Remodeling the Land Cruiser (part 3) – Woodwork in Suriname

Remodeling the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)For a period of times there had been signs. Small, seemingly insignificant, but building up. Such as there were:

  • I got tired of hanging with my head in the bowels of the Land Cruiser to fish out what I needed, which ‘always’ seemed to lie at the bottom of the storage compartment.
  • While I have always preferred sitting with my feed curled up underneath my thighs, I started feeling the need to stretch them every once in a while when sitting in the back of the car for many hours – I wanted more space to move around between the two storage compartments on the sides (which was always filled with stuff).
  • After days of rain I missed having a sink. Messing around with the five-liter bottle of water to wash vegetables and to do the dishes (oh, forget about washing hands) started to annoy me.

I can’t remember exactly what made the first domino stone tip. But it did and all of a sudden we roller coasted down a whole list of changes, resulting in an overhaul of the Land Cruiser’s interior. The goal: creating more space to move around while simultaneously creating more space to store stuff – if that makes any sense.

Thank you Jos Kemme (read about his journey here), Andre van Huizen (find him here), and Peter de Jong for answering so many questions in our quest for solutions!

At Rikki's we could store all our stuff while working on the Land Cruiser.

At Rikki’s we could store all our stuff while working on the Land Cruiser.

The Plan

The plan was to rebuild the storage compartments, the basic set-up of which we still like and would keep, but to make a couple of drawers at the bottom, to use the space behind the isolated walls for storage, and to install a sink.

At least, that was the idea. It grew much bigger than that, ending up with new household batteries, solar panels and even a fridge (the first new fridge we bought in our 12.5-year journey). Where would it end?

For those ready to embark on a similar journey, here’s what we did.

1. The Water Tank – Venezuela

It started by removing the exhaust that ran diagonally under the car. We replaced it with a shorter one that exits at the side of the car, behind the passenger seat. This created space in the middle underneath the Land Cruiser to fit a water tank.

Installing the water tank in Barquisimeto (©photocoen)

Coen dedicated a whole blog post on the topic. Find it here.

2. Rebuilding the Storage Compartments – Guyana

In Guyana our friend Sonia offered us a place to stay. Here we could store all our belongings, which we needed to do for a major welding job. In order to weld on the sides of the bodywork, the interior has to be removed otherwise the insulation and woodwork will catch fire.

Organizing the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

We need lots of space for books and maps.

Coen wrote a piece on the welding job, which you can find here.

In the house we were staying in, we found a circular saw and outside stood a good working table. We could use both. And so, after all welding was finally done, we had a go at the woodwork before we had to leave Guyana. We spent three days of working 15-16 hours, and performed miracles.

Working until late at night.

Working until late at night.

First we headed to the local stores in search of pinewood and plywood. We found it and succeeded in loading the three 1.20 by 2.44m boards in the empty Land Cruiser.

Buying wood to remodel the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

We kept the same set up: storage compartments on both sides. But after a couple of overhauls we had screwed and unscrewed some of the beams so often that some parts needed to be replaced. Also, we would need stronger compartment sides in between in order to construct the drawers. And, since I wanted a sink, the size of the storage compartments on the right side needed to be turned around.

The Challenge

Nothing, and then I mean really nothing, in our Land Cruiser is straight. That means that whatever piece we had to saw, needed to be measured up to the last millimeter. And without having stuff like the sink, water filter, and pump yet to visualize what would fit best where, nor the aluminum angle profiles for the drawers, we had a challenge at our hands, to say the least.

Measuring, measuring, measuring.

Measuring, measuring, measuring.

The result isn’t exactly straight, to put it mildly, but for two newbies who had less than 72 hours to do the job, I believe we got a result to be proud of. The fact that we have so few photos testifies to the fact that we totally worked our butt off and didn’t really have/take time for anything else.

We could work fast thanks to the use of a circular saw and work bench.

We could work fast thanks to the use of a circular saw and work bench.

3. Getting Stuff Shipped From the Netherlands

Meanwhile, we realized, we were going to need get stuff shipped to us because locally we couldn’t find everything we needed. Our quest for certain stuff, in fact, had started earlier.

We had driven around for months with busted household batteries but because we couldn’t find deep-cycle batteries here (Venezuela / Boa Vista, Brazil / Guyana), we didn’t get around to replacing them.

Our solar panels were twelve years old and didn’t give much juice. That in itself hadn’t been much of a problem until I started using the fridge much more often.

Our 34-year-old Engel fridge, kindly given to us by our friends Irene and Pierre when we started our South America journey, drew so much energy that we could only turn it on when driving.

Now that we had started an overhaul we decided to take everything on that had bothered us to some degree over the past months/years. We decided to invest in a fridge, new household batteries, as well as new solar panels with a state-of-the-art controller.

NedSur Shipping organized the shipping of lots of stuff for us.

NedSur Shipping organized the shipping of lots of stuff for us.

In Guyana, we learned about a company called NedSur Shipping. It weekly ships stuff between the Netherlands and Suriname. Either by plane (small stuff, paid per kilo) or by boat (bigger stuff, cheaper than by plane but takes longer).

Solution found! Thank you NedSur! We were impressed with how professional they are. Every week they sent an update per email with exactly what they had received from whom (we asked friends and family to buy what we needed and send it to NedSur), what they had shipped off, and what was still missing. All this made it easier for us to do follow ups to companies and friends and family who helped us out.

Friends and family, thank you all for help!

Coen trailed the Internet for days on end, buying panels and batteries, but also all kinds of accessories for our new water system and drawers (something simply as aluminum angle profiles were non-existent in Guyana).

What we shipped from the Netherlands:

  • Sink. We couldn’t find one in the size we wanted in Georgetown. The ones we found online were ridiculously expensive. I came up with the idea of a bain-marie container and found it online.
  • A drain to install in the bain-marie container (aka sink).
  • A pressure tank.
  • The Shurflo Trail King water pump 24 volt.
  • Cold water faucet for filtered (drinking) water.
  • Tube for grey water.
  • Coarse filter for pressure pump.
  • InstantTrust Waterfilter.

We still had to figure out how we were going to get water from an outside source into the water tank underneath the car. Tube? Watering Can? Keep one of our 20-liter jerry cans that we would store on the roof? Much later we would settle for a flat tube.

We often stopped working because of rain storms. The new Casa Anaconda tent held itself very well in this continuously bad weather and our bed stayed completely dry.

We often stopped working because of rain storms. The new Carpas Anaconda tent held itself very well in this continuously bad weather and our bed stayed completely dry.

All of a sudden we got company and on top of everything else had to watch our flip flops from disappearing.

All of a sudden we got company and on top of everything else had to watch our flip flops from disappearing.

4. Installing the Sink, Water pump, Water filter, & Everything Else – Suriname

While all this stuff was on its way, we left Guyana and drove to Suriname, where we camped at the premises of Rikki, the owner of NedSur Shipping.

So let’s see what we got done:

Sink and water system

We installed the sink in the rear of the Land Cruiser, on the right hand side (as the Coleman stove hangs on the left-side rear door when cooking outside (read about the Coleman stove here)). All the tubes, filter and pomp now run behind the isolation panel along the side. It took Coen days to figure out how to install all this stuff using as little space as possible.

Building a sink in the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

(For details see Coen’s blog post on the water tank).

The Challenge
Of course the job needed endless testing. It was frustrating to discover that while we had bought all kinds of quality stuff in terms of filters and pump, the connectors all had different sizes, materials, and what have you. That’s the problem of ordering online and not in a store where you can see and feel what you’re interested in and ask questions on the spot. That would be our recommendation to others: go to stores to buy these things, and make sure that all these different things match and work together.

Building the water system.

Building the water system.


On the sides of the bodywork we re-glued beams with Polymax Express. We love this stuff; we are even happier with this than the Sikaflex marine we have had in the Land Cruiser’s first-aid kit.

The set-up of the insulated sides panels dates from the previous owner. Five years ago in Bolivia, during the Land Cruiser’s major overhaul, we found most of the beams partly or totally rotten away and replaced all of them. We were happy that, despite some serious rust on the Land Cruiser’s bodywork, this had not yet affected these beams. Some had simply come loose.

Remodeling the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

Painting woodwork for the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

Attached to these beams is the wooden side panel (with screws) which on the inside has a one-centimeter-thick layer of isolation material and empty space (about four centimeters along the sides, but much more in the rear-end corners). We built a couple of cabinets behind that wooden panel. Here we really gained some space. E.g. the right hand corner, Coen managed to put all the water stuff such as pump and filters.

The water system.

The water system.

On this side panel sits a wooden bar to which the storage compartments are screwed.

On the right side we constructed five drawers at the bottom and the rest of the compartments continue to be accessed from above.

On the left side we installed a door on the rear compartment to access outdoor chairs & table, and stove. The second compartment now has a drawer at the bottom, and the third (right behind the driver’s seat) was the only one to remain unchanged. Here we store some of the heavier stuff such as the tool box and recovery gear.

Same set-up but different in (essential) details.

Same set-up but different in (essential) details.

Instead of sliders, that take a lot of space, we followed Andre’s tip to use aluminum, angular profile, which we sprayed with Teflon (a great resource about what different kinds of fluids do, read here) (to find an extensive review of Andre’s rebuilt of his car, check this out).

If any of my text doesn’t make any sense, hopefully the photos will (we’ll add more detailed ones in the future).

Building drawers (©photocoen)

Like I said, all this was the plan, but in between we came a number of other things to do:

  • I fixed leakages in the front.
  • I removed Velcro around the windows because it was totally worn and no longer useful. Subsequently I glued new Velcro with Polymax.
  • Maintenance of hi-lift: I removed the rust (thank you Coca Cola!) and painting it with ijzermenie (I guess in English it’s called anti-rust, but I’m not sure).
  • Coen tried to clean the Coleman stove, during which he broke an essential part from valve. Fortunately we still had the Optimus Hiker+ as a back-up, which we used for a number of weeks.
  • Coen went downtown to our friends Diego, Nessa and Piem at ACE Design to fix new decals on the outside. Thanks Lei Hendrix, again, for making and sending them.
  • Coen created a new place to install the Maxtrax (because of the new, large, solar panel they needed to be moved).
  • One liter of paint enough? Who was I kidding? I continued buying paint, paint brushes, sand paper, because we continuously found new things to paint as well.
Repairing tools took a lot of Coen's time.

Repairing tools took a lot of Coen’s time.

More Challenges

For the first three weeks or so, we continued removing/undoing things. We want to do A? First we need to unscrew B, undo C, take away D, fix E and so on until Z. And this happened with numerous stuff. I can’t recall many examples (finding a new place for the Maxtrax is one), but I very much recall the frustration!

“In order to do A, we need to do B,C, D, ….” – became mantra #1.

“Why don’t we also…., now that we have everything open anyway? – mantra #2.

Running the Bigi Broki Waka in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Running the Bigi Broki Waka in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Really, he still loves me!

Really, he still loves me!


We put everything together in the hope we had thought of everything. But our stuff was lying all over the place so who were we kidding?

We invested in some tools.

We invested in some tools.

Re-glueing window panes.

Re-glueing window panes.

Working until late at night.

Working until late at night.

Only when filling up the storage compartments we discovered everything we hadn’t thought of.

“So where will we put the saw, now that this part is used for the drink-water faucet?”
“Where do we put the basket with vegetables so it won’t fly through the car?”
On and on it went.

And so we returned to mantra #3: “In order to find a place for X, we need to move Y, so Z can fit here, and A can fit here.”

The Result

Some eight weeks later we could finally pack up! What a relief. Do we like what we did? Yes, it feels very, very good. We’re very proud of what we accomplished. Later we’ll add more detail photos of the different compartments as the during this write-up the car is in the container on its way to South Korea.

Finding space for all our stuff.

Finding space for all our stuff.

Pfew, the system still fits when adding the middle section (in order to make our bed).

Pfew, the system still fits when adding the middle section (in order to make our bed).



Let’s fill a bottle with filtered water…

After we filled the bottle and closed the faucet we both heard a sound we didn’t want to hear. We closed our eyes, stepped outside. Surely that’s where the sound came from. But there was no denying.

And off we went, once more, opening the ‘water system corner’ in the rear. In order to do that, we had to undo two planks that had been glued with Polymax. Because of that something else came loose. All to find yet another leak. Keep smiling! Note to self: no doubt this will happen more often when we hit the road again!

How all this is going to work when on the road, time will tell. We haven’t had time to properly test anything yet as, you may know, we put the Land Cruiser in a container and it’s on its way to South Korea.

Time to ditch this?

Time to ditch this?

Thank you Rikki, for all your help!

Thank you Rikki, for all your help!

Please pray for good weather on the Pacific for the next 60 days! Thanks.

All Posts about the Land Cruiser Overhaul in the Guianas

  1. The Overhaul in Guyana (part 1) – Welding the Land Cruiser
  2. The Overhaul in the Guianas (part 2) – From Water Canisters to a Water Tank & Sink
  3. Remodeling the Land Cruiser (part 3) – Woodwork in Suriname

More Landcruising Adventure Stories:

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