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Agnes the Land Rover - the African Dream

Our 3-month African adventure started in Namibia, South Africa. We then travelled to Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and finished the trip of a lifetime in Rwanda. We faced difficult border crossings, waist-deep mud, a staple diet of cereal and so much more. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here's how Agnes and the idea of an African adventure came about.

Who, what, when, where, why?

The idea of this trip was born between four friends from Knysna, somewhere after high school. All four of us worked abroad for several years, saving enough funds before coming together to make the trip happen. Jon-Jon Abelheim worked as an English teacher in Vietnam, Harry Maarsingh as an engineer in Saudi-Arabia, Tuscan Hayward in construction in Niger and lastly, myself Mitchell Sohn on the superyachts in the USA and Mediterranean.


Finding the most suitable vehicle

We wanted something that we could fit bunk beds into. By pure chance (and a number of beers) Jon-Jon started a conversation with a Forward Control owner in Knysna. The next day he searched online and found Agnes, now named after my late grandmother, a 1969 Land Rover Forward Control 2b. Because she was used by the SADF as a radio command vehicle, her total mileage of 27000km appears to be genuine.

Jon-Jon and Tuscan flew up to Pretoria and drove Agnes to Knysna with her original engine which produced a max speed of 40km/h. It took them 4 days to complete the trip with only a pair of long nose pliers, a roll of tape, leatherman and a stubby flat screwdriver. The original engine proved to be unreliable and it is known among Land Rover enthusiasts that it’s best used as a boat anchor.

The Build

A new 300tdi was ordered from the UK and installed with an R380 gearbox. She then underwent a 5-month rebuild in Mitchell’s workshop in Knysna. 4 bunk beds were fitted (which convert to seating benches), 6mm yellowwood ceiling and interior, 100 litre water tank, outdoor hot shower and gas geyser, aluminum sand ladders and 5 ton bridging ladders, 5 ton manual Tirfor Winch, 2 spare wheels, 2 x 100 watt solar panels, 1000 watt inverter, 2 x 40 litre fridge/freezers and a serious sound system.

We used many Bearmach parts for the build. An intercooler for our 300tdi, beltsbrake drums, wheel cylinders and a clutch master, etc. That's just some of the list; I could go on!

Agnes can now reach speeds of 120km/h but is most economical at 80km/h where she consumes 17liters/100km on average when fully loaded with 4 people. She carries 150 litres and a range of around 1000km.


The Inspiration for Agnes

Through some thorough research on the vehicle, we came across Jan Vorster’s account of his travels. Jan has travelled 111+ countries over two decades in an extensively modified identical model vehicle he calls “Dipli”. Many of the modifications on Agnes were based on the specifications of Dipli from Jan's website.

Stay tuned to find out what went down in each location! In the meantime, you can see what we've been getting up to with Agnes' here.

Mitch Sohn

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