COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BRETT WILHELM’S TOYOTA ADVENTURE VAN

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Photo by Brett Wilhelm

Photo by Brett Wilhelm

Brett Wilhelm is new to the Overland Expo family but he’s not new to vehicle and motorcycle based adventuring.  His first foray into Overlanding started on the moto side, first purchasing a 2001 BMW F650GS in the late 2000s, then a few years later upgrading to a 2006 F650GS Dakar.  Those adventures were limited to a 500-600 mile radius of his home in Boulder, Colorado. 

3-4 years ago, Wilhelm found himself desiring more of a four-season adventure mobile with more storage and the creature comforts of home to use as a mobile office for his photography business.  Growing up in a military family, he was stationed in Japan as a teen when he learned to drive. After surveying the Sprinter and VW Vanagon market, he discovered the rather robust Japanese RV market and was instantly hooked on the Toyota Townace Camper platform – a somewhat cousin of the little Mitsubishi minivan he’d learned to drive 25 years back.

Wilhelm bought his 1992 Toyota Townace A’m Craft Camper in October of 2017 and has averaged about 12,000 miles a year of western US adventures.  The van has fueled new explorations from mid-winter warmth in the deserts of Arizona, to beach camping on the central coast of California, epic mountain biking in the forests of Oregon and lots of backcountry ski adventures in the high Rockies and Sierras.

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It’s often just that final 1/4 mile off the beaten path that gets you to that epic camp spot.
— Brett Wilhelm

The van assists Brett to tackle photography projects that may not have otherwise made financial sense for him given the comparative costs of flights, hotels, and other typical travel expenses. In the past year, he and his travel companions – his girlfriend and dog – have had several morning coffees in the grandeur of our most beautiful National Parks.  He says he won’t be running the most technical terrain anytime soon, but he’s happy with the van’s capabilities and says that it’s often just that final 1/4 mile off the beaten path that gets you to that epic camp spot.

Since his teenage years in the early 90s living in Japan, Wilhelm has always been impressed by the densely-packed Japanese society’s efficient use of space and appreciates how that design ethos carried over into the Japanese RV market.  His rig strikes a near-perfect balance of creature comforts and drivability/usability with all of these features rolled into a relatively compact footprint. 

Other than adding a modern solar package and replacing a 25-year-old fridge, Brett hasn’t done any major modifications to the van. He felt the original vehicle design was well thought out 25 years ago.  As a 2-liter non-turbo diesel, the van is by no means fast, but it’s plenty fuel-efficient for longer overlanding journeys. With top-end speeds in the 60s, Wilhelm is more motivated to explore the state highways and backroads, seeing parts of the country he says he’s overlooked for decades. 


Header photo courtesy of Brett Wilhelm

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Photo by Brett Willhelm

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