At OKA the cabin is fitted permanently to the chassis.
But there is still a long way to driving it ....
The customs agent has been very successful, customs
has agreed to "cabin".
But now quarantine has no time and we loose 3 working
We will only get the back-section out and to OKA on
Friday, February 10th.
The plan is to have quarantine inspecting the back-section
at 9 am. This can take up to 4 hours.
So the Alu-Star crew will show up at 12:30 to get all
At 1 pm a truck should arrive, the back-section loaded
to it and the back-section delivered to OKA.
At 3 pm a crane will be ready at OKA to unload the back-section.
Ruedi and Susi arrive at the logistics a bit early
(still very Swiss ...) and prepare all.
We wait, and wait, and wait ...
At 9:30 am Susi checks with the office, if we missed
Quarantine is called and we find out that the officer
that was supposed to check our goods has not shown up
They will try to organise another one, which is not
easy on such short notice and on a Friday.
But we are lucky and at 10 the officer appears. He seems
to be the boss of the other officer.
He is very polite and excuses the delay.
He checks a few things like the chain of the bicycle,
the soles of the shoes, the shovel where the blade is
fixed to the handle, etc.
He is happy with the findings and after only 20 minutes
clears all good.
What a luck! We are thrilled.
At 1 pm the crew from Alu-Star have prepared all for
the transport to OKA.
We wait, and wait, and wait ...
Shortly before 2 pm the truck and the large fork-lift
Because of all the tubes sticking out underneath the
back-section Alex again crawls on the floor to ensure
nothing is squashed accidentally.
All goes well and the back-section is fixed on the
truck and driven away.
The truck, the crane and we arrive at OKA at the same
Because the work on our chassis has not been finished
yet an empty chassis has been rolled out so the back-section
can be rolled into the factory.
First the roof tent and the supporting rails need to
Then the crane gently moves the back-section onto the chassis.
The tyres need a bit more pumping to cope with the
weight of the still fully loaded back-section ....
Allan pushes the chassis and the back-section into the factory
with the fork-lift. The door is just wide and high enough.
We are all very happy that we have managed all because
in the evening Thomas Kreutziger, the third man from
Alu-Star, arrives from Africa.
here to view his home page
Now the Alu-Star is complete and ready to get the job
We will only be able to assist a bit, Ruedi being the
"go-for" and Susi by doing the shopping and
On Saturday work really start.
First the back-section is unloaded completely and all stored
in "our" office.
Then the back-section is removed from the chassis and
lifted on to stands thus making working underneath possible.
Next is to remove the frame that was used to fix the
back-section in the container.
The plan is to use the frame to fit the back-section on to
Because the vehicle was not available to Alu-Star in
Germany they had to build the frame according to plans
delivered by OKA.
To check the frame it is placed on the chassis.
We are all very happy to see that it fits perfectly.
Many things will have to be connected between the back-section
and the chassis (e.g. hydraulic tubes, water pipes,
power cables, the escape door, air conditioning, etc.).
Because the chassis is not ready we can not place the
back-section on the chassis to check if all fits.
One of the important tasks now is to check all measurements.
This task is difficult as one has to consider all aspects
to the parts that will have to be fitted together
e.g. the electrical stair
- it is fixed to the back-section just below the shower tray
- the tray has 4 water outlets, one in each corner
- underneath the tray the supporting frame goes through
- underneath the frame there are some cables, tubes,
- on the chassis, below the frame there is a diesel
It takes a lot of 3D-vision to be able to fit all this
together in ones imagination and then decide if the
measurements are correct to be able to continue the
work until we finally can mount the back-section onto
A solution to be able to lift the spare wheels onto
the wheel carrier needs to be developed.
Each wheel will weigh at least 77 kg, depending on the
rims we choose.
It is decided to build a crane and use a chain block
to lift all into place.
frame is ready to be brought to the galvaniser.
It weighs 190 kg and everybody is required to assist
with the loading it onto the ute.
Alex starts work on the electrical system and Murphy
strikes again ...
As Alex drills a whole into the floor of the back-section
to install a plug suddenly lots of yellow-greenish liquid
runs out of the floor.
This can only be the liquid used in the floor heating
... looks like a leak somewhere, but where and why?
Alex and Thomas inspect all and come to the conclusion
that after the floor heating had been checked for tightness
somebody must have drilled into one of the tubes in
Alex is completely stressed as it is very hard to find
a leak like this. There must be a few hundred wholes
in the floor where the furniture has been screwed to
He remembers that when he fitted the batteries he had
felt something when drilling and stopped.
So the batteries are removed and the floor opened. No
whole is found ....
Next to be checked is the bench. Once the linoleum has
been removed they find the damage.
A pipe has a tiny whole from a drill as expected.
After the pipe is soldered the system is set under pressure.
All is tight again.
Those 2 days must have been some of the worst ones in
Alex's working life.
The evenings at the house are filled with talking and
Middle of February the major welding work is finished
and Manfred goes back home to Germany.
The bolt-together-rims arrive. But Murphy strikes again!
On close inspection by Linden and Arthur they realise
that the way the rims are built the valves are to close
to the break pads.
The rims are sent back ....
The frame is back from the galvaniser and is checked
again on the chassis. After a few whacks it is back
in shape and fits perfectly.
But as OKA is still working on the cabin the frame is
Finally OKA has reached the point where the motor is
started the first time.
All goes well and the chassis driven onto the lift for
the hydraulics to be finished.
Also the doors are now ready to be mounted.
Arthur promises that we will have the chassis by the
end of the week to put the back-section on.
This is just in time because Alex is due to fly back
to Germany the following Monday.
A few days later the cabin is placed permanently on
Alex decides to temporarily put the frame on the chassis
and to push the chassis under the back-section to check
if all really fits.
And Murphy strikes again but this time in the Alu-Star
2 of the 4 water outlets of the shower tray are 2 cm
off and exit exactly above the frame that has been modified
recently to carry the hydraulic stair.
The frame needs to be altered even though it had been
Well, this is the difference between theory and reality
Susi has established herself in the office and is finishing
Also some work on the blinds is done to stop them from
dangling around when driving.
The back-section needs to be painted in the front as
it will be joined there with the chassis and the colour
has to match the one of the OKA.
Also the fly screen-door and the interior of the window
covers need to be sprayed.
All has to be covered with paper and masking tape which
is a huge task that has to be done with painstaking
That day the temperature reached 40° C in Perth.
We stopped counting the water bottles we drink on that
After the spay painting the frame is fitted permanently
to the back-section.
Sika is added between the frame and the floor of the
back-section and then all is screwed together.
The work on the stairs continues. As the stairs are
lowered around the diesel tank the functionality can
only be fully tested once the back-section is fitted
on the chassis.
More and more work has to be delayed because we are
waiting for the chassis.
On Wednesday, February 22, finally the day of the first
test drive arrives.
Linden and Arthur agree that "she drives beautifully".
Arthur takes the chassis to the weighbridge.
The weight is 3,54 t which is at least 250 kg more than
But as it already has many of our extras mounted it
is hard to tell, if we will have a problem with the
weight or not.
But they also realise that the OKA has a problem with
This means that they have to take it apart again.
For us these news come as a shock.
It means that we will not be able to fit the back-section
to the chassis before Alex flies back.
As he cannot delay his return any further this means
that we only have Thomas left to do all the work.
In addition Ruedi and Susi must be in Queensland by
April 1st for the 80th birthday of Susi's father.
With this extra delay it will not be possible to drive
OKA agrees to pay for flights.
Franticly the work is continued to get as much as possible
done before Alex leaves.
But the list of work left to Thomas is long and contains
many things that Alex was flown to Australia for.
Thomas and Ruedi get the theoretical background for
it and will have to do the work on their own.
On Monday Alex flies back home to Germany. He feels
very sad to leave his "baby" in such an unfinished
Thomas and Ruedi continue on their own.
The mozzie-screen for the hatches are built.
Finally on Friday, March 3rd, the chassis is ready.
Slave wheels have been mounted to make it easier to
slide the chassis under the back-section.
The back-section is lifted by the crane in the front.
In the back Don is ready on the forklift should the
need arise to push.
Slowly Linden drives the chassis backwards under the
This is the first time back-section, frame and chassis are
checked against each other.
Amazingly it fits together. Even the emergency escape
door into the cabin is in the correct position.
Not bad if one considers that all required wholes and
supports where just calculated and not drilled on the
The chassis is rolled forward and some insulation placed
between the back-section and the cabin.
Now the chassis is pushed back into position and the
fork-lift lowers the back-section.
The back of the chassis is just a bit off. Thomas pushes
it over and now the screws fit.
Everybody helps. Even Arthur, the CEO of OKA, crawls
around underneath the vehicle ....
On the other side again the screws will just not fit.
Linden applies the same tactics as Thomas before ..
and it works!
The supporting straps are removed and the back-section
complete lowered onto the chassis.
Sika is smeared in between everywhere before the back-section
is joined with the cabin and screwed on to the chassis.
This will make it very solid but from now on it will
be very difficult to separate it again.
The OKA looks very balanced and all like to looks of
the back-section on the chassis.
Pleased the OKA crew goes home for the weekend.
For us it is time to party.
Together with Hanna and Drews, friends from Thomas,
visiting from Germany, we have a feast at "Han's".
Now we can start fitting all the parts that have been
The spare-wheel carrier is mounted.
On the crane used to lift the wheels a reversing camera
The roof rack is also mounted.
James needs to give Ruedi a bit of a hand with the crane.
It is tricky ...
Then it is time to paint the back-section.
This time the truck needs to be driven into the spray-painting
The truck is 3,08 m high, the door is 3,20 m high ...
it just fits.
Again all has to be covered with plastic, paper and
Ruedi has to sand all areas that will be painted so
the new paint sticks.
Because of the dust we have to work with dust-masks.
It is very hot and sticky in the chamber ... small facial
Then Jason comes in and after 3 hours all is painted
and exhausted we can also go home.
The next morning the paint is dry and the wrappings
The truck looks very nice and neat.
The wheels are mounted on to the carrier to check its
Arthur wants Ruedi to drive the OKA as often as possible
to test it.
To ensure that the truck is covered by OKA's insurance
Ruedi is employed by OKA as "test driver".
Now all is legal.
After the first trip to the house and back we see that
a liquid is dripping to the floor underneath the truck.
Is it liquid from the floor heating or hydraulics oil
The OKA is cleaned and some cardboard placed between
The next day we see that the liquid comes out of the
bell house and seems to be oil from the gear box.
Also we realise that the air is lost from the system
in just a few hours.
We agree with OKA that these things are left for the
time being so Thomas can finish his work undisturbed.
Once he is gone the vehicle will be passed on to the
OKA-crew so they can fix all in peace and quiet.
After all the wholes between the cabin and the back-section
have been drilled and all cables laid the batteries
are placed in the truck again.
As each of them weights 80 kg they are placed with the
Now the truck is ready to be taken to the weighbridge.
Ruedi and Arthur leave.
When they come back, Ruedi is a bit pale ... the truck
weighs 6,4 t and we have not loaded it yet.
This means that we are at least 600 kg above the weight
that we expected it to be and also way above the 6,5
t that OKA specifies in their brochures and gives warranties
Now we really have a problem!
Many ideas are discussed like removing the spare wheel
carrier, uplifting the truck, adding extra leaves to
the springs (extra weight again!), etc.
Arthur comes up with a list of specialist to do the
We contact one of them and he agrees to uplift it to
So we continue with the work and get all finished.
In the meantime the noise test is due. It is the last
test the truck has to pass before it is road compliant.
The rules have changed and are much stricter now.
But Arthur and Linden are confident that they will pass
as the new Cummings engine is so much quieter than the
old Perkins diesel used to be.
But they fail! Regulations say that it can be max. 81
db and they had 86, which is almost double the noise.
OKA and the manufacturer of the muffler start working
on a solution.
We have done our thinking regarding the weight and
decided that the spare wheel carrier will have to go.
Should there be enough time before Thomas flies back
to Africa end of March it will be done by Thomas.
Otherwise Ade, one of OKA's employees will assist us
in his free time.
There is still lots to be built and fitted and it is
Also major tasks like getting the floor-heating and
the water system tested and going have to be done.
We just manage the major things but time flies and there
is no time left to remove the wheel carrier.
Thomas leaves and now it is just us left.
For the first time since we left Switzerland on January
15th we have a few moments to take a breath and think
what we have to do next.
There is still the whole electrical installation in
the cabin left to be done, also the cabinets in the
back-section need to be finished and of course all equipments
has to be loaded.
So we decide to take a bit of a break, travel to Queensland
for the birthday of Susi's father and brother and after
that tackle the work again.
The truck is left for OKA to work on their muffler and
After our break we find out that the OKA is still at
the muffler place and will stay there for the rest of
So we stay at the house and start sieving through our
brochures and books. We have to find a system on how
to track information so we can retrieve it all easily
when we travel through that area.
There is so much to be read about Australia!
The week before Easter the OKA is back and Ruedi continues
working on the electrical installation.
Susi is loading the cabinets.
Goal is to have the OKA loaded with all the equipment
that we want to take along after Easter so we can weigh
it again and have the pure facts on the total weight.
A new noise test is scheduled for Thursday before Easter
but has to be shifted to Tuesday after Easter.
On Tuesday morning we take the OKA to the weighbridge.
7,46 t .... hmmmmm ..... a bit heavy.
Now the last hopes that we can keep the nice wheel carrier
are definitely gone.
We take the truck to OKA and pass it on to Linden for
the noise test.
The noise test is started and Murphy strikes again:
the machine breaks!
What a day! We should have staid in bed!
We are all so frustrated but there is not much we can
Arthur gets the machine fixed and the next noise test
is scheduled for Wednesday.
And this time the test is passed with 80.6 db!
Beautiful! We are all so pleased.
The last papers are submitted to Canberra and now the
long wait for the compliance plates begins.
It can take between 2 and 8 weeks ... knowing our luck
we expect 8 weeks ...
On Thursday evening the spare wheel carrier is removed
from the OKA.
What a shame to see such a nice peace of engineering
go, but we can get rid of 108 kg in one go so it makes
Ade tries his best with the angle grinder but has to
get the oxy to attack Thomas's and Manfred's work.
It has been built to support years of off-roading with
2 x 90 kg of spear wheels on it .....
Ruedi helps but Ade thinks that Ruedi's "protective
clothe" are not safe enough, so Ade finishes the
After an additional treatment with a heavy hammer the
legs let go.
The original frame has been spared and after grinding
off the last bits it looks like new.
A bit of paint will finish the job.
With all the equipment we have unloaded (especially
some of the recovery gear as it is so heavy) the OKA
is now down to 7,17 t.
For the uplift an external company modifies the truck
with air springs that are added on top of the leave
springs. The shock absorbers are also replaced with
The modifications require official approval and an additional
break test will have to be performed.
Since the OKA can only be driven with a dealer plate
until the compliance plate is issued Ruedi is officially
hired by OKA as a test driver.
We test the camper for one week around Kalbarri.
We test winch, sandanchor and sand-mats in the soft
sand at the beach.
The sandanchor is large enough so the winch can pull
the OKA out of the sand.
The sandmats do their job but should not be used under
the front wheels as they get banged into the back-section's
underbody when the OKA drives out of the bog.
One day later we get bogged unintentionally in a river
bed but manage to get out of the soft sand by just lowering
the tyre pressure and a bit of digging.
This is good too as we currently have smaller (285/70
R19.5) tyres on the truck. The final ones will be wider
(305/70 R19.5) and will have Bead Locks fitted which
allowes much lower tyre pressure.
The days after we go for a bit of a fun-ride together
with a friend of ours in his Patrol. As we are not yet
familiar with the width of the OKA we get off the track
and get stuck in stinking wet black silt.
This timed we are much deeper dig in as the day before.
The silt is kind of slippery with no grip. Since the
diff-lock on the front axle fails to engage, we have
only the back axle working. The sand anchor is just
dragged through the sand and disappears into the ground
without being able to move the OKA.
We try with snatchstraps but have no success.
At the end we place the Patrol on top of the sandanchor
and by using both, the OKAs and the Patrols winch, we
manage to drag the OKA out of his bog.
Overall we can say that the truck rides well and life
in the back-section is comfortable and pleasing. We
are also happy with the recovery gear and feel comfortable
We are very satisfied with the exception of the performance
when driving in soft sand. The heavy weight of the fully
laden camper will always be a handicap
One morning we find the OKA with some graffiti on the
back wall. Luckily the paint is still wet and with a
lot of elbow-grease and strong cleaning agents a few
hours later it looks as good as new.
Back in Perth the rustproofing is done. The company
doing it tells us that the airbags seem to be moving
along the leave springs and that they are not in the
original positions anymore.
Ruedi takes the OKA back to the suspension company and
they change the setup.
After extensive investigation Ruedi finds the problem
in the very complex underfloor heating. Some pipes are
not connected in the correct sequence.
After some changes the heating works flawless.
By the end of June 2006 the compliance plate is still
not issued. As in the meantime some rules have changed,
additional tests have been ordered and OKA doesn't pass
all of them in the first instance. As long as the compliance
plate is missing, we can not do the additional break
tests necessary to upgrade the truck to 7260 kg. Without
completion of these tests we are unable to licence the
truck and get a licence plate.
The continuous delays are bad news for us. We have to
start our trip to Alice Springs latest on July 1st to
be able to meet a Swiss couple there on time. We have
planned to travel together during their holidays and
we are supposed to bring them some equipment. We can
by no means shift the date, its too late. Slowly we
are getting very nervous.
As expected the OKA doesn't get licensed by Canberra
in time, even though meanwhile all the tests have been
completed. Depending when this will be completed they
will then deliver the Camper either to Alice Springs,
Broome or Darwin.
OKA organises a old Toyota Landcruiser (ex. Britz Bushcamper)
for us so we can start our trip in time.
It is very cramped but will have to do for the time
Once the plates from Canberra have been received OKA
finishes the break-testing. During the testing again
one of the airsprings shifts, hits the muffler and blows
up. OKA takes the truck back to the suspension place
and has the bag fixed. The break-test is passed and
OKA licenses the truck for us.
The truck dealer in Alice Springs organises the truck
for the transport of the OKA but does not consider the
height of the back-section, it should have been a low-loader.
As organising a low-loader would lead to another delay
of at least one week we change our plans one last time.
We drive from Alice Springs to Perth (2951 km) within
3 days, pick up the camper, reload all the equipment
from the Landcruiser to the OKA, drive in 3 more days
to Broome (2145 km) and continue our trip with our friends.