[thechat] More Big Truck Stuff!

Luther, Ron Ron.Luther at hp.com
Mon May 1 16:03:30 CDT 2006

Hi Gang,

More on the big truck saga ...

** About the current owner**
I spent about three hours with Axel Sunday morning, videotaping instructions for Kristján until the batteries on the borrowed videocam died, gabbing, and futzing about looking over the truck ... then my wife called and I had to run off to watch my grandson's T-ball game.  ;-)

I'll work with my wife's son tonight or tomorrow night to download the video (I hope it came out okay) and burn it to a DVD or a VHS tape.

Some info about Axel may help put the truck and it's capabilities in better perspective. Axel is an older guy who has been traveling around the world for 30 to 35 years.  (He's been everywhere ... driven twice around Australia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Singapore, Tibet, Arctic Circle, Baja, Central and South America, Indonesia, Bali, Patagonia ...) He showed me a magazine with a picture of *this* truck on Easter Island. He's also had about 8 or 9 of these RV kinds of vehicles ... So I really get a sense here that he has taken all of his experience and built this truck to 'correct' everything he didn't like about the earlier vehicles (including a Mog).  

{Axel commenting on a $150,000 standard US RV -- "Piece of crap!  All plastic and glue!"}  ;-)

Since Axel has spent so much time traveling in remote areas he is very conscious about safety and maintainability. The vehicle reflects that.  There is no 'engine management computer' to break down and leave you stranded. (Apparently he had a friend (with a newer Mog maybe?) who had the computer die.  The friend emailed Mercedes and the news went from bad ($6,000 for the replacement computer) to worse (exactly one shop in the world who could program the thing after installation - in Hamburg). Ouch!! [1]) So everything on this beastie is as manual and serviceable as possible.

He also has very nearly enough spare parts to build a second truck!  His philosophy seemed to be that if he needed a new part he would buy three - one to install, one to keep as a spare, and a third to keep as a spare to the spare.  [No. I'm not fooling - the truck comes with THREE glass coffeepots for the coffeemaker ... just in case!]  ;-)

Oh!  Axel's hobby is collecting antique cars.  [Apparently owning a bunch of paid-off and fully occupied residential and commercial real estate allows you to do things like that!]  He bought nine in Montevideo a year and a half ago, still waiting for delivery of the last two.  [The '29 Chevy convertible sounded like a spectacular restoration BTW!]  He owns the only Model T in Romania ... so the guy is probably a bit handy and knows a bit about vehicle maintenance and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, and he definitely has opinions about how he wants things done.

He seemed kinda picky about, when given a choice between the $500 gizmo that worked and the $1500 gizmo that worked, but was also better for the environment - spending the extra money.  A good guy.

Unfortunately, he and his wife have been having health issues so they may be finished with this kind of traveling.  So he is selling the truck.

** About the Truck **
Okay, my bad again, it's not a Mog.  Apparently that is a good thing.  Mogs are smaller, (?!), more expensive, and tougher to get parts for. [Since they were military vehicles not actually sold through the MB showrooms you can't just walk into an MB dealership and get spare parts.]

Nope.  Despite the height.  Despite the four wheel drive.  Despite the lack of any respectable Can-Am wing.  And in spite of the total lack of anything even remotely resembling a Gulf Oil paint scheme ... this is a 917!

[Okay. Maybe it's not *my* idea of a German engineered 917, but hey, it is what it is!]

That makes it bigger than a Mog.  Moreover, this is no ordinary 917, this is the specialty 'fire truck' version of the chassis.  That actually does mean something ... all these trucks have air brakes, so when you shut down the system depressurizes and the brakes lock - the normal truck has a two something system that takes a few minutes to come back up to pressure when you start the truck before you can move.  The fire truck version has a three something system, so while two depressurize, the third stays charged with enough oomph to unlock the brakes and get you moving quickly ... just the thing when the restless natives try to corner you for your last rice crispie squares!

* I've driven a few diesel pickups here in the States.  You insert the key, turn halfway, wait 10 to 30 seconds for the light to come on indicating that the 'glow plugs' have warmed up, then you start it.  Not this truck!  It starts like a gas vehicle - turn the key and it starts.  [Now, unless it's an emergency, you ought to let the big girl warm up a bit before punching it ... But if it _was_ an emergency you do have that option!] 

* The 917 has a 'nekker knob' on the steering wheel. [2]

* The tire pressure monitoring system is more than just that. Driver side dash shows three gauges.  From left to right I believe they are 'front tire pressure', 'right rear pressure', 'left rear pressure'. [The installer wired the left and right rear gauges backwards like that.]  Along the passenger side floorboards there are three knobs that allow you to deflate the tires (for driving on sand or soft mud) or to re-inflate them when you get back to a road.  All self-sufficient!  Pretty neat.

* There is an altimeter in the gauge cluster.  [Axel had special 'high altitude' diesel injectors installed (in Venezuela?) in order to drive in the mountains.  He has had the vehicle up to 16,000 foot and it drove just fine.]

* There are front/rear and left/right 'artificial horizon' gauges to show you the attitude of the beast.  [Beware - apparently it topples if you exceed 38 degrees in left/right attitude differential.]

* It has a $1600 hospital grade water purification system that uses a silver ion filter.  The filter is pretty new and should last 5 years.  Silver ions kill the hepatitus virus.  The filtered drinking water is very clean!  ;-)

* The fridge was installed in Eureka, California.  Apparently there is still one free service call available on the warranty if you get out that way.

* The beast is wired up for 12 volt, 24 volt, 110, and 220.  So you can pretty much run anything in it.

* There is an interesting connector to change to let you run the fridge off the motor instead of the generator while you are driving.

* The beast is wired up so nothing runs off the engine batteries when the engine is not running.  So you are not going to accidentally strand yourself watching TV all night.

* The TV is small, but it's one of those $1000 Grundig 'everywhere' sets and can handle NTSC, PAL, JIS, and whatever - so you can watch TV anywhere in the world ... Once you get the exterior antenna replaced. (The last one is sitting in a tree on a mountainside in Montevideo.)  Axel says to get the $90 cheapie at 'Camper World' [chain store for camping/RV supplies].  He says the more expensive one is more work since it is directional and you have to fiddle with it.

* Clean the solar panels once every 4 months.

* The 'big rig' air horn sounds great!  ;-)

* He bought the Yamaha scooter in Virginia.

* Oh! Those spare tires over the cab?  He says they weight about 750 pounds apiece.  I had been having bad thoughts about getting those things down.  There is a one-ton block and tackle stowed away.  You crane up one of the tires and that square frame assembly apparently has arms that fold out to the sides to let you gently lower the tires to the ground.  [You also use the block and tackle to get the scooter on and off the rack on the rear of the beast.]

What else?

* Oh.  The fridge was expensive (and well worth the extra cash).  It is incredibly quiet and will not disturb your sleep.

* Since everything is 'manual' you will need to take the time to do your routine maintenance, spraying everything with WD-40, making sure everything is clean and in working order.

* Once you get used to the idiosyncracies, (Axel laid out everything to suit himself), I think you will like the truck very much.  

* Oh, the shower head and hose, (yes - there is a spare tucked away), can be quick-connect removed and re-attached outside the vehicle.  Just the thing for rinsing off sand or mud before climbing inside!  [I've seen a number of boats with that feature - first time I've seen it on a truck. But then again, I haven't been RV shopping - maybe this is pretty standard.]

* There is a spare set of cannister air filters.  However, the air intake also has a cyclone filter you can empty every so often as well that should extend the life of the air filters.

* There are pretty much spare everythings ... Two 20 ton jacks, extra brake pads, extra brake springs, diesel filters, air connectors, air lines, electrical converters, etc.

* Oh, there is a 2 Kilowatt diesel generator stowed away.  It has an adjustment for outputting 110 or 220.  You probably want to use a meter to check it until you get comfortable with the settings.  It has about 50 meter of line so you can get a little distance from the noise.

* Tools, paint, sealants, manuals ... Pretty cool.

* The wire to the light inside the oven may have been broken when the fridge was installed, but it sounded like the oven (marine grade) worked just fine.

Oh ... To Kristján I say ... "Nice Truck, Dude!!"   ;-)



[1] I'm not sure if it was a continuation of the same story or not but Axel has a buddy with a Mog for sale.  It sounded like he had it up around Vancouver asking $650,000 ... But it didn't sell, so now it's back in Europe and offered for 500,000 Euro or something like that.

[2] Axel was under the impression that these were now illegal in the US.  I dunno about that.  I kinda thought that between the increased popularity of bucket seats and mandatory seat belt laws they simply went out of favor - but I suppose there could be a law somewhere about them.

More information about the thechat mailing list