2016 – Servicing the Unimog:

She is back home – But it was an expense “Service”

We went up north to AV for her service and some cosmetics. The fuel lines were connected incorrectly and the dashboard electronics were playing up.

Changing the Crown & Pinion:

I have been thinking about adding the AV Overdrive but at a cost of over £5K this has been a dream way after adding may other things to the truck. So when presented with replacing just the Crown and Pinion and going to 24:11 we decided to take the plunge. The drive home has been impressive. Instead of running 2500rpm at 55mph we are now running 2200rpm at 60mph. Not saying it is much quitter in the cab but I can already count the fuel savings. I did push her slightly and she went to over 60mph much easier. However we are not speed freaks and the win for me is the fuel economy and reduced wear on the engine. The impact has also more gear usage. Which I think is good. At just over £2K it is a much cheaper option than the Overdrive option. Naturally the limitation is that you cannot “switch-off” this option. But as we are not planning heavy off-roading, this is not a loss for us. Still enough power left in the tank!

The Good and the Bad…

Replacing the Crown and Pinion requires removal of the rear axcel and in this process the rear diff was opened. The good was that the rear diff was a complete mess! Parts had already fused together and a delight of metal shavings were floating in the oil. The metal shavings had already been picked up earlier and so it was good to find the cause. I clearly would not have taken long for the diff to completely fail. AV had a second had part which we could use and as the entire system was already in pieces the time and effort was significantly less than if this would have been a roadside job somewhere in Morocco.

The bad continued: Once we put everything back together I.e. New Crown and Pinion and new (second hand) rear diff we clearly had a waterfall effect on the portal axels…. As the new ratio results in a faster cycle and the repaired diff results in a smoother flow, the rear right side portal suddenly started running and significantly hot temperatures. Frustrating as the cause was not clear.

We are now the proud owners of a Fluke 63 Max+ and were checking the temp more often than we did with either of our sons when they were born. The temp (measured form the front of the rear wheels were running at 54-57 degrees Celsius (129 – 135 Degrees Fahrenheit).

This resulted in us having to leave the Unimog and come back a week later…The children enjoyed the extra train ride but we did not enjoy the extra train ticket.

Credit the the AV guys- they decided to take the portal apart and found metal parts floating around (!!!) The top bearing in the portal had also warn down and the extra space was the cause of the increased heat. Clearly there had been earlier repairs as the inside casing was severely damaged. (I thank my previous owners (the UK Special Forces) for the quality (NOT) repairs made). AV again had a good second had portal casing at hand and the bearing was also replaced.

So after some further minor (!!) repairs we were on our way home:

  • (Front Torque Tube Gaiter was replaced;
  • New door seals were added;
  • Hand brake was replaced;
  • Power Steering belt was fixed and power steering was fixed;
  • O/S Drag link Boot was replaced and
  • O/S rear Half caliper was replaced.)

Although the above was not cheap  – REALLY  – most of the repairs had been long term failures rather than new so we are expecting a repeat only after another 24 years!!

Our drive home was pleasant and I did like the fact that the engine was running at 2200rpm and remained in the green rather than 2500 and in the red.

What is next? Some spray paining….. and we are still looking for a better fuel monitoring system.

Sand ladders – We stay with the classics

After much debating about the merits we have decided to stay with the classic design.

Bought them from a Romanian company. and Yes we decided Ambulance Orange would be a cool visibility colour as we are mounting them on the rear of the Unimog




Ambulance Orange it is!

Ambulance Orange it is!

Special Reinforced Design and 2 M long to fit on our rear which is 2,25m wide.

Special Reinforced Design and 2 M long to fit on our rear which is 2,25m wide.

Sand ladders - We stay with the classics


Unimogs are global – Here are my current four favourite Unimog Expedition Builder sites

There are many sites out there that tell you many things about Unimogs and where you can get great parts and core ideas. But as we have a specific goal in mind these four have been beyond valuable:

Atkinson Vos – UK



Unidan – Australian



4Ward4x4 – German



Elefant – Spanish



It is interesting that they are spread all over the world!

Building the Living space – Our Current Designs

Having limited space makes for heavy choices.

Having limited space makes for heavy choices.

A couple of principles:

  • Never loose the rear departure angle
  • Stay below 3,5 m
  • Put the wheels on the roof not hanging off the rear
  • Fuel is for driving and as little as possible else. – In Africa fuel is scarce so we only have exception (it is used in the boiler because it is such a great solution)
  • Gas is for cooking 0n – inside and out.
  • Batteries is for food storage.
I am sure everybody has different views and it will depend what you want to do that will drive you in different directions.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 12 13 14

Gas Architecture for the Camper

Cooking – We have designed the unit to have multiple fuels sources and so finally we have all the pieces to link up the gas which will be used for the stove (Dometic CC09 – 2-burner ceramic cooktop in Black ) and oven (Dometic SMEV F0311GT 30L Stainless Steel Oven & Grill – Bottom Hinged).

Firstly I have found it amazing how insular the camping world is. Everybody only follows the rules of the country and has no clue or support for products outside their own country. It seems that everybody who goes abroad just needs to figure it out for themselves. Products are badly designed and money is waisted.

The Yachting industry has been my saviour from this insular insanity!

Will Hayward from http://www.whayward.com/ has be a life saviour in products and in engineering advice – Great products and Great service.

The design starts with two Aluminium 11kg cylinders bought in Germany (www.reimo.com). They are contained in a box outside the living space between the wheels – drivers side. The 11kg is just the right size and the two weigh about 15kg less than the steel cylinders.

We expect the 22kg capacity to be ample for our needs.

Within the box which houses the cylinders there will be teh following architecture:

The cylinders are connected with a manual switch-over value via two 4417 High Pressure Stainless Steel Hoses. At the cylinder end we are using 4012 Left-hand Female Nut Cylinder Adaptor as default as they are the most widely used (UK, France, Holland, Belguim, Germany, Coatia and the Far East.)

However the adapters are designed to be easily removed and we carry a small set as back-up (e.g. 4011 Male POL (BSP) Cylinder Adaptor – commonly used in the UK) to allow for emergency switch-over to other country fittings.

From the manual switch-over we inserted a pressure gauge just to be able to help with fault identification.

The manual switch-over links into a universal regular (GasBOAT 4008 30mbar dual fuel regulator) ensuring we can deal with butane and propane if required and we ensured that the regulator fully conforms to EN 12864 annexM standard.

The universal regulator has a high pressure value which has a 4049 1/2″ brass hex nipple connected to a 4052 1/2″ brass T-joint which then allows for two 4053 1/2″ Test point with shut-off valves.

The one value has a permanent connection to an 2m 6015 BS3112 orange gas hose (8 mm internal bore) which will be used to connected to a 2 plate gas stove when we want to cook outside and one value will lead into the cab for internal cooking.



February 2014 – Part 2 Completed

This second run up to AV was to complete the bottom part of the build. To be honest we had not saved enough money to build the living space (cell) so we decided to complete everything else.

In saying “everything” I know in my hart there will never be an “everything” point but we believe (excluding the batteries that we would like to fit between the chassis bars and possible the spare alternator for charging the batteries, we would have covered all the points needed. We will only decide about power adjustments (e.g. injectors) once we have the cell added. The overdrive is still way to costly for the value it will bring.

The list was made up from things we needed to fix from the previous visit – You learn as you go… and build items we needed to complete.

Repairs & Fixes

  • Replace Battery Isolator Switch
  • Repair fuel gauges which were not working
  • Repair small rust spots on the top of the bonnet and drive side rear door
  • Check the radiator( Bolts on the grille are rubbing on the intercooler)
  • Cab tilting bracket needs adjusting
  • Fan belt tensioner rubbing on intake pipe
  • Full Oil & Oil filter service
  • Reverse light not working
  • Light dimmer switch
  • Check water pump (It was on the caution list)


  • Indicator protection
  • Side repeater protection
  • Bull bar
  • Superwinch TALON 18.OSR
  • AV Protection winch plate (Blue on Pics)
  • Front bumper section replace
  • Two HD recovery Shackle Brackets
  • Cab Protection bars / Brush bars
  • Roofrack & pulley system to store 2x spare tyres
  • Side market lights x2
  • Replace exhaust with perpendicular stainless steel exhaust
  • Add steel mesh over exhaust exit
  • Check exhaust connection rubbing against body
  • Extend the Chassis  / Bumper to full length
  • Add Trailer coupling (38mm Rockfinger) – For the trailer we will one day own…
  • Create rear recovery points for 12t shackles
  • Water tank for 150L fresh water
  • Rear power points extended and trailer breaking
  • Rims 2x to fit tyres provided
  • Build new smaller checker plate battery box to house batteries and move them to behind exhaust on passenger side
  • Add box in open space on driver side to house 2x 11kg propane gas canasters, with universal regulator and manula switchover.
  • Standard canvas frame & Canvas
  • Fuel tanks: Make the Cross over taps with removable leavers
  • Fit 3x door cup holders
  • Extend seat belt
  • Replace rear windows with sliding windows
  • Replace rear seating with “normal” back seating area (current back could double as full bed but was not a nice seating area and limited the rear window use)

And many many smaller items….ImageImage

February 2013 – Part 1 Completed

With minor adjustments the 1300L rear fitted perfectly.

With minor adjustments the 1300L rear fitted perfectly.

365 or stay with 395's? - In the end we stayed with the 395's. We will have to deal with the extra 15cm's in height later

365 or stay with 395’s? – In the end we stayed with the 395’s. We will have to deal with the extra 15cm’s in height later

PTO lubrication removed, Making space for future spare Alternator.

PTO lubrication removed, Making space for future spare Alternator.

Oil checks and metal scares but all seemed fine with only part repairs required

Oil checks and metal scares but all seemed fine with only part repairs required

Can Unimogs fly?

Can Unimogs fly?

Can Unimogs fly? All wheels removed, breaks and pads replaced and all seals checked and replaced where needed

Can Unimogs fly? All wheels removed, breaks and pads replaced and all seals checked and replaced where needed

Clearly the callipers had seen better days. Nearly all were locked and yet she was still driving!

Clearly the callipers had seen better days. Nearly all were locked and yet she was still driving!

Replace the battery box with Alu box and move to driver side to make space for the fuel tank

Replace the battery box with Alu box and move to driver side to make space for the fuel tank

White as we got her. Before the spray or Inter cooler and HD Radiator

White as we got her. Before the spray or Inter cooler and HD Radiator

After getting all the paperwork done we drove the Unimog up to Atkinson Vos. The drive up to High Bentham was exciting. It was my first long distance trip in a Unimog.

About 100miles into the trip the Unimog started losing power. I was gutted. How can such a beautiful beast not work! Luckily I had a spare fuel filter and tools – She had been parked for so long that the fuel had gone bad. A quick stop, some dirty hands and we were on our way again. From them on no more problems.

What I have learnt is that owning a Unimog is an expression of personal choices and then following through to live and enjoy those roads taken. So decided on a number of things to do and not to do is all optional.

The main drive to go to AV was that I needed somebody to ensure this Unimog was ready for Africa. So much of the repairs related to replacing the brakes, replacing many of the seals and rubbers, oils etc.

Making it Africa Ready:

  • Starter spinning not engaging – fit recon starter
  • 5-6 Gear light not working – repair
  • Rev counter back light not working
  • 4X4 & diff light not working
  • Bolt missing from snorkel
  • Fuel leak from around the filters
  • Filter head repalced with Standard head
  • No Marker lights on rear and no fog lights
  • All Pads and Discs replaced
  • All Calipers replaced
  • All Hub Oils & Seals checked and replaced where needed.
  • All Brake pipes & Breather pipes checked and replaced where needed
  • Fit all new belts
  • Fix Loose Injector Pipe Seals
  • Full service

Adding power:

  • Fit HD Radiator & Intercooler – Leave the option for upgrading injectors to later.
  • Replacing alternator with 110Amp output

Cosmetics were also looked at

  • Fit new mirros and adjust brackets
  • Fit new Mudguards
  • Repair Night Heater
  • Replace front door cards
  • Sound proofing Kit & Rear Mat
  • Fit 4x Seat belts
  • Fit 2x Headlight guards
  • Fit 6x Mich XZL 365/85R20 rims
  • Fit U1300L Rear body – This also gave us rear mudguards
  • Full repaint Including Body in Brilliant Silver
  • Fuel tank project: 2X ALI Tanks giving approx 600LTR capacity
  • 2X Manual Change over taps and switch to isolate each tank
  • Ali battery box & Tray for mounting
  • Move silencer to front

Other Actions to reduce weight and strategic options:

  • Remove Shaft, lubrication tank, Lever, PTO AIR SWITCH AND BLANK OFF – Decided to go for electric winch.
  • Remove “additional” gearbox – Not sure why it was there but weighing in at 150kgs it was removed.

Southampton Boat show

Some level of excitement today… For my birthday we went to have a wonder around the boat show. It is amazing how much overlap their is between things being waterproof and things needing to be dust proof. And given that boats are way more popular than 4×4 expedition trucks the volume of examples to be seem is much more.

We had a full day looking at:

  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Mastervolt power
  • Batteries
  • Solar panels
  • Mattress designs (Boat mattresses are design to cater for airflow so that mould does not form under them)
  • hard wearing clothing
  • gas connections – found a great universal regulator!
  • water tanks / fresh & grey

and so the day ended with many good ideas and much more reading material. It is amazing how much paper you collect walking through a show. A great visit and well worth a visit. We could have gone back for a second day!



So the decision has been made.

We sold our 5 80% 395 tyres and bought back 6 365 XZL Michelin tyres. 5 on rim and 1 spare.

In the end the extra 10-15cm height in the box was more important than the extra clearance on the road.

Now only to wait another 2 months before we see her again.

Ps still thinking about the overdrive and injectors…