Feud with semi-trailers, tuning and legend attempts – month session 02/2023

Welcome to another article from the Session of the Month series, made in collaboration with photographer Heniek Anielski (Trucks in the observer’s lens). Heniek travels to Poland every month, performs a unique truck session and collects the most interesting information about it. In this way, descriptions of modified or vintage cars are created, often linked to the stories of their users. The entire project has been in the works for over two years now, and all previous scripts can be found at this link. In the meantime, we move on to the next Champion, which will be the lightest truck I’ve had the pleasure of covering in this entire series.

Kam-Robi’s yellow and black Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 519 CDI may already be familiar to you. I introduced it at the end of January of this year, when the tractor hit the road for the first time and made a lot of noise with its appearance. However, at the time, the project was still halfway through as the Sprinter was still waiting for a suitable trailer. This had to be modified not only in technical terms, but also in terms of appearance and additional equipment. Only now can we see the whole group in all its glory, and Heniek went to the company’s headquarters in Leszno on this occasion to memorialize him during the session.

Speaking of the company, let’s start by explaining what Kam-Robi does and what the presented tractor with a semi-trailer will be used for. The main activity profile turned out to be transportation and rental of vans or passenger cars, with its fleet of 70 vehicles. In addition, the company also hauls yachts, platforms, and oversized lighter loads, and also offers removal services. Most of the company’s cars have Mercedes stars, and among the kits that have existed so far there were tow trucks with trailers, built on the basis of the Sprinter model. This common configuration works well for many missions, but it’s also not ideal, as it makes it impossible to take two trucks at the same time, or just a very long load. Hence the idea to diversify the fleet a little, only with the composition shown in the pictures.

The basis for the submitted project, i.e. a 5-ton Sprinter with a 3-liter V6 engine, was received in January 2022. At that time, it was just a chassis that was immediately transferred to BFZ Autotransporter from Bolesławiec. There, the car was rebuilt into a tractor-trailer, which consisted of cutting off the rear overhang, installing the fifth wheel, and also installing the widely understood pneumatics. The latter provided cushions for the drive axle suspension, and at the same time provided compressed air suspension and brakes for the entire semi-trailer. In total, there are as many as six pneumatic tanks in the entire range, placed under the chassis of both cars, and their control is the responsibility of the indicator located next to the gear lever. In addition, it must be emphasized here that all of the above changes have been approved, so you can still count on the Mercedes factory warranty here.

The two-axle semi-trailer was also supplied by BFZ Autotransporter. It is a 12.6 meter long two-axle vehicle configured to carry a variety of loads. There we will find automatically blocked ramps for cars, boat supports for yacht transportation, as well as equipment for the transportation of outstanding loads, including industrial machines up to 3 meters wide. These hand tools can be placed in tool boxes located along the trailer and to match the overall look of the vehicle. Speaking of transmission capacity, there are a few formal issues that need clarification. The truck tractor provided is clocked at around 3.5 tons, and has a tachograph, of course, but doesn’t have to have an onboard speed limiter. Together with the semi-trailer in question, it currently makes up a 7-tonne package, requiring a Class B+E driver’s licence, although work is under way to significantly increase this gross weight, as formal requirements change. From a technical point of view, the car is equipped with a load of 11.5 tons.

As a curiosity, it should be noted that although the semi-trailer is 1 meter shorter than standard trailers, the maximum length of the entire set is 16.5 meters. In other words, the Sprinter turns out to be longer than conventional tractors, and this, of course, has to do with the engine mounted in front of the cab and the use of a relatively large sleeper cab. The latter is a Spojkar body in one of the top variants, offering a fairly wide bed behind the seats and a really massive mattress in a closed roof extension. There’s room for a 35-liter compressor fridge under the rear mattress, and the sunroof is large enough to allow you to stand upright between the seats. The choice of the Spojkar brand is also determined by the large number of accessories that can be obtained in a completely factory way. These include a reasonably fitted ceiling hatch, a TV set with hanger and antenna mount, or tubes with brackets for additional lighting. Although the issue of fitting plastics and TV selection left a bit to be desired here, it was actually improved upon during the mod.

Here we come to the subject of tuning which played a huge role in this project. As Bowie, who drives this car every day and answers with many modifications, explained, there is probably no truck accessories store in Poland where the products of this project would not be purchased. The changes were really comprehensive, from the varnishing, among other things, to the rims with hubs, by wrapping the cabin in glossy paper with a 12-year warranty, to the installation of many distinctive elements. For example, a light panel with the Transporter’s name appeared along the roof, along with four LED headlights from the Swedish brand Strands. The front bumper has been extended with a spoiler, repainted and combined with an LED beam with strobe function. A particular reason for the driver’s pride is also the backlight, in the whole assembly consisting of a total of 49 individual square lights. Something like this is strongly associated with the Dutch tuning, but in the case of such light vehicles it simply does not happen.

Although the Sprinter has a 12-volt system, which is typical for vehicles with a gross weight up to 3.5 tons, purchasing all of the listed lighting elements was not a big deal. As it turns out, most of these types of products can now operate within 10 to 30 volts. Due to the presence of the pneumatic system, it was also possible to install typical truck sound accessories, such as two trumpets placed on the roof, the famous Turkish whistle, or the so-called “busuri” on the back wall, that is, a set of trumpets adapted to play certain melodies. However, in the case of interior modifications, you cannot rely on the products that are available in stores. So to get a Sprinter cabin in typically Danish style, and draped in the iconic velor, everything had to be custom-made. At the moment, luxurious curtains await the car, as well as luxurious yellow upholstery of the rear wall of the cabin, combined with luminous lettering. A custom-made sun visor, which is specially enlarged and integrated with Scania brand lights, is also planned. Everything has to be capped off by a new sound system that makes overtaking long distances a lot more fun.

Standard directions available for this vehicle are Poland, Italy, Poland, France and sometimes Poland and Spain. So how will the car offered there perform in terms of operation and how does Pawe evaluate it after changing from a classic tow truck with a trailer? It should be noted here that the yellow and black Sprinter is one of the last versions equipped with a 3-liter V6 engine with a capacity of 190 horsepower. This unit provides good dynamics and high work culture, but is known for its high fuel consumption. Currently, the empty consumption of the range is around 16 liters per 100 kilometres, and the results recorded with first loads are between 20 and 26 litres. However, there are plans to change the engine program, increasing the power to 250 hp, which has already been done with other Sprinters from this company. This usually results in lower fuel consumption, so it should be the same here. On the other hand, why did the car shown get a 6-speed manual transmission instead of a 7-speed automatic? It was by no means a deliberate choice, but simply at the time of ordering, Mercedes no longer offered the V6 automatic.

When it comes to handling, it turns out to be even easier than it was on vehicles with trailers back in the day. Trailers are dominated by Kam-Robi turntables, that is, combinations with two breaking points. Although the fact is that the tractor had to receive some modifications in terms of visibility. Small factory-made mirrors have been moved aside and mounts have been installed extended by 12 cm. There are also two cameras, one on the rear wall of the sleeper cab and the other on the rear bumper of the semi-trailer. . On the other hand, one can only speak positively about the pneumatic braking system. Regardless of the braking power, such a configuration as presented behaves much more confidently than conventional combinations with a trailer. And besides all this, there is also a huge “added value”. As the first roads have already shown, the combination of lighting with a semi-trailer after fine tuning is very interesting on the road. During the Austrian inspection, the police officers did not hide their appreciation and asked to see the inside. Italians excel and show a thumbs up, Dutch or Germans ask for details, and even at a pedestrian crossing, a random person once took a picture. Pawe himself also prides himself in saying that he does not know of any other B+E driver’s license with a similar appearance in Europe. That’s why he allowed himself a bold mud flap below the rear bumper, declaring, “I’m a legend.”

Full photo session:

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