OSHKOSH Expedition Class AWD Motorhome
By Mike Hanlon
February 15, 2005
It's an expedition-class AWD motorhome. Shahn Torontow built the vehicle so his wife V.Ross Johnson and could still travel the wilderness after the former wildlife photographer became wheelchair dependent. A gift of love for his wife, he began with an OSHKOSH M1000 ARFF (AIRPORT FIRE RESCUE) and then spent thousands of hours crafting an extraordinary vehicle that offers complete luxury almost anywhere .
The military-grade vehicle has been lavished with the finest so he could withstand deserts, mountains, mud, hurricanes and blizzards while caring for his wife. It contains a shower, sauna, auxiliary heat systems and heat gain/loss protective window shutters, CCD surveillance system, GPS, broad band satellite links for computer communications and an elevator. ... and it's for sale.
Shahn Torontow built the vehicle so his wife V.Ross Johnson, a pilot, wild life photographer and world traveller became wheelchair bound due to chronic Lyme disease.
"We were missing travel, so I embarked on building a 4WD motor home to take us to remote areas of Canada and United States for photography expeditions as a distraction from her debilitating illness, said Shahn.
"Ross has many side effects so the vehicle incorporates a number of special items; misting shower with seven nozzles, a sauna, auxiliary heat systems and heat gain/loss protective window shutters, CCD surveillance system, GPS with voice prompting, broad band satellite links for computer communications and last but not least an elevator. "
Named Draco "after the star constellation and the mythical last dragon", the Oshkosh-based luxury bohemoth is for sale due to "a down turn in Ross' health and her inability to travel."
Since Draco was completed in July 2002 it has travelled 80,000 kilometres of varying terrain, and became one of the many celebrity visitors at innovation and experimental technology get-togethers such as "the EAA ( Experimental Air Association) show in Wisconsin, the Oshkosh Truck Corporation facility, mud drag competitions, the DARPA Grand Challenge, wild cat and bird sanctuaries and desert, mountain and snow country."
Draco has seen it all. "With the outriggers down we have waited out two borderline hurricanes and a blizzard that blew over tractor trailers," says Shahn.
The vehicle took 3000 man-hours to build with Shahn working ten hours per day. "The amount of money we spent does not relate to any one aspect,"said Shahn.
Everything had to be right. If Torontow was going to take his wife into remote areas, nothing could break down, so everything was built to failsafe levels. "The labour was very intensive on some items," said Shahn.
"An example is the tiling in the bathroom and shower. We used a special technique for the installation that took ten days to complete.
The leather upholsery is intricate - obviously a work of love, every aspect of the vehicle shows immense craftsmanship, and no scrimping on the outcomes. For example the soundproof underlay beneath the flooring cost more than the finished flooring.
Stainless steel costs more than Formica laminant but the aim was to make a robust vehicle that would enable Ross to travel in comfort for as long as possible.
The base vehicle was an OSHKOSH M1000 ARFF (AIRPORT FIRE RESCUE) built by www.oshkoshtruck.com in 1979.
Shahn bought it as a cab and chassis after the airport decommissioned it, then began a complete overhaul. "The engine was unframed, the tranny rebuilt and both differentials had new gears put in, the suspension got a total off-frame rebuild and we added air and dual shocks added so we could keep the stock ride height and wheel and tire size of 445/65R22.5 (45" tall, 12" wide tires).
"Further the chassis is a diesel pusher Caterpillar 3406A turbo with an engine producing 335 horses and 1000lbft torque at 1400rpm. The transmission is a four speed Allison 740HT automatic and there's full time four wheel drive with air locking differentials and one-to-one transfer case. "
Draco has "air brakes and power steering, automatic air shutters and fan on the radiator and PTO off the transmission for the hydraulic outriggers and the 20,000lb winch with 300 feet of cable. "
"Extras for recovery include two 46,000lb straps and two protective tree straps, four shackles and three snatch blocks as well as one pair of studded wheel chains for the rear wheels at 90 pounds per chain. "
The water system alone caters for three different zones - "fresh water for drinking and everything else, grey water is dirty water from the sinks and shower and black water is waste from the toilet only."
The blackwater system is double macerated to 1/16"- particle and can be disposed of through a pressurized fifty foot hose or the exhaust system while driving.
At US$299,000 Draco is not for everyone. It is an amazing example of how one person can construct a purpose built bohemoth inside 18 months and have it measure-up to the most mission-critical of tasks - to provide a comfortable mobile home for his wife. It offers the ultimate in comfort in wilderness regions. And there's only ONE!