Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where we highlight fascinating cars we found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
I love seeing European-market trucks in America. This camper, with its off-road tires, modular cabin, and protective rollover bars, is no exception. I spotted it in Manhattan up in Morningside Heights right by Grant’s Tomb and Columbia University. I suppose if I were going to come across a truck like this it’d be here. It’s one of only a few places in Manhattan where you might score a weekend-long parking spot for a rig this big.
And it really is massive. MAN TGA chassis on which the camper is based is a heavy-duty 6x6 model but it’s had most of its badges scraped off so I don’t know exactly which motor powers this thing. Still, with giant steel bumpers and those chunky single rear tires, it’s bound to be a capable truck.
The camper body itself is also pretty interesting. Built by Dutch company Bliss Mobil BV, the entire camper body is actually built to the dimensions and frame of a 20-foot standard ISO shipping container. This allows the camper body to be easily removed for shipping or if the truck body underneath needs to be replaced.
Bliss Mobil says that all of their campers are equipped with solar panels on the roof to power accessories inside, which can be controlled by a smartphone-based control system. I didn’t get a glimpse of the inside of this one, but the pictures Bliss Mobil has on their site of the interiors suggest that it’s far from uncomfortable in there.
This particular camper also has a motorcycle mount on the back, which is probably a lot more useful for getting around New York than the truck itself. I guess the owners were out tooling around the city on it when I walked by as the mount was empty.
Our friend Kamil Kaluski got a chance to see what kind of bike fits on that mount when he saw the truck up near Boston a few days earlier. He also got to see the camper with some of its compartments open and the steps deployed. Kamil says he got to talk to the owner too, and since the truck was a long way from its home in Germany, I’m sure they had some great road stories to share.
But aside from being the ideal vacation vehicle for when I finally strike it rich, what else is so special about this primer-gray monster? When I was about eight years old, my family took a trip to Israel. While I would end up living there a few short years later and all of this would become normal to me, the big European cab-over trucks I had never seen before–not just MANs but DAFs, Scanias, Mercedes and others–became a kind of symbol for the excitement of travel and I’m still excited to see them every time I leave America and its stodgy hooded trucks for a market where these strange machines are more common.
I got to spot this one in Morningside Heights, the neighborhood where I spent another more recent chunk of my life in college at Columbia, bringing things full circle from the first MANs I spotted in Israel. And while an overbuilt vehicular Patagonia backpack might fit in among the rest of the adventure gear pressed into everyday use by Columbia students, I think this truck might find its full potential in the other Colombia. The one with the second ‘O’ in it.