What's the story?
You’re looking at the fruits of one man’s epic endeavour to build a Defender 130 overlander from scratch, on a brand-new Defender 130 Chassis Cab sourced direct from Solihull. Its story begins with a perfect storm of necessity, inspiration and engineering know-how.
The brains behind the project is Rasmus Töpsch, a man who shares with his fiancée Juliane a love of squeezing into tight rubber suits and falling out of boats. Diving, as some people call it. Since he earns his crust in the mega-yacht industry, and Juliane works as project manager for a company building offshore platforms, the couple frequently need to travel to coastlines all over Europe. That kind of lifestyle demands a pretty special vehicle, so this is what they came up with – it's called the Explorator.
The camper body is all Rasmus’s own design and handiwork, but it’s as flawless and solid as any mass-produced vehicle. The design began with sketches that Rasmus turned into CAD (computer-aided design) drawings. First to be built was the steel base frame, then the compound floor, made from a sandwich of 2mm glassfibre, 40mm foam and 28mm plywood with a walnut-style PVC lining on top.
The side, rear and roof panels also use 40mm foam, but with 2mm glassfibre on either side. Around the edges they’re glued into pre-formed, L-shaped glassfibre profiles.
‘Normally this is rigid enough,’ explains Rasmus, ‘but since we have a lot of non-rectangular pieces it’s a little tricky. So we’ve reinforced the whole interior with two layers of glassfibre and epoxy resin, which makes it completely watertight and prevents condensation.
Our favourite bit?
‘Rasmus aims for a soft dune and gives it some welly. The front hits the mound and rears skywards, the tyres dig, the TDCi roars, and the camper-on-steroids hauls itself through. It looks epic so he has another go, momentarily forgetting all that stuff about driving defensively.’
And the verdict from LRO writer Theo Ford-Sagers?
‘Although such a high-tech build is unnatainable for most ordinary mortals like me, there’s still much to learn from the Explorator. It’s a lesson in what can be achieved with some creative thinking and a limitless pursuit of perfection.’
Engine: 2.2 TDCi l Transmission: Six-speed manual l Axles: ARB locking rear diff, wheel spacers l Suspension: Terrafirma dampers, rear air helper springs l Electrics: Split-charge with 2.5kW Studer Extender power management system l Body: Bespoke GRP and foam laminate on steel base-frame, custom-made HPL internal storage lockers