Ford Super Duty Global Explorer

An Expedition Vehicle Built From Ford’s Strongest Super Duty

Gary Wescott
Nov 1, 2011
The concept of expedition travel is not new. Europeans have been doing it since before Leif Ericson, the man who’s regarded as the first European to really land in North America—a feat he is thought to have accomplished nearly 500 years prior to Christopher Columbus.
Photo 2/13   |   globe Trotter ford Expedition Vehicle Front Shot
Today, if Europeans want an international adventure, there are choices. They could climb Mt. Everest. They could sail around the world. They can even drive across dozens of countries and cross their continent into Asia.
The Road Less Traveled
The idea of overland travel has caught on in many parts of the world. While it can involve off-roading, overland travelers do in fact follow known roads. Sometimes they’re very bad roads, but there are almost always roads. In order to explore freely, they need a vehicle that’s more or less self-contained—one that can go 1,000 miles without assistance and carry a supply of food and water for a few weeks without breaking down. They need a diesel truck that’s sort of like a blue-water yacht, but with four-wheel drive. Get the picture? We’re not talking motorhomes here.
Photo 3/13   |   globe Trotter camping
European Expedition Vehicles
Companies like Unicat (, Langer & Bock (, and Alu-Star ( have been building expedition vehicles in Europe for more than 25 years. Each is meticulously engineered but comes at a price. The skilled people who design and assemble these expedition vehicles get $50 to $80 an hour. And in Europe, diesel is as much as $10 a gallon. The preferred foundations over there are Mercedes Unimogs and MAN cab-and-chassis trucks. With no extras, these machines can set you back more than $100,000.
The American Way
After a yearlong circumnavigation of South America in their custom Unimog U500 camper, Mike and Rene Van Pelt were hooked. At about the same time, this newest segment of off-road vehicle recreation was just gaining traction. This new group of off-roaders wanted to get away from the public campgrounds and explore the world. Some drive around the planet. For others, a week in the desert or a month in Mexico is adventure enough.
Photo 4/13   |   globe Trotter checking The Tire
The Van Pelt’s company, Global Expedition Vehicles, has designed and built more than 20 unique expedition trucks, mostly on larger Mercedes and International 7400-series 4x4s. But at the Overland Expo 2011, it introduced the Ford F-550-based GXV Turtle.
Super Duty In Every Way
Building a true expedition camper is no small endeavor. GXV started with an ’11 F-550 4x4 cab and chassis with Ford’s new 6.7L Power Stroke. An intimidating Trail Ready bumper keeps cows and kangaroos out of the radiator. A 16,500-pound-capacity Warn winch and a bank of Hella lights are not just for impressing people at the mall parking lot. A factory limited-slip rear differential helps keep this 14,000-pound truck moving, and there’s an optional front ARB locker available if needed.
Photo 5/13   |   globe Trotter expedition Vehicle Front Three Quarter
The suspension was converted to a self-leveling Kelderman air spring system, controlled by a pair of Viair air compressors, two reserve air tanks, and a block of solenoids that allow the driver to level the vehicle from inside the cab. Bilstein remote reservoir shocks were used on all four corners.
Photo 6/13   |   globe Trotter rear Shock
The dual rear wheels were converted to singles with Hutchinson beadlock wheels using custom adapters. On the ground, 285/70R19.5 Michelin XDE2 tires give adequate traction. The two rear-mounted spares can be lowered to the ground with small electric winches.
Photo 7/13   |   globe Trotter rear Air Bags
In order to overcome any issues with international fuel compatibility, the vehicle’s DPF and SCR catalyst were deleted using an H&S Black Maxx controller, Flo-Pro DPF delete kit, and an MBRP exhaust. This 6.7L Power Stroke will burn anything you pour in the tank, including sulfur-laden home heating oil. This conversion requires the vehicle to be registered for export use only. The F-550 was fitted with both the primary and optional factory tanks for a total of 59 gallons.
Photo 8/13   |   globe Trotter tuner Screen
House on Wheels
To prevent the camper from breaking apart due to frame flexing, the GXV Turtle uses a three-point GXV-Kinetic Attachment Mounting System, which incorporates two structural isolation-bearing points in front and a large pivot point in the back.
Photo 9/13   |   globe Trotter eating In The Camper
With those critical issues out of the way, the camper was designed. The GXV Turtle is built of structural composite sandwich (SCS) three-ply body panels with a wall thickness of 2.36 inches and an insulation rating of R20. The SCS floor is 4.3 inches thick. All windows are German-made Seitz dual-pane with integrated blinds and mosquito screens. Dometic skylights featuring integrated blinds and mosquito screens were also fitted.
The enclosed bathroom has a sink, shower, and a Thetford cassette toilet. In many other countries around the world, there are no dump stations as we know them here, so all RVs use this cassette system. An 18-gallon gray-water holding tank empties with a remote cable, and if needed, a collapsible drain hose.
Photo 10/13   |   globe Trotter bathroom
A 175-watt solar panel keeps two 210-amp-hour AGM deep-cycle batteries charged. The electrical system is configured for 220 volts, a more international standard. A 220- to 110-volt converter is used in North America. All circuits for both 12-volt and 220-volt systems run through marine-style circuit breakers on a master control panel just inside the entry.
A Wabasto combination forced-air furnace and hot water heater runs on diesel. Fresh water capacity is 48 gallons, connected to an optional microbiological purifier. The kitchen area uses a two-burner diesel cook top and a convection microwave. There’s even a coffee machine.
Photo 11/13   |   globe Trotter kitchen
Several options on this first GXV Turtle caught our attention. The Natura oversize window next to the dinette brings the outdoors inside, and the slide-out rear extension allows for a queen-size bed to run lengthwise in the camper. A 6,500-BTU air conditioner is a luxury, as is the large plasma TV and sound system set up for an iPod. A full-length electric awning rolls out with a push of a button. A bike rack and additional storage was provided both at the rear and on the cab-over rack in weather-tight, lockable aluminum storage boxes.
Photo 12/13   |   globe Trotter aux Lights
So where would you take this decked-out F-550? What adventures would you go on? There’s not a continent on the planet you couldn’t explore with this diesel-powered overland camper. The hardest part would be figuring out where to begin your trip.
Photo 13/13   |   globe Trotter bike Rack


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