South African company Front Runner Outfitters has developed a global reputation for manufacturing practical and robust vehicle accessories with the tough, made-in-Africa roof rack as their core product.
The following information was provided courtesy of Front Runner Vehicle Outfitters located in Agoura Hills, CA.
In 2009 when Front Runner Outfitters co-founder Stanley Illman decided that he wanted to build the most capable long distance overland vehicle on the planet, he needed a base vehicle for this project.
Some might’ve gone for overland legends such as the Land Rover Defender 110, 80-series Toyota Land Cruiser, or the bulletproof Nissan Patrol, but he and project co-designer Alex Beccaria instead opted for the 463 commercial Mercedes Geländewagen, a longtime favorite amongst the armies around the world.
There are several good reasons for this: the three-ton payload means it can carry lots of gear, water, and fuel, the three locking differentials make it super capable off-road, heavy-duty axles mean it can handle a bump or three, and there is the hugely practical fact you can rinse out the rubber mats and interior with a hosepipe after a muddy or dusty trip.
When asked why the 463 commercial Mercedes Geländewagen was picked as the base vehicle, this is what Stanley had to say:
“Having travelled about 400,000 km/ 248,548 miles over 30 years through the most remote and hostile terrain in Africa in Mercedes vehicles and never once needing a tow, we knew the Mercedes 463 was the platform on which to build the ultimate expedition vehicle.”
While the design and planning for the vehicle was done by Front Runner Outfitters, all the work was completed by UNICAT in Germany.
Stanley and Alex then turned this already capable Geländewagen into their version of the ultimate overland wagon, the Mercedes Entdecker. Let’s start on the top, where the modular and super strong Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack is fitted.
At the time, AutoHome made some of the best rooftop tents in the world, so their Maggiolina tent was welcomed onto the rack. All external lights were fitted with protective covers, while a heavy-duty snorkel was installed to help deal with dust and deep-water crossings.
Standard side mirrors were replaced with ones off a Unimog, another great overlanding vehicle option. Thanks to the extra tanks this Entdecker can carry an impressive 125 liters/ 33 gallons of water and 230 liters / 84.5 gallons of fuel, which gives it a range of about 1,800 kilometers/ 1,118 miles. If in thick desert sand, this range would be much less of course.
As for storage, it has a custom drawer system in the back, and one can easily stack several Front Runner Wolf Pack Pro storage boxes on top of this and tie them down using Stratchits. To ensure the meat stays frozen and the beers cold, Stanley’s two 40-litre fridges were fitted; one works as a deep freeze and the other as a regular fridge. The Entdecker has an onboard air compressor, so inflating tires after deflating them for off-roading or sand can be done quickly if needed.
The front seats are now heated to ensure no one has a cold bottom. The Mud UK dash pod can easily house and power a GPS unit and telephones. The impressive Entdecker has ample charging and power points for laptops and a satellite phone. This is fine even when parked up, thanks to the additional batteries which are charged via the two alternators, one 12V and the other 24V.
At the time, the 3.0L V6 was seen as one of the more modern diesel Mercedes engines available, and so we asked Stan how it has performed on all the memorable trips he has done in it.
“It’s a very robust vehicle and hard to break. We’ve always driven it home and never been stuck in it. I count myself very fortunate.”
ABOUT Front Runner Outfitters:
Front Runner Outfitters, manufacturers of roof racks, water tanks, tents, awning, and other camping accessories for the vehicle-based outdoor enthusiast was founded in 2010.