Because us lab doggos have a thick tail that helps us steer in the water, but also helps us on land keeping our balance, we almost can’t go without. Off course some dogs needed their tail to be taken off due to an accident, but that is more about our flexibility and ability to adjust to the new situation like no other.
Because our Toyota Landcruiser HZJ74 is not the biggest in its kind, especially the interior, Dad came up with the idea of his own car tail. A trailer that holds some keyfunctions for an overlander such as a kitchen station, a roof top tent to be finally off the ground, storage space for dog and human food, solar panels, batteries and chargers etc. In 2019 this idea became reality. Meet our expedition trailer: The ToughTail build by our Dad!

Our ToughTail is originally a Sankey trailer from the British Army. Dad bought the trailer with the original body still on it. So dad removed the body and started to draw his own body as he saw it in his mind. We knew we wanted to have features like:

  • It should be able to hold a roof top tent for 2,5 persons and long enough for Dad to sleep in (200cm)
  • It should carry its own spare wheel (rim and tire)
  • We want to be able to cook out of wind and rain
  • We want a fixed position for our gas tanks
  • Some bins for kitchen stuff such as pots, pans, cutlery, plates, mugs etc.
  • We would like to remove the refrigerator from the car and place it inside the trailer
  • We want a place to store our laundry
  • We would love to have a water tank for grey water
  • Some space to bring extra kibble for our us
  • A specific space for our solar panels and the cables
  • Some bins to place our groceries, vegetables in
  • A place to store kibble bins that keep our kibble dry and chewy
  • It should hold a high lift jack and a spade
  • We want to be able to store a small camping table and our camp seats that pack really small
  • If it could give us shade or an awning to stay dry from the rain, then this is a wish too

And all of that in a trailer that is not heavier then 750kg, so it is possible to drive with it on the same license plates as our car. Reason for this is we don’t want to go through vehicle registration with this trailer yet. We are still investigating what kind of coupling between car and trailer is best for us. Also Dad has his mind set on a wide-track trailer, and this is a small track trailer. Reasoning is that the wide track trailer follows in the car tracks perfectly which is easier to pull.

Dad started with the chassis of this trailer. Preferably in his mind the trailer and the car have the same axle, which is easier in terms of spare parts and exchanging parts of needed. But this might be a good option for the 2.0 ToughTail. The chassis should stand on the same tires and rims as our car for the ecstatic’s and also in terms of spare tires and being able to exchange them with the car. We haven’t have a flat tire for a long time, but you don’t want to be without in desolated areas. The rims are not exactly the same as the pitch circle on the axle is slightly different from the one on the car. But ecstatically wise they are the same!

The chassis has been shortened in the front corners to make sure the trailer can almost turn 90 degrees behind the car. It can even follow and turn so closely that Mom has to watch that our backlights are not damaged while turning. In some real life events it has shown us that this is working real nice for us in tight spaces. At the back of the trailer Dad wants to make sure the trailer does not fly over too much as this will make it more likely to hit the ground when landing from a steep hill.
Once the chassis was ready and all welding was done, it was galvanized to make sure it lasts a loooooong time and doesn’t rust underneath my butt.

While the chassis was gone, Dad made sure all axle parts were cleaned, renewed if possible (No new parts available anymore), greased and treated for a new life without rust.

Then Dad started to build a Body from wood. He bought a lot of stickies at the home depot store and build a frame from profiles he later wanted to use from steel.  The wooden stickies allowed him to change here and there and to readjust if needed. And Dad wouldn’t be Dad if he wouldn’t have calculated the entire thing through with Mom to make sure it will not break under the circumstances and the weight of the rooftoptent with humans in static state (camping) but also with the weight of all the other stuff in dynamic state (driving). And let that be what Mom and Dad went to school for when I was a puppy. They did the same with the body plans and made sure the steel stickies will become strong and stiff enough to serve its purpose.

With a wooden sticky body shell they started building boxes and sections inside the body from cardboard boxes. This way they could see what ‘the kitchen’ would look like and how they could use the space most efficient. They had seen a lot of inspirational pictures on the internet so they had a good idea what they wanted and what not. And once they knew what the final layout should be, Dad ordered all materials to build the steel frame for the body. He welded everything himself and even made sure that not too much weight is added, by drilling holes in parts where possible.
Funny to see how fast the frame was rusting away in the outside air before it got its final treatment.

The side doors for the trailers have been tailormade for us and are made by a company that does these for trucks and trailers as well. So professional work, high quality and as good as water and dust proof as possible with this construction. And while they were working on the doors Dad made the framework for the body and ordered cables and lights, switches, battery, emeter, drawer rails, Storage EURObins, DCDC converter, battery management system with the added solar system etc. He worked really hard on it and it became awesome! It was exactly what he had in mind!

Once all extra beams, supports, hooks, rails and what other to hold the battery, watertank, waterpump, hoses, electrics etc have been placed the entire thing is galvanized as well. Dad ordered the side plating for the outside of the bodywork and made sure to measure real precise. He made cardboard drill patterns so he knows where all holes should be drilled and doesn’t end up with unwanted holes that then should be closed and made water tight again. The plates are all fixated to the body frame and sealed to makes sure we catch no water inside of the trailer. And then it starts to look like a real trailer. Wiring is added and guided through the special harnesses to protect is and tail lights are fixated to the body. Rails are added and bins are being placed and sometimes slightly adjusted. LED light strips are added to the inside of the trailer to provide us from some light during cooking or at evening while sitting next to the trailer. The rooftoptent is added and the supports are added to the trailer to make sure it is always resting steady on the ground once not attached to the car (to prevent tipping over) or when sleeping on the trailer while still attached to the car (to prevent unwanted pressure on the coupling to the car).

Of course we wanted to try it out immediately at a short weekend away to check what was maybe not working well or what didn’t work as we hoped it would. We still knew we had to make some fixations for the gas tank, the cooking stations, and mount some web nets to store some loose stuff (blanket, towels for us doggos etc). It’s mostly the details that take time but make a big difference. For instance we decided to open up one of the storage bins, so we could grab most used stuff during cooking such as herbs, oil, dish washing stuff, immediately without first taking out the entire bin. Off course each bin is locked in place to prevent things are slipping and sliding while driving off road. We later also added a wooden wind screen to prevent our cooking flame is disappearing and our gas tank is empty before we can fill the spare one. Some tiny hooks for our dishtowel to dry or some charging points to make it possible to charge with a USB cable from inside our tent. It’s the tiny things that bring the most comfort in the end and make it become OUR OWN TRAILER the way WE want it to have!

Mom sometimes jokes that Dad should make it his profession to build trailers for other overlanders searching for their perfect vehicle, but because that market is so small in Europe he does not see how to earn any money with this. And also there are already some players in the game and Australia is off course a huge market with big competitors. Too bad!! Maybe some day…