 points are all tied together. If you import, the vehicle starts out at 25 years old, most likely would have to be seriously modified to reach your requirements of point 1. Gearing, Insulation, and Sound dampening, as well as Tires can deal with the Highway speeds and the noise factor.
What you want, does not exist here in the states, you're going to have to Build It, or Re-build it. We are headed down to the Overland Expo in May to see what's new. I'd really like to see BiMobil open a USA office; Great Cabins mated to a Custom Fuso/Canter would be a win-win.

DCG
 

Zybane

Member
Thanks for the replies guys. It does seem like what I am looking for may have to be a custom build, but of course the price can skyrocket on custom stuff pretty quick. I may have to bump up to spending $300K. I know that still isn't much in the world of $1 Mil+ expedition vehicles. But I'm also not looking for some behemoth and good used is acceptable.

Some more info and answers to questions:

1. I forgot to mention it's just me and my German Shepherd. Don't need a large bed, extra beds etc. Can get by with a twin sized bed.
2. Anyone have any experience with purchasing something in Europe and having it shipped to the states? What kind of shipping costs/registration issues are we talking about from Europe to the US? Would I be able to deduct the 20% VAT that I normally see when I buy European products? I'd imagine I'd pay taxes here in the US - import duties and then state taxes at registration?
3. I'm pretty busy so probably wouldn't want to purchase an unfinished project build. Either a complete used vehicle, a complete new vehicle, or have one built.
4. I'll be moving to Saudi Arabia this summer, so I could have an entire year for the vehicle to be built while I am away.
5. Like someone posted above, not really interested in military vehicles. I've driven/rode in them enough to know they are too loud and rough for me. I like my vehicles as quiet as possible. This kinda leads me down the path of modern diesel pickup trucks, but I haven't seen a heavy duty pickup truck that has both front and rear locker options. I have a Power Wagon now which has front and rear lockers, but in no way has the capacity for a camper on the back.
6. I know Unimog's and small MAD's have the off-road capabilities I seek. But it gets a little dicey on the other requirements, and these are generally more expensive trucks.
7. I forgot to mention another problem I am running into is camper height. I'm 6'4" (193 cm) so really would like a ceiling height of 6'6" (198 cm). This eliminates quite a few habitats.
8. I may have to fly out to overland expo. Is there usually a lot of used rigs for sale?
9. Would you guys recommend not purchasing something before my 1 year over seas? I was debating if it was smart to buy now and store, or use that entire year to search. I know sometimes time can be your friend when searching for something in particular.
10. I'll look into excab.de and krug, looks like nice stuff. Are you sure those items are in my budget? Usually German stuff is real nice quality but also pricey. Especially when the Euro is strong.
11. The linked Fuso EarthCruiser would be in contention if it didn't have such small fresh water storage (40 gal) and wasn't a pop-up. I cannot do pop-up.
12. I'm thinking more like 100 gal's of fresh water and 80 gal of diesel.
13. Sprinter? ;)
14. I could live with some diesel appliances. But I heard you want to avoid those diesel stoves as they take forever to heat up and dump a lot of heat in the cabin?
15. The more I research I think the compromises are leading me down the used Earthroamer or Tiger Siberian area. So far I think I can get a front locker for the F550 on front Dana 60 but the rear would remain limited slip (super singles) since no one makes lockers for those beefy rear axles. A F550 wouldn't be the best for off-road but it does have the benefit of Kelderman air suspensions and auto-leveling. Plus modern pickup trucks have probably the most quiet/comfy interiors. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think you can get a front locker on anything Fuso based.

Any thoughts?
 
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Zybane

Member
Oh sweet, so a locking front and rear diff can be had on a Fuso? Maybe an EarthCruiser FXX is in contention then.

BTW can someone answer me a question; why do virtually all expedition vehicles use AGM batteries? Besides cost, lithium batteries are so incredibly superior in every way.

And checking a lot of used expedition vehicles for sale, they have asking prices of basically or close to what a new one would cost. Are these just wishful thinking prices or is it one of those things that you knock off 20% right of the bat type deals?
 

Grenadiers

Adventurer
On batteries, check out this section: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/forums/48-Power-Systems-12v-Solar-Gen Some of the posters speak in 'algorithms', so to speak, so the level of conversation can reach beyond one's pay grade rather quickly~!

You'll find many articles debating which batteries to purchase. One school of thought is to buy the cheapest as you might end up replacing them every so often. And that depends on your level of expertise on taking care of the batteries. Which means, how often the batteries are discharged, to what level, etc. AGMs are nice, I have four Lifeline GPL-4D in series for 24v and 420ah; and they're stored 'indoors' so to speak, under our bed; which is a benefit of AGM batteries. We have a 'garage' in the back of our Saurer build for tools, batteries, electrical boxes, charger, inverter, etc.

As far as prices, check out prices for the basics, like solar panels, batteries, chargers, etc. You'll find that your total costs for building an overland expedition vehicle is very expensive.
 

CampStewart

Observer
There are a number of builds on here based on F550 or box van chassis with commercial van boxes on the back converted to back country campers. Have you looked at them?
 
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