Capable of traveling most anywhere, the KiraVan was designed by celebrated Californian inventor and technologist, Bran Ferren for his four-year-old daughter Kira.
The co-founder and chief creative officer of tech firm Applied Minds, Ferren has built the ultimate RV as a very elaborate method of bonding.
Ferren is attempting to create a stimulating environment for Kira—one of constant, boundless learning. Ferren is a man who builds things—huge, intricate, brazenly theatrical things. Fittingly, he has embarked on a lavish, ornate, and over-the-top childhood-enrichment project for Kira.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Ferren scouted locations for Hollywood features and documentaries in places like Death Valley and Alaska.
Around the same time, he also developed location trucks for ABC. As a result, he became enamored with off-road expedition vehicles. They were well suited for his many hobbies, including archaeology, mapping, and fine-art nature photography.
He even built an all-terrain RV which he called the MaxiMog, completing it in 2001. The Mercedes-Benz Unimog-based creation was equipped with videoconferencing equipment and a 40-foot mast with a camera that allowed passengers to see the terrain ahead. An attachable trailer, featured a collapsible sleeping loft and even an espresso machine. A combination of rugged pragmatism and sleek design, the MaxiMog was eventually displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
However, this project would be much more ambitious. To explore the world with his daughter, Ferren built nothing short of the ultimate all-terrain RV, a globe-trotting mobile home built with every contingency in mind.
More than four years, the KiraVan is nearing completion. According to Ferren, when it finally hits the road later this year, it will be able to travel up to 2,000 miles without resupply and navigate slopes as steep as 45 degrees—an incline that is difficult to walk up.
The KiraVan will be the most elaborate all-terrain vehicle ever built—a six-wheeled terrestrial spaceship capable of traversing nearly any terrain, from mud-swamped roads to rock-covered pathways to small bodies of water.
This ultimate RV also includes more than a dozen interlocking communication systems, and a diesel-powered motorcycle dinghy. Add to that the KiraVan’s massive trailer, which is 31 feet long, more than 10 feet high, and houses an ecofriendly bathroom, a custom-designed upscale kitchen, and Kira’s own penthouse loft which she helped to design.
Based on a Mercedes-Benz Unimog, Ferren gutted most of the original equipment, leaving only the steering wheel and a few smaller components. Among the numerous additions are a series of custom-made, overhead- and dash-mounted touchscreen cockpit displays, which monitor the vehicle’s health and navigational progress; a joystick-operated situational-awareness system, which allows passengers to see the view from any one of the vehicles’ 22 cameras and provides infrared thermal imagery of the road’s temperature.
It also features an aircraft-style emergency beacon locator-transmitter for real trouble.
There’s more to the ultimate RV: A joystick for the truck’s hydro-drive system, for switching from four-wheel drive to six-wheel drive. Passenger-side display units that allow riders to monitor everything from tire air pressure to battery problems. And a communications system that turns the vehicle into a mobile command base and allows Ferren to communicate and coordinate with nearby aircraft.
Every form of communication imaginable is on the truck—from walkie-talkies to UHF radios to high-powered GPS systems.
The KiraVan is powered by a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine with around 260 horsepower. That’s enough for a top speed of 70 mph in four-wheel drive; switching to the full six-wheel drive limits the top speed to 30 mph. A custom nitrogen-hydraulic suspension evens out bumps, while 46-inch tires with Kevlar shields can grip the terrain with relatively little concern for punctures.
The interior is trimmed out like a luxury cabin, with a pop-up tent and shock-absorbing passenger seat for Kira.
One can’t help but wonder if all this necessary? Why not just rent an RV for the weekend, and not have to worry about balancing fuel tanks or making sure the hydraulic systems are operational?
To Ferren, such questions are beside the point. His goal is to build an expedition vehicle in its most ideal and fully realized form, the ultimate RV.
Dare to live the life you dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson