Newbie seeks advice

Submitted: Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:34
ThreadID: 119844 Views:4281 Replies:8 FollowUps:0
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Am currently seeking a small vaguely-civilised van to replace our existing vaguely civilised 5.5 tonne OKA that we converted to a go anywhere motorhome.

Sorry if owners have been asked this many time before but could people help with following queries.

1. We live north of Broome. Most (90%) of all travelling is poor dirt road or very poor dirt road like Gibb River Rd but mostly worse. We go to east coast (Sydney) about once every second year and travel via Tanami, Plenty Highway, then down through the back tracks to Toowoomba - or from Alice via the Oodnadatta and behind the Flinders ranges. (About 10 days if we are in a hurry - i.e. when we do this we are not on holiday!).

Will a Bushtracker withstand this sort of continual treatment?

2. Have no desire to take the van down the Old Telegraph Track or over the Simpson (already done that with OKA) but can people give me a rough idea where you can take a 14 ft unit. And where you cannot.

3. Am a bit concerned that the swivelling beam suspension does not have shock absorbers. Bushtracker say not necessary. Why?

Off-road 6x6s with this type of rear suspension do use damping and I would have thought it necessary here also.

4. Has anyone had one built with only low level cupboards etc, and a heap more window area? Would preclude inside loo - but can live with that. How open is the factory to tailored layouts etc.

5. Any comments re towing with 75 series Troopy - possibly with turbo.

Would be most grateful for any advice.

(family is Finnish wife Maarit, and Vila (Great Dane puppy well on her way to her mum's 75 kg).
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Reply By: Turist - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:36

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:36
Collyn if you are only aiming to get a 14' BT where ya gunna put the pup?
We have towed an 18' BT over the roads you mentioned. Like anything I suppose a lot depends on how you tow, if you want to do the Tanami at 80 kph the van wont last too many trips, but it will last about 20 times longer than most other vans.
Lets face it, some drivers could destroy an OKA on those roads if they try.
We have taken our 18' out to Old Mornington, along BAD bush tracks off the Gulf Road, some spots that people would not believe we had been to until they saw the photos. If the rig will fit between the trees it'l go.
The suspension is "Simplicity" brand and has been designed to operate without shocks.
Factory is used to owner design changes, not many BT vans are the same.
Do not make the mistake of fitting too large a window size, they flex within themselves, ie, between opening panel and frame and let dust in. Around 1500 x 500 seems to be the max for our sort of work until the window manufacturer comes up with better latching systems to prevent movement.
Can't comment on the Troopy, never gad one but we did tow for a while with GQ patrol cab chassis turbo diesel, similar horespower I think. Steve Gibbs, director at BT towed for a long time with Troopy.
Hope this helps
"Do It While You Can"
Nobody is getting any younger.

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AnswerID: 558393

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:37

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:37
Thank you for advice

I know the track into Mornington - that's fairly typical of where we go. We do venture up the Tanami fairly often (three times last year) so the need to withstand that sort of treatment is not a throwaway line!

One known to be almost immune to damage in that treatment is the Ultimate camper - but that's just too small. A friend who works on the outpost Aboriginal missions takes it with him everywhere - about 100,000 km a year ALL offroad..

You are spot on re the OKA - it's far from indestructable.

Had assumed anything larger than 14 ft would be too big and heavy - maybe I should rethink that - but am concerned about debogging something big.

Note and thank you for advice re windows - I had not considered flexing problems - but presumably could fit two side by side units..

Puppy's too big for most things actually! Seventeen weeks old - and full grown German Shephards walk underneath her.

Thank you very much again for your help.
AnswerID: 558394

Reply By: Bushtracker Buck & Babe - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:38

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:38
Collyn, I think one of the things that we are drawn to about these vans (apart from the fellow weird owners or to-be's) is that the inside strength appears to match the outside. We have looked at some other "heavy-duty" vans and are not totally convinced that the insides won't fall apart after a few rough trips. Angie London UK
AnswerID: 558395

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:39

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:39
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AnswerID: 558396

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:40

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:40

Thank you for comments. Have certainly heard horror stories of other vans falling apart after on trip up a dirt road as well maintained as the Birdsville Track.
AnswerID: 558397

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:41

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:41
Hello Collyn, We have had a 14' BT since 2000. Been on the road continuously since Feb 2001. We bought the van 2nd hand, 7 months old. It had been up the Gibb River Rd, Tanami Track etc with the previous owner. Looked brand new, no damage when we bought it. We have since been over the occasional corrugted road since, Lakefield NP, Battle Camp Track (both west of Cooktown, corrugations were about 6" deep), various other unsealed roads in Queensland and NSW. The suspension has been ok, no problem towing, little if any sway on the black or dirt. I use Hayman Reece distribution on all except when we are going over heavily rutted tracks. egWe went down a 7 km sand track into Burrum Heads NP with the bars off as they would have bent with the pitching and twisting on the uneven track or sneaking along a track beside a river bank. We did break a spring on a virtually smoot unsealed road south of Almaden. This was not due to lunatic driving but appeared to be due to the nut on the bottom of the spring fracturing, allowing the springs to drop and break. The van came down on the top of the suspenion system and was still mobile. We did not know it at the time but we could have kept going very slowly by lowering the trye pressure to absorb the shocking and preserve the bearings. Instead we dragged the van off the road and parked beside the Tait River for 11 days while new springs were freighted to Atherton (200 km away). Easiest springs I have ever replaced , one 19 mm socket and a few hours no skinned knuckles or frayed temper. We have separate bunks, mine is 200 mm longer than Sandra's, I am 6', she is 5'. Saves alot of space in the van. We have toilet/shower, gas hot water, solar, big pantry etc etc. We are set up as a two man unit, not sure where you would put Vila. Soft sand and overhanging branches are the worst for BT. The van weighs in at 2900 kg absolutly packed with food, gear, 240 litres water, fossicking samples and pulling through sand works the truck hard. The BT is also quite high and low branches will bring you to a quick stop. All up we have done about 25000 km, the previous owners must have run up at least 15000 km, and there is no serious marks on the van, except where I backed into a tree. Using a 4.2 litre turbo diesel Patrol to tow. The car has been heavily modified, suspension, fuel tanks. The factory suspenion gave up after 6 months, and the extra fuel capacity allows a lot more choice as to where you buy fuel. Our range is 1000 km. Perhaps you can help me. We have BF Goodrich AT tyres and am experiencing a lot of problems with punctures. Had to replace three out of the 11 on the truck and van due to small rocks fracturing the tread. Any comment on tyres? Hope to hear from you, John and Sandra.
AnswerID: 558398

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:42

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:42
Thank you for the info re your 14 ft van. Most helpful especially as I know the Lakefield NP and Battle Camp tracks. Vila is far too big to spend much time in the van anyway - she's just huge.

Re tyres, I think the advice on the currently ongoing tyre thread is excellent. Reducing tyre pressures and keeping the speed down really does work, particularly with the impact damage you are experiencing.

Virtually all our roads up here are dirt but we very rarely have tyre problems.

Strongly advise to stay with road pattern tyres. They are better in sand and your'e not going to go anywhere in mud anyway pulling a heavy trailer.

Slightly off the subject - if you use Michelin tubed tyres - you must use Michelin tubes. If you don't you are likely to have problems.

At last resort you consider reverting to the old fashioned cross-ply tyres. These are still made in a few sizes - and are used extensively by people working in quarries etc. It will change the handling of the vehicle, and also the 'feel' of the steering, but these tyres are far less subject to the type of failure you are experiencing.

A further thought is to have a look at the Cooper range of tyres - bit costly but they last for ever. They have a very much deeper tread than anything else. Have yet to meet a disatisfied user.
AnswerID: 558399

Reply By: Deleted User - Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:43

Monday, Mar 31, 2003 at 02:43
John and Sandra

Brief further comment. You may already be well aware of this but dropping tyre pressures makes a HUGE difference in sand. You can run at 25 psi very safely if you keep speed below 40 km/hr, at 20 psi if you keep below about 25 km/hr, and as low as 16 if very soft going. At 16 psi however yoiu need to keep speed very low and be ultracareful when turning as one can roll a tyre off the rim.

Re-inflating is a bore - but the saving on wear and tear and fuel is huge.

We normally run the OKA's 900 x 16 12-ply tyres at about 50 psi - dropped them to 30 psi for a Simpson Crossing - and down to 18 psi for the steeper dunes like Big Red. On the flat in very soft sand, dropping from 50 psi to 25 psi enables us to use fifth gear low range - where at full pressure we need to use third.
AnswerID: 558400

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