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The overlanding camper and RV world has blown up. More people than ever are living vanlife and taking to trails and remote motoring adventures than ever before. However, the number of people living full-time in an RV or overlanding camper with their family is still minimal. Those who build an insanely cool vintage Mercedes camper truck and homeschool and raise their family as they travel across the world is likely only one family – at least that we know of. 

Man working on his vintage Mercedes camper van in the desert
Akela the 1977 Mercedes camper van | Leander Nardin

True vanlife is not for the faint of heart

According to Expedition Portal, Akela World is made up of Leander, Maria, their son, Lennox, and, of course, Akela, a 1977 Mercedes-Benz LA 911 B. This family travels across the world together in this vintage Mercedes camper and documents their unique way of living for others to enjoy and be inspired by. 

In an interview with Expedition Portal, Leander, captain of the vintage Mercedes camper, explains, “We began our journey four and a half years ago in Austria, from there completing the Silk Road to Vladivostok, then to Korea, Japan, Borneo, Indonesia, Australia, then the USA (but we had to ship back to Europe due to Covid.) 

The vintage Mercedes is an obscure camper for this kind of travel

Their land ship is a massive and extremely beautiful 1977 Mercedes-Benz LA 911B camper. “The truck is perfect in many ways; it gives you a lot of comforts, especially with a kid and working on the road. That said, there is no perfect vehicle,” said Leander about his massive overlanding camper rig. “It’s also slow, and people don’t get quite how slow it is. People often say, ‘Oh, well, our VW Bus is also slow.’ And we’re like, ‘No, much slower than that.’”

He goes on to say that the reason they picked this massive Merc overlander is because of its lack of modern electronics means that even in the most remote places in the world, someone should be able to fix it. This is a brilliant thing for serious overlanders to consider. Although, he also mentions that finding spare parts for their obscure vintage Mercedes RV can be tough to find. 

What mods did this overlanding camper need? 

vintage overlanding camper stuck in the sand
Mercedes overlanding camper

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When asked about this groovy rig, Leander mentions the massive Goodyear tires they put on. The Mercedes has a diesel heater but also a wood-burning stove should the heater malfunction. The truck runs on 24 volts, but the living space runs on 12 volts, so there is a second alternator in the engine bay, which charges the batteries as we’re driving. Additionally, it has solar panels that charge both front and rear batteries. 

Leander said when they bought the vintage Mercedes camper, it was in unrestored condition, meaning it needed plenty of work to be trail-worthy. Since he is a photographer and creative, he learned a ton just to get the mechanics worked out. The interior had to be completely renovated. However, the truck already had a water tank, solar panels, and a fridge that could be used. 

The truck needed to have some rust addressed as well as a total rebuild. Leander says the entire build took two years of work every day to complete. Overall, they kept the build as simple as possible to keep maintenance as simple as possible. However, they considered a turbocharger to deal with the lack of power but ultimately decided against it. 

Life in an overlanding camper is a life well lived

Akela and the family are doing something that most of us want yet rarely try; a simple life. This truck is their home, transportation, and way of life. It is a beautiful thing that we rarely see anymore. The self-sufficiency and grit involved in building this fantastic vintage Mercedes overlanding camper are commendable whether or not overlanding is your thing.