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Story by Mercedes Lilienthal
Photos by Spencer Whitney

A Mint Green MAN Truck Travels Internationally

MAN vs. MAN

A house on wheels … yet so much more

Even before he owned the mint green MAN truck, Canadian resident A.J. Leveille was always into cars. He and his father built a hot rod as his first vehicle. In fact, he still owns it. Leveille was also in the Boy Scouts from ages 5 to 17. That laid the foundation for his love of the outdoors.

“In university and beyond, I became very involved in hiking, mountaineering and trekking abroad,” said Leveille. Backcountry trips led him to build his Land Cruiser FJ40 camper “many years ago before ‘overlanding’ in North America was a ‘thing.’”

Mint Green MAN expedition truck parked by a body of water.

A Unicat TC59 is an expedition truck designed for taking the whole family on extended international trips.

Family Overlanding

Leveille’s love for adventuring through Canada’s vastness and beyond was a major reason he purchased and customized a used 2011 TGM 18.340 four-wheel-drive mint green MAN truck that housed a TC59 Unicat camper. He wanted to travel the world for extended periods of time with his family of four.

From Halifax to Vancouver, northern British Columbia to the Arctic Circle and even Chile to Tierra del Fuego (the tip of South America), this trusty truck has given Leveille and his family shelter, miles of smiles and constant adventure.

Mint Green MAN Expedition Truck parked next to Bronco Sport

The new Bronco Sport might be dwarfed by the sheer size of the Unicat. Even so, both vehicles can offer similar travels in different ways and provide an outlet for adventure.

From extensive travels lasting three months in South America to trekking remote areas of Canada, Leveille loves his home-on-wheels.

“To wake up somewhere remote in my own comfortable bed and then make breakfast and tea, all while gazing out the window from my warm, comfortable truck, is the greatest,” he explained. His goal was to spend as much time as possible with his beloved, mint-green machine.

Kids hold on to the sides of the mint green MAN expedition truck.

Leveille’s idea behind a move to a truck of this size? Spending time exploring international locales with his children and wife.

Leveille’s family comprises his wife, Carol, and their two sons, Nathan (12) and Nick (14). Their love for all types of vehicles binds them together … so much so that Nick is following in Leveille’s footsteps by building his own Land Cruiser FJ45.

The Mint-Green MAN Truck

Armed with a 5,100mm wheelbase (about 2,009 inches), eight-speed manual transmission and a 158-gallon diesel tank, Leveille’s mint-green crew cab MAN truck has been all over the world. This 4×4 boasts a 6.9L engine with 340 hp and 920 lb-ft of torque and includes stock front and rear differential lockers, central differential lock and a two-speed transfer case with off-road reduction.

‘Canada is vast! It has a diverse landscape and, if you’re willing to explore, you’re likely to be rewarded with great scenery, wildlife and, if you go far enough out, there’s often no one else around.’ —A.J. Leveille

Rear view of the Mint Green MAN Expedition Truck that shows the spare tire and other accessories.

The camper box was built by Unicat. It’s constructed of highly insulated fiberglass composite panels.

Off-road capability was important to Leveille and his family. In addition to the previously mentioned features, this MAN truck boasts Hutchinson aluminum wheels with internal beadlocks that allow ultra-low operating pressure. The wheels are shod with 14.00 R20 Samson GLO73A tires that offer strong tread blocks and reinforced ribs for durability, as well as a rounded-shoulder design to enhance off-road capabilities.

Also included is a rear motorbike rack storage area that currently houses one full-sized spare that’s accessible via an electric ComeUp winch.

Wonderful Winches

Affixed to the front and rear of Leveille’s MAN truck are two beefy, hydraulic Superwinch winches that provide recovery opportunities when the going gets … stuck. Roof- and rear-mounted Waeco cameras check clearances when the family’s navigating tight trails. Showcasing a curb weight of 28,990 pounds—which includes fresh water and fuel—Leveille’s MAN truck boasts parabolic leaf springs and custom-built front and rear King shocks.

Air brakes and differentials are shown under the MAN expedition truck.

While air brakes slow the truck, locking differentials in front and rear keep it moving forward when the going gets tough.

Although the Leveilles have pounded thousands of miles of pavement, they’ve had their fair share of off-road adventures too. They’ve tackled a variety of terrain in numerous countries. Leveille recalls rolling into a town in Argentina and commenting to his wife on how bad the road was … “only to have a brand-new Ferrari drive by at that exact moment.”

Armed with recovery gear, Leveille’s MAN truck carries two pairs of MAXTRAX traction boards, a 130,000-pound tow strap, two large Pull-Pal land anchors and several oversized D-ring shackles. This gear makes quick work if the massive, lean, mean, mint-green machine gets stuck.

Oh, Canada (and Beyond)

Leveille resides just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, and has a deep-seated love for his country: “Canada is vast! It has a diverse landscape and, if you’re willing to explore, you’re likely to be rewarded with great scenery, wildlife and, if you go far enough out, there’s often no one else around.”

The winch on the mint green MAN expedition truck.

Should the need arise, the truck is equipped with a 20,000-pound hydraulic Superwinch—front and rear—with wireless remote control and in-dash switching available as well.

Tires turn on the mint green MAN expedition truck.

With a three-point sub-frame, the truck frame can flex a dramatic amount, thus providing great tire contact on the twisty bits.

Canada offers world-class wilderness, as other countries do, “but Canada’s edge is that it often allows great public access,” Leveille added. “Much of Canada is ‘crown land’—not private land—and can be used for recreation year-round.”

Powered by a MAN inline six-turbo diesel engine rated at 340 hp—which is pre DEF (diesel exhaust fluid)—traveling is a bit easier, while adhering to varying world fuel standards.

Extra storage on the underside of the MAN expedition truck helps keep this family on the road for months at a time.

Tools and a solid assortment of recovery gear options are on hand to help when things don’t go as planned.

With two years of ownership under his belt, Leveille has put approximately 25,000 miles on his mint-green MAN truck. From Halifax to Vancouver, northern British Columbia to the Arctic Circle and even Chile to Tierra del Fuego (the tip of South America), this trusty truck has given Leveille and his family shelter, miles of smiles and constant adventure.

The MAN truck showcases an integrated rear winch and retractable rear under-ride crash guard.

The MAN truck showcases an integrated rear winch and retractable rear under-ride crash guard.

An Infinite Interior

Because of its infinite list of features and amenities, Leveille’s MAN truck provided his family with flexibility, respite and time away from the everyday grind. A lockable pass-through from the cab to the Unicat camper, along with scratch-resistant, burglar-proof, hinged Unicat windows, adds security and protects their rolling home from prying eyes.

A built-in outdoor kitchen, Webber BBQ and propane fire pit together make setting up camp easy and quick.

A built-in outdoor kitchen, Webber BBQ and propane fire pit together make setting up camp easy and quick.

The Unicat unit features a seating area for up to six people and an adjustable swivel table on a pedestal in the front of the cabin. A double-sized bed includes suspension similar to a traditional box spring mattress and a heating element to help keep Leveille and his wife comfortable. The two boys enjoy the bunk beds that easily convert to a couch.

A comfortable sleeping area, a combination shower and toilet room, and an impressive kitchen all make for a solid, self-contained setup. The kitchen features an LPG 3-Force 10 three-flame stove with integrated oven, a 38-gallon fridge and 4-gallon freezer, as well as several drawers for dishes and cooking supplies with rattle-proof dividers.

Leveille’s love for adventuring through Canada’s vastness and beyond was a major reason he purchased and customized a used 2011 TGM 18.340 four-wheel-drive MAN truck that housed a TC59 Unicat camper.

Custom-built, pressurized storage boxes provide dust-free gear storage on the MAN6 expedition truck.

Custom-built, pressurized storage boxes provide dust-free gear storage.

The MAN truck offers six AGM batteries, a Victron 1000W solar system, shore power, a portable Honda generator and a heavy-duty alternator. They keep power flowing to the vehicle and Unicat cabin.

LED lights keep the interior lit, and multiple on-board tanks keep the family hydrated, clean and self-sufficient.

Leveille adds that with a MAN truck, there’s no camp to set up, and it’s 100 percent self-reliant. “You’re no longer bound by needing to reach a certain campsite.”

The beautiful interior of this MAN expedition truck has the comforts of home.

A bright, airy design and all the comforts of home make this an easy place to unwind after a long day on the road.

The family has slept in fantastic spots, as well as challenging places, “but once the blinds are closed, it doesn’t really matter where you are when you have your house on the back.”

To Leveille, seeing his children continually expand their world view and find their own love of adventure and travel is highly gratifying. He says it’s the dreams of future travels that their MAN truck can bring that help them fuel their adventures.

The beautiful interior of this MAN expedition truck has the comforts of home.

Heat, AC, solar and a generator keep this unit comfortable in all weather conditions—perfect for world travels.

MAN Truck Woes

However, adventuring with a mint green MAN truck isn’t like traveling with a Tacoma. It takes a lot of awareness to drive a truck this big. In addition, you aren’t immune to other mechanical problems.

The family has suffered mechanical issues throughout its travels.

The interior of the mint green MAN expedition truck has a full functioning kitchen with locking drawers and oven and cooktop.

A fully functional kitchen with a Force 10 oven/cooktop and locking drawers with built-in dishes, pots and pans

“In Canada, a secondary serpentine belt broke, causing a sensor wire to sever and damage the cooling fan,” Leveille pointed out. “Luckily, the truck still ran, and we were able to order parts from Germany and repair it at home.”

In Chile, his fan shroud loosened and was destroyed; it was likely linked to the first issue in Canada.

The rear garage of the MAN offers storage of outdoor camp gear and a folding electric mountain bike. It also houses an outdoor shower.

The rear garage offers storage of outdoor camp gear and a folding electric mountain bike. It also houses an outdoor shower.

“Due to the remoteness and limited availability of parts, I needed to rely on my own mechanical abilities and ‘bush-fix’ it to get it going,” Leveille said. “That repair lasted until we got the truck back to Canada.”

Other misfortunes—such as blowing an intercooler or diving deep into various repairs to solve other issues—sometimes plagued the family while they were on the road.

“It’s my sincere hope that through COVID and your own struggles, you can find a slice of your own adventure daily—whatever that looks like for you.” —A.J. Leveille

A spacious, bright cab of the MAN offers all occupants great views of passing scenery.

A spacious, bright cab offers all occupants great views of passing scenery.

“With no one around here who works on these trucks, I was often left to sort out my own mechanical issues.” Nevertheless, he added that Unicat was great, and its staff helped get parts sent from Germany at a moment’s notice.

Ultimately, the problems Leveille’s mint green MAN truck suffered through paled in comparison to the experiences he and his family have had together.

Aaron Leveille and his sons pose in front of their mint green MAN expedition truck.

Passing on a passion for world travels and adventures to the next generation

“One of the most important lessons is not taking life for granted and choosing to live each day to the fullest,” he said. “It’s my sincere hope that through COVID and your own struggles, you can find a slice of your own adventure daily—whatever that looks like for you.”

UPGRADES

2011 MAN Expedition Truck

ENGINE: 5.9L, 340 hp diesel

TRANSMISSION: ZF (model) 8-speed with high/low, allowing 16 speeds

SUSPENSION: (front and rear) MAN parabolic leaf springs; custom-built King adjustable shocks

WHEELS AND TIRES: Hutchinson aluminum internal beadlock 10×20 wheels; Samson GLO73A 14.00 R20

EXTERIOR ACCESSORIES: Custom-lengthened frame by MAN/Unicat; Hella/BOSCH DRIVING LIGHTS; HYDRAULIC Superwinch 20,000-lb. front and rear with wireless Heinricks controller; Unicat custom stainless boxes

INTERIOR ACCESSORIES: ISRI Air-ride bucket seats with custom Alcantara upholstery; iPad wITH navigation apps; Unicat custom upholstery and sound-deadening; Garmin inReach; MAN CB radio; 12V, 24V and 120-240V power is available for charging using a Victron inverter.

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared in the print issue of TREAD September/October 2021.

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