After more hours of research than I care to think about I had settled on the following (vital) criteria for the vehicle that was going to carry us around the world:
- Under 3.5 tons
enough space to comfortably live in (just)
Simple Diesel Engine (minimal electronics)
Once those as a minimum set of criteria were established, the much much harder part was finding something that would satisfy those very specific needs.
the list of candidates were;
Iveco Daily 4×4
VW LT 4×4
VW T3 Syncro
Toyota Land Cruiser with Camper Conversion
Land Rover defender 130 Ambulance
Due to my ridiculously specific set of requirements, it was more a case of what, from that list was available, in decent condition and within our budget.
First up on the market was a fully expedition prepared VW LT 4×4, for sale in Rural Bavaria. After a few difficult phone calls I was on a plane and after 16 hours of travel i had arrived to see it. Much to my disappointment, the guy had advertised it using pictures taken what must have been several years before and there was no way that I would have been able to afford the work that would have needed done to it. Back to the UK I went.
Second was an Iveco Daily 4X4, this time for sale in the UK, a massive advantage. For Sale after proving itself on a trans African tour and with all kinds of goodies, I was pretty sure that this was the one. Unfortunately, as soon as I saw it, i knew it was not for me,Ii could immediately see the amount of filler in the bodywork, rust on the chassis and the DIY fit out that had been made of the interior, and raised Fiberglass roof. This vehicle had made it through Africa once, it did not look like it stood a chance of doing so again.
The Third Vehicle I set my sights on was a VW T3 Syncro. This one was for sale in Madrid, and as soon as I saw it I fell in love. I took it for a test drive, talked through the parts of it with the owner and agreed a sale. I was to return in a week with the money and drive it away. I returned to Madrid a week later, but unfortunately, was unable to contact the man whom I had agreed the purchase with. I stayed an impromptu 24 hours in Madrid and left (I was eventually contacted to apologise, but by this time I had returned home and already wasted hundreds of Pounds trying to complete the purchase.
The positive that came out of the Madrid experience, however, was that i was now sure that the Syncro was the vehicle for me. It was then just a matter of waiting until an appropriate on become available online (and this time in the UK).
The reason that the syncro was so prefect, was that it had more interior space than the other candidates, while being smaller and much lighter, meaning it would outperform the others off road, while being more comfortable to live in. This, coupled with its simplicity, its worldwide part availability (at least for the engine) and the wide range of camper specific products (Pop-tops, interiors etc) meant it was ideal for our needs and regrettably what we should have been looking for from the start.
In March this year (2014), a beaten, rusted LHD 1984 German Import VW T3 Syncro came up for sale down in Surrey.
I now call it home.