Das Löschfahrzeug auf einer geschotterten Straße im Sonnenuntergang
Adventure
Author: Hanno Meier
Pictures: Hanno Meier, Natascha Müller

An old fire engine forging new paths

One dream, two letters, two numbers: LF16. The fire engine with its inbuilt pump spent much of the 70s and 80s on the front line of firefighting missions. Natascha Müller and Flo Kandsperger decided to give the old Iveco a new life – and you won’t believe what they’ve turned it into. Eight square meters of mobile living space perched atop the old truck chassis. An elegant design equipped with incredible functions – all selfmade, of course. After a long break caused by the Covid pandemic, Natascha and Flo finally set off on their big trip last fall. Their stories are incredible enough to make anyone dream – not just firefighters.

Flo steht an der offenen Fahrertür

Their fire engine is as old as they are. In the middle of the Covid pandemic, Natascha Müller and Flo Kandsperger started converting the old LF16 into a mobile home. They gutted the dated Iveco truck down to its leaf springs, turned the original driver’s cab from a nine-seater into a four-seater and renovated the vehicle completely. The empty container that became the camper shell was supplied by a Polish manufacturer, everything else is home-made, from the kitchen unit with its air-sprung closing mechanism, oven and induction cooker to the three-m2 photovoltaic plant on the roof. A swivel-mounted 42-inch LED TV overlooks the comfortable double bed. The shower cabin is equipped with a urine-diverting dry toilet. In the modern dining area, large windows offer panoramic views of the outside world. Futuristic light switches dim the indirect lighting at night. The entire interior looks as though it was made by an expensive design studio. Everything is of the highest quality, and the vehicle has been raring to go on its first trip for months, but the couple’s departure was delayed by the pandemic.

Das Innenleben des umgebauten LF 16: mit Herdplatte, Bett und Sitzecke

A one-hour drive

Finally: September 12, 2021, Natascha’s thirtieth birthday. “We drove our truck to my birthday party and headed out immediately after the celebrations,” she laughs. After an hour’s drive, a lie-in started to look like the more attractive option. After all, the ferry from Rostock to Trelleborg was booked. “The adventure started at the port,” Flo recalls. “We joined the queue of caravans with our LF16, towering above all the other vehicles.” But staff soon called the live-in fire engine out of the queue, ordering its passengers to wait until everyone else had entered. As time goes by, all free space around the truck gradually disappears. Natascha and Flo fold their mirrors in. Only a couple of centimeters separate them from the walls. “They basically lifted the ramp and carried us up into the ferry on it,” the two caravan adventurers remember as they proudly show us their photos of Scandinavia.

Life on the road, plain and simple. “You can put the Iveco on any natural parking space and spend the night.” Sweden’s freedom to roam (“allemannsrätt”) is unique in the world. There is only one golden rule when it comes to nature in Scandinavia: don’t disturb anything, don’t destroy anything. Apart from that, anyone – be they a local or a tourist – can spend time in nature to their heart’s content, and this includes private lands. This “everyman’s right” dates back to the Middle Ages, and it is sacrosanct to the Swedes. But beware! Do not dare to break the one golden rule. When it comes to protecting their beautiful nature and keeping it pristine, the Scandis are unforgiving.

Heading inland to the north, far beyond the Arctic Circle, and then back down along the Gulf of Finland, the LF16 successfully racked up its first miles. Its owners spent nights by crystal-clear lakes, river and coasts, hiked across moorlands and mountains, crossed birch forests, discovered waterfalls and explored the Swedish wilderness. “We soon found out how important good boots are,” Natasha smiles.

Stilleben

The Truck sets the pace

When Natascha and Flo bought the LF16, it only had 25,000 kilometers on the clock. It had spent more time being serviced than being driven, as the vehicle was originally designed for short routes. “That was no issue at all,” Flo fondly recalls the 6,000-kilometer trip. “The truck was as reliable and robust as a tractor.”

The caravaning newbies made sure to plan the interior of their camper shell with simplicity in mind: everything is easily accessible for maintenance purposes. Flo installed sensors in sensitive areas. He is a true tinkerer in the best sense of the word. When a short damaged the solar-powered induction cooker before their trip and the manufacturers dragged their heels providing feedback, he impatiently opened the stovetop himself. “The issue was completely obvious,” the trained goldsmith says with a disarming nonchalance. There’s no problem this thirtyyear-old cannot solve.

The standard gasket on the boiler looked a bit dubious to him, so he had bespoke cutting ring fittings made – they are normally used for hydraulic pipes.

During the fire truck’s maiden voyage, perfectionist Flo repeatedly took issue with the flexible rubber tubes of the water supply, as his water detectors noisily roused the couple out of their sleep. “They seemed like the best solution at the time,” he says in retrospect, but the temperature differences kept expanding and shrinking the tubes. This allowed a few drops of water to leak out, which triggered the alarm in turn. Since returning from Scandinavia, he has converted the whole system: “stainless-steel pipes, press fittings, it’s a done thing,” Flo rattles off. The couple are ready for their next adventure and, perhaps, the next caravan conversion of an old fire engine. After all, there are many who would like a bespoke LF16 like theirs. They attracted many admiring glances on their trip, and their first order is pretty much in the bag.

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