Back To The Drawing Board - Some Redesign Needed On Unimog

Our Expedition Unimog completes its maiden voyage. A few changes are in store.

Every new expedition vehicle needs to start somewhere. No matter what you do there is always the first trip. Working out the kinks as they say. Most times I have found you come home with a number of changes that need to be made before the next adventure. Sometimes there are minor things, occasionally they are major.

Our last update on our expedition vehicle project showed a shiny new completed vehicle ready for her first such journey. Although I know that I owe everyone several articles accounting for some of our unique creations and modifications on the truck, I am going to skip forward for one post and cover the failures and the shortcomings of our project. Specifically, one major problem that nearly ended our trip only several days in.

Most importantly, I would like to begin by thanking the many people that jumped in to aid us in our time of need- and I mean need. As often is the case, we broke down at precisely the worst possible location- in the middle of nowhere, on a Sunday and with really no idea who to call for help. We were greeted by many people who pulled to the side of the road to offer a hand (in fact nearly everone driving by offered to assist). A big Thank You to all of you (you know who you are), and an extra special HUGE THANKS to Eugene and Connie Joy who simply were passing by. They stayed for hours, helped right the rear body, assisted in phoning the local authorities and checked in with us the following day to make sure that we got a “BIG LAND” welcome to Labrador. 

So just what did happen? Well, after hours of bumping about on the rough gravel and pot holed road from Baie Comeau Quebec on the way to Labrador City my concentration toward the road ahead was broken by the CB radio. Dennis, with an urgency in his voice said, “Mike, you are loosing your back- pull over!”  “Huh”, I thought. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the rear body of the truck looking like a dump truck in full tilt mode. Uh, oh- I don’t have a dump truck!

Long story real short. I will take some negative credit for a bit of a design flaw. With the spare tire, weighing in at nearly 260 pounds, and a very overloaded truck there was too much weight- specifically too much weight too far toward the rear of the truck. The welds holding the rear body to the frame had let go. Later we found that none of the welds were related to any of the work we had done on the vehicle, in fact they were all factory welds and two of them were defective from new.

One of my revelations from the incident was this: In the States if I had a million dollars and 2 weeks I probably could not have gotten the truck fixed in time. In Labrador we managed to  (with the help of many, and special thanks to GSC Crane Operation) get a tractor trailer tow back to the weld shop. Get a crane to lift the back body off. A welder to fix all of the weld points and strengthen the supports. Repair the wiring and exhaust damaged in the incident and lift the body back on. All of this in six hours- yes, six hours. Oh, and did I mention, on a Monday morning after getting towed in at 3am. Oh, and one more thing- without any electric power in the shop- in fact without any electric power in the whole town! Amazing.

An experience certainly, but one that we won’t forget because of all the great people that we met.

Thank you all from Mike, Karen, Dennis and Maura!  - And now the photos. (Click To Enlarge)