We just finished a great 5-month Alaska/Canada arctic trip, and we are now putting our 1987 U1300L Unimog expedition truck up for sale. The trip was just what we hoped it would be, and the truck was perfect for the trip: it was super cozy and got us to places we wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise. Now that we are back, we have some new plans, so we are selling the truck.

Slowing down and exploring Alaska
Wabi-Sabi Overland Expedition Truck

We started building the truck in 2017 specifically for our summer 2019 trip. The truck really was awesome for the trip. We drove right at 12,000 miles and averaged 10.7 mpg. The truck will cruise at 60 mph, but we usually chose to cruise at 55 mph. The truck is California registered and titled as a diesel RV. The truck is super clean and we have done some recent upgrades. It is in excellent shape and ready to go on its next adventure. See below details for specifics and for serious inquiries, contact us at wabisabioverland (at) gmail (dot) com.

As we are both design engineers and have a lot of fabrication experience, we designed and built the truck ourselves. We spent a lot of time early in the project sketching, mocking up, CAD modeling, and designing all the components of the truck prior to starting fabrication.

Prior to building our habitat module, we spent a lot of time upgrading our base truck and modifying it for the habitat interface. The truck upgrade process was a significant portion of our project time. The modifications greatly improved the truck’s drive-ability, comfort, and highway performance. In addition to general mechanical upgrades, we fabricated a custom habitat subframe using parts of the original Mercedes Benz 4-point subframe. We also removed the cab rear windows and installed a custom passthrough door from the cab into the habitat. We totally redid the interior of the cab with insulation, sound deadening, and suspension seats.

We built our habitat module using panels and corner extrusions supplied by Total Composites.  Total Composites was able to supply us with lightweight, insulated composite sandwich panels that were cut to our blueprints. We assembled the habitat box using urethane adhesives. The construction and bonding of the box is such that there is no cold bridging in the structure of the assembly. We had integrated hardpoints installed in the sandwich panels for mounting to the truck subframe and for mounting the spare tire assembly on the back of the habitat. During habitat assembly, we ran most of the habitat wiring inside the panels and extrusions to produce a clean, durable, and long-lasting systems installation.

A lot of the time spent designing the truck was centered around the layout and comfort of the habitat interior. Because the truck is designed for long duration travel, we didn’t want it to seem like camping. Early in the project we made a list of things that we thought were necessary for being comfortable traveling for a long duration: a permanent bed, comfortable eating area, good standing height / head clearance, a dry dry bath with separate shower, etc. In addition to basic comfort, we also wanted the interior to be aesthetically pleasing, bright, and cozy. The habitat interior took a significant amount of time because we had to custom build almost everything.

Integration of systems in the truck spanned the entire project. Sourcing parts and making sure that everything fit together well took a lot of effort through all the phases of the project. Some seemingly simple things like the entry ladder took several iterations to get right, while other seemingly complicated things like the solar charging system have worked well from the beginning. There are simply too many detailed systems topics to do justice in a quick summary paragraph; for more information, see the below specifications.

The truck is super comfortable and lets us get off the beaten path. We are continuously upgrading and improving the truck. For any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Truck, Chassis, and Drivetrain

  • 1987 Mercedes Benz 435 (U1300L)
  • Exterior Dimensions (including habitat):
    • 20’11” (251″) [6.38 m] long
    • 7’6.5″ (90.5″) [2.30 m] wide
    • 11’6.25″ (138.25″) [3.51 m] tall
  • Windshield is chip free
  • Engine: OM366A (170 hp turbocharged engine)
  • Total vehicle mileage: 31,015
    • Mileage on current odometer: 12,003 (we installed a dual unit electronic speedometer Spring 2019)
  • Truck cruises at 60mph
    • Engine injection pump turned up to 170 hp configuration
  • Upgraded fuel primer pump
  • Digital exhaust gas temperature gauge on turbo
  • Tires: Continental MPT 81 365/80R20
    • Rear tires 75% tread at 12,000 miles with Dyna balancing beads
    • Front tires NEW September 2019 with lead weight balancing
    • Spare tire ~50% tread with Dyna balancing beads
  • Sandblasted and powdercoated steel rims
  • Front brake discs and pads NEW September 2019
  • Brake fluid flushed and bled Spring 2019
  • Fast gear ratio axles
  • Synthetic fluids in hubs, axles, and transmission
  • Block Pre-Heater: Webasto Thermo Top C Diesel Heater 12V 5KW 1311551A
  • Engine coolant flushed and replaced Spring 2019
  • 24V electrical system
  • Battery: NAPA BAT 7256 Size: 6TL, (2x) NEW November 2018
  • Winch: Superwinch EP 16.5, 16,500lb 24V
  • 2 steel WWII Marston mat sand ladders, sandblasted and powdercoated
  • Custom steel Roof Rack
  • Custom steel roof rack access ladders mounted on cab sides
  • 2-inch tow receiver in front (with shackle fitting)
  • 5-inch tow receiver in rear (with pintle fitting)
  • Reverse camera with cab on/off switch
  • Downward facing mirror on passenger side
  • Programable dual unit VDO electronic speedometer NEW April 2019
  • LED marker lights
  • LED cab interior light
  • Stereo system with USB input and SiriusXM radio
  • Higher wattage headlights
  • High wattage LED fog / trail lights
  • Freshly rebuild driver side front portal gear box (bearing needed replaced) NEW Sept. 2019
  • High volume upgraded front portal hub tanks (increases oil volume to nearly 1 L)
  • Improved front portal vents to eliminate oil loss
  • Regulated compressed air take-off quick disconnect port on truck pneumatic system
  • ARB electric air compressor for pre-charging truck pneumatic system NEW March 2019
  • Truck air dryer serviced with new desiccant cartridge Fall 2018
  • Driver and passenger mechanical suspension seats NEW September 2018
  • Dynamat sound insulation in cab
  • Cab acoustic insulation
  • Atkinson-Vos sound deadening floor mats
  • Locking cab to habitat crawl through door
  • Matching ignition and cab door keys
  • Custom rear bumper with integrated mud/rock flaps

Fluid Tanks

  • Stock U1300L fuel tank with upgraded locking fuel cap
  • 4 20L Jerry cans (mounted under habitat)
  • 18-gallon gray water tank (mounted under habitat)
  • 30-gallon fresh water capacity (in 6 military Jerry cans stowed inside)
  • Airhead composting toilet
    • Solids tank completely sterilized and cleaned with bleach September 2019
    • Urine tank NEW and unused September 2019

Storage

  • 4 removable steel storage lockers/boxes mounted under habitat
  • 2 aluminum military foot lockers mounted on roof rack
  • Large cargo cage on driver side of roof rack (fits 2 Dahon folding bikes)
  • Large storage areas under bed accessible through locking side hatches
    • Includes 6 overhead sealed bins
  • Large quantities of cabinet storage inside habitat
    • 3 lockable cabinets in kitchen pantry (combination locks with override key)

Habitat Specs (Habitat is NEW 2018-2019)

  • 24” x 24” locking crawl through door into cab
    • Accordion seal to cab passthrough
  • Exterior Dimensions: 137″ long, 86.5″ wide, 83″ tall
  • Interior Dimensions: 82.5″ wide with 6’4″ standing head height
  • Walls are 50mm thick fiberglass composite sandwich panel.
  • The ceiling, floor, forward, and aft wall are 84mm thick fiberglass composite sandwich panel
  • Euro-style double glazed windows and large roof hatch (with integrated blinds and screens)
    • 2 small windows above bed
    • 1 large window above dinette table
    • 1 large window above kitchen counter/stove
    • Roof hatch centered on habitat ceiling (between kitchen and dinette)
  • Fantastic vent fan over composting toilet
  • Euro-style door with integrated blind and accordion screen
  • Locking cargo access hatches with matching door key
  • Steel / composite hardpoints embedded in floor and back wall for mounting
    • Spare tire frame mounted to back of habitat
    • Chain hoist / crane to raise and lower spare on back of habitat
    • Aluminum ladder on back of habitat for roof and crane access
    • 2 sand ladders mounted to back of habitat
  • Habitat is mounted to modified Mercedes torsion free subframe
  • ARB awning on passenger side of habitat
  • Entry door grab handles
  • Custom lockable folding habitat entry ladder (stows in shower)
  • Custom lockable non-folding habit entry ladder
  • LED marker lights and reflectors in all DOT locations on exterior of habitat

Habitat Interior

  • Entry shower with draining floor (to gray water tank) doubles as mudroom
  • Shower curtain on curved ceiling track (curtain stows near door)
  • Dry bath with storage, mirror, and towel racks
  • Fantastic fan vent over dry bath
  • Dometic alcohol stove
  • Stainless steel sink that drains to gray water tank
  • General Ecology Seagull water filtration system
  • Sureflow electric water pump, accumulator, and prefilter
  • Oak kitchen countertop with slide out cutting board
  • Overhead kitchen cabinets, pantry, and under counter drawers and storage
  • Dometic CFX-40 compressor chest refrigerator with under bed slideout
  • 115V ground fault outlet in kitchen with USB charging
  • “Antique double” mattress
    • 48” x 75” Mattress Insider memory foam mattress
  • Froli star ventilated box springs under mattress
  • Overbed steel clothing cabinets
  • Headboard with storage cubbies
  • 115V ground fault power strip in bed area
  • Caframo Sirocco II fan over bed
  • 2 small windows above bed for good cross ventilation
  • Oak table in dinette
  • Dinette seats 2 comfortably, 4 in a pinch
  • Dinette is at same height as countertop for additional counter space
  • Storage under dinette seats
    • Aft storage for water
    • Forward storage for ARB air compressor and hot water heater
  • Over dinette cabinets
  • 115V ground fault power strip under table

Habitat Interior Lighting

  • LED lighting throughout habitat interior
  • Strip light over kitchen counter
  • Strip light over dinette
  • Lights around main hatch
  • Interior entry light
  • Spotlight over dinette
  • 2 reading lights over bed
  • Lights in storage area underneath bed
  • Exterior LED lights underneath habitat

Habitat Electrical System

  • 600 Watts rigid solar panels on roof of habitat (6 100 Watt panels)
  • Solar panels are each fuse protected
  • Victron solar charge controller
  • Solar and main power marine grade cutoff switches
  • Battleborn Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (300 amp-hours)
  • Victron battery monitoring system
  • 20 circuit distribution panel
  • 20 circuit switch/breaker panel (using aircraft hardware)
  • Victron 350W pure sine wave inverter
  • External shore power plug
  • 12V power supply for shore power

Habitat Systems

  • Planar 2D diesel air heater
  • Air circulation fans ducted behind cabinets and under bed
  • Heatso calorifier with integrated engine heat exchanger (NEW but not installed yet)

Extras and Spares Included

  • 2 10-packs of Lynx leveling blocks
  • Hardcopy of Mercedes shop manuals
  • Manuals for major components and systems
  • Secondary non-folding habitat entry ladder
  • 20-ton bottle jack
  • Spare tire chain hoist / crane with sling and shackle
  • Lug nut removal torque amplifier wrench with socket
  • Lug wrench
  • Jacking blocks/pads (squares of plywood)
  • Spare truck filters
    • 2 Fuel filters in box
    • Injection pump pre-filter
    • Air filter
    • Power steering filter
    • Oil filter (we might use it to change oil before sale)
  • Spare lightbulbs
    • Assorted headlight and other bulbs
  • Half set of brake pads (new in box)
  • Matching key padlocks for external storage, jerry cans, and spare tire
  • Matching key padlocks for sandladders

Previous Vehicle Projects

We have previous experience restoring and upgrading several other vehicles. For more information on previous vehicles, see:

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