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Reader DIY: From MAN Truck To Custom Motorhome

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I’d spent most of my life building my own campervans, and I’d always wanted to convert a truck into a motorhome in which I could travel across Africa. While lying in hospital after a major operation to remove a cancerous growth, I decided it was time to live every day 100%.

Words Dirk Meter & Lara Meter on behalf of Leon Swanepoel

I started by searching the internet for a possible 4×4 truck to convert into an overland camper. Although I found plenty of military-type vehicles (Samil 100s), one in particular caught my eye. It was a 7-ton MAN truck – diesel, 4×4 – but it was only a body, with no engine. Upon enquiry, I found that it had already been sold, but after a lot of calls and emails, I managed to buy it from the new owner. This was the start of a long and exciting project.

I enlisted the help of a few old business friends from my years in the trade. Jurgens, from Truck Supplies in Gauteng, helped me to load the truck onto a rollback. The dealer stocked the MAN so as to give me time to do all the work before registration was necessary.

The second important friend was Herman from TVL Motors. He supplied and fitted an ADE407 engine, a Samil 100 clutch, pressure plates, and a new propshaft. He also overhauled the gearbox and transfer box, and stripped and replaced all the brake shoes and drums, bringing the entire braking system back to 100% condition.

The next operation he assisted in was to source five new aluminium rims, and tyres. They were expensive, but something that I think made the truck look really awesome.

After all this, I flew from Knysna up to Johannesburg with a friend, Joe, who had his code 10 licence (I had only a learners’ licence). Together we tackled the trip back, experiencing trouble-free motoring at a very moderate speed. The truck ran and handled well, so I was confident that I had the right vehicle to start my project.

I hired a large area in a huge empty warehouse in the industrial area of Knysna, and began the enormous job of cleaning, stripping and dismantling the dropside load body that I didn’t need.

During the first four months, I had time to draw up and make the plans of my ideas for the unit.

Images Lara Meter & Leon Swanepoel

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