So at this point I’m not sure if I’m going through a mid-life crisis, or whether I’ve finally come to my senses and realised exactly what it is that I should be doing with my life. Either way, about 18 months ago I bought an elderly Mercedes 814 horsebox in order to convert it into a housebox.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those moments where you suddenly get the feeling that if you don’t do “the thing” now, you’re probably never going to do it. Could be anything: skydiving; yoga teacher training; getting a tattoo; buying a plane ticket and travelling across the world… That’s kind of where I was at back in September 2016. Y’know how it is – a bunch of stuff happens that makes you re-evaluate what you want from life, and all of a sudden you’re on eBay searching for trucks and vans that look handy for conversion!
Having worked with horses for a bunch of years, I did have a bit of clue with regard to what to look for in a decent horsebox but it was more luck than judgement that made me choose Monty. I originally wanted a wooden Bedford TK but they are few and far between, and are either pristine or a bit of a shed. Didn’t really have the time or knowledge to rebuild one from scratch so that put paid to that idea. So then I had to find the next best thing, which turned out to be an aluminium bodied truck with struts at intervals down the sides (I’m not sure what the technical term for this is!) – similar aesthetic to a wooden horsebox but a lot less hassle (or at least I hope so!).
Going to pick Monty up from his owner was a bit of a mission. Turned out that he lived on the Isle of Wight, so a family road trip was organised and we zoomed across on the ferry – who doesn’t love a jolly on a ferry?! I’m not going to lie, bringing Monty back through the country lanes across the Isle of Wight to the ferry port, getting him onto the ferry and parked properly, and then off the ferry and to the nearest petrol station was really quite daunting. I think it had been maybe 12 or 15 years since I last drove a horsebox, so I’ll admit I was pretty terrified! It didn’t take long to get the hang of it again through, and then I remembered how much I enjoy driving big vehicles – the bigger the better really.
Once we got him home, we then had to figure out what to do with him. I had absolutely no plan of action, this being possibly the biggest spur of the moment purchase I’d ever made in my life! Pinterest and Facebook came to my rescue at that point, and they’ve been massively useful resources ever since. I will never cease to be amazed by the topics people feel the need to make videos and posts of, but I am sooooo glad that they do! The first thing to do, obviously, was to rip all of the horse related paraphernalia out.
This was actually a lot of fun. We had to ditch a lot of the panelling and boards because the roof had leaked in the past which had caused damp and rot to set in. The previous owners had replaced the roof (very much a bonus) so it didn’t leak any more, but the water damage was quite extensive. Most of the boards didn’t take a lot of persuasion to come off the walls and ceiling, and those that put up a fight quickly succumbed to a well-placed crowbar! As you can imagine, the floor was pretty grim having carried horses for 20 years so we took great pleasure in taking it all up and replacing it.
Now that we had no floor, we sort of needed to make a decision on what to put down instead – a floor is fairly fundamental, after all! Again, Facebook and Pinterest produced the goods and we went with two layers of marine ply – 12mm first (screwed to the chassis), then a layer of the silver space foil bubble insulation stuff, and then a layer of 9mm. It’s finished up being the same thickness as the original floor (i.e. thick and strong enough to hold the weight of three horses) but now it doesn’t smell of horse wee – bonus!!
I guess it took the best part of a year to strip all of the old, rotten or just unnecessary stuff out of the horsebox – we put the new floor down in August 2017 having bought Monty in September 2016. I wasn’t really working to a schedule then and, due to work commitments, could only really spend time playing with the truck at the weekends. That hasn’t really changed, but I have now booked tickets for a festival in June this year so I need Monty to be ready for that – I’ll definitely be booking some strategic holiday so that I can spend as much time as possible on the build!
So that’s pretty much the first year condensed into a few paragraphs, I’ll put together a few more posts in the future going into a bit more detail about the reconstruction and remodelling of the inside – if anyone’s interested! Monty also has his own Facebook page – www.facebook.com/montymerc/ – with a bunch of photos and vids of progress should you wish to have a look. Thanks for reading!
Submitted and written by: Nicky Gardner