The World's Happiest Camper
Dieter Sikorski's love of Land Rovers and articulated lorries was bound to end up here. Peter Galilee tests the ultimate holiday transport in the June 2016 issue of LRO.
What’s the Story?
Heads turn as we drive past. From the front, it looks like a Land Rover towing a caravan.From the back, it just looks like a caravan. But from the side… From the side, it looks like a cross between a Land Rover 110, one-and-ahalf caravans and a miniature articulated lorry.
That white-and-orange colour scheme helps a lot, pulling all the components of this strange beast into one complete visual package. But still, we get wide-eyed stares from pedestrians, car drivers, and – especially – HGV drivers. Their eyes swivel and their mouths move. And it’s not difficult to figure out what they’re saying: ‘I’ve never seen anything like that!’
We at Land Rover Owner International had never seen anything like it either, and that’s why we’re here in Germany. So, to be linguistically correct, the perplexed people we’re passing would be saying, in German: ‘Ich habe noch nie so etwas gesehen.’
But if any of those Autobahn observers were curious enough to seek one out for themselves, they’d be unlucky, because this spectacular mobile home-from-home is a one-off. What to call it, though? Rig, as per American slang? Articulated caravan? No, that doesn’t seem right. Fifth-wheel camper is probably the best bet. In Germany, you get near to it with sattelschlepper (semi-trailer) or sattel-caravan – ‘sattel’ translates to ‘saddle’ in English, in reference to the way the caravan’s fifth-wheel coupling sits on a platform bolted to the Land Rover’s chassis. Whatever the terminology, this is special.
As you might guess, so is the owner. Dieter Sikorski is a man who knows what he wants, and goes after it. When Dieter was young, he had a Mini. But then he started collecting old furniture. ‘Nobody liked it at that time,’ he explains. ‘I could get a lot of furniture for little money. But for moving old furniture, a Mini is no good. So I bought a VW bus. I was studying medicine then, and when I finished I wanted to drive to Africa. There was a book by some Africa travel specialists who said a Land Rover was better than VW so I sold the bus. At that time Land Rover enthusiasts in Germany had just started meeting and I was at the second event. There were 20 people there, and we formed the Deutsche Rover Club. But I didn’t have a Land Rover. I went to England to buy one – a 1973 long-wheelbase diesel.
‘I went with a friend from Hamburg, because at that time I had no technical knowledge – I only knew where to put the
fuel. I drove it from England all the way to my home in Germany. I smelled of diesel, it was horrible. My girlfriend was shocked.’
Somehow, this experience didn’t put Dieter off. ‘I started to learn about Land Rovers. I bought a 109-inch station wagon – six cylinder engine, broken crank bearings. Then after I finished my studies I went to England for two months and there found an 80-inch – this was in the 1980s. And then a Lightweight, and then a three-axle Tdi...’
Listing all Dieter’s Land Rovers would take a long time. But the three-axle Tdi is a clue: he likes anything unusual (see LRO, Spring 2016). And if it’s big, a Land Rover and unusual, that’s even better. ‘When I was a child, I liked fifthwheel lorries,’ he says. ‘And when I was grown up, I liked Land Rovers. So I thought: a fifthwheel Land Rover – that would be exciting!’
‘I talked to my Land Rover dealer friend and he told me someone in Germany had a fifth-wheel with a caravan! So I wrote to this
man, Herr Jacob, and he invited me to go to his home to look. This was in 1992 and by that time he had changed the Land Rover from a 1963 Series IIA 109-inch to a 200Tdi 110.’
He’d built it himself, starting with a new Tempo Matador caravan. He took o. the body and designed a new chassis. He built a new front for the caravan – so it’s longer – and made everything on the new part to match the original exactly. He was a technical engineer, and he gave me drawings so I could make the same. But this was a lot of work.’ Dieter knew he’d be able to do a project like that, but he also knew he simply didn’t have time. Which is just as well: ‘In 2013 my friend the dealer called. He said, "That fifth-wheel Land Rover and caravan – Herr Jacob is now in an old people’s home and can’t drive".’
So Dieter went back to have another look. Unfortunately, things had gone downhill since his 1992 viewing. The Land Rover and caravan had been stored in a damp lean-to garage. The 110’s headlining was collapsing, its underside was scarred with surface rust and the caravan was cluttered with junk. Also, the varnish on its wood panelling was flaky and the door was partly wrenched from its hinges. The restoration job was on…
Our Favourite Bit
As a Land Rover technical curiosity, Dieter’s camper would be interesting enough. But the caravan conversion is special in its own right. Beautiful wood surfaces, top-quality fixtures and fittings – if you didn’t know, you’d think the whole caravan was one continuous build. Narnia-like, access to the front section sleeping quarters is via the original wardrobe door. The caravan is light and airy, its honeycoloured polished wood bouncing a beautiful warm light around the interior.
And the Verdict form LRO?
Yes, it’s a head-turner, and it attracted our attention, just like everyone else’s, because it’s so unusual. After all, how many fifth-wheel Land Rovers have you seen? But in the end, it’s not the technicalities that impress – it’s the beauty and practicality of the whole thing. Dieter and Cordula love their fifth-wheel camper. As for the rest of us: it’s a case of ‘Ich wunschte, ich einer denen hatte!’ (‘I wish I had one of those!’).
Where can I read more?
Read the full story in the June 2016 issue of LRO. Current and back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Or order a printed issue by calling 01858 438884. Please note, we only hold stocks of the last three back issues.
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