As far as we are concerned the UNICAT adventure started at the Düsseldorf trade show in August 2003 as that was where we became lost in admiration for the Volvo on display there.
The following year we were at the Val d'Isère show and we signed the purchase order for our own future MAN 26.480 in October 2004.
Over the next few months there was a whole series of discussions and visits to the factory in Dettenheim so that we could draw up the plans based on both our travel schedule and our wish list. The trip we were planning was to last for one year to start with, but longer if we found that we were enjoying ourselves. Christine insisted that our daughter Alix should have her own living space so that she could spend time on her own as she does when we are at home. Thomas Ritter took everything we asked for on board and a few months later the plans had been finalised, so construction could get underway.
We took delivery of our truck in April 2006; UNICAT more or less kept to the deadlines, although it has to be said that, with all the last-minute changes, there was an awful lot of work to do on the project.
We met up with Thomas again in Morocco in July 2006 so that we could familiarise ourselves with the truck on the kind of terrain for which it was designed: sand tracks and dunes. There were no problems; the 6x6 was fantastic on all terrains and we were totally satisfied with it. The impression we got was one of safety, and a vehicle which was tough enough to stand up to anything.
A year later, the truck was shipped by cargo boat to Halifax. Since then we've covered 30,000 km in Canada, crossed the States, visited a good number of the national parks such as the Canyon de Chelly, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Monument Valley, etc., we also spent a month in Baja California and drove across Mexico to Cancun.
Two years after delivery, our truck is still as good as new, the only problem we have had was with a defective battery charger—but there are two others, anyway—and the truck handles all the jobs for which it was built faultlessly.
If we had to draw the plans up again from scratch, there's hardly anything that we would change, because with Thomas' advice the layout of the facilities, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms is perfect.
In a few months' time we will be setting off for South America and after that we are going to Australia.
Christine, Alix and Vincent Ricour
(translated from French)