Previous Next

Photo: James Laurence Stewart / Feature photo: helena.40proof

You’ve done planes ‘n’ trains. How about automobiles? Here are some of the coolest campers you’ve never heard of.

I’ve made two lengthy European road trips in a campervan and one thing is clear: there’s no better way to travel. It’s your hostel and transportation all rolled up in one, and it gives you the freedom to go where you want, whenever you want.

“…there’s no better way to travel. It’s your hostel and transportation all rolled up in one, and it gives you the freedom to go where you want, whenever you want.”

In fact, my wife and I will tour Australia for at least six months in a campervan. In Europe we had Ford Transits which we bought already camperized.

Here, in Oz, we’ve purchased a ’94 Mitsubishi Delica — a rugged 4×4 van that has drawn comparisons to the A-Team’s ride. We’re gonna need a bad-ass vehicle where we’re headed.

There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty, so we’re custom camperizing it ourselves. You’re welcome to follow along at I am S.A.M. the Van.

While researching ideas — for slick James Bond-ish gadgets that pop out at you from where you least expect it — I stumbled upon some sweet set-ups and inspiring stories at the Self Build Motor Caravanning Club.

I’ve done the digging. All you have to do is scroll down the page and feast your eyes on some of the coolest campers you never knew existed.

Japanese Two-Story Van

This is the sickest camper I’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder the Japanese are world leaders in auto engineering. Over two years, three highschool mates built a freakin’ two-story house on a truck, complete with shoji (Japanese traditional screen) and tatami mat.

The best part is, none of them are carpenters or engineers, giving the rest of us some hope.

Between 2000 and 2002, they traveled over 25,500 kms around Japan in the “house-mobile”. You gotta see it to believe it.

The UK Unimog

Stephen Stewart’s travel beginnings go back to an 18-month stint in the late ’60s as a mission hospital mechanic in South Africa. For his return trip home to the UK, he did what any normal person would have done: he got his hands on a Land Rover, drove north to Kenya, shipped the vehicle to India and cut a trail through the central mountains in Afghanistan.

In 2000, Stephen bought his 1980 Unimog U1300L and spent about a year camperizing it. He then proceeded to take it to China and Tibet, northern Europe and Iceland, Siberia and Mongolia, and Central and South America.

He has since upgraded to a 2005 MAN Bimobil EX480, which he took to Scotland and Iceland last year. The ol’ Unimog is having a siesta down in Spain. His website has loads of information and is well worth a peruse.

Stephen’s also written a guide for those with a desire to follow in his footsteps. If you want to tackle a project like this, check out this site.

London Double Decker

Project: To convert an ex-London Transport double-decker bus into a motorhome for 2 families and a disabled child with complex medical needs.

This ambitious project started with the purchase of a 1985 MCW metrobus. You don’t just walk down to the local car dealership and pick one of these babies up. After much Google-ing, one was located in southern England. Steve flew to Stansted airport to pick it up and drove it nine hours home.

The camper construction includes an upper deck bathroom, four bunks, a fully equipped kitchen, computer workstation, and inverters and generators for all the electrical needs.

The most important bit was the special needs area, which contained a special bed, shelf for medical equipment, and an oxygen machine. Scott’s neurological condition left him unable to walk, talk or consciously coordinate movements. He was tube-fed and relied on an oxygen supply for periods of time.

Sadly, Scott passed away November 30, 2007. In early 2008, the family made a big tour of Scotland in his memory.

It all starts with a vision

Do these customized campers rev your engine? There’s no reason why you can’t customize your own ride for a big road trip.

If you’d like to know more about taking your wheels to places like China, Mongolia, and South America, check out The Silk Route Motor Caravan Network.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION:

If you do decide to hit the open road, don’t forget the music. Cedric Pieterse has some good reasons why you shouldn’t.

Camping

 

About The Author

Carlo Alcos

Carlo is the Dean of Education at MatadorU and a Managing Editor at Matador. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He lives in Nelson, British Columbia.

  • http://www.collazoprojects.com Julie

    I did many campervan trips with my family as a kid. You’ve just convinced me that it would be worth it to try out campervans as an adult–these are great stories.

  • http://thetravelersnotebook.com David Miller

    great piece, but where’s a shot of the delica?!

  • http://wayworded.blogspot.com/ Hal

    yeah, Carlo, bring on the self-portrait!

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/vagabonderz Carlo Alcos

    He’s too naked and shy right now…give him a few months and he’ll be ready for the world! :)

  • http://matadorlife Tom Gates

    The Japanese camper is FREAKING ME OUT. Wow.

  • http://craig.mars-hill.co.nz Craig

    I love the Kiwi “spaceships” that float around. They look like a people-mover, act like a camper van. Brilliant.

    http://www.spaceshipsrentals.co.nz/

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/vagabonderz Carlo Alcos

    Tom: I know.
    Craig: Thanks for the link! I’ll go check that out. May get some ideas for our van…

  • http://www.artromick.com/ Artromick

    Your London Double Decker project was really just.. Wow. Did you also install all the medical equipments there. Must have taken months to make this. I would like to have one but more like a luxury Cruise liners

  • http://www.bajatrek.com N Emey

    Great project! You should check out Baja Trek at http://www.bajatrek.com. It’s also an interesting Hostel on Wheels concept. Cheers!

  • Rachel Maer

    Haha, this article was great! One of my coworkers and I have an obsession with tricked-out vans/campers/trailers.. he lives in a pop-up tent on top of his Land Rover during the summers and I live in a van which I added some personal touches to. I’m starting to feel a little inferior here with my van only being story tall!

  • http://www.camperbug.co.uk/campervan/Berkshire VW Campervan Hire

    I particularly like the look of the 1985 MCW metrobus conversion. I am just wondering how long the project took and what the cost was. I don’t think I could afford it myself, but what a vision. Fantastic pictures, especially the one of Scott. Well done.

  • http://www.camperbug.co.uk VW Campervan Hire

    This is quite a handy piece of work if you are interested in Campervans, which I am. Well worth keeping an eye on. Give us more photo’s if you can please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Atiq-Alam/100003649685502 Atiq Alam

    There are a site about campervan hire where you can get enough as you want.
     Berkshire vw  campervan hire

  • Atiq Alam

    I like this post very much, You have defined it very simply for so I
    understand what you say, In this post your writing level is also excellent to
    us. This is great issue you have done on this topic really very well. Regards  best exercise to lose weigh

My first experience cramping up mountain biking was met with a slimy ziplock bag of...
Deserts are full of interesting plants and animals, and their big, dramatic vistas always...
Stepping onto a trail with everything you need provides a unique kind of freedom.
Novelty is around every curve in the trail.
Mike Corey camps inside the Great Wall of China.
The top of the world, the Arctic is both beautiful and deadly.
This I know: Instructions are for suckers.
MatadorU students Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbels line out 5 spots to pitch primitive...
I've learned more about camping from surf-trips than anything else. The reason is simple:...
These five functional and sustainable housing units provide direct access to nature.
How you pack food can make all the difference once you're miles into the wilderness.
Wintertime invites travel and exploration throughout the desert Southwest, but heads up:...
To help people, empower them and support them to find answers for themselves.