Building to the Hilt: Global Expedition Vehicles

It’s all about the people, said Mike Van Pelt, founder of Global Expedition Vehicles. It’s what makes adventure vehicles so worth it.

BY INGRID SCHNADER ELLIS | SEPT. 23, 2023
Mike and Rene Van Pelt, Global Expedition Vehicles
Mike and Rene Van Pelt, founders of Global Expedition Vehicles.
Think about the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen or done.

Maybe it was a hike with stunning scenery. Maybe it was a trip of a lifetime with mouthwatering food and sunsets like you’ve never seen before.

We bet that one of the first things you’ll remember about this memory is the people you were with. And if you were alone, maybe you thought along the way about who you wished could share that memory with you.
It’s all about the people, said Mike Van Pelt, founder of Global Expedition Vehicles. It’s what makes adventure vehicles so worth it.
Global Expedition Vehicles
Before Global Expedition Vehicles, which is an industry-leading expedition vehicle manufacturer that merged with Storyteller Overland in 2022, Mike and Rene Van Pelt were in the commercial construction business. Mike’s experience overseeing the construction of over 1,000 restaurants and hotels gave him the skills he needed to build his first expedition truck, a project that he started in 2004.

“The seed from my ideas originally came from a small article in the National Geographic Magazine back in the 80s,” Mike wrote on the GXV website. “I mostly remember the photographs of a military-looking Mercedes Unimog going up and over sand dunes and thinking that my 4×4 pickup truck wouldn’t do that.”

He wanted something that would allow him to go anywhere he wanted to go and stay as long as he wanted to stay.

It was harder than he thought it’d be. “I basically built two of them to get one of them,” he said. And it cost twice what he anticipated.

But the rewards of the truck were immediately recognized during Mike and Rene's first trip in it together, when they shipped the truck to South America and lived totally self-contained for a year.

“When we were on that trip, it was like we were boyfriend and girlfriend again,” Mike said. “That trip became the best year of our lives. It literally was a transformative experience for me that I thought everyone ought to enjoy.”

Every day is a different thing to be excited about when you’re in an expedition vehicle, Mike said. Where are we going to go? How long do we want to stay? Because the vehicle is totally self-contained and off-road capable, the possibilities are literally endless.

“Every day you’re drawn together because of these adventures you’re having,” he said. “Building these trucks, for me, I saw as a way to help make people’s relationships better like what Rene and I experienced firsthand.”
Mike and Rene Van Pelt, Global Expedition Vehicles
That first trip was to South America, but Mike and Rene have taken their expedition trucks all over the world. They stand behind their motto, which is “You’ll run out of world before you run out of truck.” They’ve taken expeditions to Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mongolia, Botswana and more. They’ve even boondocked on a barge going down the Amazon River for a week.

“In the United States, you can park in a campground every night,” Mike said. “Imagine driving from Colorado to Alaska but passing almost no towns. In these countries, you might drive for hours without seeing another vehicle on the road.”

But since the vehicles are self-contained, you don’t need to worry about the lack of towns. You’ve got everything you need in your truck.

“When you’re tired, you pull over and make dinner right there, and you’ll keep going tomorrow,” he said. “You’re not on a schedule. You can enjoy your life for the first time in your life.”
Global Expedition Vehicles and Storyteller Overland leaders
From left: Lee Conn, COO of Storyteller Overland; Trent Tiffin, SVP / GM of Global Expedition Vehicles; Rene and Mike Van Pelt, founders of Global Expedition Vehicles; and Jeffrey Hunter, Founder and CEO of Storyteller Overland.
When Storyteller and Global Expedition Vehicles merged early last year, we announced that we would be working together to introduce a new vehicle, something this market hasn’t ever seen before.

If you’ve been waiting patiently since that announcement, we’ve got good news for you: it’s *almost* here. Check back on Sept. 25 for more information!

And if you want to be the first one to know, click the link below to sign up for our email list.

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