Over the years we have owned several 4wds after making our poor little Suzuki Cino go to places that “no Suzuki Cino should ever go”. With our desire to explore more off the beaten track than we could safely in a conventional vehicle we made our first purchase into the 4wd market. Our first 4wd was an imported Toyota Surf that although was ultru luxurious even having a sun roof, it had inherent overheating issues that we eventually were unable to overcome. We did however have the Surf for a number of years and it enabled us to get some dirt under the tyres at every opportunity.
After several years and upon moving back to Sydney for work in 2003 we traded the Surf in for a Ford Escape. Although not a true 4wd it gave us some off road ability and was perfect for negotiating the city traffic on a daily basis.
Yearning to get back into a ‘real’ 4wd for our explorations in late 2004 we traded our Ford Escape in on a Holden Rodeo dual cab and set about modifying it over the years to become a long distance tourer.
Our modifications to the Rodeo started off with a Carryboy canopy then included an outback rear drawer system, dual battery setup, steel bullbar, winch, driving and fog lights, safari snorkel, side steps, upgraded suspension, UHF CB and a Codan HF radio along with an auto tuning antenna and finally ending with our Shippshape Rooftop Tent bolted to the roof.
After many years of faithful service and countless long distance trips it came time to retire the trusty steed. Having recently moved to our property on the Central Tablelands of NSW and having owned a dual cab for the past 6 years we wanted to stick with a ute to use on the property when we were not traveling so in 2010 we purchased a Toyota Hilux dual cab tray back.Modifications to the Hilux included snorkel, steel bullbar and winch, driving lights, dual battery setup, upgraded suspension and long range fuel tank. Our UHF CB, Codan HF Radio and auto tuning antenna were again installed after having removed them from our Rodeo.
Following several years of going to ground tents, swags and even mounting our Shippshape Rooftop Tent to the cab of the hilux we decided to invest in a removable tray back canopy to suit our touring needs. In mid to late 2012 we traveled to South Australia to pick up our canopy from Candy Canvas. Over the ensuing next few months we would customise the interior of the canopy ourselves to suit our needs re-purposing some items that were removed from the Rodeo’s canopy. We also mounted our Shippshape Rooftop Tent to the canopy with this setup becoming the mainstay of our touring setup to this day, although a few tweaks have been made over the years.
In 2014 we decided it was time to look for our ‘forever’ vehicle that would remain with us for many years to come and join us on our many long excursions around this beautiful country. We settled on a Toyota Landcruiser 70 series dual cab GXL. The Landcruiser came standard with a Toyota snorkel and side steps. The vehicle also comes with a 130litre fuel tank as standard. We had an ARB steel bullbar along with a set of IPF driving lights (these were also repurposed from the hilux) and a Warn 9000LB electric winch installed. Under the bonnet a dual battery system controlled with a redarc DC/DC battery charge system was installed. UHF CB, Codan HF radio along with an auto tuning antenna were also once again fitted to this vehicle. On the rear of the vehicle is a steel tray from Toyota and undertray tool boxes to keep all our tools and spares out of the way. Underneath the Landcruiser and keeping the ride comfortable, especially with all these extras bolted on is an Old Man Emu Suspension upgrade along with a set of Cooper ST Maxx tyres to handle the myriad of road conditions we encounter whilst not only on the road but also at home.
Being a tray back ute the same as our Hilux we were once again able to can use our steel canopy made by Candy Canvas in South Australia. The canopy comprises twin gull doors to either side with a “homemade” fitout inside which includes fridge and kitchen to one side and storage for all our camping goodies and recovery gear on the other. The best part of having a canopy such as this is it not only gives us ample, dust free storage and easy camp setup for both short and longer sojourns. As with our previous vehicle it can be removed when we are not on the road giving us the use of a tray back ute which comes in pretty handy on the property.