No, just weight
On 26th August, with no resolution to our issues, we headed up to Lelystad to collect the camper unit and our Hilux, which had been modified with the air bags and fitted with the electrical connections and physical what-not to secure the camper. Sarah had her serious face on - she was worried. We were both worried. We are happy to accept a lot of crazy stuff as being part of the adventure when travelling, but one thing we were not prepared to do was knowingly act illegally. It's just not in our make-up: there was no way we were going to head off into the sunset in a vehicle that was overweight, no matter how academic the argument.
Hmm. Stay with me here. Our Toyota Hilux (now ironically christened 'Juicy') has a technical maximum mass, or in EU terms - Brexiteers look away now - a MAM (Max. Authorised Mass i.e. the total weight allowed when on the road including passengers, load, fuel - everything!) of 2685 kg. The identical model elsewhere around the world, without modification, has around 3020 kg, and with minor modification of suspension, tyres etc. can be 'up-plated' to 3500 kg. i.e. we were at least 300 kg short of what the same vehicle was designed to carry. Therefore no risk to suspension or chassis. Nor is there apparently any explanation available for the difference - certainly neither Toyota NL nor Toyota GB knew why there should be a difference except in marketing terms or tax concessions. At the same time, the Gross Train Weight (GTW) was the same across all import regions at 5685 kg. This is is the total weight of the vehicle plus tow weight, meaning that any of these Hilux vehicles could tow up to around 3000 kg without an issue. If the Hilux is designed to pull and stop with 3 tonnes behind it, there cannot be a problem with the chassis, suspension or brakes! Having said that, bear in mind that the maximum weight of an unbraked trailer is capped by EU law at 750 kg. but still, the same argument holds.
So where were we on the scale? We had a one-tonne pick-up which in The Netherlands was not a one-tonne pick-up at all!
We collected Juicy (our three-quarter tonne pick-up) and the camper, and after the nonsense of having my payment stopped twice by the bank for suspected fraudulent activity despite four phone calls to prearrange everything (thanks HSBC, my resignation's in the post), we finally left for home with our new rig. We were both still unconvinced!
We drove to the weighbridge (access thanks to Marcel and TranspoNuth) for a nasty surprise. We were 100 kg or so overweight, without putting any of our stuff in the car or camper! Brilliant. Congratulations to us. We'd just bought a very expensive garden shed. Or perhaps a new art studio for Sarah. But not a 'go anywhere' camper, as intended.
At about this point we seriously considered taking it back - the factory, despite advising us that the Hilux was the best car to get, knew that the weight restriction in the Netherlands was too low. Their explanation was that the Hilux was still the best option because it could practically carry the weight no problem, and that many other customers just drove around knowing about the limitation.
Well, that wasn't something we felt that we could do. What happens if you have an accident? I'm not sure either the judiciary or the insurer would be quite so glib.
In the end, we figured that (despite the advice provided by 'the experts'), the choice of car was our problem, so the chance of returning the camper on that basis was slim!
Somewhat upset, and certainly unable to go away on holiday, we had to figure a way out. Spend more money and buy a higher capacity vehicle? Leave the camper in the garden and take a tent?
It was then that I had a cunning plan.
I made a sketch to explain my theory to Sarah. A 'back of the envelope' plan:
What does all this mean? As explained earlier, when towing there is a new mass number which reflects the maximum weight of the whole 'train' - both tow vehicle and trailer and loads. In addition, when considering the maximum allowable mass for such a train, it is required that each axle load is within a limit too. My plan was to unload the car and camper, and use the trailer to carry the load instead; thus satisfying the axle limits of 1280 kg front, 1600 kg rear, and 750 kg (unbraked) on a trailer.
We set about emptying the camper - removing the awning, all loose contents, two of the camper legs, emptying all water, removing the gas bottles, even the bed slats! On the car I removed the spare wheel, the tool kit, floor mats (6 kg would you believe?) - in short, pretty much everything.
Back to the weighbridge. It worked! Juicy plus camper plus passengers now legal. All we had to do was buy a trailer... and pack everything into that.
I know. Not ideal. And we consider it a temporary solution. But it meant that by Wednesday evening, after buying a beautiful new trailer (always wanted one - every cloud etc., and we got a good deal from Jac Jagers) and fitting the electrics; we were finally ready to go! Sarah was happy (ish) again.
Determined not to lose another day, we set off. And made it a massive 10 km by road! We found a fantastic new campsite in the neighbourhood: http://oenselsfruitweike.com/
A truly lovely site, with the friendliest owners. At last - we were on holiday! And the best bit? - we could see work from our pitch!