Which 4x4 cab-chassis?

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 20:49
ThreadID: 135587 Views:6458 Replies:13 FollowUps:15
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Another "which car" thread, sorry. I've been through the old threads and can't get the answers (opinions) I'm after.

Looking for:
- Extra- Cab (super cab etc.) cab chassis
- Automatic

I'll be looking to put a slide-on camper on it and regularly tow a 6m boat.

I plan to have a suspension (& GVM?) upgrade and have either an after market or std rear locker.

Options thus far are:
Ranger: modern, good features, reputation for problems
Colorado: good features for the money, reputation for problems
D-Max: god-awful interior, not many features available in cab-chassis, noisy, apparently new auto hunts around quite a bit, reputation for reliability and towing.

Would appreciate your thoughts.


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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 21:13

Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 21:13
As an ex 4X4 with slide on owner, both of those you mention will be seriously compromised.
You need something more substantial, like an Iveco or a Yank machine.

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Reply By: PhilD - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 00:51

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 00:51
Look into the Iveco Daily 4x4. It is manual unless you spend to get an Allison auto fitted, but its capability will take a lot to beat. Yes, they are quirky in a few areas, but great ride and capability. I know as an owner. Mine is a motorhome and I tow my 5 m boat to Kalumburu and the like.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 08:36

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 08:36
Yep, any of the average crew cabs will be seriously compromised with such load, and towing adds to it.

Although the current later model crew cabs are better / stronger in the chassis, the design is just too susceptible to damage through bending with the design and rear axle placement.
On tracks and with load the design sees the stresses amplified tremendously.

You might have to go to a Landcruiser crew cab or Iveco Daily 4x4, both would be around the $100k mark no probs so not a cheaper option . . . I know, been looking for the Daily 2nd hand and they're rare as hens teeth, and hold prices well.

Edit - Just noted you are open to space cab (excellent design for those with suicide doors), and these are not quite as bad with better design in he rear for load carrying, though I still think it's risky, even need much caution setting up a similar model in a single cab as you wish.
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:00

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:00
The light utes that so many of us use should have their load distributed evenly throughout the vehicle. Slide on campers inevitably load too much of the weight behind the rear axle. Read this article. This is quoting several outback mechanic who see many bent chassis. They are critical of beefed up rear suspensions being requited to support the overhanging weight.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:28

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:28
It's not just twin cabs that get bent chassis
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Reply By: duck - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:12

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 09:12
More info needed
What type of slide on (most hate the twisting of chassis & will leak/break) spring mount the tray/camper will help, what size of slide on, the weight, will it have bed over cab
I have travelled all over oz. the cape, Simpson, canning etc. etc. with a slide on from my old 3 speed cruiser, patrol ute to both landcrusier & patrols 6 wheelers, an oka to now my Isuzu NPS 300 with a warrior conversion they all have issues some big some small, weight will be the big one, most will take you over the legal gvm of the 4x4 when loaded, windage can be a killer, storage can also be an issue, look at the height of the heavy items as in most slideon's its high so your centre of gravity is high, width & height can also be big problem & in the bush you have to have big coconut’s & be very capable as they are a hand full in the rough, buy a one handed chain saw you will use it a lot if your higher than a std 4x4
I must say the truck versions are better suited to a full size slide on but pending your capability & recovery expertize you will find it restricting (note I don't hold back I’ve done gunshot in cape York & even has done the 4x4 track called monkey gum in the Shoalhaven nsw & made it up 2/3rds of six stage winched the last bit
I looked at both the Iveco & Isuzu Dual cabs the Iveco had a far better cab & is more built as a 4wd but a very small tray, The Isuzu is a truck with a diff fitted to the front so a lot more work $ is required to get it to be a very capable 4x4. I went for the Isuzu for several reasons 1) reliable & parts 2) tray size (I do use it for work) 3) 5.3ltr over 3ltr motor & the main reason I picked the Isuzu was i went away with 3 Iveco’s & they all went well but all had electrical problems & often still do some small some LARGE
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Reply By: splits - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:26

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:26
"I'll be looking to put a slide-on camper on it and regularly tow a 6m boat."

A combination like that when combined with off sealed road conditions sends alarm bells ringing with anyone who has either seen or experienced chassis bending, sheered wheel studs or broken rear axle housings in the bush. I have even seen two bent chassis on 2wd tradie's utes in major cities.

It is not so much the overall weight, it is mass (the material in something), where it is located on the car and the forces generated as mass on the back of the car is constantly being lifted rapidly or stopped suddenly when it is falling as the car goes up and down on rough roads or even shopping centre speed humps. It leaves the end of the chassis flexing excessively up and down like a diving board.

A suspension upgrade will not stop it. Your car is like a box trailer. If you push the far end down, it will pivot on the axle and lift the draw bar. If you install heavier springs and push it down again, the same thing will happen. In the case of cars, the back of the chassis is going down while pivoting on the rear axle bearings and trying to lift the front end. Springs just compress and tilt with it.

If you can't afford larger vehicles then there are a couple of ways you can go about it.

1. Use a single cab. You will have a lot more tray area to place heavy items in front of the axle.

2. Have the camper custom made so it only has whatever items or features that you consider to be absolutely essential. Make sure the layout allows for the placing of all heavy items over or in front of the axle. Chances are you will have a camper that is considerably lighter than a commercially built one. They usually feature every possible creature comfort in order to attract as many buyers as possible.

3. Consider making a it permanent fixture on the chassis, not a slide on. I went this way with mine and ended up with a 2.4 x 1.83 metre pop top camper that was only 90kg heavier than the ute's aluminium tray that it replaced. Keeping the carwell under GVM on its standard suspension with nothing but bedding and clothing down the far end was as easy as can be.

Towing:Check the towing instructions in the owner's handbook before buying the car. Some say a weight distribution hitch (WDH) must be used for any ball weight above a certain limit. This is usually around 50% of the maximum ball weight.

These things do support the rear end of the chassis. They lever the end up while taking weight off the rear axle. That weight is then redistributed between the front wheels of the car and the trailer wheels. Springs can't do that.

The only catch is they are a menace in many off road situations. They can only bend so far and if the angle between the trailer and car exceeds a certain limit, they can damage the car, the tow bar, the coupling, themselves or the whole lot.
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Reply By: pop2jocem - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:38

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:38

Have you chosen your slide on and if so what are it's dimensions and weight?
Do you intend doing a bit of 4WDing or is it just to transport the slide on to a camping spot or caravan park and jack the camper off the tray while you go and launch your boat?

Any other info about this rig's purpose, other than carry a camper and tow a 6 m boat, will help with suggestions.

The Ford Ranger and new Toyota Hilux come with a rear diff lock as standard. Not sure about the others. Also the Hilux doesn't come in auto if extra cab is your preference. Can't remember all the others. I've selected the Hilux in auto but for me the dual cab will do the job.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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Follow Up By: Member - Wildmax - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 13:30

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 13:30
Updated Hilux out this month does have an auto in the xtra cab I believe.
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Follow Up By: gbc - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 14:47

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 14:47
I also believe the ranger only comes in xlt spec in extra cab. we have current rangers and hiluxes. Id take the ranger because it is a bigger vehicle inside and out and I fit better in one. Hilux is still ok though.
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Reply By: Member - Cyberess - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 13:28

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 13:28
You haven't told us, which camper or slide on camper you were talking about, But if it was me one of the first things I would be concentrating on it would be the camper itself and it would have to be really lightweight particularly for any of the vehicles that you you are considering. Allan Whiting has a nice article on silde-on campers http://www.outbacktravelaustralia.com.au/camping-slide-on-campers/be-sure-your-slide-on-is-legal-february-2015 could be worth a read. May be something like the Trayon campers could be a consideration http://www.trayon.com/.

As far as vehicles go, for me I would consider a Ford Ranger well that's because they own one. Actually there's one vehicle you've left off your list and that is a Mazda BT50, and since you are considering a diff lock, both Ford and Mazda included the diff lock on their base models, which I think is rather important as that is a huge price difference, as majority of other vehicles that do include diff locks do so t on the top of the range models which generally has stuff in them that you don't really want and it's quite expensive if the main part that all you are chasing is the diff lock.

Last year I done a buildup project using a bottom of the range 4wd XL MK2 Ford Ranger dual cab cab chassis with gull wing canopy, suspension mods, snorkel, etc and for me that has been a great success. About the only luxury item that I swapped out was the navigation system or stereo system but that's just about it I really do like vinyl floors and the quality and the way the car is setup. I have documented my build up on 4x4Earth http://4x4earth.com/forum/index.php?threads/my-mk2-ford-ranger-2016.40913/ and maybe your setup might be similar so it could be a good read.

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Reply By: Member - Geoff M (VIC) - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 14:47

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 14:47
Hi Mark,

As an owner of a slideon camper I have had some first hand experiences with the problems with using medium duty utes to carry the slideon.
There are plenty of things to consider as the other respondents to your post have highlighted, the most important is choosing a lightweight slideon such as the Australian made Trayon. It will also depend on where you plan on taking your rig - outback corrugations will quickly find any flaws in the vehicle.

I originally had a BT50 extra cab (pretty much the same as the Ranger) which basically fell to bits (chassis crack, axle bend, engine problems, rear diff problems, etc) even though I was carrying a load well below the GVM. I just don't think that any of the meduim duty utes are up to outback 4WD travel in the long term.

I now have a Landcruiser 79 series which has been fantastic over the past 5+ years. I know they don't come in automatic but at least they have a decent strength chassis and a terrific under-stressed engine, more than I can say about some others.

So if you are mainly sticking to main roads and purchasing a light-weight slideon, any on the vehicles you mention will probably do the job - others who have first-hand experience can comment on the pluses and minuses on each. Perhaps consider the Hilux as well. Based on my personal experiences, I would choose a heavy duty ute such as the Landcruiser if looking for a reliable and long-term vehicle.

Good Luck!

Cheers, Geoff
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Follow Up By: 508 - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 16:51

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 16:51
Why don't you indicate if the Bt50 or Ranger are the pre 2011 models you are talking about. The current model Bt50 and Rangers are totally different machines in chassis strength and engines compared to the pre 2011. The current model Rangers and Bt50s would match the current model Hilux's which you say is worth a concider . I wont get into which is better.
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Reply By: 9900Eagle - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 17:05

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 17:05
Mark, last week we were down at the Australian barrel racing championships and had a chat with an owner of a supercab 2015 Ranger. He had a Puma slide on that looked the goods and he was happy with it.

Might pay to investigate the Puma slide-ons as the weight was pretty reasonable. He said his had a dry weight of around 550kg which isn't to bad.

On a side note, he new Rangers have a very strong chassis and are nothing like the older Mazda source Rangers.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 19:00

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 19:00
That's light :)

But try and find out how the weight of the camper is distributed too.
If one with a cab over bedding section is available, this would assist greatly in keeping weight forward.

As you might see in DC utes side photos, often the rear axle is way up near the front on the tub.
Even say 350kg or so of the Puma weight behind some DC rear axles could create a lot of force.

A slide on . . . these can obviously be put onto flat tray tops ?
But might be better to mount onto cab / chassis, as you can save a fair bit from removing a tray (or just buy cab chassis if purchasing new).

Towing the boat makes it more complicated, and the forces of anything other than road touring if applicable.
Just don't ever be tempted to add air bags, even if used right they can change how he rear load is spread at the rear leaf mounts, to focus on a more single point.
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Follow Up By: Member - Geoff M (VIC) - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 12:35

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 12:35
Haven't seen the Puma Slideon's - dry weight of 550kg is heavier than plenty of the other manufacturers. For example, the basic Trayon has a dry weight of 380kg.

As Les stated, it depends greatly where the weight is distributed.
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Reply By: Member - silkwood - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 20:41

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 20:41
My apologies, let me be a little clearer. I have done my homework, I have read all the articles mentioned (and many more). I have spoken with engineers and owners of slide-on campers. I am happy with the choice of one of the above vehicles for my needs (no I won't be considering an Iveco or similar). I understand it was my fault for not being more clear in the first place,-in mentioning the slide on of course people would have an opinion about the capability of these vehicles (of which I disagree).

I am looking at a design of my own, incorporating lightweight materials and engineered weight distribution design (not by myself alone, but with the expertise of two very qualified engineers).

So, to reiterate my query, without the distraction of suitability for task, does anyone have an opinion about the best vehicle out of those mentioned?

Thank you to those who have commented thus far, I do appreciate the replies.

Oh, and the boat does not get towed off the bitumen. From responses here and elsewhere, I believe it will be between the Ranger and the D-Max (flash or reliability? That is what I am trying to decide upon.


AnswerID: 613766

Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 21:19

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 at 21:19
Either of the two, I like them both.
Would go for space cab in either if the extra pax rear seating isn't needed full time, and some cab storage is (a fridge is great behind the front pax seat !).
The space cab would give you a little more strength and room for the slide on, about an extra foot or so.
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Follow Up By: Member - silkwood - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 00:09

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 00:09
Thanks Les, I'm guessing from the name you like the Ranger. I'm definitely going for the space cab, as it fits with the weight distribution I'm after. I like the reviews of the Ranger , particularly the feel of the steering and suspension. I am going to be modifying the suspension , however, and there are enough poor review on both reliability and customer service on the Ranger to give me pause. Is this something overcome with the new models? Not sure. I'm having a difficult time getting over the terrible ergonomics and visuals of the interior of the D-Max, as well as the lack of attention to such things as NVH levels. but the reputation for bulletproof is tempting.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 09:11

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 09:11
Hi SW,
I have the older PK, the last of that model 2010 before the PX came out, got a deal !! First new car :)

I've known a couple of fellow 4WDrs with the PX, and in general they were very good vehicles, one had suspension issues (broken leaf after hitting a bad rut at speed), but he does drive his vehicles hard, and spent a lot of $ on it right throughout. He's now gone to a 79 series, as he needs the stronger build !! lol.

I've read too many stories over the years about dealer servicing, so never went that way after the first free oil change, when I got the car home and oil was leaking into my driveway !!
Never had an issue that could be warranty, did break what I think was a weak transfer case output shaft, broke that when I thought a CV should go first, but that was terrain / driver error really.

The Duratorq engine in the Rangers is I think superb, at least as good as the ever reliable Isuzu engines.

I really think everything with new cars today is pot luck SW, you get many many good ones, and the occasional lemon in all makes.
I suppose then it's all about how it is handled, and I think all dealers / manufacturers (like insurance companies) will use anything they can to wriggle out of a claim, so just choose your dealer carefully.
If you are going to get it dealer serviced for the warranty period, I'd go talk to the service manager and get a feel for that dept.
That is then all about your gut feeling on them.

Many people put little tests into place when getting services, thin smear of clear silicone over diff plug rim etc, and many times it's a shock to find that these scheduled items are not touched.
I look at sched service requirements and make a list up for my excellent mobile mech to take care of, and he's never let me down . . . I do all my servicing at lower than normal requirements too.

I don't think you'd have too many issues choosing either SW, all comes down to room, feel, and final likes, whatever you buy I think you'd feel pretty good about it when you drive away from the purchase.
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Follow Up By: TTTSA - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 13:07

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 13:07
"flash or reliability"

Only really 1 choice then, and flash doesn't count for me over reliability.

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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 10:09

Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 10:09
OPer hasn't said what non-towing work will be done. But has been warned about these two choices.
BTW Some D-Maxes have cracked inner LHS guards from solid use outback, and inner RHS guard cracks are showing up on MUXs.Mine were noticed at 80 K kms.
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Follow Up By: Member - silkwood - Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 13:35

Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 13:35
Gee, Sigmund, thanks for my "warning". I await the request for a note from my Mum.

For everyone else, thanks for the input. I realise your comments on suitability come from genuine knowledge and experience, but I have a different perspective and value good design and engineering, low weight and sensible driving mixed with something I can drive every day, tow my boat (on road) and not have a huge truck parked in my drive and costing a mint in fuel.

I am pretty much set on the Ranger, after having spent the day looking around. Test drives come next. I'm trying the Hilux now I know it will come in an auto soon.

Once again, many thanks.
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Follow Up By: Member - Outback Gazz - Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 14:13

Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 14:13
G'day Silkwood

For what it's worth - my 5 year old PX Ranger auto is very close to hitting 200,000 k's and I couldn't be happier ! It constantly has 500 kg's in the back and tows 2 tonnes almost daily and while I work my vehicles hard I also look after them very well. The three issues I've had since new are 2 split intercooler hoses and a loose crank angle sensor in the first month of ownership. My previous vehicle was an Izuzu which also had 3 minor issues up to when it hit 200,000 k's.

Should you decide on a Ranger I would suggest doing the following from day one - wee that pathetically small factory battery off that's more suited to a motorbike and replace it with something like a SSB75ti or similar - then get rid of the super thin factory intercooler hoses and replace them with silicone ones from Forefront Industries ( no affiliation ) !

Do this and you will eliminate the two most common issues some Rangers have - flat batteries and vehicle going into limp mode when the hoses split ! Also I would get onto NEWRANGER.NET where you can get all the expert tips and advice from some very cluey Ranger owners.

Good luck with your decision and hope whatever vehicle you purchase serves you well !

Happy and reliable travels


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Follow Up By: Member - silkwood - Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 14:19

Saturday, Sep 16, 2017 at 14:19
Gazz, your comments are much appreciated. If I end up going down the Ranger track I'll definitely follow your advice.(looking more and more likely, though I know I differ from the majority in saying I detest the truck-like front end looks!)
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Reply By: tuck - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 13:05

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 13:05
Check out Jacksons carrymecampers Murray Bridge. Quick and easy to erect,light in weight, will Taylor make to your needs
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Reply By: Members - Bow & Nan - Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 08:32

Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 08:32
Dodge Ram is the way to go
AnswerID: 613788

Follow Up By: cruiser 3 - Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 13:23

Friday, Sep 15, 2017 at 13:23
Everyone on the internet seem to report that their choice of vehicle is the best and go on to rubbish all other brands.
Maybe look at family and friends experiences, see what vehicles are being used by farmers, mining companies as well as what vehicles seem more plentiful on the road.
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