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How to buy your unique van

Travelling in a camper is a nice way to explore the world, but before starting the trip, you need to make some decisions about the practical and technical requirements for your camper. For example, if you decide to travel in Europe or America and stay on the bitumen, the conditions of the roads are not so demanding. However, if you want to travel to other parts of the world or go off the beaten tracks, a 4x4 could be a good option because you don't want to get stuck in the mud. There are also other things to consider, like the noise the vehicle makes while driving, the vibrations, the interior, and so on. In short, your wishes and your purpose of travel will help you decide what makes your vehicle perfect!

Based on our requirements and our (fixed) budget, we considered a Volkswagen LT. The well-known Volkswagen T, the 'surfer's van', was too small for us because we wanted to travel for at least one year. We had some basic wishes that included enough space to stand upright, a toilet/shower room, a space for cooking and a bed that was fixed in place (but we were pretty lenient towards the sleeping arrangement). Our research started on Facebook, and we found our dream vehicle in Chile. It was a very nice and well-maintained LT, completely ready to go. We made an offer and considered going to Chile and finish the deal. But, unfortunately, another couple showed interest and after waiting a whole night in tension, they were chosen instead of us. So the search continued and we decided to buy a vehicle in the Netherlands or Germany, rebuild it and ship it ourselves to South America.

We checked out several LT`s but none were to our liking. A lot of these LT`s had issues, like an older engine, holes in the vehicle and so on. But there was one vehicle still lingering in the back of our minds. We found an old 4x4 ambulance on Marktplaats, it was too expensive but that did not stop us to check it out, we felt the need to do this. The guy who was selling that ambulance turned out to be an importer of old fire trucks from Austria and Germany. The Fire Brigade changes their trucks every few years even though they are still in perfect condition and were kept inside. But we came here for another vehicle, so, first of all, we inspected the LT ambulance 4x4. The condition of the vehicle was great but… it did not feel quite right in terms of space and price.

After enthusiastically explaining our plans to Michel (the salesman), he concluded that a fire truck would suit our needs much better! After looking at several of them, we fell completely in love with one, a Mercedes Benz Vario 814 DA 4x4 from '95, with only 14,000 km on the counter (after 23 years of service!) from Gaishorn am See in Austria. However, falling in love with this car came with a price… 3 times our original fixed budget… So we tried to suppress our enthusiasm, walk away from it and try to consider all our options.

After driving around for about 20 minutes, we stopped somewhere to eat our lunch, we took a bite, looked at each other and instantly we started laughing. "No! Are we really going to do this?!". Barely five minutes later we were talking to Michel again on the phone and kindly asked him if we could do a test drive with the truck. He said yes and full of adrenaline we drove back to Michel. 30 minutes later we were enjoying ourselves in the woods near Haps, Noord-Brabant, playing around with the sirens and everything felt right, we were sold!

An hour and a half later the sale was completed! We went over budget and did not know yet what to do with the vehicle, but at least the big adventure had just started! We were so excited about all this and we drove to Amsterdam and informed our family and friends. Our dear friend, Antje, became instantly our number 1 fan and she loved the whole plan! Ultimately, she was the one that came up with the name Bruce and we were excited about that, so Bruce the Fire Truck was born.

Read in our next blog post how we rebuilt Bruce from a fully equipped fire truck to our house on wheels.


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Bruce Meets World ...