Overlander in overdrive.
The tried and tested Isuzu NPS 4×4 truck is a vehicle that’s popular for overlander conversions worldwide; here in South Africa, AC Motorhomes demonstrate their custom-building expertise with their latest showpiece on this chassis cab.
Why would one pay extra for an Isuzu double-cab truck, simply to trim it back to a single-cab when transforming it into an off-road motorhome?
Turns out there’s a very good reason. Admittedly, I was somewhat confused on my first encounter with the latest ‘double-cab’ creation from AC Motorhomes, when what I saw before me was a single-cab. But the answer quickly dawned on me.
Like most trucks, the Isuzu NPS 300’s single-cab version tilts forward at the front to allow service and repair access to the engine. The double-cab version, on the other hand, is fixed to the chassis, with the engine accessible only through a hatch under the front centre seat. This was an important ingredient for the motorhome soon to be built onto this chassis cab.
AC Motorhome client Paul Loebenberg, the proud owner of the new overlander, wanted the cab and living area to be one unit, with walk-through access from the front to the back.
A hinged forward-tilting cab would not have been optimal for a design merging the cab with the rear living area, so AC Motorhomes boss Hein Visser suggested using a fixed double-cab derivative of the popular NPS 300 model.
Tilting cab trucks have been used for overlander conversions, but they needed a large, flexible rubber bellows between the cab and the rear living unit. The double-cab version doesn’t tilt, and therefore can be permanently joined to the rear living area to form one unit. The quandary was solved.
Let’s do the twist
First Hein had to remove the doublecab cockpit so that a pivoting subframe could be fitted, running along the entire length of the chassis. Hein had to consider the inevitable twist and flex of the chassis, especially when travelling over rough terrain. The pivoting subframe allows the chassis to flex without stressing the cab and rear living area.
Then Hein went on to apply his wealth of design experience to the detail. His brief was to produce a practical three-berth motorhome that not only looked good and ‘lived’ well, but could also stand up to the challenges of a transcontinental excursion – and Hein delivered!
As you step inside the motorhome, the oak-veneer panelling, white vinyl ceiling and light wood-grain Novilon give the interior an airy and spacious feel. Hein and his team have slotted in a remarkably substantial kitchenette, considering the size limitations of his creative ‘canvas’, immediately to the right of the entrance.
The two-burner gas hob and stainless steel sink both have glass lids that double as cutting boards or extensions of the worktop area. In the base a small fridge will take care of cooling food and drinks; sliding out from a cupboard opposite the kitchenette is a separate freezer.
The kitchen area extends outside under the canopy with a slide-out unit that also sports a two-burner hob and a sink. The rig’s bathroom has a stylish frosted glass door, making it less claustrophobic. A shower, cassette toilet, basin and mirror are skilfully accommodated in an area so compact it’s an exaggeration to call it a room; more like a cupboard. Truth is, though, it’s perfect for its purpose, and you wouldn’t want it any bigger.
At the rear of the living area is a comfy four-seat dinette with a tabletop that can swing out of the way or serve as part of the base for a double bed. In the front, just behind the cockpit, are two single benches that turn into a single bed when needed.
The motorhome’s electricity department comprises a charging unit, an inverter and converter, and two deep-cycle batteries. This set-up delivers 12 V DC or 220 V pure wave current, the latter being better for sensitive electronic equipment like laptop computers. Two solar panels fixed to the roof help charge the batteries when a plugin mains feed is not available. Interior and exterior power-efficient LED lights keep power consumption to a minimum.
The 300-litre water tank has a reverse osmosis purifier that can make dirty river water drinkable. Hot water is courtesy of a 220 V/gas high-speed geyser. A flat-screen TV is linked to an automatic signal-locating satellite dish; a sound system and silent airconditioner contribute to the luxury of this motorhome.
Hein has fixed a sturdy slide-out aluminium staircase and fold-out handle at the entrance to this creation, which, all in all, took only two months to complete. AC Motorhomes don’t have a production line, per se. Hein says he ‘custom creates’ each unit to the unique needs of the individual client, with whom he remains in constant consultation until the day it leaves his factory.
Judging by the way this luxury camping cocoon on wheels turned out, if your motorhome has to be your home from home, with all the bells and whistles that give you convenience and comfort in the bush, then AC Motorhomes has a factory in Cape Town that you must visit.