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Grisu – Our Mercedes van

Grisu our Mercedes van in the Canadian snow

Introducing Grisu, who is a Mercedes van, but a rather special unit. He left the Mercedes factory in 1991 as a regular Mercedes T1 310, but has straight away been converted into a 4×4 by an Austrian company called Oberaigner. Back in the day, this was done on customer request, mainly for firetrucks and ambulances in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In each of those countries, there was one company cooperating with Mercedes to converted the brand new rwd vans to 4×4 vans, mainly for the purpose of driving (uphill) on snow in the winter. A small number has been converted all together. Therefore, now these vehicles are rather special, and especially in North America, where the Mercedes T1 was never sold.

Our Grisu was used as a firetruck in Knappenberg (Carinthia, Austria), which is less than 3 hours away from home, and we’ve found it across the Atlantic. Something about the needle and the haystack…

Generally, those firetrucks aren’t used much, they stand in their heated garage and get there service accordingly. But they get older, until they “need” to be replaced by a younger version and they are sold. So Grisu was picked up by travellers, Janneke and Konstantin from Guidiary.com, who converted the inside to a camper, and shipped it to Canada.

Grisu drove them all over Canada and up to Alaska, before he had an unfortunate accident on the way down to Vancouver. Slipping on ice, tipping over, he broke his front-left drive shaft due to a bend axle-housing. A rather unusual thing to happen, but it did.

His previous owners decided to sell him, and so he was picked up by Alex from “Overlanding Titles and Services” near Seattle (WA). Alex wanted to use Grisu privately, but ended up not having the time for him.

It was rather a coincidence getting in touch with Alex, via the PanAmerican Travellers Group on Facebook. I asked some questions, Alex came with great answers, I sent him some private messages, and great answers came again. Until the point that he said, that the perfect vehicle fitting my mold was standing on his driveway and if I wanted to have (buy) it? Decision didn’t take long; Yes. This was April 2018, quite exact one year before departure.

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