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Offroad Camper

OK, here goes!

These three pics are of the donor vehicle.

It's a 1977 SA Army trailer. The NATO tow hitch had already been removed when I got it.

During the course the the next few months you'll probably ask yourself the question "Why didn't he just start with some channel iron and make his own trailer from the chassis up?"

The reason is simple. In the UK you guys don't need MOT's or registration papers for your trailers. You build one, buy one, borrow one, rent one or nick one, get a third numberplate made for tow vehicle, put that plate on the trailer and off you go.

It's slightly different out here. Trailers need roadworthy certificates (MOT's). They also have registration papers (i.e. V5) just like what the cars have and (worst) we have to pay road tax on our trailers.

Last year I looked at importing an Ifor Williams BV12 boxvan into South Africa. When I went to the SABS to apply for the letter of authority, they gave me a 130 page set of guidelines that the trailer had to adhere to. I sent it over it IW, who read it and are probably still rolling around on the floor laughing.

Thus, in order to protect the local manufacturers, the government has made it almost impossible for someone to import a trailer. Furthermore, if you were brave (or stupid) enough to build your own trailer from scratch and take it for it's police clearance prior to registering it, the coppers take it from you and lock it up for something like nine months just to ensure that you haven't nicked it, tarted it up and are trying to sell it on.

This trailer has "papers". It's on the national computer system and as much as I'd like to start with a blank canvas, this is what I have to work with.


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nice one , im really looking forward to seeing this progress.
it a really good idea , those expidition trailers cost a small fortune.
The next step is to remove the corrugated section. This is going to be fun as it was spot welded in place and being a military trailer there are more than just one or two HUGE spotwelds that I need to remove.

At first I thought they were old style rivets that had been thumped in, but once I'd started griding away at one, I soon realised that they were spot welds not rivets and that removing that sheet of 1.6mm corrugated iron is going to take the best part of a day and a good few cutting blades on the 230mm grinder.

After that, I'll be panel beating the dents out of the wheel boxes and the box where the back lights were. I plan on boxing the space where the lights were and fitting these nice trucklite LED's that we now get out here. I'll be wiring the trailer according to the UK 12N / 12S system to allow me to have a reverse light and a rear fog light. Out here the trailers don't usually have fog or reverse lights. It's usually the indicators, running and brake lights only.

This entire trailer only has one bad rust spot. I'll cut that piece (nearside front) out and weld in a new piece of steel.

Once I've dealt with the rust spot, I'll weld in a new floor. It'll then be time to get the chain block and the trolley jacks out as the trailer will need to be turned upside down. After that I'll be stripping the axle, springs and shocks, getting the springs redone, buying new shocks and rebuilding the axle.

The big day will then dawn when it'll be time to remove the crud from the underside. Me thinks me will go to our version of the job centre, hire a bod for a day and give him piecework. Probably be the best tenner I'll ever spend.

Once this is done, it'll be time to take the chassis to the galvanisers and the rebuild can start.

I'm keen on hearing from people what they would put into a camper.

Broadly, my plans are:
  • Closed box van type trailer with a galv frame that's covered in aluminium.
  • The roof will be able to flip up and the nearside panel will be able to flip down
  • I'll build a nose cone with two gas bottles and a 644 (yes my favourite) battery
  • Two spare wheels on the back. The Defender runs on 7.50x16's as does the trailer. The current trailer tyres are shot, so I'll be getting new ones to match the Defender.
  • Howling Moon Trailer Tent on the roof.
  • Large water tank in the space between the two wheel boxes with a tap on one side of the trailer and water feed to the sink.
  • I want to make three large drawers that pull out from the near side. These drawers will contain all the "stuff" i.e. sink, work surface for food prep, fridge, freezer, generator, drawers or shelves for wolffpacks. The trailer's going to be high - standing at around 1.4m, so why not add a wardrobe or two?
Please excuse the quality of the photos. I'm having to use my camera phone as my camera was stolen and I haven't replaced it yet.
nice one , im really looking forward to seeing this progress.
it a really good idea , those expidition trailers cost a small fortune.

Thanks mate.

I was on the verge of forking over just under £10K for a fully loaded one that is the "best of the best", but that I still felt was an overprices piece of cr*p when I thought "sod it, I can make something that's perfect for me for around a third of what these thieves want for this thing".

The major expenses are the fridges and tent. If I can't find any second hand ones, I'm going to have to buy two National Luna 80l units at just over £785 each. One to keep things cold and one to freeze things.

I don't like the National Lunas as they are only two way (ie. 12 / 240V) and I'd prefer getting three way units (i.e. 12 / 240V and LPG). The fridge search continues.

The trailer tent is a no brainer. Howling Moon tents are the best. It'll cost in the region of £1000.

So two and a half grand will go for three big items and the other £500 - £750 will go to the build of the trailer.
what about an engel fridge not sure if they do a gas model? i would possible consider fitting 2 x 644 size batteries or somthing bigger i have a batttery in my series that came out of a 20+ ton excavator.
Removing the middle corrgated sheet is turning into a mission :sadagain:

I'm slicing and dicing the sheet and then knocking each spot weld out with a chisel.

What a time consuming and boring job! At the same time I have to keep my whits about me as the 230mm grinder can do me more than a little harm.
This post is coming to you from the departures lounge at Johannesburg International Airport (well that's what it used to be called - now O R Tambo International).

Internet access isn't great in here, so I'll upload photos on Monday when I'm in the Kingdom of Great Brandwidth.

I've cut the centre corrugated section out. I'm now faced with a choice that will effect the rest of the project and I'd appreciate the thoughts of some of the other forum members.

The chassis, wheel arches and remaining steel floor sections will be galvanised. The question is, do I buy a sheet of 1.6mm mild steel and weld it into the floor where I removed the corrugated iron or should I rather get a sheet of 1.6mm aluminium and pop rivet that in?

If I go for ali, I'll have to get two strips to cover the "join" between the steel and the aluminium to ensure no water can get in.

Aluminium is lighter, but I suspect that mild steel would be stronger.

Any input would be appreciated.

Thank you.
Aluminium has poor fatigue properties and is a soft metal. Unless well supported by steel (like a Land Rover rear tub) don't use Aluminium for the floor. And don't forget the Steel/Aluminium corrosion problem. And that the Aluminium could crack around the rivets if the trailer flexes. Given your location and the likely use of the trailer, steel is the better choice (IMO of course).

Jonathan Paton
Here are the photos of the ladder chassis and wheel arches minus the corrugated section.


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I borrowed a set of dollies from one of my neighbours who owns a body shop and spent a couple of hours on Sunday beating the dents and crooked parts into submission.

The trailer is now straight and square. The wheel arches are the same height above the ground and the back box sides are relatively straight and parallel.


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if you were brave (or stupid) enough to build your own trailer from scratch and take it for it's police clearance prior to registering it, the coppers take it from you and lock it up for something like nine months just to ensure that you haven't nicked it, tarted it up and are trying to sell it on.

Bvud, why didn't you just say that's what you wanted to do. It's sooo easy.

My mum's trailer was purchased and went through original registration in 1975. It's been dragged around for 30 years, and has been repaird countless times. The springs had to be re-welded to the chassis in Sodwana, the body work was almost completely replaced twice because of rust, and the axle was replaced after it was buckled in a pothole. Anyway, she asked me if I wanted the trailer after she bought a nice new 3CR12 trailer.

I took the trailer and completely re-built it. Brand new box-section chassis, aluminium chequer plate load box, new springs, new lights etc. The only parts that were from the "original" trailer were the disselboom (What's that in English?) and the axle. I made an aluminium ID tag that I stamped with the original manufacturers serial number and pop riveted in on the disselboom.

I had the trailer registered in my name and had the roadworthy done without any hassles, even though the trailer was essentially a completely new, built-from-scratch trailer.

So what you should have done is custom build a trailer to your own specs. and then buy some poor old rustbucket. Throw the rustbucket away, and register your designed trailer as if it was the rustbucket. ;)

I was in the UK for a week, got back this morning and have a couple of days off before going back to work.

The sum total of today's work was removing the shocks.

After being covered in Schultz for 30 years, the nuts turned without any "persuasion". There's not a drop of rust on the threaded rods that connect to the chassis.

I can't recommend that horrible sticky black stuff enough. It is a truly amazing product. Much better than Waxoyl.

My research has shown that the best way to remove it is to pay the galvanisers extra to dip the chassis in caustic soda type stuff prior to sandblasting and galvanising. Xylene works but it makes a terrible mess.


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