When Dave turns the key of the “Stoere Bikkel” and the diesel engine begins to rumble then it would be a good idea not to stand in front of the exhaust. But apart from the small black cloud that reveals its presence, the converted camper fits almost perfectly into any environment. For Marjolijn, Dave and their two daughters it almost feels like a second home. Because the family travelled throughout Europe in the van for six months before the two daughters started school. “It all began because I wanted to go to Santiago de Compostela,” remembers Marjolijn. “We started in spring and drove to Teneriffa, then we visited a friend in Rome, toured Alhambra and then spent autumn in Austria and the Czech Republic before travelling back to Holland in November. We love the mountains, the sea and the ability to simply park our camper anywhere and enjoy the surroundings.”
The model 613 T2, better known as the “Düsseldorfer”, was produced between 1967 and 1996. The “DüDo” has its nickname from the Düsseldorf plant where the large van was primarily constructed as a panel van, flatbed and dual-cab vehicle. With 130 hp and a displacement of 5,600 cm3, the model 613 was equipped with the most powerful diesel engine in its generation. “Stoere Bikkel means something like ‘tough guy’,” explains Dave.
The van was built in 1984. When we bought it six years ago it already had 370,000 kilometers. We drove about 80,000 km with it before we replaced the engine with another original engine.
With a total length of seven meters, the Priester-Kramer family’s grey giant has six beds, a dining area and a small kitchen. A solar panel which Dave has fitted on the roof even provides electricity. “It looked a lot different when I picked it up six years ago in Seeland,” explains the qualified mechanic. The cargo area of the former fire service vehicle did not even have a floor. Dave invested a lot of hours in the repairs and searching for suitable original parts. Nevertheless, he overflows with enthusiasm when he talks about his dream van: “I think that the model 613 Düsseldorfer is simply the most incredible van ever built – it is as strong and as durable as Mercedes-Benz itself!”
Dave is not the only one who is enthusiastic about the vehicle’s power. The rest of the family obviously feels at home in the back of the Düsseldorfer: the children play cards, read or listen to music or lie in bed while Dave drives. “This van can take us everywhere,” he says excitedly, “Along every road and over every mountain – well, almost.” But even when problems occur or Dave runs out of gas again, the family has always arrived at the destination without any major incidents. “The van is incredibly hardy. That is why it suits us perfectly,” explains Marjolijn and grins. “And when the entire family is in bed and the wind is blowing outside, you feel safe and sound in here.”
The family was often asked about their vehicle while on tour. “Many people wanted to rent it or build a similar vehicle themselves but they didn’t have the necessary know-how,” explains Marjolijn. This was how the idea of the “Toffe Camper” family company was born. “We began to rent out our van and then bought another six Düsseldorfer models which Dave converted into camper vans.” Today the family rents the camper vans to families and to groups from all over Europe. “Ferme Dame”, “Boef”, “Bastaard”, “Madam Coby” and “Smeerpjjp” each have their own unique character and provide space for 4 to 6 people.
Mercedes-Benz T2 613D (production year 1984)
130 hp at 2,800 rpm
450,000 km until 2014, replaced by an original engine with 140,000 km
However, the Stoere Bikkel remains the family’s favourite van. Where will the tough Düsseldorfer accompany the family next? “No idea”, admits Marjolijn. “Discovering new places and enjoying the freedom which this offers us are the most important things for us.” The family will not need any fuel at all until the next road trip. In their home city of Amersfoort Marjolijn, Dave and their two daughters only travel by bicycle – because anyone who has a Düsseldorfer does not need a car.