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Book review - Motorhome self-build and optimisation

02-May-2017

‘One thousand tips and tricks for anyone wanting to build a motorhome or optimise an existing vehicle.’ 

This hefty, 480-page tome, written by German traveller, Ulrich Dolde, is as thorough an explanation of the issues involved with such projects as you’d expect from a native of this highly technical nation.

It’s no theoretical exercise, however, because many of the illustrations, plans and photographs are of Ulrich and wife Edith’s own motorhome.

The Doldes, like most Europeans, opted for a medium-sized 4WD truck as the basis for their motorhome. Their choice was a used 914 Mercedes-Benz and in Daimler-speak the ‘9’ means nine tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM) and the ‘14’ is short for 140hp.

Ulrich’s book starts with used vehicle selection for European motorhome builders, so, unfortunately, many of his suggestions are irrelevant for Australian builders. However, some are available here, including ex-Australian Army Unimogs, a few cab-over-engine (COE) Mercedes-Benz trucks similar to Ulrich’s 914, some MAN, Iveco and Magirus COEs.

Australian motorhome builders in the 7-9 tonnes GVM weight class have a more likely choice of used Japanese 4x4 trucks: mainly Isuzu’s FSS Series.

Below that weight, in the 4.5-7.5 tonnes GVM class there’s a wider choice of used Isuzu NPS 300 and Fuso Canter models.

Much of the subsequent bodywork and equipment fitout is as relevant to these vehicles as it is to Ulrich’s European list. However, Australian motorhome builders need to be aware that European permissible axle weights are much higher than ours and there is, as yet, no Japanese 4x4 truck with factory-fitted single wheels front and rear.

Can we suggest you check out the article on the Outback Travel Australia website: http://www.outbacktravelaustralia.com.au/buyers-guide-4x4-motorhome/a-diy-campervan-or-motorhome-april-2016 that has more information for Australian motorhome builders.

Armed with this info you’ll be able to judge the local legality of Ulrich’s building and optimisation guide.

Following vehicle selection Ulrich considers the types of bodywork (called ‘cabin’ in his text) and delves into sub-frame issues, rust treatment and weight distribution.

Then it’s detail time: colour scheme, fixing methods, doors, windows, skylights, hatches, electrical installation, plumbing, gas system, heating and furniture building.

We can’t think of anything he’s missed and although the plumbing, gas and electrical installation regulations are different from ours, this book is one of the best DIY instruction manuals we’ve come across.

More info at www.selfbuildmotorhome.com.au and the book has an ISBN number 978-3-9818553-1-9.