A fully custom, all-terrain motorhome will probably take you a lifetime to afford. But did you ever consider building one? A new do-it-yourself manual has all the tricks you need to make your own go-anywhere leviathan of luxury.
“An all-wheel-drive motorhome is much more than a car or a mobile home. It’s a philosophy of life,” said Ulrich Dolde, author of Motorhome Self-Build and Optimization. We got a sneak peek at the odd but intriguing new book behind the lofty claim.
Now raising funds on Kickstarter for a full English publication (currently available in German), Dolde took a few minutes to explain why he thought building your own motorhome is not just feasible, but in his words, “the most effective method to keep oneself alive.”
He also gave us five reasons you should build your own all-terrain motorhome.
1. You Get What You Really Want
“If you want to do individual travels, you often have individual needs and wishes for your motorhome. With half a million dollars, of course you can get what you want ready to take off. But with a limited budget you have to become more creative.”
Dolde shopped around for a ready-made, off-road-capable motorhome that lived up to he and his wife’s specific wish list – to no avail. The two wanted an all-terrain vehicle that was low-tech for easy repair, had full kitchen and toilet facilities, had a fixed bed for towing the couple’s dirt bikes, along with a host of other personal features all for under $50,000.
According to Dolde, his self-build saved him over $60,000.
2. It’s Easier To Fix
“If you plan travels far off the beaten track there is only little or absolutely no assistance once you get in trouble. If you travel through Africa, South America, or Asia it is necessary to have a reliable truck based on low tech chassis from the 1980s and 90s.”
Dolde’s behemoth is built on a retired army van chassis, not just for its durability and size, but also because it was highly “hackable.” Building his own meant seeing exactly how the few high-tech gizmos he did include were wired and connected – particularly handy if you’re not a licensed and bonded electrician.
“If you buy a motorhome, you rarely get an overview over the cables and wires they used and where you can find them once a problem occurs.”
3. Save Big Money
“The most important advantage to building a truck on your own is saving money better spend on travels. You can build an overland truck starting from $10,000 up to no limit. From our experience you spend approximately $1,500 on travels with an overland truck per month – with the money we saved by building ($60,000), we have a travel fund for three to four years.”
The markups on buying new – especially for an off-road-capable luxury vehicle like Dolde’s – are massive. Buying used is never a sure bet, and to point number one, you might not get what you really want. If you have the will and some tools, building may be the way to go.
4. Self-Builds Feel Better For Everyone
“If you have built the truck on your own you can be confident to manage problems that might occur. Also, the truck is like your baby. My wife worked with me on the truck, starting with the planning, giving the truck it´s name (Starlet), and being involved in the major decisions concerning the ground layout, the components, and the interior design. Many guys make the mistake fulfilling their dream without involving their partner during the buying and build process.”
Believe it or not, Dolde claims that building a kick-ass, off-road land whale can actually bring you and the mrs. – or mr. – together. It makes sense – since it’s a vehicle you’ll both be living in, you can both contribute to its feng shui and take pride everywhere you take it.
5. It’s A Way Of Life
“Your all-wheel-drive motorhome is going to confront you with how you live your life. It will allow you to escape from the daily grind to a different, alternative lifestyle. When and how often you grasp the opportunity is a different story, but being aware of the possibility is the monger of dreams … and dreaming is living.”‘
Where would you go if you had a fully custom, livable motorhome that could tackle pretty much any road, trail or terrain? According to Dolde, having that choice could change your life.
Is putting in the time and labor – and money – the right choice? That depends on how much time, labor, and money you have to give. But for the true DIYer and adventurous spirit, Motorhome Self-Build and Optimization might be the undertaking of a lifetime.
To grab a copy and support the book’s English publication, check out Dolde’s Kickstarter page.