It has been quite some time since I first hatched the idea, but I still can’t quite believe Big Suse is a thing. My absolute dream adventure rig didn’t exist as a readily-available vehicle for purchase, but that didn’t mean it was beyond the realm of possibility
The base intention with this project was to create a unique juxtaposition that confronts conventional expectations of what a vehicle can be; Big Suse takes the traditionally bogan-dominated domain of monstrous burly four wheel drive and combines it with the bespoke appeal of hand-made carpentry. Art and function, teaming up above four wheels to defy the concept that “there’s no original ideas left”, whilst confusing other road-users for my personal amusement.
I first had the thought in Chile at the beginning of the year. By the time I would arrive home, it would be officially 12 months living full-time out of my old yellow van. Being on the road for that period of time in a big city is an experience impossible to fully describe. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the world, all the while surfing more, sleeping more, smiling more. But alas, my trusty van never filled me with a huge amount of mechanical confidence, and I needed a more capable vehicle. I was also happy to return to conventional living arrangements in the meantime, with the view to establish a sustainable medium between suburbia-bound house-dweller and full-time van-man boondocker* (*actual term for camping unlawfully in a vehicle).
After my last highly ruminative week of surfing in Chile I had determined a plan of action. I would need a four wheel drive ute, on which I would build a camper cabin out of wood, ergonomic to a lifestyle of surf and exploration. I wanted a vehicle to take me to the ends of the Earth, but more importantly, a one I could rely on getting me back again. I think its safe for me to now say that I have achieved that balance.
The van had sold within 2 weeks of getting home from Chile. By the end of the third week, I had bought an ex-fleet 2011 Nissan Patrol with a couple of big toolboxes bolted to a drop-sided tray. She was wonderfully enormous, but very plain. A blank canvas.
Shortly after taking possession I remember having coffee with a friend who casually said “omg you bought a monster truck, that's not very green of you!”. It was a valid point, however it was difficult to explain exactly what my plans were. It stuck in my head though, echoing as ever-relevant motivation to go the extra mile in proving otherwise.
And so, despite Big Suse’s appearance, I feel the finished build is thus a nice metaphor about finding opportunity in the face of stereotype. The ute itself is second-hand, as are most of her accessories and accoutrement. The exterior wood is recycled cladding of varying species, with FSC-certified hardwood ply on the interior. All the cabin electrics - including my podcasting infrastructure - is solar powered via a 20000maH USB battery and a 21W solar panel. Like the van, having a vehicle in which I can comfortably sleep reduces the amount of driving I do by a significant margin.
The icing on the cake is the Nissan Patrol’s immediate suitability for alternative fuel; my research suggests that when I have adequate room for a filtration setup, repurposing waste vegetable oil instead of diesel will be pretty straightforward. At which time Big Suse, in all her imposing glory, will become one of the ‘greenest’ vehicles on the road.
I haven’t even driven further than a cuppla hundred clicks afield but already Big Suse has been an epic adventure. Conceptualising, adapting and executing such an audacious idea has put all my skills to the test. But the juice is always worth the squeeze; it goes without saying I am completely stoked on the finished result.
Because why on Earth would you choose to drive a boring car!!!