From Conception to 12 mths & 12,000kms revue on our Bushtracker

Submitted: Friday, Jan 28, 2005 at 08:23
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AussieBushGhosts 12 month experience with BT.

Its just over 12 months since we picked up the BT, so thought I would post our experience covering the period from the decision to get a caravan to now.
Before we placed an order for the BT & F250, I was lucky enough to be visiting Sydney, Melbourne and of course Brisbane which is our home base, every week for six months.

I used this opportunity to visit many Caravan Manufacturers and Canopy manufacturers (for the F250) in Vic, NSW & Q’ld, going through the production facilities where the manufacturer would allow.

In our mind, there was no decision to be made with the Caravan, BT won hands down, for reasons covered later.

The canopy which was manufactured by MFI in Warragul Vic was also well ahead in the areas BT were, Ie, Flexibility to customise, but pretty unforgiving in any customer requirement that risked a reduction in either safety or quality.

Both were definitely not the cheapest by significant $’s.

From our perspective both were well ahead in value for money, and in fact I honestly believed that both were under priced when one listed the features and estimated costs, including the appropriate overheads and higher manufacturing costs that are created when low volume customised manufacturing is involved.

This triggered a concern that both these organisations may not be profitable enough to sustain longevity, and therefore create problems after the sale, by ceasing to exist.
A visit to the production facilities where I reviewed the manufacturing methodology in both operations, convinced me otherwise. This is not to be interpreted that both operations were perfect.

Far from it, but they were both miles ahead on value for money, engineering & robust ability to do the job over a sustained rugged life span

I was concerned at the problems BT were experiencing with workflow in their old factory/factories. By subtle questioning, I was convinced that BT were very much aware of these problems and the costs it was adding to their production flow, and had already addressed the issue with their new factory, which was scheduled for completion well before we were ready to place an order.

To be sure we did visit the new factory, before we placed the order, and observed the improvements to work flow which would flow through to their bottom line.

Incidentally, I have heard comments around the industry that BT have moved to high volume production line manufacturing. What utter rubbish! Anyone thinking this should visit a high volume production line manufacturing “anything”,.. and observe the difference.

BT do an effective job in creating an efficient workflow for a customised product.. This should not be interpreted as “BT have a perfect production line”. This too is rubbish, as there are ample opportunities to improve, however, they are of a high level of efficiency compared to the manufacturers we visited.

In the off road vans they are miles ahead in work flow.

They also have a high level of consistency with quality……. Easy to prove by talking to customers, and comparing with customers of any customised product. Be aware that if you want to make comparisons like this, do it properly with random samples of a suitable size….. not from one or two who get vocal.

Anyway back to our experience with BT.

During the 12 mths, we have only covered approx 12,000 ks, but we are extremely satisfied with everything about it, and apart from a couple of minor items that were easily addressed have had no problems.

In fact, if we were to start again, I doubt that we would change much in the design.... it suits us well………And we would certainly get another Bushtracker and a canopy from Metal Form Industries.

A couple of experiences that confirms that listening and responding to the guidance offered by the BT guys during the design/ ordering process was worthwhile.

We were bush camped at Copeton Dam (on the other side to the caravan park ) in January 04,(our first outing in the BT) and a severe storm pounced on us virtually from nowhere. We had our awning and annexe up, as did the rest of our friends and rellies who were all camped on this isthmus in the dam.

Our annexe was the only one that stood up to the storm, (that did not get pulled down in panic as the storm hit).

There were awnings wrapped over motor homes & caravans, plus some that were completely wrecked.

We had our Aussie Traveler, tied down with ropes to solid tent pegs, from where the corners of the main outer support beam is supported by the poles, (not relying on the wire loops at the bottom of the poles, VERY SOUND ADVICE)
(Not sure if this advice came from BT or the Aussie Traveler lady, but its very sound advice)

Whilst I was expecting something to give way in the 10 minutes of the storm, it survived undamaged. The only damage was my stress level at the time.

Also at Copeton, another BT and ourselves were the only rigs that did not have trouble with their solar power. Admittedly there were some "Heath Robinson" or "jury Rigged" or whatever the term is, but some had supposed experts fit their solar gear and batteries, which even a layman like me could see were ill advised, particularly after having experienced BT teams advice.

I can recall during the manufacturing period of the BT a significantly robust discussion I had with one of the BT Directors, relative to batteries (I started my work life nearly 40+ years ago in a technical field that included maintaining batteries). I was convinced he was wrong in the stance he was taking, however technology had moved on significantly and I eventually discovered that I was wrong.

We find ourselves in a position where with full water tanks etc., we can go over the 3500kgs if we do not meticulously watch the loading....... should have listened with a keener ear to the advice relative to weight, and for example not installed the heavy Latex mattress, which whilst its great to sleep on added unnecessary weight.

This issue will address itself as we upgrade the F250 to legally tow 4.5 tonne, now that the F250 has been “certified” to do this.

Whilst we have had more than our fair share of problems with the F250 during the first 18,000kms its done, its a great tow vehicle, and the combination of the BT & F250, we find is great, particularly with the canopy.

Another surprise was the ability of both the Bushtracker and the Canopy to resist dust penetration. In fact even after travelling on outback tracks, I have not cleaned the inside of the canopy since acquiring it and the only “dirt” or dust inside is that from a box of potatoes we bought in Tasmania.

To us, this is very impressive, as I was convinced that bull dust would penetrate virtually everywhere, and quite frankly this alone makes the canopy worth the extra dollars, and the investment in the Bushtracker sound.

This was also a major and robust discussion with one of the BT Directors over a design spec that I wanted relative to dust penetration. I took the advice and very pleased that we have had no unpleasant bull dust experiences within the van.

It would be great to hear from others their experiences with the BT.

Bob & Louise Lemon

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Reply By: David & Franki - Friday, Jan 28, 2005 at 08:47

Friday, Jan 28, 2005 at 08:47
Would you care to expand on the following as we are hoping to get an "effie"
"Whilst we have had more than our fair share of problems with the F250 during the first 18,000kms"
AnswerID: 565760

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Friday, Jan 28, 2005 at 22:31

Friday, Jan 28, 2005 at 22:31
Hello gilk, and Fellow Bushtrackers
and by the Bob, very nice Posting on Bushtracker...

Bushtracker here. We have about 70 - 75 or better F-250 and F-350's running now... Bob's is the worst with an unidentifiable transmission problem of unknown source..... Just know that he is one out of 70-75, and you might not want to base your decision on the worst case as it is obviously a fluke... The rest are going with only a smattering of smaller problems... To my knowledge, a couple had the harmonic balancers on the front of the engine come loose and had to have them re-mounted with locktight. One on a trip throught the Kimberleys bent an emergency brake mount... And a few light problems like that, the likes of which you can get with any new vehicle... Overall with the 70-75 Fords running with Bushtracker, they are about at the top for overall service in every single category for larger vans over about 20-21'. The reports we get are all good, to my knowledge there are about 70-75 converts from Toyota, Nissan, and Land Rovers, and I cannot think of one converting back...

The overall reports are better fuel economy towing, better handling with the longer wheelbase, better power, more room, less driver fatigue as you are not tensing up urging it on, more brakes, and the rest... I will add to that, as the van on the cover of our Brochure is mine, the "Land Yacht" is 21' and was towed by my own Dual Cab F-350 for three years.
In a smaller van, Toyota is king. For parking on short trips coming back to live in the City, Toyota is king.. But for larger vans, especially over 21', and those making a Lifestyle out Bush, the Ford should be considered... With a larger van, and the longer wheelbase of the Ford, the difference in a high speed sudden move on the highway to avert an accident, the Ford could save your life... Not to mention the advantages listed above...

Any way, the short of it is Bob has a unique problem with his, and we can assure you that is not our judgement on the breed itself, but a unique and rare situation....

Cheers from the source at Bushtracker
"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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Follow Up By: Noosa Fox - Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 00:46

Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 00:46
Would have to agree with Steves comments, our F250 21 ft van combination tows much better than it did with the Toyota and we have NOT had any problems with ours in 113,000 km.

Last year we were travelling behind Conrad and Niza. They were towing their 23Ft van behind a Dodge Ram at 100 when an idiot pulled out of a side road across their path. They had to swerve violently to miss hitting him but the longer wheel based Dodge allowed them to stay in control and no accident ocurred.
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Reply By: Bushtracker - Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 02:37

Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 02:37
Dear Bob and Louise Lemon,

You are Champions! To have taken the time to compose such a clear and scientific response with such a balance approach is impressive. I for one thank you for the effort, and hope that those that follow appreciate your efforts and take your advice on board..

Now, when you get the F-250 upgraded, and get a bigger hitch, drill out the rivets and mail us your compliance plate. Your suspension is actually a larger size already, and is only limited down by the hitch you have now. When you have upgraded the truck, and replaced the hitch, we will be happy to upgrade your compliancing, no charge; as other than the hitch, the van is already there. Send us the particulars and we will be all too happy to take care of it. Then you can fill as many water tanks and carry as many toys as you like without a care...

I myself have 8 water tanks, 640kg of water when full. But it is designed to carry it, and who cares what I weigh on a back dirt track a low speed as I leave the last outpost.. That is when I open the valves and fill all the tanks and can get up in weight myself... Never have too much water in the dry country. No worries.. But I have the upgraded hitch and will have the same on my new 22' Bushtracker under construction now...

Any way, back to the point of this letter: Thank you on behalf of all future Bushtracker Owners for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and scientific review...

Steven T. Gibbs, Director, Bushtracker
"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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Reply By: Aussie Bush Ghost - Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 08:35

Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 08:35
Further to the queries I have had about the F250.....Since posting our experience. We seem to have had a bad one from the start......( maybe the Lemon's got a Lemon) However lets put it in perspective... with the problems we have had which I will detail below....... If I was starting again, I would order the F250 Crewe Cab again ( well if I had my way it may be the Super Cab,,,, Louise has the influence in that area as she reckons the Crewe Cab is great for the grand kids & she is right)

Let me tell you the story.

First though, all in sundry believe that the problem has been addressed and from our perspective the vehicle is performing better than it ever has right from when we drove it out of the delivery room.

The first problem surfaced prior to picking the vehicle up. The rear drivers side hub was out of alignment...... You could see where someone had marked with a felt pen the "out of alignment" aspect on the hub. This was replaced before we actually drove out of the town.
The Ford people in general were quite concerned at it not being detected previously, as it was only discovered by Steves 4WD as the diff locker was being fitted, after pre-delivery.

Anyway, away we went driving from Warragul to Brisbane. After about 30 kms the engine light came on and after some discussions on the phone to the service guys, we all decided that it was not a major issue and to continue on to Brisbane.

The gear change was somewhat "jerky" spasmodically and when this jerk occured, it was obviously not correct, even to a non mechanical guy like me.

The vehicle was presented to Ford service on a number of occasions but, apart from fault codes showing up and being addressed relative to the engine light, they could not fault the vehicle........ well this went on for about 12,000 kms.... it did not get worse and it did not improve and despite the service guys checking the problems and resetting the engine light, no fault of consequence could be found with the transmission.

Then going down the mountain into Adelaide, the transmission failed, literally with a bang!! Quite an experience..... Then I cautiously tried to move off as we only had a short distance to go and it seemed to be OK. However when we got to the flatter ground in the city, we could not get into top gear.

An Adelaide Ford service removed the transmission and had it rebuilt in Melbourne.

We also got them to fit an additional oil cooler for the transmission and a temperature gauge.

The service guys were reasonably confident that they had rectified the issue of the engine light being on more times than it was off, and it certainly seemed OK. I can't recall what the fault codes were that they were convinced was causing the problem, but it was not a significant problem.

About 500kms up the Birdseville track, the engine light came on again, whilst the transmission was performing better than it had for the life of the vehicle, although spasmodically "jerky" it was not as bad, and I started to assume that it must be normal for the vehicle, although I wa very uneasy about it.

At about 18,000kms around Mitchell we found that the transmission would not select top gear again, however after about an hour (obviously the oil temperature dropped a bit) the transmission was OK for approx 140 Kms, when it would not select top gear again.

The transmission oil temperature did not move.

We limped back to Toowoomba to the Ford Service people then to Southside Ford who have a subsidiary that specializes in transmissions.

The problem was severly worn relief valves in the transmission.

The general conclusion that all in sundry have arrived at is that there was a manufacturing problem initially, and when the transmission was rebuilt in Melbourne the relief valves were not replaced.

Southside also have rectified the engine light, and the transmission for the first time feels like our car. Ie smooth change, so smooth that I have difficulty accepting that I was starting to believe that the spasmodic "jerky" change was normal.

We have only done approx 2000 kms since the last rebuild, but its great.
The other point is that there is virtually no hunting of gears at all, even going up the range on Cunningham Gap. Wheras previously there was the occaisional hunting.

Despite all this, the vehicle is great, and as I mentioned previously, if we were to start again, we would get another 'Effie". They are a great machine.

Maybe we got a Friday car or is it a Monday car. Either way we are now pretty happy with it.

In talking with the service guys "allover" they comment that our experience is very very rare, and I tend to believe them, with the only significant transmission problem in this model that any of them reported was a guy from Perth who had two transmission units over a similar period to ourselves and in Adelaide too. The consensus was that the very much oversize rims and tyres that he fitted impacted on the gearing ratio's. Although, I understand they still covered the repair under warranty.

I am certainly glad that the warranty is 3 years and 100kms though.

Hope that answers everyones queries.

AnswerID: 565762

Follow Up By: Tassietracker5 - Tuesday, Feb 01, 2005 at 10:21

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2005 at 10:21
Hello Bob and all,
I too have had problems with trans in my F250. at 32000k it would not reverse, just sit there and increase in revs to about 1500 then try again, and it may reverse or it may not. Solution fully trans rebuild. Local dealer had already done 5 rebuilds on other local cars. At 42000k had oil dripping from engine, told not to drive any further and bring it straight to dealer. Not sure but was told it was the top end high pressure seals. This is acommon problem and has been known to cause engine fires as the oil collects in the top of the vee before running down the back of engine before you start to notice it. Besides going to court over a dent that still has not been fixed in the roof which was there when i purchased it, I love the way it drives and handles towing the van, and also carrying all my work tools as a daily driver. Just make sure the warranty is still valid and keep on trucking

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Reply By: Andy1 - Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 16:41

Saturday, Jan 29, 2005 at 16:41
In the F250 theme, we changed from a Totota to the F250 for the reasons Steve outlines above, longer & wider wheel base, more power and heavier. There is no doubt in our minds that the F250 is pretty well the perfect match with a BT.

However, not withstanding the above, there are niggles, albeit covered under warranty and not really safety related. Because there are a number of BT owners towing with the F250 there is sort of an informal communication of issues. These include:

- Wear in the steering joints which leads to steering "slop", all of our steering rods were recently replaced and we are certainly not alone in this. It is not a safety issue.

-Spring sag, we have air bags front & rear so have not had a problem but several F250 owners have had springs replaced and at least in one case fitted OM springs.

-Rear spring hangers moving and wearing into frame section, according to ARB most F250's have this problem.

None of these are major issues, rather little niggles, F250 owners have to accept that the finish is not up to Japanese standards. But like the above correspondents we would recommend the F250 to anyone towing a BT and certainly would not part with ours. As an aside, owning both a Toyota Landcruiser and F250 we have found, in general, Ford Dealers by far the better to deal with.

Still on the subject of the F250 we ran into a problem with our 4WD not engaging and the local Ford Dealer phoned yesterday to advise that somehow we have physically damaged a small motor in up under the vehicle which has to be repalced, not covered by warranty & not cheap! Has anyone else had this problem?

AnswerID: 565763

Follow Up By: Turist - Tuesday, Feb 01, 2005 at 17:58

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2005 at 17:58
Andy we had "non engagement" with the 4 Wd caused by physical damage to the wiring loom where it enters the gearbox.
Dealer said no warranty as it was considerd accident damage.
Hit by a stick or stone along the Plenty highway.

A strong letter to Ford customer service pointing out that this was an off road type vehicle and that surely the components should be protected from this type of damage led to a refund cheque for the repair charges.

If your component has been damaged in a similar way it may be worth a go.

Give me a ring if you need further details as there is a procedure to follow that involves your dealer/repairer.

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Reply By: Panna Trackers - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 12:06

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 12:06
Really great stuff.
We have been looking at trading our 79 Series cruiser for the F250 and this thread has given us a great deal to consider. The issue of which dealer is not an issue. Out here in the Pilbra they are one and the same. We have no doubt that in the short term the F250 and 20Ft Bushtracker make a great set. The thing that concerns us is 5 years down the track when all the warranties have run out which will be the better choice. At this stage we are leaning toward some suspension work and a torque turbo for the Cruiser. We will be picking up our van in September. There and back a 10000K trip. I guess by the time we get home we will know if the choice is right.
Can't wait
Trevor & Lyndal
AnswerID: 565764

Follow Up By: TripnTaps - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 17:34

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 17:34
Trevor & Lyndal,
From our experience towing an 18ft Bushtracker with a V8 Independent Front Suspension Landcruiser make that A LOT of suspension work instead of 'some' - I would assume the suspension for the diesel is the same as in the later model petrol.

All the best,
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Follow Up By: Panna Trackers - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 17:59

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 17:59
Good Morning Helen
I am not sure what you mean . The 79 Series cruiser ( 2002 model) is the ute type with rear leaf springs. I think all the 100 series have coils in the rear.
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Follow Up By: TripnTaps - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 21:16

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005 at 21:16
Hi Trevor,
Sorry I miss-understood. Thought you were going to trade in the 79 Cruiser and deciding between the later (100series) Cruiser or the F250

I was referring to the front suspension of the 100 series. We had progressive coils fitted to the rear of our Cruiser (late 2003 model) but although the rating was well in excess of our requirements (can't remember now) it was not the main problem we encountered. LC 100 Series are coils all round from memory. It was the change Toyota made to the front suspension which we had on our V8 from the previous series that we believe caused us our concerns ... I am not up on the technical terms but the way the 'independent front suspension' operated changed the ride of the LC completely with the BT hooked up..... it was like driving a bucket of water!

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Follow Up By: Panna Trackers - Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 01:45

Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 01:45
Yes you are right. We use the LC100 series in the mine . They do lots of Ks over dirt and you can't break them but in the words of STG / Lone Ranger / they" wallow like a pig with a back pack on" .
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Follow Up By: Noosa Fox - Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 04:10

Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 04:10
We had a 2001 model Landcruiser T/D when we first picked up our 21 ft Bushtracker. As per another topic on towing hints, when large trucks went past they would cause instablity because of the air being pushed. We changed to F250 and no longer feel any pressure from overtaking trucks and the vehicle feels and behaves much steadier than what the Land Cruiser did. With the Ford we are able to safely drive faster and corner much faster than we could with the Cruiser.
Comfort wise we believe that the Ford is more comfortable than the Cruiser was and you arrive at your destination much more relaxed because there are never any problems controlling the caravan, compared to what we had with the Cruiser.
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Follow Up By: Panna Trackers - Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 05:56

Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 05:56
Brian & Magaret
I have no doubt what you say is correct. As I have said the F250 and the 20 ft Bushtracker make a great package. My problem is the Cruiser has only done 30000Ks & to get what I have now ( a bit bigger and a bit more power granted) will give no change from $85000. So you see I have to give the Cruiser a chance at least.
Still can't wait to get out there
Trevor & Lyndal
PS Any Bushtrackers travelling through the Pilbra we would love to hear from you.
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Reply By: Tellem Bugrem - Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 18:51

Thursday, Feb 03, 2005 at 18:51
Cruiser Fans,

In 2007 Toyota will have the 130 Series with a 4.4 litre twin turbo common-rail V8 diesel which produces 220 kW and 580Nm. There is a new 'separate' chassis called the F Platform with double wishbone front suspension, which means they may drop the IFS. The rear suspension will continue as is.It may have a six speed manual or a six speed tiptronic auto, similar to that in the current VW Touareg V8.

After hearing the V8 Diesel rumour at Copeton, I went into Maitland Toyota and ordered mine. Nonetheless they hadn't heard of such a beast!! However, I plan to stay at the top of their list.

We have test driven the F250's twice now, and we are generally disappointed with the comparible build quality and standard of finish as well as that enormous 17metre turning circle compared to Toyota's 11 metres. But remember, our van is an 18 footer, and if we had a 20' we probably would have gone for the F250 for all the reasons Effie buyers have.

All the same, there are some roads we have been on where I doubt if the F250 could negotiate. eg. Road to Bunroy Junction upstream from Corryong, Vic., Creek at Starkvale Camp in Expedition National Park,Qld., the Bridle Track to Hill End, NSW., the south approach to Bunya Mountain, Qld., and tracks on Lindsay Island, east of Renmark, in Vic. .....Now there's a few challenges for Effies!

When we leave for our first trip to the Red Centre, Top End and Arnhemland in a few weeks, Maitland Toyota are giving us a box of spares (filters, belts etc.) and when we get back, we pay for what we use and give the rest back to them. Now that is not bad service!

Cheers.............Rob and Liz
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