Once we’d decided to overland the Americas, it didn’t take long for us to determine that a Mitsubishi Delica would be the vehicle for us. We knew this four wheel drive Japanese passenger van, stock with good clearance and a narrow body could take us where we’d want to go. We wouldn’t be restrained from goat-worthy trails or left turning around at the sight of narrow colonial city laneways, and, fuelling up wouldn’t empty our savings accounts! We opted for the PF6W with a longer body, more headroom and a gas engine which, unlike the diesel option, is also used in a long list of other vehicles. Worst case scenario (and I mean worst) we should be able to repair or replace en route. However, any other van parts would need to be brought in from Aus or the UK. Not ideal, but worth it to us to have such a capable rig.
With about the same interior space of a Westy, we knew personal space would be at a minimum and each square inch would need to be well planned. Penny would have her work cut out for her taking this seven passenger van and converting it into our home on wheels. But then, I had my work cut out for me, too, taking it from street legal to expedition ready. And, since this van had been neglected in a Japanese parking lot for who knows how long, we would replace all the parts we anticipated would fail (most) as well as fit it out with accessories like a snorkel, flood lights, alarm, kill switch, CB radio, solar panel, sound system… the list goes on.
Now that we’ve been on the road for some time we’ve seen folks in all types of vehicles: unimog troop haulers turned home-on-wheels, Toyotas with pop tents, Fords with truck-campers, Chevy vans, converted Land Rovers, school buses, old-school Volkswagen vans and of course, the classic Westy. Overlanders love looking at other peoples rigs and sharing stories about their own custom build out; What works, what doesn’t and ideas on how to make them more efficient, either with space or fuel.
Looking for your own rig? Here are our simple tips to you:
- Determine early on what you will use the vehicle for and what are your top priorities (ie: off-road capabilities, living/working space, storage, security, etc.),
- Find a vehicle with readily available parts or bring spares (regardless, always bring spares),
- Choose a vehicle you know well, get to know it before you hit the road, or, budget for mechanics. Even the best rigs need TLC on the road.
Sometimes we really wish we had more living space and we always wish we had more sleeping space. We envy those who have beds or kitchens that don’t require setting up and putting away at the beginning and end of each day. But, often those with these luxurious beds and built-in kitchens are envious that we can park in that soft sand, mob up the muddy mountain, or meander through colonial cities. Ultimately, our rig is exactly what we wanted and with some careful planning you will find the right solution for you, too.