Turtle the Truck
from Fire Engine to Expedition Truck in 8 month
In 2011 my former girlfriend and I started a project which we called Turtle. As a lifetime dream of mine, Turtle was the quintessence of 30 years of motorised overland travel. The idea was to have a vehicle which could go everywhere, which had a range of at least 4000 kilometres and would be mostly self-sufficient. It should have a cabin on it where we could withstand harsh weather conditions and have the ability to carry all the gear for our outdoor activities like trekking, biking and kayaking. The name Turtle was chosen for three reasons, we wanted to travel slow, we wanted a little shelter for us like a turtle shell and lastly, I like turtles a lot.
We started the project in Germany because of a greater variety of used 4x4 trucks, it was also desirable to have a left hand drive vehicle for the purpose of worldwide travel. The drawback with Germany was the high costs of living and as an extension of that, the high prices for all the gear and equipment which went into Turtle.
After I finished the truck we went on a six month test drive through Europe and Morocco. The truck performed outstandingly well, unfortunatly our relationship not, the story in short, we split up, the truck was sold and the dream was over!
Facts about Turtle
Mercedes Benz 1222AF (12= gross weight) (22= 220 HP) (A=4WD) (F=Fire Engine)
year 1989, permanent 4WD, low range, central diff locker, diff locker at rear axle
Single wheels 365x85R20
Sandwich cabin from the Belgian army
200-300-400 litre Diesel fuel tanks
500 litre freshwater tank
85 litre greywater tank
2 LPG Gas bottles -14kg each
Gas hot water boiler, oven, hub
3x210amp batteries, 700W solarpanel, pure sine inverter, charger for land power
Sink, shower, water purification system, Thedford Toilet
4kw diesel airheather, woodfire stove
45 litre fridge, 35 litre deep freezer
The result was exactly what we wanted but the way to it was a hard one! I worked eight months full time on the truck, all in all it took us one year from buying the fire engine to completing it as an expedition vehicle. The cost for the whole project in the end had doubled from the estimated cost which was a big shock. The calculation for the bigger parts was straight forward, the difficulty was in calculating the little pieces which add up in a way you can't imagine.
In the end we had a purpose built vehicle which cost about of a quarter million Euro if you bought it from an established manufacturer. The biggest advantage of building it myself was that I knew the truck in and out and so no surprises in the middle of nowhere – I know how to fix it, a great plus in the safety aspect for the way we travel.
Would I do it again?
NO, the truck had cost us a little fortune in hard money, many sleepless nights, nerves, and more importantly to me, it had cost me a valuable year of my life in a dark barn.
The conversion in Pictures