It all started with a trip through southern Sweden in spring 2016 – 4,000 km in a Mercedes-Benz W123. The boot always being full of luggage and the daily setting up and taking down of the tents, often in the rain, all got to be too much for Nico and his best friend. After the trip, the Berliner knew he needed a motorhome! “A new bus was out of the question for me. “I wanted as little electronics as necessary and as much robust technology as possible.” Nico found what he was looking for at a dealership in East Berlin – a 407 D from the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle plant in Düsseldorf, AKA a “DüDo.” Nico named the old van from the eighties “Wolfgang”.
Before his eventful “retirement” with Nico, the 407 D was used as a telephone vehicle and catastrophe response vehicle in northern Germany. “With 15,500 km on the clock, you couldn’t tell it was 30 years old,” says Nico. “The interior seemed as if it had just rolled off the conveyor belt. Since the dealer had bought it directly from the authorities, it was in impeccable condition and not yet rebuilt, which was all what mattered to me!”
Wolfgang didn’t stay “nude” inside for long, however, Nico Groschke converted the “DüDo” on his own to his very personal camping dream. First it was completely stripped, insulated from the inside with Armaflex and covered with wood. Nico then laid out the 407 D with film-faced plywood as flooring and provided Wolfgang with pieces of furniture, which he fastened on load securing rails. Thus, the former telephone vehicle Wolfgang became a unique motorhome.
I can rely on my van. Every mechanic appreciates the simplicity of the old Mercedes-Benz engines.
Thanks to Wolfgang, Nico no longer has to pitch tents on his travels, as he did with his packed W123. However the 407 D does get overtaken by a truck on the motorway every now and again – it is after all an old-timer, the roughly 30-year-old vehicle only has 72 hp. But that doesn’t bother Nico at all: “I don’t care, I’m over the moon!” It is this attitude to a life of liberty that constitutes “Van life” for him, emphasizes the Berliner. The freedom to go wherever you want and always know: “I can rely on my van. Every mechanic appreciates the simplicity of the old Mercedes-Benz engines,” says Nico Groschke. Only oil and water have to be given to him, then his Wolfgang can also exceed the million-kilometer mark by far.
Away from package tours, true to the motto “The world is my home” the 407 D lets Nico Groschke indulge in memories of past journeys – for example to Lake Balaton in Hungary, where he often visited with his parents in his childhood. “Many who had similar childhood experiences revive them with a modern van or a classic car,” says Nico enthusiastically. His first trip with the 407 D and his best friend had it all: From Germany by ferry to Sweden, along the west coast to the North Cape. “I also want to explore southern countries, but I’m more of a fan of colder temperatures,” says Nico. Ice and snow are his thing. The two were probably not lacking in snow: On the way back from the North Cape they went back home via Finland, along the east coast of Sweden and finally through Denmark. “To start the season in Germany earlier and take advantage of it for longer” – that is what Nico is all about with his very personal Van life. Why? “Because every ride with Wolfgang is simply an experience!”
Photos: Nico Groschke