Choosing a cabin builder

Don’t rush the decision to choose your builder; you’ll be living here for years.

Initial Design

There was a period of several years between the first seeds of an idea to buy an overland truck being planted in my mind, and the actual moment I placed the order. During that time I spent hundreds of hours reading travel blogs, equipment manufacturers’ pages and talking to experienced travelers and campers in Dubai, so as to build up an idea of what I wanted in my living cabin, which in turn would determine how much space I needed. In order to plan this all out physically, I started using Google Sketch-Up, which, considering it is free to download, I found to be perfect for my needs and I definitely recommend. I’m certainly not “AutoCAD proficient” and it did take a short while to get to grips with, but it allowed me to create a 3D model of my cabin, to experiment with different layouts, and to adjust things such as the level of the bed base for example – too high and I wouldn’t have enough space above me when I slept, too low and the height in the store area below would not allow for a bicycle to be loaded upright.

Expedition Exhibition

The trouble with taking years to make the decision to “Press the Go button” was that I kept altering the design over and over again, or changing my mind about the model of fridge, or seat layout or the size of the bathroom sink or……. You get the picture. But at least by the time I met with several cabin builders at Allrad Abenteurer 2014, I was able to talk in great detail about my requirements and expectations, and by judging the detailed (or otherwise) answers they gave, I quickly eliminated a few from my short-list of potential builders. Some were obviously determined to build things “their way” with little or no flexibility when it came to customising the cabin, which is convenient and economic for them, but they’re not the ones who’ll be living in it for the foreseeable future, nor are they paying for it! So they were never going to get my business.

Of course I was also able to look in detail at the quality of the trucks at the exhibition, and was fortunate to be accompanied by my friend Ard Lampers from the Netherlands. Not only does he speak fluent German which is a big help at that show, but for a while he built caravans, and has driven rally support trucks in the Dakar rally, so he knows a thing or two about the quality of fixtures and fittings, of design details and the practicality of building things a certain way into a motorhome.

Oberaigner chassis / KrugXP cabin
KrugXP had cabins on both a 6×6 Sprinter and an MAN truck at Allrad Abenteuer 2014.

We both agreed that one company was not only building very good quality cabins incorporating excellent fixtures, but was also the one whose staff were the most cooperative. I admit I had never heard of KrugXP before the show, but that’s what trade exhibitions are all about, meeting new suppliers, and since they were displaying in conjunction with my chassis supplier Oberaigner, it made sense to consider them.

Off to Ukraine

Naturally I was a little nervous about entrusting the build of my cabin and, yes, a great deal of money, to a company which operates out of Ukraine and which I had never heard of until I met the owners at the Allrad show. So I decided to visit them in Cherkasy, a two and a half hour drive south of Kiev, to see their facilities for myself. Well, it would have been two and a half hours, until the snow came down…. But having survived the eventual four and a half hour journey, I was very pleased I had made the trip.

KrugXP is owned by Viktor Molov. Viktor’s background is in the construction and building materials industry and having established factories specialising, in, amongst others, GRP panels, aluminium windows, carpentry, and home fittings, he realised he had all the materials and expertise needed to build his own overland trucks. Joerg Eden is their Chief Designer and like Viktor, a keen overland truck owner himself. His experience is in the design and construction of oil and gas exploration structures, and between them, Viktor and Joerg put me at ease with regard to KrugXP’s ability to design and build a cabin to my exact requirements. Some of their employees are former aircraft engineers, and since I trained in the same industry, I looked for the attention to detail which I expected from such staff when I studied the three cabins they were fabricating during my visit. I was ultimately very happy with what I saw and discussed, and agreed a specification and price with Joerg after a couple more days, shortly before Christmas 2015.

Overview of the cabin design
Cabin interior layout. KrugXP’s AutoCAD layouts were, not surprisingly, a lot better than mine!

Decision made

I had obtained prices from other cabin builders, in Germany, and although I made some savings by having the cabin built in Ukraine, that was not my primary reason for the decision to work with KrugXP. From my initial meeting with them at the Allrad show, during the course of considerable e-mail correspondence and then during my visit to their facility at Cherkasy, I always had the feeling that they were the company which listened most carefully to my requirements and that they clearly understood my needs. I had some very specific demands for a custom designed seating and table arrangement, a large panoramic viewing panel, a high level of electrical equipment and thus a need for additional solar power, a high capacity Li-Ion (not AGM) battery etc. etc. I felt confident that KrugXP could produce a very well made cabin incorporating these and many more features, so they won my business.

Spare tyres mounted out of harm's way.
Every detail matters. For example, how will the spare tyres be mounted?

It took Joerg and I another eight or nine weeks to agree every little finite detail of the design, because I was undoubtedly very demanding, and Joerg was of course more experienced in what worked and what didn’t, but I was always very comfortable working with him and valued his input. Along the way I made a couple of changes which warranted some extra charges but they were always agreed in advance and likewise, I know KrugXP absorbed a few additional costs at times.

The construction schedule was delayed slightly since initially we had planned to use my truck at the Allrad show in May 2016, but when it became clear that this would not be possible, KrugXP, with my agreement, focused instead on finishing two other trucks to demonstrate at this very important exhibition. Consequently my cabin was ‘put to one side’ for a few weeks but this was not a problem for me.

The cabin should be completed in September 2016 and will then be transported to a location in the South of Germany, where it will be mounted onto the Oberaigner chassis.