We drive and live in a MAN KAT I A 1 – a curious beast that we think (and hope) will be loyal to us for quite some kilometers.
So how did we end up with such a vehicle? We’ll, quite a while ago this was one of our least thought-through decisions we’ve made. Having no real purpose or plan with it, we wanted to buy it so badly we just bought it, the plan and upgrades came the last months before our departure. Pim didn’t even had his truck drivers license at that time… Having driven off-road with a 4×4 on our last holiday to the UAE and Oman, we loved the idea of going off the tarmac and seeing real life beyond the beaten path.
The MAN KAT I A 1
The MAN KAT is a German army original from 1989 (wiki). This 6×6 all wheel drive vehicle has an air cooled 12L V8 Diesel engine from Deutz. In 1994 it was converted to a Camper in Germany. We bought it in that state from the next owner in Belgium with real (heavy!) wooden cabinets with parquet on the floor. With that Livingunit on his back makes the MAN KAT a whopping 10.5 meters long, 3.7m high and I estimate 18 Tons on the road when we are fully loaded!
So some specs:
Engine is a 320HP air cooled Deutz old fashioned diesel with 350K milage on the clock. Let’s see if we can double that safely. No Euro 3,4,5,6 back in 1989, so we will plant some trees along the way to compensate for our estimated 1L/3KM fuel usage. Luckely we have 450 liters of diesel with us. The power is transferred via a unique oil filled ‘Wandler’ – a torque converter. This helps to provide the right torque in any situation, so taking off on a steep road should always be possible (not tested this yet, though). The PTO is equipped with a 5-ton winch with 30m of steel cable to help us or others in situations where some brute force becomes handy.
The cabin seats four people and has a rally computer for exact distances and speed, a MC27, rear view camera and a ‘cabrio’ roof latch for nice weather driving!
Electrically we carry 360Ah of battery life for our living unit, powered by 4 solar panels 100Wh each. A converter to 230V for our stuff that needs high voltage, most is suited for 12V. We think we can be autonomous on that power, but we’ll need to find out in real live. We have two heating systems (on diesel and on gas). A total of 600 liters of water can be taken in fresh water tanks.
The living unit
Our living unit of roughly 12m2 seats on the back of the MAN KAT, high from the ground. It has a little kitchen with stove and fridge, the ‘MeisterTisch’ table with 2 benches, a “lounge area” with two benches that can be converted into a two person bed and, hanging on the ceiling, we can lower a full sized two person bed. The small 1.2m2, max 1.95meter high (some would call this ‘cramped’…) bathroom with toilet, shower and sink completes the interior. In the back we have a storage barn and technical space with boiler, water and heating systems plus a lot of space where we hold all of our stuff that (we think) we might need one day.
To give Floris and Victor their own room, we have puzzled ages until we came up with a solution that is adventurous, gives their privacy and a view: two rooftents on top of the front cabine, that can be accessed from the living unit and via ladders on the front of the MAN KAT. This adds 5,5m2 to our living space. (2x Eezi-Awn series 3 tents).
The upgrade project
We bought our vehicle in Belgium from Geert – a patient and knowledgeable seller that helped us getting acquainted with the technical stuff. Trusting that he would provide a reliable vehicle as a start, we invested in upgrading quite a lot the last months before departure. This became quite a project and of course, still not finished; we can continue once we are on the road. Before and during the restauration we visited thousands of websites to get into this whole new world of expedition vehicles, overland trucks, rooftents, bus and truck conversion projects… amazing what is out there!
The interiour was brown wooded – we called it a ski-hut appearance – has been painted white (a job that needed kilometers with the brush and quite some stamina from Annemieke). A new ceiling was glued to cover the old green grass carpet ceiling (!!) to a lighter grey look, to match the all new grey cushions in the living. Two new rooflights and new security bars to secure a ‘burglar proof’ living. Sensors, GPS / GSM alarm system, new LED lights, a back up camera, a new sink, a shower and a brand new toilet. The investment continues with a bicycle rack on the back, a jack, air-tools, waterhoses, electrical tools, a stove and outside furniture covered with a roof: a tarp for some rain protection.
The boy’s roof tents on the top are supported by some sturdy new roof rack, custom made by BC Metaal. The platforms on the front for the rooftop ladders are also custom made by them and the new solar panel rack.
The solar power system was from early 90’s, so time for a change: 4 brand new solar panels, 400Wh totals, loading 360Ah of 12V batteries. All provided and installed by mr. VC Trade Vincent. To use this power Pim has installed quite some new USB sockets in the vehicle.
Topping all of this with our ‘4birdsoverland’ stickers, after removing kilo’s of old sticker material.
Last but certainly not least, the hard core technical stuff was done by TTS Truck and Trailer Service Barneveld. Henk and his whole team did a thorough check up. From new oil (it takes in 175 Liters of oil …. !) to a whole bunch of new spare parts, to the formal yearly vehicle inspection (APK), revising some parts and, most of all, allowing Pim to work along and let him learn a lot on vehicle maintenance along the way. Just great! Also, learning how to change a tyre at Profile Tyrecentre was quite interesting lesson!
And when mentioning helpful people: A lot of helping hands, thanks to all of you. Especially: without Maarten from Comma and Jan from Houtindustrie Amersfoort we did not have a (dry) place to work on our project. Same for always supportive Gerard from van Dusschoten car / van rental. And if you find kids playing with an orange football somewhere we have been, that gift is from (social) entrepreneur Joost!