My criteria was quite simple; I wanted a vehicle that could go pretty much anywhere, within reason, and that was capable of free camping for an extended period of time.
For over 18 months I scoured the Internet in search of a good second hand 4×4 motorhome.
I looked at quite a few vehicles but, to be honest, none of them were all that good; in fact, most of them were rubbish, requiring a lot of work. Another issue with buying any second hand motorhome is that it would be very unlikely that any “standard” camper layouts would be suitable for us, given my wife’s medical issues.
My search was initially focused on Toyota Coasters that had been converted to four wheel drive. I did locate a few of these and was very close to buying the one pictured; that was until I actually saw it myself. Unfortunately, as is often the case, what is said about a vehicle and its condition online can be quite different from reality. My wife and I traveled to Queensland to buy this Coaster but, after seeing that it was nowhere near how it was described and wasting $1200 in the process, I was very annoyed; so annoyed that I stopped looking for a motorhome completely for over two months.
My Coaster debarkle had the effect of making me reassess what I was looking for. It was then that I started looking at other types of vehicles. I contemplated going down the Japanese import route but gave up on that idea quite quickly; too many potential issues. It was then that I discovered expedition campers; vehicles that, for the most part, had camper bodies built on the back of a standard four wheel drive truck.
The more I researched expedition campers the more I wanted one; that’s where I put my focus.
To cut a long story short, what I found was that all the 4×4 trucks up for sale, when I was looking, had definite signs of having had a tough life. That was not too unexpected really.
So, in late 2010 I decided to throw my original budget out of the window, buy a new truck and build a custom camper body myself.
After quite a bit of research, the truck I decided on was the 2010 Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG84D.
The 2010 model has central locking, power windows and air bags, all of which were not included in the 2009 model, that was designed primarily for the Australian Rural Fire Service.
However, one of the problems with converting a standard cab chassis truck into an expedition camper is that the vehicle’s primary function is as a commercial work vehicle. To that end, the suspension is extremely hard; bone shattering would be a far more accurate description.
In order for my wife to be able to travel in the vehicle with me I needed to make the truck ride as much like a car as possible, so serious work on the suspension would be required.
I checked out numerous companies that carried out truck suspension modifications, finally settling on All Terrain Warriors, a Queensland based engineering company, that had considerable experience with expedition campers and Fuso trucks.
You can read more about all the modifications that ATW carried out on my truck here…
With the truck suspension sorted out, the fun part begins…. designing and building the expedition camper components for the back of the truck.
My plan is to build a hard sided poptop camper body, even though this is technically difficult. All of the commercial poptop campers I have seen have used a canvas/material section; I did not want to do that. The reasons for having a poptop are many. One of the advantages of a poptop is that the camper body roof will be the same height as the cab. This allows for better access through tight bush tracks and should also give better fuel economy, because of less drag. My design will also add to the security of the camper body. In the “closed” position the roof section will cover the windows and secure the main access door. The body itself will be a custom built fibreglass composite so I will need to build one off moulds for the upper and lower sections and also the lower storage boxes. The majority or the internal fittings (cupboards, tables, shower cubical etc.) will also be made from fibreglass, as this is more robust than wood.
Currently, what I have is a bucket load of ideas about how the camper will be built, but nothing has really been finalized as yet. As much as I would like to get stuck right into building the camper body, there are other things that must be done prior to commencing that work.
The first task will be to design and build the sub-frame that will support the camper body. This will be a spring mounted system that allows for the normal torsional twisting of the truck’s chassis. When that is done I will have two new fuel tanks built and fit the water tanks and hot water system within the chassis rails. Only after these tasks have been completed can the build of the camper body commence.
This is no small project and I fully expect it will consume many hours of my time; but hey, what’s life without challenges?
Stay tuned for updates…