Modifications of the Musso


The objectives


We wanted a vehicle capable of long travels with 2 - 4 persons in reasonable comfort in any accessible* terrain in Iceland and still practical and economical for a dual role as a street vehicle.


*Accessible terrain is in Iceland all roads and tracks, but not open terrain. It is for good reason strictly forbidden to drive off road, as the damage done to the beautiful but fragile nature is almost irrepairable. There is an exception though. You are allowed to drive anywhere if there is a firm cover of ice and snow protecting the ground. This is apart from the glaciers only the case in a cold winter and usually requires vehicles with extremely large tires for flotation. The costs involved with such modifications let us leave that option out for the time being. 


With the Musso Sports 4x4  Pickup we had an economical platform with the basic capabilities but more was needed:


*      Enhanced offroad capabilities

*      Camping comforts

*      Navigation and communication equipment


Enhanced offroad capabilities


I wrote a comprehensive article in Icelandic covering our reflections on the offroad modifications and made a lot of numerical analysis supporting those. I tried to make the numeric model (Excel spreadsheet) as self explanatory as possible. It is written using english for technical terms but comments are currently in Icelandic only.  I plan to add English and German later. You find the spreadsheet here. There may be alternative versions available on the download page.


As open terrain is ruled out we don’t need to deal with extreme rock crawling or mud terrain. The main obstacles are thus the river crossings.

A snorkel would be the optimum safety measure here, but unfortunately there are none readily available in the market for this truck. I am aware of a website in Singapore claiming to have one but it is not clear if they can handle shipping to Iceland and I am still working on that issue. For the time being we are living with a workaround which takes a secondary air inlet to the highes point under the hood (at the bulkhead). It actually bypasses the filter and is only opened for river crossings. There is no need to close the main inlet, as the resistance of the water and the filter is enough to let the engine breath through the bypass only.


Other safety measures are a thick aluminium skid pan replacing the original flimsy sheet metal, strenghtened towing hooks at the front and a towing bar at the rear.


We gave the truck an OME suspension kit for 4cm lift and extended travel plus 2cm extra lift (spacers) at the back to ensure ground clearance with heavy load.


The tires are BF Goodrich AT 265 75/16 (31.7”) on the original rims. This is absolutely the maximum you can squezze in without cutting metal. Any larger wheel options mean a huge costs jump as bodywork and eventually a body lift will be needed.


We had running boards fitted, as they are the most effective protection for the body sides against gravel thrown up by the front wheels


Camping comforts


Clearly we needed a hardtop and after some studies we went for a combination of a hardtop with a folding roof tent (hard case style). The bed of the Musso pick up is very short (which gives a generous cabin in return) and we needed the longest possible base for the tent.  The Musso pickup being a rare model, with few vendors offering customised parts, left us with few options. The asian models we discovered had all to be ruled out, because they were too streamlined hatchback style with a short roof. This left us with a french model from a company called Lachaup, which had the right spec’s but unfortunately was not a good fit. Obviously there was no incentive for the manufacturer to invest more in such a low production volume. We got it through their German partner which sells them under their own brand “Beltop”.


For the tent, we quickly narroved in on the market leader Maggiolina. They have basically two hard case designs, the inverted vee shape with a forward hinge (Columbus) and the box shape with scissor type lifting mechanism.  Though we heard comments, that the box shape had less wind resistance and was more stable, I found the Vee shape to be much more stable, the scissor mechanism of the other appearing too fragile. But wind stability is a huge criteria in Iceland. We were anxious to find out how this would work out and contrary to what we had heard, movement of the vehicle was not a problem in heavy winds, but the noise of the tent was. We had prepared to block suspension movement but never had to do that. We have the smallest version of the Columbus wich is perfect for 2 persons but not giants and in the “variant” version, there are a lot of openings, which helps handling and can also be nice when the weather is good.


We built a connecting frame between the hardtop and tent instead of using a roof rack. This makes a cleaner, more compact, stiffer and lighter connection and we don’t intend to remove the tent anyway. The frame is built of plywood with reinforcements in the corners and on the transverse sides and two extra aluminium cross bars, all glued together with epoxy resin in typical boatbuilding fashion. While the bottom case of the tent was a straight plate, the form of the hardtop was more complex and we used epoxy filler to give the frame the exact form. The frame has soft rubber strips all round on the top and bottom and six stainless steel bolts connect the tent and hardtop through the longitudional sides of the frame.


The handling of the roof tent is really easy and we are absolutely convinced of the concept.


Still the roof tent is practical only for sleeping and we added another tent at the back of the vehicle, as a “living room” when the weather is not so nice. This one is a “Drive Base” made by Vaude. It’s a lightweight dome type with standing headroom and made to attach to MPV’s, be it busses or 4x4 trucks. We built a custom connecting tunnel out of heavy duty canvas, which wraps around the upper and lower hatches at the back and connects to the tent and the car by velcro tapes. This replaces the flimsy universal connecting flap, which is supposed to wrap around the vehicle and by doing so will inevitably damage the paint. The tunnel also gives a windtight connection and has a flap that closes the gap between the lower hatch and the ground, which really helps when it’s windy and close to 0° Celcius. This tent is a bit more of a job to handle than the roof tent, but we always park the truck into the wind and start by hooking the tent onto it, so even a strong wind will not blow it and you away.


We also looked at other options, heavy canvas, some with patented quick folding mechanisms. We found them all to be too bulky and heavy, but some of those will surely handle heavyer storms than the DriveBase can.  A concern with the DriveBase is the vulnerability of the thin nylon, and we need to be very careful with open fire, to avoid glowing bits of ash reaching the canvas.


The fitting out of the Truck bed, which had a moulded plastic liner as standard, started with some aircraft style fastening tracks. Two are on top of the attaching flange of the hardtop, bolted through to reinforce the attachment. Another two are glued with Sikaflex to the bottom liner. A removable bulkhead is fastened to these four tracks and can actually be moved back and forth as required. This splits the bed into two parts. The front one takes jerrycans for fuel reserves and other large items, while the after partition takes three stacks of euro size (40 x 60 cm.) modules. Two stacks are made of two boxes each and one has the fridge and the toolbox. Everything for cooking or a quick repair can easily be reached and we don’t have small items flying around and getting lost under the big stuff. Lots of strapping points are available to secure things and the next project will be a holding frame under the hardtop roof for the lightweight dining table, to stop it blocking access to other items, when stowed on top of the heap.


We opted for gasoline as fuel and bought the classic and robust Coleman twin burner stove and latern. While the stove served us well, the latern cocked up right away and we could not get spares in Iceland. Possibly it is more vulnerable to standard uncleaned fuel than the stove, or we simply got a bad example.  Water is kept in a 10 l. bottle as it is readily available everywhere in Iceland in good quality.


Navigation and communication equipment


We have a Garmin pocket size GPS-plotter with topographic maps of Iceland. There is also a PC connection but we have not used that much and have not invested in a mount for our laptop. Communication is via mobile phone where possible but for safety we also carry a FM handheld fitted with the private frequencies of the local 4x4 clubs, which have built relay stations covering large parts of the highland. We intend to fit a fixed rooftop antenna, to enhance reception in the truck. Finally we have a “wardriving” antenna which could help us to pick up Internet connections at WLAN HotSpots.


You can also watch the pictures of the Musso 4x4 truck in the galery.