VW Transporter tray back

Submitted: Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 10:34
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Hi, all!

Great to have found you. We are still checking everything out on the site but it is going to be a huge resource for us very soon, I can see that.

We need advice. We are close to retirement, pretty active walkers and field naturalists but now want to set ourselves up with a vehicle and equipment that will give us the ultimate flexibility for Aussie travel for months at a time--but would also be useful at home.

We have a dependent adult daughter so there will always be three of us travelling--which brings up a restriction in the vehicle of choice. We have weighed up a lot of pros and cons of all sorts of combinations of equipment, but it seems that a dual cab tray back of some comfortable sort, with 4 wheel drive capability with some sort of tray top camper attached would suit us best. (We could use that sort of vehicle for things at home, too.)

But the tray top camper conversion that we like the most has a requirement for a tray of some 2300cm. Which doesn't leave us with many choices given our dual cab requirement. It rules out Toyota Hilux, for example--the tray is not long enough. But one vehicle we have seen that looks promising is the VW Transporter, 2.5 L Turbo Diesel, manual, twin cab ute, 3320mm wheel base and 180 mm ground clearance.

We fit into it comfortably enough (we are tall, too!); it fits the off-road camper conversion we like--but--and here is the big question-- how suitable would a VW Transporter laden trayback be off road in Australia, does anyone know? It is an all-wheel drive--and we are only beginning to understand what that means. (We have never had a 4 wheel drive and all this is new to us, so we would have to go to a club and get to know this vehicle well, etc.).

Is this ground clearance poor or adequate? It has a long wheel base is this going to be a problem? As I understand it always drives using the four wheels, but adjusts automatically when needed: is this a good/poor feature?

In other words how restrictive is this vehicle going to be if, say, we want to visit places like the Bungles, etc?

Thanks in advance. Looking forward to all advice and suggestions. We are open to anything.

Bernie

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Reply By: Tony - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 12:25

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 12:25
Bernie, I think the VW Transporter is a very good choice and a very capable vehicle in its class. To carry the camper and the rest of your gear for an extended trip into the outback you may need to do a couple of things like suspension upgrades, extra fuel tank, dual battries pluss a host of other things but these would be the most important.

You would not have any problems getting into the Bungles or any other place for that matter that does not require difficult terain driving, bear in mind you want a camper on the back.

The FWD system on the Transporter is ok, tyre choice will assist in rough/ muddy conditions and the wheel base gives a great ride.

I guess there is a lot to consider in the choice of a 4WD depends on how big your purse is. If you do a course with one of the FWD trainers in your area you will be much better off and get to know the limitations of the vehicle.

AnswerID: 22295

Reply By: Member - Peter (WA) - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 13:48

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 13:48
For some Ideas on tray back campers have a look at www.gktrim.com.au this is in WA but may help with ideas they do a lot of differant setup made to order , the quallity is very good Born to drive a 4x4 , not a keyboard
Peter York 4x4
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Follow Up By: Bernie - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 19:43

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 19:43
Thank you for this Peter. This site gives us more info to consider. Much appreciated. Bernie
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Reply By: Pete G - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 14:19

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 14:19
Bernie
There are a range of vehicles about. The VW would be OK, however seeing as you are looking at a bit bigger, may I suggest a Twin Cab Canter - they are about a 2t capacity truck. As a cabover they may be a bit bouncy in the front.

They are available in 4WD and are used by the fireys.
I saw one which was purpose set up for a family of 5-6 and they did it extremely well. The setup was basically along the lines of the Rollavan(rollavan.com.au) without the pullout sides or pop top. It sat at about the same height as the cab and there was room for a couple to sleep in the back on top of rollout drawers.

Regards

PeteG

AnswerID: 22306

Reply By: Member - Willem- Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 18:33

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 18:33
The VW Transporter is a good vehicle. However, its approach and departure angles leave a lot to be desired. This could be overcome with higher profile tyres.

Other vehicles to consider are the Ford F250 Dual cab or Landrover Defender Dual cab. Both these vehicles are very strong, have a good payload and are good 4x4 vehicles.Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
AnswerID: 22321

Reply By: Bernie - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 20:56

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 20:56
Thanks, guys, for all your input on this.

We are slowly 'researching' your suggestions. Can't find the Twin Cab Canter on redbook.com, Pete G, but read a flattering article about its use by the NSW firies. Looks good.

The Ford F250, Willem, yeah, we wish!! That's for when we win Lotto. The Land Rover Defender has been mentioned by others, too, so we'll give it a look; tho' some discussion here on exploroz suggests Land Rovers are expensive in terms of repairs and maintenance.

We are, though, beginning to wonder if going this big is maybe overkill. We are feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all and are wondering if we may have to rethink this altogether. But, no doubt, everyone goes through this stage..?

The slide-on tray top camper options that most appealed to us (we visited the Brisbane Camping and Caravan Exhibition on the weekend) were the Adventure ones: http://www.adventureoffroadtrailers.com.au/Tray%20Top%20Adventure.htm [These had the best slide out bed arrangements we've seen] and the Heaslip one at: http://www.heaslipcampers.com./ with an excellent kitchen set up. The Adventure one would only fit on a larger tray back hence the initial search that led us to the VW Transporter. The Heaslip, though, has an arrangement for a dual cab, tho' that arrangement may be the best for us given our height: 6'3''/189cm.

Both are very tidy jobs, with everything in its place pretty well--and are not terribly weighty.

So the search goes on.

Gonna win a competition, though, I think. It's easier. :)

Thanks again. Any further suggestions or thoughts are really welcome.

Bernie

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Reply By: Eric - Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 21:47

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003 at 21:47
Bernie,

The question you ask is a very tricky one. The vw is a great vehicle but is next to useless in sand, you can not put bigger wheels on them because of the design of the front suspension. but if you stay off loose sand they are about your best option, Mercedes make a dual cab tray sprinter 4x4 but they will not import them into Aus, The canter is very big and a bit rough to ride in but is very capable of road. My recomendation if you are interested in going of road is to get a patrol stretched by a company in brisbane, the limitation with them is weight, the maximum weight you can place on the rear axle is 2 ton so the Heaslip is too heavy, you would have to build a lighter version of it, the name of the brisbane co is something like 4x4 conversions. they advertise in some mags. Eric.
AnswerID: 22341

Follow Up By: Bernie - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 21:55

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 21:55
Eric, hi,

This is the sort of info we were looking for on the VW Transporter and gives us the basis for more questions for sales people.

Notion of stretched vehicle is something we hadn't thought of, so more gruel into the mess of porridge. :)

Thanks,

Bernie
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Reply By: Pete G - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 09:19

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 09:19
Bernie,
The Canter is a Mitsubishi product. They seem to have a good reputation. People seem to have perceptions as to size - my advice is to get the exact measurements and tabilate them on a piece of paper - things aint always what they seem.As a true 4WD it has a good offroad capability.

A true 4WD has a low range box (2 gear sticks) and it is this low gearing that allows one to venture further off the beaten track. Vehicles without the low range are referred to as soft roaders - generally recognised as being OK to drive down a muddy track. As these lack low range their ability in deep mud or sand and to to climb and inch over obstructions is limited (although automatic vehicles have a bit more scope for the odd occasion)

The actual 4 wheel drive is probably somewhat of a secondary consideration for the "average" user who usually stays on maintained tracks , however it does come into play when the going becomes rough or some rockhopping or driving in sand or mud. (I guess that what I am trying to say is that people take 2wd cars down the Birdsville Track in good conditions but this changes if it rains or you want to leave the track)

There are a whole range of issues here which will initially appear daunting (eg open diffs, limited slip diffs, viscous couplings, centre diff locks, transfer cases, lockers, difflocks, locking hubs etc.). Take your time and do not hesitate to ask questions.

As suggested here the option of lengthening a chassis is worth considering - it is not all that expensive but does require certification by a vehicle engineer.

Regards

PeteG
AnswerID: 22349

Follow Up By: Bernie - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:00

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:00
Peter G

Great info supplied here again. Helps us to understand what it is we're really talking about, and in reality we are very likely to be your "average" user, but still, as you point out, there is always that time or that place when you are right there and you need/want to have that extra bit...

I suppose its just a matter of balance between needs, interests, dollars and sense.

Excellent hands-on info, here, for us to work with.

Thanks,

Bernie
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Reply By: Member - Bob - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 10:18

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 10:18
Bernie, I think the main determinants of vehicle choice are strength of suspension, ability to carry a load and ground clearance. Many of the bush tracks are corrugated and rough and will destroy car-like suspensions with prolonged exposure. Similarly, embedded rocks etc will rip the sump out of a car-high sump. When you go bush with 3 up, there will be a large load of support gear. Again, car-like suspension will quickly fail. Car tyres don't like gravel and embedded rocks and will wear quickly or fail. As long as you focus on those things you can't go too far wrong.
AnswerID: 22350

Follow Up By: Bernie - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:06

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:06
Yep, hear you, Bob, and this reinforces the basic points that we must keep at the forefront as we do our research on this. Trouble is we are starting from scratch with all of this and have so much to learn.

Still trying to work out, for instance, how to measure load/weight distribution, etc. and what that all means for driving performance, safety, etc.

Thanks,

Bernie
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 20:06

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 20:06
Bernie,

Tough decisions! Re the Canter, they are very big in dual cab, from memory they have seating for 7 bodies. The single cab may suit your purpose, with good size tray to fit any camper. A friend made his own removable camper out of coolroom material, and it has come up very well.

I was also going to mention stretched vehicles, Cruiser/Patrol, but had my thunder stolen above. These are available with bogie axle at rear, which can get close to 2.5 tonne.

Looks like we'll all be lining up for Lotto, for that ultimate vehicle. Hooroo...

AnswerID: 22369

Follow Up By: Bernie - Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:19

Thursday, Jun 12, 2003 at 22:19
Bob

We still haven't seen a live Canter but are on the lookout. This beast seems universally popular, here.

Does it have any failings apart from being a slightly rough ride?

Re: the stretched vehicles, our biggest concern would be that there would be some weakness as a result of stretching. Dunno. But in my worst nightmares I can visualise axles splayed all over the desert sands: not a pretty sight. So this may not be one of the front-runner choices.

Btw, the campers that we are looking at to slide on a traytop weigh in around 650kgs, excluding personal belongings. Not too weighty.

All costs money, though, and the Lotto would need to be first division. :)

Bernie
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Follow Up By: RobbieJ - Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 20:31

Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 20:31
Bernie,

The company I work for operates a Mitsubishi Canter 4wd.

Its extremely easy to drive, has three seats in front, but I can only recommend three up for short trips. The 4.2 turbo diesel is very grunty and the truck picks up of the line quite well, though it is hardly ever fully laden.

It can cruise on 120km/h. It also has a 1st reduction gear for getting out of those really sticky situations. The ride is more "extremely harsh" than "slightly rough", so pack your kidney belt!

Rob
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 08:47

Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 08:47
Bernie,

Note your concerns re stretched vehicle, but one of our Company stations has a stretched "Cruiser ute, that they regularly carry heavy loads, and they have had no trouble. As you can imagine, being on a station, it would be subjected to some harsh treatment at times, not always the fault of the driver.

The only negatives I've heard with these off-road. is a tendency to lift the back drive axle, in sharp, tight creeks and washouts. this should only be a problem when road surface was less than ideal.

Tend to agree with Robbie above, that Canter could be harsh, though how much off road work would you be doing? They are a "big" truck, compared to the usual vehicle mentioned on this forum.

Good luck in your search, could be half the fun. One positive I can see with a dual cab type vehicle, is the oppurtunity for one of you to retire to the rear seat, for a nap, if the driving gets a little monotenous? or tiring. Even on a large bench seat, it could be less than ideal for 3, as far as comfort goes, for long term cruising.

Let us know how you go, regards,

Hooroo...

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Follow Up By: Bernie - Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:34

Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:34
Bob Y and RobbieJ, hi!

Have been out sighting 4x4 Canters with no luck: may have to go down to Brisbane one weekend to look. Might get Mitsubishi to send us the specs, tho' so we can do some comparison given that it's not on redbook.com where it is so easy to do those cross comparisons. From the photographs we have seen the 4 wheel drive Canter does look a bit big.

But, a further clarification: When you say "extremely harsh", Rob, in terms of ride, do you mean in all driving or just off road? And is there a solution or a modification that might help (e.g. springs, seats, whatever) or is this inherent in the vehicle design?

Thanks guys!

Bernie

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Follow Up By: RobbieJ - Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 21:10

Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 21:10
Bernie,

The ride in the Canter is harsh everywhere! At highway speeds on the blacktop, I have hit my head a number of times on the roof lining. This only happens when the road is very bumpy. The technique I have developed is to hold one hand on the wheel, and the other grabbing the seat.

The truck handles corrugations admirably, though bigger humps and washouts taken at any given speed cause the body to heave around. There are no squeaks or rattles after 80000km.

I'm sure there are modifications available at minimal cost. One idea is to take a leaf or two out of the suspension? But remember, these experiences are with only a small payload on the back.

Don't let this sway you from the Canter, though. My dream 4WD is a Dual cab Canter with a sleeper on the back. My thinking that it is a "true" truck and everything is bigger and stronger than a normal 4wd, therefore things are less likely to break. Just my opinion, though.

Regards
Rob

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FollowupID: 14916

Reply By: Pete G - Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 08:09

Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 08:09
Bernie,
You state 650kg for a slide on then add all that goes in it and on vehicle (fuel 150l, water 100l, recovery gear 50kg, batteries, fridge, gas bottles, generator, food etc ) and you easily have 1000kg or more - so the suspension has to be set up for that. You need to check out GVM's although most serious large 4WD's should be ok. If need be a suspersion upgrade can be engineered.

I think you have hit the nail on the head with your comment about that "bit further" it would be very frustrating to spend a lot of money and then be limited where you can go. The bit extra for a serious 4WD is cheap really and you end up with a far more durable vehicle that can take the conditions.

My previous comments about 2WD's on tracks omitted to say that they would do it tough and one would have to expect that some damage is quite likely (or very extreme caution would be required). For example one night from Brewarrina to Bourke we had to divert due to flooding. we ended up on those dashed roads on the map. Some of these had broken up and gone sandy The Patrol did it easily in 2WD although in a couple of the longer deep stretches it started to get a bit hairy. I I would have got a Falcon through, however probably minus the exhaust. This is not an uncommon situation that you could expect to encounter.

With adding extra axles - be wary - a lot of these are just a lazy (which dont drive)( most of the ones I have seen anyway) and they tend to compromise off road ability. Chassis extensions are engineered and should be OK from a recognised vehicle builder.

As regards the Canter - the only problem I have heard is with the handbrake when applied hot - it is inclined to release its hold as it cools down.

In their 2WD form there are lots of these vehicles doing daily deliveries in your city. As such they are a "commercial quality vehicle" rather than a recreational/passenger/light duty derivative. They are not a high speed cruiser, and probably are stretched at over 100kph.

I have heard of some chassis issues with the likes of the Rodeo and Navara, however not with the larger 4WD's.

Actually, I keep looking at those Telstra Patrol/Cruiser traytop setups with the full canopy and big lift up side doors, hovever, three in the front seat is a bit of a drawback.

I will make a few more enquiries on the Canter for you - my son is in the fireys and I think a mate uses a Canter for deliveries.

Regards

PeteG
AnswerID: 22392

Follow Up By: Bernie - Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:50

Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:50
Peter G. hi!

Yes, understand this about the weight factor and the need for appropriate suspension.

Other considerations are lengthening the tray and assessing weight distribution. Spoke with Dept of Transport here on Friday and they say that overhang beyond the rear axle can be 60% of wheel base. Working that out, though, for different vehicles is a bit of a headache, without access to all their specs.

And even when we do work it out, who knows what is safe in terms of weight distribution with an extended tray on the back of a dual cab.

Thanks again PeteG, we are learning heaps here. This is way better than poking through mounds of magazines. And more fun.

Will look forward to hearing what your son has to say about the Canters, too.

Best!

Bernie

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Follow Up By: Pete G - Tuesday, Jun 24, 2003 at 11:21

Tuesday, Jun 24, 2003 at 11:21
Bernie,
Sorry about the time to get back to you. I have not checked out any manufactures spec's - I shall leave that to you and also whether any other makers offer a similar product.

Son advises that the 2Tonner (4WD Config) is adequately (but not abundantly)powered with it's Naturally aspirated motor and is probably best at around the 90-95kph mark. Basically he is saying that a turbo would assist greatly. He has driven a 3t in 2WD which had the turbo and it went a lot better.

In a 4WD magazine (either Aust 4WD or Offroad I think) about 3yrs ago the was an article on a guy from up Cairns/Mareeba way (an ex legionnaire I think ??) who has a bit of a reputation for tricking things up and I am pretty sure that he did up a Canter.

Best of luck

Regards

PeteG

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Follow Up By: Bernie - Thursday, Jun 26, 2003 at 20:29

Thursday, Jun 26, 2003 at 20:29
Hi again PeteG,

Thanks for that feedback. We have now seen the Canter and it looks very impressive. We are now ripping through all the 4x4 mags we can get our hands on and need to test drive a few of these vehicles. All takes time.

Please thank your son for his input and thank you.

We will no doubt be popping in and out here on a regular basis now.

Great site!

Bernie
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Reply By: Member - Willem- Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 18:47

Friday, Jun 13, 2003 at 18:47
Further to my comment earlier in this thread. Have a look through the magazines 4x4 Trader or Just 4x4's. Might find a few ideas there. If you do not have a large budget for your adventure you may consider buying an earlier model hybrid 4x4. I have seen International 4x4 dual cabs with with fixed body campers as well as earlier model Ford F100,F250,F350 4x4's. In an F series(not dual cab) you can sit three up front with ease and then have a large slide-on camper with all the comforts that you may need. I would definitely be looking at a sturdy vehicle that will take you to the places you may wish to go and the VW Transporter may struggle with.

So many options. So much to consider!!! :-)

Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
AnswerID: 22450

Follow Up By: Bernie - Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:38

Sunday, Jun 15, 2003 at 17:38
Yep, Willem, our next step once we started to get a feel for what was out there.

Will also plan to check out second hand vehicles. What we have to weigh up, though, is the value of the warranty factor for new against savings with the second hand.

Nothing is easy! :)

Bernie
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