The Turtle IV


Siberia bound


The Turtle IV was the first foreign vehicle, perhaps the first of any nationality, to drive completely across Siberia, all of Russia and Europe, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Mud, thin ice, deep snow, and temperatures below –90°F were some of the obstacles encountered on this 11-month adventure.

The most cursory inspection will tell you The Turtle IV is not a show truck. It is a work truck, designed to transport the photojournalist team of The Turtle Expedition and Tortuga Film Productions into the most remote and inhospitable areas of the World in safety and relative comfort. It often must be home for months at a time.

Following in the steps of The Turtle III, the new 1992 F-350 4X4 Ford had a hard act to follow, and a tougher road ahead. Crossing Siberia in the Winter, and following backroads around the World make our 50,000 mile exploration of South America seem like a drive in the country. Shadowed by the probability that what could go wrong would, we had to consider worst case scenarios.

You think it’s cold when you can see your breath? Try breathing when it’s 96° below zero!! (That’s 128 degrees below freezing!) In these temperatures, metal can crystallize and snap, tires reach their glass-transition point and crack, lubricants become solid and diesel turns to syrup. Exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite after only a few minutes. Added to these dangers rumors of food & fuel shortages, bad roads or no roads, lack of mechanical and medical facilities, bandits, Mafia and corrupt police. The Turtle IV would be much more than transportation over some of the worst roads and non-roads in the World. It would also be our castle.


In route to Khandyga, we drove down a small tributary of the Vostochnaya Khandyga river, perhaps only fifteen yards across in places with a fast drop. This was the Siberia we had dreamed of.

Reflecting twenty-four years of practical experience exploring the backroads of the World, The Turtle IV, has a replacement value of over $80,000. More than seventy companies are involved in its preparation. Quality, Functional Performance and Absolute Reliability governed all modifications. The basic integrity of the Ford F350 4X4, powered by the dependable International Diesel, was never compromised.

After extensive testing in Alaska and Mexico, The Turtle Expedition completed a 3-year/36,000-mile circumnavigation of the Northern Hemisphere, making The Turtle IV the first American vehicle to cross the Eurasian continent, ocean to ocean, completely overland, traveling some 1,200 miles on frozen rivers and winter roads through the wilderness of the Russian Far East. To its credit, we had no major mechanical problems during the entire journey.

Our Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper was unsuccessfully modified to handle the extreme cold of Siberia. It survived, and we survived, but in the process we again discovered the reality that despite its light weight and low profile, a pop-up camper is still a tent, best suited for temperate three-season camping. Once Spring arrived, the camper performed as expected, with the exception of annoying sidewall leaks during torrential downpours and high winds.

Specifications in a Nut Shell

T4 Interior2

The cab of The Turtle IV is our home and office on the road. Auto Meter mechanical gauges monitor all engine conditions. Other instruments include GPS, Compass, trip meter, altimeter, barometer, and SmarTire air pressure and tire temperature remote monitor.

Base Vehicle – 1992 Ford F-350
Design and Assembly – The Turtle Expedition, Unlimited and S&H 4Wheel Drive
Engine – International 7.3 L Diesel V8 with an ATS Turbo and high performance exhaust system
Torque – 430 ft. lbs.
Horsepower – 240
Transmission – Factory five speed
Transfer Case -Factory two-speed
Locking Hubs – Mile Marker
Suspension – National Spring packs with dual
Rancho 9000 adjustable shocks
Rear Differential – ARB
Front Differential – ARB
Tires – BFGoodrich 255/85R/16 Mud- Terrain T/As
Wheels – Alcoa hot forged aluminum
Weight – 12,000 lbs. fully loaded
Fuel Capacity – 50 Gallons

Camper – Modified Four Wheel Pop-Up


GENERAL HISTORY 1992 to 2001


The Turtle IV makes an impressive stance, its massive Rickard Compartment Bumper is ready for Siberia and the adventure of a lifetime.

The Turtle IV was designed and built to be a comfortable international backroad travel and camping vehicle. It was also modified to tackle one of the most difficult adventures left in the World today: To drive, overland, wheels on the ground, from the Pacific coast of the Russian Far East—Siberia—, to the Atlantic Coast of Western Europe. To make this trek even possible, the roadless area of Eastern Siberia needed to be crossed in the Winter.

As with The Turtle III, every system was modified to reflect the final goal of reliability. Cost was never a factor. Our sole responsibility in choosing each piece of equipment was simply to find the best!! During all modifications, we were able to maintain the underlying basic reliability of the Ford F series truck, though we knew that its international availability of parts and service would be useless in Russia.


The engine in The Turtle IV is an International 7.3 Liter Diesel, equipped with an ATS waste-gated turbo. Back in Sacramento, on our return from Europe, the complete turbo assembly was replaced. The engine was also inspected for any problems, and while at Ken Imler’s shop, it received new factory heads, valve train, injector pump, injectors, hoses, seals and gaskets.


Stock diesel fuel system has been modified by adding a Racor auxiliary fuel filter/water separator/fuel heater. The problematic stock Carter fuel lift pump has been replaced with a more reliable Airtex pump. As previously noted, a Stanadyne Arctic Fuel Injection Pump has been installed. A Transfer Flow fuel vent system has been installed to allow large nozzles and high pressure hoses to be used.



We pulled into Hammerfest, Norway, at 10:00AM in the total darkness of the Arctic Winter. This was an interim goal; the most northern town you can drive to in the World, and the first overland crossing of Eurasia from the Pacific to the Atlantic—wheels on the ground.

High-performance ATS mandrel-bent exhaust system.


Standard towing package. The heavy duty radiator was completely reconditioned and the clutch fan was replaced when the engine was refreshed.


Two Optima sealed batteries are kept fully charged by a Link-Arc 190 amp alternator, routed through a Link-Arc Power Tool which supplies 110 AC power and functions as a full-service welder & quick-charge battery charger. A twin solenoid battery cut-off switch sends full charge to the three Optima sealed deep-cycle batteries in the camper. The Optima batteries feed numerous 12 volt DC outlets in the truck and camper, and also produce 110 AC via a Statpower ProWatt 900 watt inverter.


The ZF five-speed manual transmission and two-speed transfer case have been reliable and trouble free. Where possible, remote breathers are attached to K&N filters.


Both front and rear differentials are equipped with ARB Air Locking Differential systems. Air is supplied by the Ready Air reserve tank. Differentials are connected to remote breathers attached to K&N filters.



The first day in Iceland, we crossed 23 streams and rivers. Water levels can change rapidly, and signs warn drivers to make a careful inspection before fording.

Drive lines are regularly overhauled by Central Drive Line Service in Sacramento, CA. All U-joints are Spicer lubable types. All yolks, slip tubes and CV joints are regularly replaced with Timken, Spicer and Federal Mogul parts.


Both front and rear brakes were recently overhauled using quality Raybestos components. The rear drums were replaced. The entire brake system was flushed with DOT 3 fluid.


All bearings and seals have been replaced since our return from Europe. Front spindles and U-joints have been replaced. Inner front axle seals have been replaced. Front hubs are repacked on a regular basis. Locking hubs are all new.


Wheels are ALCOA one-piece hot forged aluminum. Tires are new BFGoodrich 255/85R/16/D Mud Terrains.



Driving up the Lena River for nearly 700 miles was a thrilling experience, with temperatures that seldom rose above –40°F. It was also the only way to drive across Eastern Siberia.

All spring packs are custom made and installed by National Spring in El Cajon, CA. A special duel shock set-up was designed by Ted Kendall Engineering in Lakeside, CA. Shocks are Rancho 9000 adjustable set on their light setting.


Stock steering. The heavy duty power steering cooler is equipped with a removable cold-weather cover. A Rancho 5000 steering stabilizer is fitted. The truck is equipped with a hand-stitched Ford leather steering wheel which incorporates the electronics for the Ford cruise control system and the twin Alpex trumpet air horns fed by the Ready Air reserve tank. The factory horns were also retained, and can be independently operated.


Custom Rickard compartment bumpers. The front unit features two locking storage boxes and a full wrap-around bull-guard designed by Ted Kendall Engineering. It includes two trailer hitch sockets, mounts for auxiliary PIAA lights, a two-speed 12,000 lb MegaWinch electric winch (recently rebuilt), and an R&M Hot Water Shower System.

The rear features a class 3 load leveling hitch; a Warn 8,000 lb electric winch (recently rebuilt); a swing-away rack which holds a Max Forest tool, a Hi-Lift Jack, a shovel, three Wedco Euro-style Jerri cans for fuel and water, and the spare tire and wheel. Full electrical hook-up for trailer towing wiring harness is built into the bumper. Bumpers were sand blasted and repainted on our return from Europe.


T4 Alaska Snow

The Four Wheel pop-up camper was specially modified and outfitted for the extreme conditions we expected to encounter in Russia. At temperatures below –40°F, we had to cook and sleep with the top down.

Recaro orthopedic seats with adjustable side bolsters and head rests. Passenger and driver’s side are fitted with adjustable lumbar supports. Both seats fully recline. A Filler four-point racing harnesses is used.


A solid walnut center console was custom made by Jean’s Cabinets to our specifications. It holds a Halda Twin-Master trip meter and a Peet Bros. Ultimeter Professional Altimeter/Barometer. Two closed compartments hold a variety of travel items. A hidden compartment is large enough for money, keys and a hand gun.


The solid walnut overhead console was also custom made by Jean’s. It holds a Passport radar and laser detector, a full-feature Midland CB radio with PA and Weather Channel, four JRV auxiliary light switches, and two Osram halogen map lights.


TIV Mongun Taiga, Tuva, Russia

Following a little known route through the backcountry of Tuva, we encountered some of the most difficult roads Siberia had to offer. We would nearly be turned back by mud and snow storms twice.

Other features are almost too numerous to mention. They included the following:

• A Ready Air system supplying 150 psi of working air pressure with air outlets at front and rear of truck, and regulated pressure to ARB differentials and air horns.
• Twin Alpex trumpet air horns.
• SmarTire Wireless Tire Pressure & Temperature Monitoring System
• Two Hawk halon fire extinguishers mounted in the cab.
• A Hawk automatic under-the-hood halon fire extinguisher system.
• Full Auto Meter Comp Series mechanical gauges including Oil Press., Water Temp., & Volts on the dash, and Air Press., Exhaust Temp. & Boost mounted in a custom housing under the dash. Stainless braided hose was used where needed.
• Auto Meter Pro Lite oil pressure warning light is dash mounted.
• Eagle AccuTrail dash-mounted GPS with remote antenna
• Locking overhead gun rack
• Custom Space Blanket windshield and side covers
• Kraco All-Weather floor mats
• Custom fold-down windshield rock guard with Lexan windows
• Lund rock and bug deflector
• Lund Winter and Summer grill covers
• Remote outside hood release for extreme cold weather
• Aluminum engine vacuum tank with gauge
• Automatic trouble light under hood with 20-foot cord
• Dual Optima Red Top starting batteries (new)
• Covercraft custom full camper & truck cover
• Covercraft custom cab cover
• Full Dynamat soundproofing in doors and cab floor and back.
• Factory air, tilt steering and cruise control.
• Blaupunkt AM/FM/Cassette stereo with Blaupunkt speakers
• Blaupunkt 10-disk CD changer
• Tekonsha trailer brake controller
• Zerostart remote cab warmer timer
• Full Viper Alarm System protects both truck and camper.
• Auxiliary keyed-alike security locks on all doors and exterior accessories.
• Kryptonite Steering Lock.
• Mile Marker locking hubs.
• McGard lug nuts with locks secure wheels and protect stud threads.
• Auxiliary spot mirrors allow good visibility for trailer pulling and backing up in difficult places.
• Two sets of Pewag cross-link mud and snow chains
• Full winch kit with straps, gloves, snatch blocks, tow chain, etc.
• A five-ton hydraulic jack and blocks replaces the factory screw jack.
• Hi-Lift jack and sand plate.
• Custom one-of-a-kind graphics feature multiple layers of reflective vinyl depicting a mountain sunset, and the famous Turtle crawling over the World.
• R&M Continuous Hot Water Shower System.
• Plasticolor heavy duty mud guards behind all four wheels are designed for quick disconnect in severe conditions.
• Bushwacker sport fender flares painted to match truck.
• Eight-gang electrical outlet box in engine compartment
• Factory block heater
• Zerostart battery warmers
• Zerostart oil pan warmer
• A war chest of spare parts including bearings, seals, brake parts, water pump, fuel pump, hoses, etc. will be supplied to the new owner when The Turtle IV is sold.

Camper Specifications

The Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper fitted to The Turtle IV was custom built at the factory in Woodland, California to our specifications. Based on the few problems we had with the previous Four Wheel Camper, frame corners were gusseted and other areas were reinforced. The camper has recently been completely overhauled and refreshed.


A landmark well recognizable, we pause in the shadow of the famous Red Square in Moscow. The first half of our Around-The-World journey was nearing an end.

The Camper Features Include:

• Four Wheel Camper Winter kit
• Statpower Pro-Watt 800 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC inverter
• Progressive Dynamics Inteli Power PD-9055 converter
• Osram halogen reading lights
• New brighter Liteco fluorescent lights
• Fantastic roof vent
• Three Jensen 12-volt auxiliary fan outlets and two fans
• Everpure two-stage water filter with two outlets
• Heavy duty Shurflo water pump
• Three-way Dometic refrigerator
• Three Optima Yellow Top deep cycle sealed batteries
• Full Yakima sports roof rack
• Two Packasport storage pods
• Full length A&E Trans-Awn 2000 awning
• Two PIAA flood/back-up lights wired to the truck transmission with manual override
• McNichols Flex Matt vent under bed
• All new camper top and sides
• Sunbrella bed and cushion covers
• Triple-layer curtains with Space Blanket core
• Double-pane window system
• All new counter tops
• MNM inside/outside temperature gauge
• MNM multi 12-volt/110-volt meter
• Jensen clock with alarm
• JRV 12-volt outlets
• Positive locking cabinets and drawers
• MagCharger onboard rechargeable flashlight
• Hunter Falconaire Diesel 20,000 BTU Heater
• Hunter HW6 Thermistor Controlled Heater variable 6,000 to 20,000 BTU plumbed to the engine’s coolant system
• Viper alarm
• Halon fire extinguisher
• Security locks on water and propane tank access doors
• Book shelves
• Custom enclosed weather-proof wheel well storage
• Three burner stove
• Portable table
• Reinforced table brace
• Two folding chairs
• 12-volt vacuum