A place somewhere in the Engadine at daybreak – far away from the city and from any road. Nature is still allowed to flourish here: Densely wooded slopes open out into crystal-clear mountain lakes. In the middle of the high valley, between craggy peaks and gently rolling alpine pastures, Dany opens the sliding door of his snow-white Mercedes-Benz L 309 D. The aroma of freshly-brewed coffee wafts over to him. His dog leaps out of the van and stretches in all directions. Dany makes himself comfortable on the stairs and looks off into the distance. “I often go hiking, but I also enjoy reading beneath the awning, accompanied by good music, or working on my laptop,” the Swiss relates.
The 35-year old Swiss grew up in a small village in the hinterland of Luzern. After completion of his vocational training as a mediamatician, he spent a year in Australia. While exploring the west coast of “down under”, he discovered his liking for travelling in the camper van. Upon his return, he started a career in the marketing sector. His unfailing creative urge and the desire to put his own ideas into practice finally induced him to start his own business. But how did the “Ace Cafe Luzern” come about? When visiting the original Ace Cafe in London for the first time, he asked himself why such a place did not exist in Switzerland. “That was a powerful incentive to put all my eggs in one basket.”
In Dany’s Ace Cafe Luzern in Rothenburg, Harley riders are sitting side by side with fans of American classic cars and sports cars. The vehicles could not be more different – but their owners share the same passion. “What counts is the spirit”, says the Swiss. 130 events related to the subject of “motor enthusiasm” are organized in the pub every year. Van friends also get their money’s worth: “We offer a camper and caravan meeting, a ‘van and büssli (bus) meeting’ and even a meeting for expedition vehicles!” At these meetings, you will encounter kindred spirits and get a chance to share your ideas on the refinishing of a van’s interior or your next trip.
“Being in the Ace Cafe means to celebrate freedom.”
At the time, Dany’s forthcoming journey to Scandinavia motivated him to purchase a van. “At first, I was thinking only about the journey, then the idea with the van arose,” he tells us. As far as the model was concerned, there was only one possible option for the car lover: “It was important to me to have an L 309 D from Mercedes-Benz as it was ideally suited for my project.” A young couple had the right one for him, even though they had done very little work on their van. Does he know anything about the history of his van? “We assume that the L 309 D with 4×4 drive was used by the military and afterwards by a painting contractor for whom, judging from the old photos, it was a capable workhorse.”
For the conversion of his L 309 D, Dany sought professional support: “I often went to the workshops because I was so anxious to see the work progress.” Bevor the vehicle could be insulated, it had to be sealed and be freed from rust. In the meantime, he jotted down his “must-haves” and made a draft for the conversion. The claim to be self-sufficient was particularly important to Dany. Therefore, a large solar panel and sufficient batteries were included in the budget. “In my job, I can do 50 per cent of the work with just a laptop and a phone. In other words, I can be a digital nomad if I want to.” When it came to the interior finishing work, he was the carpenter’s handyman. Dany’s primary focus was creating a warm ambiance with a lot of wood. “Mr. White’s interior now looks like a small flat in the bow of an old boat.” The materials used are remnants of times gone by, whereas Dany purchased the small things from flea markets in London. “There are many small objects in the vehicle which reflect my personality.”
In order to recover from his labour-intensive everyday life, the Swiss regularly escapes into nature. Here he finds peace and the drive to start new projects. Adapting to the conditions of nature and adjusting his needs to it – this is something that grounds him. “Perhaps it is this minimalism which is close to my heart and which I live intensively when I am travelling. Making do with few resources while having everything with you that you really need,” he explains. On his first journey, Dany travelled via Denmark all the way up to the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the “European Maldives”. Then he returned home via Finland, Lapland and Sweden. A few weeks ago, this was followed by a second journey with “Mr. White”: For a week, he explored the idyllic Engadine. He says that “Mr. White” is like a buddy with whom he has the chance to discover various parts of the world. “With this kind of mini expedition vehicle, I can go to all those places where all the boring motorhomes cannot go,” he adds with a smile.
At the end of the day, the van has become ‘mine’ und it meets my needs perfectly.
The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.