Sorting gremlins in the electrics

Suddenly on our return trip home from Saskatchewan a loud noise disturbed start-up for perhaps 5 seconds. Then signal and flasher lights went on the fritz.

Advised that the indicator problem could be related to the Flasher Unit we set out to find it behind the dashboard on the left side. Looking up next to the clutch pedal a silver box was found with a relay dangling. To blink a few lights, this relay was a most complex set of gear.

Fortunately we have two wizards in town who gladly took up the challenge to problem-solve. They were able to repair a broken trace on the Multipurpose Flasher Relay circuit board.

Their thorough examination revealed a pinched wire to the left tail light. It was also observed that the License Plate light (right side) was completely rusted out. Both of these issues were remedied. Then it was determined that a worn alternator belt was causing the noise. Consequently all belts were replaced. Confident that Tulák was roadworthy we set out on a trip westward.

On the Mission Pass descent the RPM gauge died and dashboard warnings lit up. Confident brakes were okay we carried on; however, in Pemberton Tulák simply wouldn’t start. Equipped with “house” batteries and booster cables we were able to jump-start the mog and return safely home.

The team was reassembled. A multimeter suggested the truck alternator wasn’t charging. Following the advice a comrade on the Mercedes Benz Unimog forum provided, we once again have a working charging system. For all the details check out our post on benzworld .

Fixes at Mross Imports

Suspecting a leak in the left front axle/hub reduction we attended Hans’ shop. After a thorough wash of the area and a road test there was no sign of an oil leak. The left front wheel was removed and the hub reduction and axle area was thoroughly cleaned of oil and excess grease from the king pins. The boot at the transfer case to the front torque tube was inspected and found to have some oil inside. The front diff was also found to be over full. The decision was made to change all the fluids in the hubs, axles and transmission.

Headlights were adjusted and two air-line fitting adapters to allow the installation of quick couplers for air tools or air lines were made. A full brake fluid flush and tire rotation including the spare tire was also undertaken.

40 kilometers later when stopped to refuel, the leak had re-appeared on the left front hub. We returned to the shop. The leak could now be pinpointed to the outer seal on the hub reduction at the front axle.

All seals in the axle and hub reduction were replaced.

Seven hours later we’re back on the road.

A tire carrier

'You'd think that a brand new covered wagon  would come with a full-size spare!'

A full-size spare isn’t the problem. Getting the spare stowed on a carrier has been the challenge. As we live in a somewhat remote area finding a welder with a shop and materials took some time.


Reinforcing steel plates are in place.


Hinges and latches were readily available on-line. So now Laddie is off to Trail BC where a welder with a great reputation has agreed to do the job.


After two days Laddie’s plan was executed with minor tweaks and we’ve got ourselves a swing-away tire carrier and crane. Thanks to Ronnie and the staff at XL Quality Industrial Services Inc in Trail, British Columbia for a job well done.


A method of raising and lowering the tire will be the next decision to make. Block & tackle? A come-along or manual hand winch? Chain hoist? Decisions, decisions ………….

Some tyre becomes tire-some

An additional diesel tank was fitted in the space where the spare tyre is typically stowed on the Unimog 1300. Where to put the massive R20 spare?

Since our mog cab roof was fitted with a hatch, we ruled out that space. Anything mounted to the front bumper would impede the view. A swing-away tyre carrier on the rear would be the only solution for us. It was to become a daunting project that was the source of many sleepless nights for Laddie.

The construction of the ambulance side wall had to be uncovered so that attachment points could be determined. Then a plan could be devised.

Once a welder was located the initial task to affix 3/8″ steel plates was completed.

Now that interior wall could be closed in and work on the galley could proceed. Yahoo.


Safe Passage

The morning we first saw Tulák parked beside the Atkinson Vos workshop was memorable. We were no longer dreaming.

The week in Britain was most satisfying as we enjoyed the pleasant aspects of its rural landscape and country life.

Following a week of getting to know Tulák we had to leave, trusting a safe passage would be had for our mog.



Tulák was loaded for transport to the Port of Liverpool where it boarded the Atlantic Star, a unique kind of ship in that it carries both containers and roll-on, roll-off cargo.



As we enjoyed the sun and sights of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands we monitored the ship’s progress across the Atlantic Ocean through on-line marine traffic tracking intelligence.

Upon our return to Canada we immediately introduced ourselves to the Customs Brokerage firm Cole International in Halifax, Nova Scotia who was handling our vehicle’s entry into Canada. Incredibly Tulák cleared Canadian Customs within an hour of its arrival and was available for pickup. A 24-hour permit to drive Tulák from the port to a licensed inspection facility was secured. Now we had to be patient and await the news. Did our mog comply with Canadian regulations?

The folks at Nova Truck Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia undertook the inspection and gave Tulák the all clear signal. Now a 30-day permit to drive Tulák across Canada had to be obtained. The bureaucracy was daunting and we were most relieved when the document was in-hand.  Our adventure with Tulák in Canada was about to begin.

After 5,855 kilometers we can report that Tulák  has exceeded our expectations. The ride is comfortable and it handles the road very well.

Understand that this entire project, from the purchase of the vehicle to every reservation and appointment, was secured over the Internet. Only then can you appreciate the wonderful people who helped make this happen. Our grateful thanks to:

Simon, Emma, Paul, Mark, Shaun, Frank and the team at Atkinson Vos

            Glenn, Ken and Debbi-Jo at Cole International

Laurie, Paul and the folks at Nova Truck Centre



A trip across the pond


Take a detour. Discover small towns and friendly faces that don’t grow along the highway.”                                                                        ― Khang Kijarro Nguyen

We’re off to check out Tulák and bring him home. Tulák – that’s what we’ve named the mog. It’s Czech for “wanderer” or “vagabond”.

We fly to London, England and then it’s a 5-hour train trip to the small village of Bentham and the Atkinson Vos workshop.

Atkinson Vos    Bentham





Laddie has been studying the Unimog Owner’s Handbook and is taking shop coveralls. He plans on getting dirty.


Following a week of getting to know the mog, Tulák is scheduled to be shipped RORO (roll on roll off) to the port of Halifax. After a fling in the Canary Islands we’ll fly from London to Halifax.

Hopefully Tulák will clear Canadian Customs without any hiccups so we can begin the long, slow journey home – a distance of 5,230 kilometers. With luck Mother Nature cooperates and the last of winter won’t be too brutal for crossing the Canadian Shield.

“n’allez pas trop vite”

 “An advantage of not going by too fast is that the world has a chance of becoming more interesting in the process.”

―  Alain de Botton, How Proust can change your life

P.S. Another Czech mate – Ondřej Sekora the artist who created “Ferda Mravenec”  – Fred the Ant and “Beruška” – Betsy graces our blog.


RAL 1015 Light Ivory works wonders

Tulák is back from the paint shop and is looking great. The body has been cleaned up from all military attachments and we’re happy with our color choice.

IMG_9242    IMG_0577

Atkinson Vos has made progress with the retrofits. The second diesel tank is installed on the driver’s side.

IMG_9237    IMG_0571

Given the install of a heavy duty radiator for better cooling a new hood and grill had to be fitted.

IMG_9236    IMG_0574

It’s coming together.

A thrilling moment

Image result for sold sign

It was thrilling to see the SOLD sign go up on the Atkinson Vos website. Our deposit had arrived and work on the vehicle could commence.

It’s easiest to import a vehicle into Canada from Europe when the vehicle is more than 15 years old. Ours is a 1990 model so no problem meeting that requirement. If modified they’re still considered admissible for importation as “age-exempt” when they’ve undergone regular maintenance, been equipped with replacement parts, or been newly painted for example. Rebuilds/restorations should also maintain the older vehicle’s original characteristics.

So what’s to be done to our Unimog ambulance? Our Direct German army Mercedes Benz U1300L with OM366A turbo engine & fast axles will have the chassis steam-cleaned and painted black with both the exterior and interior cab repainted. Here’s the color we’ve selected for the new paint job – RAL 1015 Light Ivory.

Image result for ral 1015

Included with the vehicle: snorkel, 2nd vehicle battery, rear stabiliser, ether help start, compressed air line outlets, and chassis mounted jerry can holders. Other upgrades we have commissioned include:

  • Heavy duty Radiator for better cooling
  • 2 diesel fuel tanks (original and an additional aluminum tank) piped separately to avoid fuel contamination
  • Air sprung seats
  • Engine hour clock in dash
  • Intercooler kit fitted
  • Uprated primary and second alternators (100 amps)
  • Soundproofing cab trim kit
  • Sound deadening engine blanket
  • Headlight protection grilles
  • Venting system for hubs
  • Stainless steel exhaust
  • Aluminum storage box
  • Exhaust brake
  • Water separator on the fuel line with the military pressurizing system disabled
  • 5 NEW Mitas MPT20 365/80R20 tyres

To ensure the vehicle passes the BC Vehicle Inspection Atkinson Vos will wire the standard lights to come on low beam with the ignition, remove the military switch and replace it with a simple rocker switch so that the vehicle can idle with the lights off. Mud flaps are also being installed.

Since this is a diesel vehicle and we may encounter cold climates or high altitudes we’ve also commissioned the installation of a Webasto engine pre-warmer. Before the vehicle is started, the heater warms the engine to the correct fuel-saving operating temperature.


Can’t wait to see all the pieces come together.



But what’s to be done with the stretchers? Stay tuned!













We’ve been mogged


IMG_9236    IMG_9240

A deposit was wire-transferred so it’s official.

Anne and Laddie have been mogged by a Mercedes Benz Unimog 1300L. It’s a 1990 model with just over 41,000 kilometers. After this former German army ambulance has had some of its military stuff decommissioned, some parts will be upgraded and a full repaint will complete the job.

Now how did we ever land up here?

When we realized we weren’t ready to part with some of our cashable assets we had to revise our budget. At about the same time we happened across the folks at Tern Overland who are into minimalist travel. They inspired us to reconsider some of our wants and needs. The ambulance box is also smaller than our original cabin plans so it was back to the drawing board.

We’re comforted to know that we’re not alone. There are other people out there overlanding with an ambulance box. We gained confidence in our scheme and took ideas from Ubelix. Now we’ve got ourselves a retirement project!

Ambulance Box plan

First Steps

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” 

The days of tenting and crawling into a sleeping bag are behind us. Off the beaten path is not the terrain for a motor-home. A single cab, left-hand drive truck with low mileage would fit the bill. But did I mention we’re into minimalist travel? So no “mission” critical or “entertainment” electronics please. Reliable parts distribution throughout the world is also a requirement.

All of which leads us to the conclusion we’ll be importing a vehicle. So it’ll have to be 15 years old minimum to get into Canada. The roster of candidates includes:

Unimog 1300 or 1500

VW Man 8.136

Mitsubishi Fuso Canter

Steyr 12M18

And so our search begins. Stay tuned.