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Even with the booming custom camper market, this vintage Land Rover Defender camper is a stand-out machine. The highest peaks nor the Lowest valleys of the internet will reveal a cooler, more unquestionably unique vintage Land Rover conversion camper than Jannis Josten’s BMW-powered ambulance. 

Vintage Land Rover overland camper parked in the desert
Custom Land Rover Camper | Ellie Vans/ Jannis Josten

This vintage Land Rover Defender camper is a force to reckon with

The folks at Expedition Portal have nothing but high praise for this insane Landy build and its builder. Unlike most overland or camper builds, Josten’s vintage Land Rover Defender isn’t a towering monster with a list of customization as long as a CVS receipt. In fact, from the outside, you might miss the fact that it’s been heavily gone through and is now sporting a German heart.

Josten is a German engineer who used to work for Ford. After nine years working for Ford, he finally asked himself, “Is this it, my life?” The result of this quarter-life crisis questioning was quitting his job and pursuing a life of adventure and risk – with what might be the coolest vintage Land Rover Defender camper ever made. 

At the age of six, Josten became enamored with overlanding while watching the Camel Trophy races with his grandad. At 21, he got his first Land Rover and eventually began building it to be a Dakar-style overland racer. He eventually put a BMW motor in it, planting that seed. 

What went into this Land Rover camper build? 

This vintage Land Rover Defender camper is the coolest thing on four wheels. Parked in front of a bright blue building with surfboards on top.
Custom Land Rover Camper | Ellie Vans/ Jannis Josten

This beauty of a brown Land Rover Defender ambulance was built using multiple vehicles, including the chassis from a 1987 Land Rover 110 military version, 1997 Defender solid axles, disc brakes, coil springs, and a 1969 Land Rover Series II aluminum ambulance body. The engine is a 3.0-liter BMW M57 turbo-common-rail-diesel 6-cylinder aluminum block with a BMW RWD 5-speed manual transmission, the latter of which needed heavy modifications to work. 

Josten mentions in his interview with Expedition Portal that once he quit his gig at Ford, he was working 12 hours a day for six months before he shipped it to South America for testing. Notably, the Defender camper wasn’t even done when he shipped it. 

When asked why he didn’t wait and finish at home, he said, “Honestly, it was madness. That said, I don’t think any overland vehicle can be properly tested in Europe alone. You need the intense heat, gravel roads, washboard, and potholes you find in places like South America.”

He went on to say that “Nonetheless, I had over 150 breakdowns; it drove me absolutely crazy. I had many tools and spare parts, soldering electrics, fixing things constantly. The big lesson is keeping the vehicle as stock as possible because the manufacturer tests the stock setup thoroughly to ensure everything works well.” 

The best campers are the simplest campers

wood clad overland camper interior
Interior of custom Land Rover Camper | Ellie Vans/ Jannis Josten

Simple, lightweight, and functional. These are the core components of any good overlander camper. For as long as he worked on the mechanical aspects of his camper, he only spent two weeks building the cabin. The goal was to keep everything as simple and effective as possible. 

According to Expedition Portal, the basic layout of this vintage Land Rover Defender camper consists of a slide-out bed (fixed on the left as a single, but extends to make a double), wooden closets and countertop, Mobicool MCF40 compressor fridge, 40-liter wheel arch water tank, and MaxFan vent. Internal electrics consist of two 100Ah AGM batteries and a 160-watt solar panel, which also powers external auxiliary LED lighting for campouts. There’s an outside shower and an amazing 270-degree Alu-Cab awning.

Overlanding campers don’t have to fancy

This camper isn’t the lux monster trucks that have become popular with makers like EarthRoamer and others like them. This land Rover camper is a masterclass in simplicity and groovy style. From top to bottom, this overland camper means business, and the builder has the stories to prove it. 


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