by James Langan

Comfortable overland camping outfits have been gaining traction in recent years. Whether it’s a roof top tent, a slide-in camper in the bed of a truck, or a fulltilt live-in conversion, there’s much to be said for being comfortable during long stints on the road. This beautifully crafted rig, or shall we say, home on wheels, is the creation of All Terrain Warriors USA (ATW USA) and was unveiled at the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a brief inspection and a conversation with Alan Feld (who also happens to be the president/owner of Sportsmobile West) as to its unique features, I was impressed and knew I wanted to share this yacht-inspired creation with you. When the show was over Alan and I left the lights of Glitter Gulch behind and headed northwest into Nevada’s scenic backcountry. We landed near the Valley of Fire State Park and spent the evening and the following day going through the truck with a fine-tooth comb. Get ready to be impressed…

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A Blank Canvas – Efficiency and Performance

To build the ultimate full-size expedition vehicle, ATW reviewed a variety of available truck platforms, consulted experienced overland travelers, and compiled a few checklists. Because the Alpha bodies are imported from ATW Australia, then fitted with appliances, cabinetry, wiring, and plumbing in the Fresno, California, facility, the chassis needed to be a blank canvas…one with good bones, available with an efficient powerplant and reliable drivetrain. Because it would be destined for round-the-world treks, international availability in left hand or right hand drive would be necessary, as well as being able to fit in a standard shipping container. When the dust settled the nod was given to the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG4X4.

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The FG4X4 is a cab-over design powered by the DOHC 4P10 inline 3.0 liter 4-cylinder diesel. The 4P10 (which has a variable-geometry turbocharger) produces 295 lb-ft of torque (1,300 rpm) and 161 horsepower (3,400 rpm). It also meets strict U.S. and European emissions regulations. Overall, the FG4X4 is modern, lightweight, efficient, and has a GVWR of 14,050 pounds.

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The DUONIC 6-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is electronically controlled and operates like a typical automotive transmission rather than a truck transmission. It also has a park setting and an easy-to-use hand-operated parking brake (you have to drive big rigs for a while to appreciate this). In the U.S. the FG4X4 lacks a low-range transfer case, though ATW USA is going to correct this. A factory limited-slip differential rides in the rear axle and an optional Torsen unit can be fitted to the front.

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With the platform or canvas in place, ATW USA guts the cab and adds Dynamat sound deadening material, a new headliner with in-dash GPS, and replaces the factory torture-rack seats with comfortable suspension units. The factory power windows, locks, keyless entry, and practical rubber floor mat are retained. Fore and aft cameras are viewed on separate in-dash monitors, adding to the already excellent forward visibility typical of cab-over trucks.

Suspension, Wheels, Bumpers, and Winches

The 16-inch dual rear wheels have been replaced with ATW 19.5-inch DOT-approved Super Singles. The reason for this is to have front and rear tires in the same track when off-pavement, and reduce on-road rolling resistance. The wheels are steel, rated for a remarkable 13,227 pounds each, and accept a readily available 285/70R19.5-inch tire, available in numerous tread patterns. The increased diameter of 35 inches raises the final-drive ratio, lowers cruise rpm, and improves on-pavement fuel economy. In Alan’s first 5,000 miles of use, mostly highway miles, he has averaged an impressive 17.8 mpg. To extend the range of the stock platform, a 47-gallon fuel cell is being developed to replace the 33-gallon OE unit. Potential range could be over 800 miles.

To improve on-road ride comfort and off-pavement articulation of the stock platform, ATW developed a bolt-on parabolic suspension system. Combined with the Super Single rear wheels, it transforms the Mitsubishi Fuso chassis into a capable travel platform. I rode in this truck off pavement with the tires at full street pressure and it was evident that the parabolic suspension was a good choice. I have a commercial truck background and could feel the suspension working to absorb the terrain and stiffness of the tires.

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Aluminess bumpers protect both the front and rear end, each cradling a Warn 16.5ti winch. The rear winch is employed to lower and raise the spare tires; there are two mounted in a recessed carrier on the rear of the camper. This vehicle was fitted with an Extreme Outback ExtremeAire Magnum compressor, but an ExtremeFlow engine-driven compressor is also available.

Composite Alpha Camper

During the past 25 years, All Terrain Warriors Australia has designed and built four-wheeldrive tour buses and mining trucks. Two years ago, when owner Paul Campbell and his crew decided to create the ultimate overland rig, they needed to address the limitations of steel construction and inherent torsional issues that can damage a cab-on-chassis camper. The Alpha is the fruit of their labor.

The interior, exterior, and even the framing are composite. The exterior walls, comprised of structural foam and fiberglass, are 28 mm thick; Paul likened their insulating properties to that of a 6-inch thick freezer wall. The body is very resistant to heat, cold, and impact, and will likely bounce back from a minor impact. If damaged, a do-it-yourself owner with a fiberglass repair kit should be able to manage most repairs on the road.

Six spring-style body mounts secure the Alpha body to the chassis, isolating the camper body from torsional frame flex. These bodies just might outlive the chassis they are fitted to, particularly if the vehicle is regularly subjected to salty environments.

Hard Side Option

While a pop-up roof has many advantages—reduced wind resistance and improved overhead clearance—sometimes it’s desirable to have a hard-sided shelter for added security or extreme weather protection. For this, ATW offers optional hard panels that can be fitted in place of the soft sides. The process involves removing the soft sides, raising the electric roof an additional 4 inches, inserting the hard panels, and lowering the roof. The truck can be driven in this form, is fully functional, and can be permanent if the owner prefers. The installation process takes about an hour. Having said this, the standard pop-up material should not be underestimated. Paul stated that a customer has already used a soft-sided Alpha at -22°F without issue.

Amenities

The Alpha interior is similar to a yacht: efficient, clean, functional, and handsome. Just inside the entry door is a shower stall. The drain is incorporated into the first step, and the faucet of the nearby sink pulls out and doubles as a showerhead. An Espar D5 diesel heater supplies on-demand hot water as well as heat to the cabin.

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There are two fresh water tanks (51 gallons and 23 gallons), allowing for separation of drinking and cleaning water if a potable source is not available. A 3-gpm pump, which adds chlorine to the system, can be used for filling tanks from a non-treated source. A 3M five-stage purification system then filters water when it’s drawn for use. The toilet, available in portable cassette, cassette, marine, or macerator form, is just aft of the entry door and out of the way when using the shower.

Eat and Sleep

A queen bed, a thick foam mattress topped with a memory foam pad, fills the rear of the camper. The dinette converts into a double bed and an optional upper sleeping berth can accommodate two more. The galley sits to port and includes a 5.1-cubic-foot Italian Vitrifrigo doubledrawer, dual-zone marine freezer/fridge. This camper had a flush-mount glass-topped sink, but there is plenty of space for a taller gooseneck faucet if desired. Drop-in cooktops (not fitted to this unit) can be butane, propane, electric, or diesel.

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An important feature is that the appliances, dinette bed, and queen bed can all be used with the top down, though there is only 16 inches of clearance above the bed—not good if you are claustrophobic. With the top raised there is a generous 80 inches for standing.

Electronics and Storage

Two deep-cycle marine batteries, a 2,000-watt inverter, and two 100-watt Zamp solar panels supply all the electricity most will need. A 4,000-watt diesel generator is available if owners select the optional 110V air-conditioner. The passenger-side interior wall houses a control panel for the furnace, solar, water systems, and electrical circuits, and several entertainment systems are available. Energy efficient LED light bars provide lighting in the galley, and five overhead lights illuminate the interior.

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Forward of the bed on the passenger side is a large wardrobe, above which lies a docking station for electronic devices. The queen bed can be raised with the assistance of gas struts to reveal three large storage trays and the galley has numerous storage cubbies. There are plenty of attractive and practical teak hardwood accents, including louvered cabinet doors and top rails.

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At the rear of the vehicle is a large full-width passthrough compartment that is accessible from either exterior side, or under the bed. Outside on the right toward the front there’s another storage compartment measuring 45 by 14 by 21 inches.

All Terrain

It’s important to realize how large this vehicle is not. The overall height with the top down is only 99 inches, which meets the shipping container criteria (heights range from 8 to 9.5 feet) and overall length is just over 22 feet. The wheelbase is only 134.4 inches, just 7 inches more than a Toyota Tacoma Access Cab, and the turning radius is a respectable 45 feet.

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Overall, ATW’s Alpha Camper slips into the realm of luxury accommodation paired with backcountry finesse. The chassis is suited for the rigors of Central Africa, and the cozy interior and plethora of amenities will make you feel at home in the Atacama Desert. However, moving up to the Alpha from a roof top tent will come at a price, about a quarter-million dollars for this one, reflecting its land-yacht character. Then again, think of how much money you could save on hotel stays.

Specifications: Mitsubishi Fuso FG4X4

  • Wheelbase: 134.4 inches
  • Length: 22.25 feet
  • Width: 7.2 feet
  • Engine: 3.0-liter inline 4-cylinder turbodiesel
  • Transmission: DUONIC 6-speed automatic
  • Output: 161 hp @ 3,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft torque @ 1,300 rpm
  • Differential ratio: 5.285:1
  • Brakes: drum, vacuum/hydraulic brakes with ABS
  • Tires: Toyo M608Z 285/70R19.5
  • Wheels: ATW 19.5×8.25 super single
  • Fuel capacity: 47 U.S. gallons
  • Suspension: parabolic leaf spring, adjustable shocks
  • Weight (wet): 11,370 pounds
  • GVWR: 14,050 pounds
  • Body: composite
  • Attachment system: six spring body mounts
  • Water capacity: 74 U.S. gallons
  • Electronics: two 215-amp hour marine batteries, two 100-watt Zamp solar panels
  • Height (top down): 8.25 feet
  • Interior height (top up/down): 6.6/4.8 feet
  • Berths: six

Resources

The Alpha Camper

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About the Author: James Langan