Jono Boyd is an exceptional human being. Living life to the maximum, travelling to the world’s [and NZ’s] most far reached corners. Do the Mongol Rally in a tiny Smart car… tick. What about a trans Atlantic sailboat crossing…done. And that’s just the last 18 months. He and his partner in crime Rebecca Cooke are living large. We are going to circle back to the adventure just prior to Mongolia though…
Did you own a camper before getting the Hilux or was it just straight in at the deep end?
When I bought the Hilux doing a camper conversion was something I’d been thinking about for a while. I’d always had four-wheel drives both here and in Australia with rooftop tents. I love the freedom it gives you to be able to move from place to place in perfect comfort with a hot shower and flush toilet and truly live off-grid. I’m also a bit of hoarder and don’t like to travel without all my toys, fishing gears and free-diving equipment so it’s great to be able to take everything with me on the road.
I found the Hilux on Facebook. It had a lot of rust but some of the repair it needed was included in the asking price. I had a fair idea of the damage, but I don’t think I realised the extent to which I’d need to work on it as the more I dug into it, the worse it got. New issues and repairs showed up almost on a daily basis. I certainly didn’t realise I’d have to replace all the wiring due to damage from rats for example.
Talk us through the repairs [ this could take a while huh! ]
Structurally for the Hilux’s steel, welding and rust repairs I did; new floors, half the fire wall, two doors, one A-pillar, a gas bottle locker and the rear camper sub-chassis.
I also fitted new brakes – the biggest I could possibly buy on the Hilux, four new heavy duty shocks, did a power steering rebuild, bought four new tyres, new headlights, custom fabricated mirror mounts, new stereo system (Head unit, four speakers, subwoofer and amp), repaired wiring loom in the cab and had a new exhaust added.
For the camper itself: new solar panel 350 Watt, and a 1500Watt pure sine wave inverter, installed a charge controller, a 300 amp hour battery, USB charging points, 8 LED lights/light strips, complete rewiring, top to bottom, new combination 2 gas burner cooker and sink installed into a beautiful kauri bench top. That was probably one of the highlights of the repairs. A neighbour of mine had some 30,000 year old Swamp Kauri and gave me a beautiful slab to use as my new kitchen bench top.
I also added a 40L Engel fridge, new queen size mattress, new Thetford electric flush toilet. New plumbing with hot water to the sink and shower, 3 new external access hatches, I added a couple of 240v plugs and lights for when we had access to mains power, although I never actually used them. I also added a reversing camera and rearview mirror reversing screen.
I also rebuilt the original awning getting some pieces custom made and engineered. Same for the original camper door handle. Being so old they had worn out and there were no replacements available. Then I just added the extras like a fire extinguisher, toolkit and fishing rods, camper chairs etc. Stuff that makes a trip around New Zealand fun.
Rebecca also painted the bathroom door and walls with blackboard paint and we spray painted a map of New Zealand so we could draw our adventures around the route.
I had a professional do the rust repair and I’m really grateful for two mates (both called Ollie) who are mechanics that helped with the suspension, brakes and power steering. I managed to do the rest. It was just a lot of time as I’m self-taught so lots of things were done more than once to get them perfect.
Rather than do an expensive full wrap my friend hooked me up with lots of vinyl so we could custom cut shapes out and lay them over the white background to give the camouflage effect inspired by the Overlander Trucks in Europe and the USA.
This truck will go anywhere. I took it to places I wouldn’t even go in a normal 4×4 and it got me through.
You lived fulltime in the Hilux right?
We lived full-time in the camper for five months before heading over seas to do the 26,000km Mongol Rally . The build took me two months working on it full time on my base of Great Barrier Island where I live off-grid. I also used the camper for weekend trips when I returned to NZ.
What were the best things about the hilux?
The best thing was its ability to go absolutely anywhere. We stayed in some pretty cool spots that would be out of reach for most campers and vehicles. But ‘The Mansion’ – that’s what it was jokingly named – would get to the most remote, off the beaten path places.
What were the unexpected bonuses of it?
It was a really good conversation starter. Wherever we went, we’d have locals and fellow road trippers approach and mention how unique it was because of the black and blue camo print. It was a really good way to meet people and get tips from locals about where to go. Getting invited to fly a bush plane up in to the Southern Alps and catch and tag a wild Kiwi was definitely a day to remember.
What were the downsides?
Crawling up the really big hills at 30km an hour was pretty frustrating. She would go anywhere, but she wouldn’t get there fast! If we had been using it more in the winter I would have definitely bought a heater, because it was pretty cold in the snow in the South Island. We just had to sleep with a hot water bottle and a few blankets every night to keep warm!
Our next adventure will be to head up to Canada to drive the last third of the way around the world making us the first to circumnavigate the earth in a Smart car. There may be a tiny home build in the works too. And after that I’ll start making plans to build a 4wd camper in the UK so I can drive down to South Africa.