The Jouberts began visualising their dream motorhome ages ago, putting their years of research, observation and travel experience into the build.
“We had an Abba camper before this, and an AHA before that, and we also had an Echo Chobe before that,” says Jannie Joubert, a third-generation wine farmer and owner of Skilpadvlei in Stellenbosch.
“We visited several manufacturers during that time, and we decided on AC Motorhomes after seeing what they had done with a Land Cruiser 100. We chose the bigger 200 Series because it has coil spring suspension and a much softer ride.
“We have just returned from an 18-day trip to the Kunene in Namibia, and the ride is just so comfortable.”
Jannie’s wife Bettie adds: “Next year, we want to go to Botswana and Malawi. We’ve already been to Malawi, my mother was born there and she was the daughter of a missionary. She was born in a house near the border with Mozambique, we believe the church was also there and we are keen to go and visit.”
Parked on the green grass of Skilpadvlei farm, this latest conversion from AC Motorhomes looked handsome and well proportioned, not too long and not too short – you can see it’s professionally built.
What catches the eye is the quality of the build. It has those finishing touches of imported, professional accessories such as windows with built-in fly screens and blinds – same as the doorway. A manual Fiamma wind-out awning, manually-operated doorstep, imported door lockers, and a special locker on the driver’s side where Jannie keeps his tools and emergency gear.
And when Jannie starts that big engine it sets the pulse racing with that soft, deep, bubbling, rumbling sound only V8’s produce.
SERIES 200 RIDE QUALITY
The Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series used as a donor vehicle for building this motorhome is top-of-the-range with all the bells and whistles to make driving a luxury experience – and this includes the ultimate Toyota 4×4 ride quality.
Jannie says the mighty 4.7-litre Lexus petrol V8 engine gives him about 5.2km per litre at speeds of between 100 and 110 km/h, or 19.23 l/100km, not bad for a vehicle with this big frontal mass.
This conversion on a highly technical 200 Series chassis came with a long list of new challenges, particularly with regards to electronics but also too mechanical components such as the mounting points for the rear differential stabiliser bars.
This Land Cruiser was sourced second hand on the internet and driven to AC Motorhomes factory where the rear of the body was cut off from just behind the ‘B’-pillar to make way for the wider motorhome shell.
Components such as the car’s onboard reversing camera were carefully set aside to be used later, while others such as the rear electric rear windows and door locks had to be disengaged so as not to produce false warnings on the vehicles dashboard.
Part of the strength in all car bodies comes not only from the vehicle’s chassis, but also that of the steel body. Cut this away and rigidity is all but gone.
Hein Visser from AC Motorhomes says: “The headache for a conversion of this magnitude is to restore vehicle structural integrity. Part of the way of achieving this is in the thickness of the motorhomes walls.
“In a case like this you basically need a 30 mm wall and roof panel width to create the necessary rigidity, and well planned mountings.”
The fibreglass shell used here was developed by AC Motorhomes some years ago, it consists of a laminate of fibreglass outer skin, inner high-density foam core and wood sheeting on the inside. There is no aluminium extrusion used on any exterior corners or body joins, but rather a neat fibreglass strip that hides and seals off where all the outer body corners meet, making the shell watertight.
The body dimensions are 2 060 mm wide, 1 850 mm tall and the length 3 550 mm. Combined weights of the new body, accessories and the 200 Series presents a Tare of 2 060 kg and GVM of 3 260 kg, which means a normal car licence rather than heavy duty is all that is need to drive.
The layout is simple in that the motorhome body incorporates a rear-end double bed convertible to a dinette, a drivers-side toilet and shower cubicle (1 150 x 700 mm wide and incorporating a Dometic swivel head flush toilet), backed up with a chest of drawers between the shower cubicle and the bed.
The passenger side has a kitchen galley with a Dometic two burner hob, separate sink and over-head microwave oven and cupboard space.
Below the inside kitchen is a 90-litre slide out chest fridge/freezer, which is unique in that it slides into the interior. There is an additional 40-litre fridge on the outside.
And for those days when you need a little entertainment there is an auto tracking satellite dish on the roof and a flat screen TV inside on the wall to enjoy.
Power comes from a 240 w solar panel and deep-cycle Victron batteries. This system has a MPPT solar charger and inverter and a 2 000 w inverter to convert 12V to 220V. All the electronics are marine sourced and rated and of course separate from that of the Cruiser’s starter battery.
Water is stored in a 120-litre fresh water tank, and for when filling up at questionable sources there is a full reverse osmosis water purifier.
To counter the added weight of the motorhome body the Cruiser’s rear coil springs have been upgraded to support 600 kg and modified to take Old Man Emu shock absorbers.
“I opted for 285 x 70x R17 BF Goodrich tyres because I believe these offer better protection against side wall damage,” says Jannie.
“I am not interested in longevity or high speed handling as most tyre tests focus on, I don’t want punctures!”
But just in case, the motorhomes carries two spare wheels.
The Toyota 200 Series and motorhome body are painted to match. A final touch I liked was the locally made Caprivi Car seat covers and matching leather dashboard cover that has pockets for iPads and bird books. These are quality seat covers and complete the comfort the driver and passenger will enjoy while motoring down the open road.
The basic motorhome body costs about R680 000, and then you can start adding additional components to suit your needs and which adds to the price.
The Land Cruiser price varies on age and kilometres travelled, and even if it is a high miler, it’s not a bad thing for once it is converted it is not an everyday car for transport. And that big V8 will probably last a long, long time!