Mar 1, 2007

The Rig


We have done it again, another change of vehicle to complement our new Masterpiece Optimum Caravan. Yes, we have sold the Landcruiser 200 series and bought a new Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. We have been aware for a while that our total GCM of the Cruiser and Caravan was on the legal limits, when we bought the new van we had a company come out and weigh them both fully loaded as we would be on a trip. The rig was 75kg under weight but over the rear axle weight oh the Toyota LandCruiser, also the weight was without my wife and myself in the car. Having spent so much on the car having all the accessories fitted it was a wake up call to look at changing vehicles. 

Initially I was looking at late model pre owned  Chev Silverado 2500, GMC Denali 2500 or the Ford F250 / 350 but the prices were up there with the new price, some owners were asking even more than buying new. To me it made more sense to buy new with factory warranty and luck should have it our local GMSV dealer had a white Silverado in stock so no waiting for delivery. 

It was all very painless and simple, agree to a change over price with our vehicle as part of the deal. We also wanted the Chev to be licensed as a light truck to gain a greater payload, nearly double the 750kg they are listed as a passenger car. That also meant I had to get a light truck licence which meant doing the paperwork, an eye test and a driving assessment. Fortunately I passed it all and legally I was set to drive the new Truck .. 😀 I can call it a truck because that’s what the registration papers state. 

Chev Silverado 2500HD

2022 Masterpiece Optimum Off Road Caravan 

We loved our Bushtracker but after 15 years of owning it we wanted to make some changes and modernise the battery and solar system. We contacted the company to see about having this done but were disappointed to be told they were not interested and didn’t think it was worth us doing so. We thought this was very peculiar as they advertise upgrades and have done and still do them now. We also thought it rather rude to be telling us how we should spend our money. A quote on a new Bushtracker was in excess of $230,000 and that wasn’t going to happen. So we looked around and when we saw the Masterpiece at a local sales outlet it caught our attention with its new build materials, Fibroplast framing, composite floor and insulation. What also got our attention was the equipment level it came with. This van did not lack for anything, full Victron electronics and 420amp of lithium batteries. 600w of Solar which we upgraded to 1120w, large compressor fridge, microwave, oven, AC, etc etc ... plus all the usual things you get in a caravan. It is 20’8 and has a cafe dinette and full en-suite including the most wanted appliance, the washing machine. We have owned the van for a year and a bit now and so far it’s travelled around 22,000 kilometres, it’s been up to Ningaloo and a 1/2 lap of Australia and most recently we towed it across to SA, VIC, NSW & QLD. We are loving it, it hasn’t been without its teething problems but the Owner of the Company has made sure everything has been attended to professionally. 

So everything I wrote below is now obsolete, but I’ll leave it for now for anyone interested in the build of the Cruiser & Bushtracker.

Our previous vehicle, 2015 VX Toyota Landcruiser 200 series 

We changed vehicles in 2015, we now tow with a Landcruiser VX 200 series, i am going to miss my rugged basic Ute for its simplicity but the 200 will suit our aging bodies requiring more comfort, i have my doubts that it will be as good as the Ute has been but plenty of friends have them and love them, time will tell i guess.

We have now owned ten Cruisers since 1984 when i bought our 1st HJ60 Landcruiser, since then apart from a very short six months we have always had a Cruiser, everything from a HJ75 Troopy, 61 series TD wagon, 75 series Ute, 5 x 80 series ranging from a 3F petrol to 1FZE Petrol, diesels and turbo diesels, we have also owned a 2004 Ford F250 for 4 years which we sold in April 2010.

For towing my preference is for the turbo diesel model, i like the low down grunt these engines have for towing and off road work but you have to be aware that services are more frequent than petrol vehicles, usually the price is dearer when new but you can recoup the difference at resale, the fuel cost itself is generally dearer though in reality it should be a lot cheaper as it is less refined, supply and demand governs the sale price the consumer can handle they tell.

Our latest tow vehicle is a 200 series VX Landcruiser we bought new in 2015. Like all my vehicles it did not stay standard for long, at 400klms old it had a suspension change and GVM upgrade to 3800kg, ARB Sahara bar and Smittybilt 10,000lb winch fitted, a set of Outback Accessories storage drawers fitted, Lightforce HID driving lights, Lightforce 42” LED light bar fitted to the Pioneer roof rack and another 12” Lightforce LED light at the rear. It’s had the factory dual batteries changed to an Optima starter and a SSB GVM taking care of the accessories, the charging system used is a Redarc 1225 DCBC, there is also a 170w solar panel on the roof rack which keeps the auxiliary battery charged when the sun is shining. A Safari Armax snorkel ensures clean air enters the air box and I use a oiled Unifilter snorkel sock in dusty conditions. A BRT breather looks after the diffs and transmission. A HPD catch can collects any oil and fumes and stops it clogging up the inlet manifold. A Stocklock torque converter lock up kit fitted which improves the overall driving of the automatic gearbox.

The engine has had a ECU remap with a significant improvement in power and torque and the brakes have been upgraded to DBA T3 and QFM 4WD pads. A Genie Legendex stainless steel exhaust, and a Frontier 180lt auxiliary fuel tank, the car now has 280lt capacity. Removing the spare wheel meant I needed a rear wheel carrier, I had a look at the 3 major brands and choose the Outback Accessories brand, it’s proven to be strong and well built and easy to use. Wheels I changed to the later model Sahara rims which I think are a nice looking rim and strong, I had them powder coated in a graphite colour just to be different to the common black that seems to be trendy at present, I’ve also have another factory set I can change over if I ever feel the need. Tyres are one size larger 285x65x18 and BFG KO2, these have proven to be very suitable handling all the different road and track conditions we’ve travelled with zero punctures. A set of Clear view towing mirrors have been fitted. A Darche awning and a set of Max Trax are on the roof rack, A Safety Dave TPMS monitors Tyre pressures, a Scan Gauge, UHF, Redarc Towpro, and my latest addition is an Alpine stereo deck which has the Apple CarPlay and Hema Mapping system built in. I have probably missed a lot more that’s been done but I do think I’ve just about stopped. More info and photos can be seen here 200 build and here Build 200

The Previous Caravan:

A 19' Bushtracker

The van is built for fully self contained isolated travel, with 4 x 82lt water tanks 3 of which are non potable and one potable, a 90lt grey tank plumbed in, 5 x solar panels with a total of 590w and 4 x 120A/hr Fullriver AGM batteries, 40amp solar regulator, 50a/hr Battery charger. Everything is 12v, lights are LED,  230lt compressor fridge / freezer, 22”  LCD TV with a Pioneer cd/dvd player, internal & external speakers. The en-suite is hand laid fibreglass it combines the Thetford toilet as well as the shower and is quite spacious with flikmaster taps & fittings. Twin flojet pumps the water, a Webasto diesel heater warms the van and a Dometic A/C keeps the van cool on those hot days, but you do need 240v and for that we have a Honda 2ui generator. We had an Oyster Satellite dish fitted and although we’ve had a few hassles with it early on, it’s been checked over and a couple of problems fixed and it’s worked fine since.

These vans are built to a high standard with the framing being boxed 3mm aircraft grade aluminum that is welded & riveted together giving incredible strength & flexibility. All the things such as wiring, water pumps, hoses that are hidden away are all very neat and well laid out

Our van is a tandem axle with 4000kg rated Simplicity Suspension which is a true load sharing suspension, this van simply walks over obstacles. Everything about the van is strong, the interior cabinetry is dove tail joined, the exterior chequer plate is 2.5mm thick and not just for show but a proper body Armour including a water proof door to enable water crossings up to a depth of 1.2mt.

They are not a light weight van but considering the build strength and components they are not as heavy as some other brands, ours came in at 2620kg tare. I have made some custom changes to the van, removing the heavy power jockey wheel and welding in a plate & bracket for the Trail-A-Mate hydraulic jack / jockey wheel, also fitted a 5 ton rated Hitch EZY coupling, these are great and makes hitching the van a breeze.

I changed the welded on access steps to a removable type as they are prone to being damaged when taken off road as they hang down slightly lower than the chassis rails, now it's a simple 2min job to take them off or replace them.

We made one decision we regretted and that was opting for the Coolabah awning, after three months we came to the honest realization that it was a pain in the butt so we had it removed and a roll out style fitted, which is far easier to use and maintain. We have also had an alloy storage box added to the drawbar and in there we keep the generator, our converted 9kg gas bottle into a fire pit and a jerry can.

2007 Bushtracker 19’

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