Spending the last few years working for Dragoman throughout the Middle East, Africa and South America, I realized what the North American travel market is missing: Overland Vehicles. Driving these former cement trucks (refurbished into overland adventure vehicles) throughout these developing countries creating a home base for our passengers is exactly what is missing in the North American market. All the adventure companies are running around with 15-passenger vans and trailers attached to the back of them. Why are they not building vehicles that can carry more passengers with virtually the same fuel mileage?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my van when I worked with Trek America, but I was always in the driver’s seat, had enough leg space (as if that’s very difficult), the air-con or wind blowing in my face, and control of the music. No complaints on my end. But, the passengers were cramped up on bench seats that even a vertically challenged individual like myself could find uncomfortable traveling distances of up 400 miles in a day. The windows were big and visibility was good, but they don’t roll down and are tinted to the point of screwing up most pictures because your camera feels it’s too dark.
My ideal would to take a stripped chasis and build it from scratch, but who has $250,000 to invest in something like that? So, it was a compromise, not going with an old cement truck but with an old yellow school bus. One of the safest and sturdiest vehicles on the road. Our vehicle doesn’t need to be fast but it does need to be spacious and certified to carry groups of 20 passengers.
When the finished product arrives in February, it will have:
- Viewing platform on top of vehicle for taking 360 Degree pictures of wildlife or landscape
- Wood rack to carry firewood for campfires
- Interior tables for at least 8 pax to write journals or play cards during the ride
- Refrigeration to cool drinks and food
- Individual overhead lockers for personal belongings and day packs
- Overhead lights and speakers (to switch on and off individually)
- Individual seats (no benches) which recline and are fitted with seatbelts
- Tons of windows which are not tinted and open for maximum view and possibility to take photos at any time
- Space for 6’6 (198 cm) men to be sitting comfortably
- On-board safe for passenger passports and money
- Safety rating of the overland vehicle (According to an April 2002 Congressional report, statistics show that school buses built after 1977 are 8 times safer than passenger vehicles due to their reinforced side panels, accurately distributed center-of-gravity, and seating design + speed governor at 62 mph)
- Overland Vehicle that withstands the worst gravel road conditions