If there’s one thing that’s to come out of the many lockdowns which we’ve all been cooped away at home for, it’s the spirit of adventure and the want to explore more.
And while we might be told not to book holidays at the moment, as soon as the dome is lifted from above our heads, many of us will want to travel like never before.
One particular industry to benefit from this is the camper van and leisure vehicle industry, which experienced heightened attention last year when many looked to these types of vehicles for newfound freedom. Leading online marketplace Auto Trader reported that views for camper van adverts were up almost 20 per cent compared to the previous year, in fact.
But what about if you want to go far off the beaten track with exploring? Well, how about this – the Torsus Terrastorm. Certainly sounds fierce, doesn’t it?
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Torsus before, and – to be honest – we’d be surprised if you had. That’s because this Czech firm has only been producing these rugged models for a couple of models, and is yet to break free on to the UK market, though is hoping to do so soon.
Currently operating in Germany, Poland, Australia, Chile, Peru and Ukraine, Torsus sells two off-road models. The first is the 35-seat Praetorian designed to be used as a working vehicle (in mining, for example) in some of the toughest terrains around the world, and something you’d run for cover from if you ever saw in the flesh. The second – the Terrastorm – might not quite have the same imposing looks, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less useful off-road.
Based on the Volkswagen Crafter and Man TGE, the smaller Terrastorm is a more affordable model that’s set to be the one that proves popular in Europe.
“There are other companies out there converting vans, but we consider Terrastorm a finished product,” Torsus CEO Vakhtang Dzhukashvili tells us.
“It’s a combination of everything and we change pretty much anything apart from the engine. We don’t like changing one thing and saying ‘we’re good, we change the vehicle as it is to make it better all round .’”
Key adaptations include an upgraded off-road chassis, while lower panels are finished in a special scratch-resistant coating. It also gets underside protection to make sure it can head far from the tarmac without any risk of damage.
While not specifically designed as a camper van – Dzhukashvili lists a variety of uses, including ambulances and for cargo and special agencies – Torsen markets its Terrastorm as a ‘dual-purpose vehicle’, meaning it can be used as a workhorse during the week and then to take the family away on a weekend. They’re also not quite as expensive as you might expect, with the Terrastorms priced from €57,461 (£50,000). Given a Volkswagen California can cost £66,000, even before you’ve added any options, it certainly doesn’t look too bad value for money.
However, tourism is set to play a big part in sales, though unsurprisingly the ongoing Covid crisis has put a stop to that kind of thing for the time being.
Dzhukashvili says: “For sure, Covid has impacted us, but the good thing about us is that we try in different industries, rather than just focusing on countries. So when the tourism industry fell off, as we had a lot of pencilled deals for the tourism business, another sector appeared.
“So we try and put the production, corporations and customers in different baskets, and that’s helped us to continue in business.”
Like the bulk of factories across Europe, Torsen shut its production down in March 2020, though instead turned its attention to engineering and development – a move Dzhukashvili says he’s happy with as it allowed for further improvements to be made.
The Ukranian-born husband-and-wife team sees Vakhtang looking after marketing and production, while partner Yulia Khomych heads up the strategy and legal side of things. It’s probably one of the only teams of its kind this high up in the automotive sector, especially considering the company now employs around 100 people across Torsus and parent company Pulsar Expo, which supplies vehicles to the likes of the United Nations and Red Cross. They’ve certainly got a good fit in the door of extreme vehicle requirements, that’s for sure.
While a UK ‘dealer’ has yet to be found for these apocalypse-proof models, Dzhukashvili hopes it won’t be long before they arrive in right-hand-drive in the UK, and says they’ve had quite a lot of requests already from Britain in the private camping and adventuring business.
And with models already approved for European regulations – and available in Australia in right-hand-drive – the day when we can see Terrastorms on UK shores hopefully won’t be too far away. Let’s hope the same can be said for beginning adventuring and exploring again…