Words and pictures by Sonja and Jeroen Tiggelman.
For the last 15 years, all our overland trips have been in rented 4x4s. But, several years ago – while travelling in Kenya – we made plans to buy our own 4×4 for a trans-Africa trip, which would start from our hometown in the Netherlands and have us trekking through West Africa to Cape Town.
A few years later, we began our hunt for a suitable 4×4. We eventually settled happily on a ’94 Land Cruiser HZJ75 which had originally come from Rwanda, but in ’07 a fellow overlander had brought it to the Netherlands.
At that point, the Cruiser was completely standard except for some minor interior changes, but, because we’d travelled around the word in so many rented 4x4s, we knew exactly how to kit the Cruiser out.
We started the build process by drawing up a must-have list: kitchen, fridge, table for two, sitting area, bed, toilet, 50-litre water tank, heating system – and the ability to ship the vehicle anywhere in the world. In other words, it had to be suitable for container storage and not too high. However, we also wanted to be able to sleep, live and stand up in the Cruiser’s camper body.
The biggest modification to the vehicle was the alteration of the roof. We found a great company in Germany that rebuilds Defenders and Cruisers from scratch, but which agreed to focus on the roof conversion only. In short, they made the roof pop up from the front, allowing us to stand in the camper body. We also requested a roof-mounted hatch and easy-access spotlights for game viewing.
Once the roof was complete, we could focus on the interior, starting with an accurate drawing and all the necessary dimensions.
The complete interior took two-and-a- half years to complete, but once we were done, we had successfully built a fully-functional kitchen with sink, utensil cupboard, large clothing closet, and a dual-purpose couch that serves as an emergency sleeping area when we are in unsafe regions and campsites. Admittedly, our Cruiser project took some time to complete, but now that we’re in Cape Town and prepping for our return journey home (up along the eastern half of Africa), we can honestly say it was worth the wait – what a fantastic journey!