Are Earth Cruisers & Co. overpriced?

SkiFreak

Expedition Leader
One of the members here is just about to take possession of an Earthcruiser that has been built on a 2011 FG140 (if memory serves me correctly).
In my opinion, that is a much better setup than the new, US spec Fuso, as this is a 5 speed manual with high and low range, but sourcing a good, second hand FG140 would be the challenge here.

One vehicle that you did not mention was ATW's Global Warrior. That is a very nice camper, but again, it is stuck on a new generation Fuso.
In Australia the current model Fuso comes with a 5 speed manual with high and low range, but for some reason that option is not offered in the US, which is a pity.
 

Howard70

Adventurer
we are looking to buy a new earth cruiser and travel the us in the little fuso based camper for a year. so full time while we search for a spot to build our new home. we are all but set on EC but i would love any and all input from current owners who have experience in these rigs for extended off the grid camping and extended trips in general. any issues or changes you would have made to the camper to make it perform better for serious off road travel and boon docking.
thanks hans
Hello Hans:

My wife Heidi and I have close to 15,000 miles on our 2014 Fuso FG EarthCruiser and about 90 nights out and about in her. We are very happy with the vehicle and satisfied with the new transmission. I don't want to argue with others who feel that transmission is unsuitable for their real or perceived needs - but I do want to state that we'd buy another EarthCruiser tomorrow and we'd by the current version of the Fuso FG again as well. I've posted quite a bit our truck and our statisfaction with the systems and you may find that information searching my posts. I will readily admit that if there was a two speed transfer case available I would seek it out and I would enjoy having it - but that does not mean I don't think the current configuration is useful for our needs - it is fine, but it could be better (I've never had a vehicle, boat, bicycle, kayak or backpack that couldn't be better). We've run some known trails with the truck that could serve as a gauge for you if you happen to know them:

1. Medano Pass west to east (Great Sand Dunes National Park over the Sangre de Cristo Mtns In Southern CO).

2. Boulder Alley into Collins Valley in the Coyote Creek area of Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA (
3. Indian Pass east to west (Chocolate Mountains, Imperial County, southern CA).

4. BLM Road 1063 east to west, climbing out of Whitmore Wash towards Whitmore Point from BLM 1045, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ.

None of these would challenge a rock crawling 4x4, but I found them to be great routes for getting to remote camping places with the comfortable amenities of an EarthCruiser. That's what we're after - we have a well setup 2004 Tacoma Doublecab if we seek the roughest routes available, but we've found that the EarthCruiser has taken us everywhere we've wanted for extended remote camping.

I'm adverse to internet arguments, etc. so these comments are not meant to inflame others! We are not disappointed with the DEF system, we were both avid road cyclists (pedal type) and as such we're proud to have a diesel with a DPF that a cyclist can be next to without issues.

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you might have. Feel free to email me.

Best Wishes,

Howard Snell
 

dlh62c

Explorer
.....We are not disappointed with the DEF system, we were both avid road cyclists (pedal type) and as such we're proud to have a diesel with a DPF that a cyclist can be next to without issues.
Great video Howard!

6a00d83451b3c669e201538f4de96f970b-800wi.jpg

The owner of any diesel vehicle that has the above sticker on the door should get their fuel for free. Their essentially driving around an air scrubber. The air going out the tail pipe is cleaner than what's being drawn into the engine.
 
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Bandicoot

Adventurer
As a 5+year EC owner with the 4.9 litre engine and the 5 speed manual transmission, I'm pretty familiar with the pros and cons of that combination. however, I was asked on the EC owners forum some months back about the new Duonic transmission (paired with the new 3 litre engine), and this was my response FWIW (in terms of the transmission; I had a separate epistle on the 3 litre engine, which also looks great).
The situation at the time was that the Canter FG was no longer (temporarily) available in Australia with dual range gearbox (only high range; it is now back on the market with dual range transfer), plus we had a number of US owners buying ECs and they "only" had the 3 litre engine and Duonic gearbox option.
High range only manual transmission
In terms of the existing 5-speed manual transmission, it is really a 4-speed manual transmission with a crawler gear. The reason for this is that there is no “synchro” on 1st gear (or reverse), so that it is simply not practical to “change down” into 1st gear if you run out of puff in 2nd. You must completely stop the vehicle and then change into 1st. Actually, I have tried double de-clutching into 1st and it is possible, but I would never attempt this doing (say) a hill climb. It would be far too risky.
A second point to note is that the 4.9 litre engine is that while the 4.9 litre engine has more torque than the 3 litre, the 4.9 is electronically limited to 380 N.m of torque in 1st gear (and reverse) compared to the 3 litre engine which has 370 N.m available in all gears.
I’ve done quite a lot of bush work in EC4 now and have never used 1st gear for a hill climb EXCEPT where I need to literally “crawl” over boulders or climb onto (or off) a rocky ledge. In these situations, I am using 1st (low) to allow me to “inch” my way through or over an obstacle, rather than for any other reason (such as the steepness of the hill). It also means I don’t need to slip the clutch as much (which is tricky to control in very rough work and wears the clutch shortening its life).
So in most circumstances, you are not going to use anything lower than 2nd low for steep hill climbs. 2nd low is equivalent overall ratio to 1st high in the manual transmission in terms of overall gear ratios, so on most steep climbs, 1st high would be OK.
I don’t ever recall using 1st low for a descent, except in the same circumstances above where I need to “inch” down a slope due to its roughness not its steepness. Bear in mind the engine exhaust brake on the 4.9 litre engine is brilliant and is worth (for hill descents) at least 1 extra (lower) gear, probably 2 in many circumstances, compared to an auto box or “petrol” (gasoline) engine.
So for most purposes, the lack of a low range probably won’t have too much impact on hill climbs or descents and most drivers would, I think, adjust to it fairly well. Where the lack of low range will be important is in “inching” up or down rocky ledges or gullies etc. In this case, without low-low, you are left with needing to either go faster (not always good) or trying to slip the clutch (difficult or impossible in some cases). As an aside, one of the most common uses I have for low-low is “lifting” EC4 up onto blocks to level up the vehicle at a camp site. In this case, I don’t bother to put the free wheeling hubs in, I just put it into low-low and edge up onto the blocks. Low-low gives me that sort of control.
It will be an inconvenience on rough bush tracks not having the “closer” spacing of four gears in low range, which means probably having to use just 2nd gear high range for much of the bush work, but 2nd and 3rd high are very very flexible gears in the manual. And of course, whilst 1st high is equivalent to 2nd low in terms of overall ratios, 2nd low has synchro whereas 1st high does not, which means if you run out of puff in 2nd high, then you will have to completely stop the vehicle to change into 1st high (in the manual). These are important issues but perhaps for many owners not intending a lot of serious “technical” 4WD work, the low of the low range isn’t a major issue. For those who do want to cross the deserts or go down serious 4WD tracks, then the loss of low range with the manual transmission is certainly something to ponder.
Now to come to the issue of the 6- speed Duonic transmission.
Whilst this tranny has a "fully automatic mode", it is not a conventional “automatic” transmission at all. In fact, it is called an “automated manual transmission” (or “AMT”). Note “automated” not “automatic”. A conventional automatic transmission has a torque converter in it with transmission fluid. The AMT is in fact a computer-controlled manual transmission. But more than that, it is actually two complete manual transmissions running in parallel. One “side” (gear train) handles Reverse, 1st, 3rd and 5th, and the other side handles 2nd, 4th and 6th.
Each “side” has its own input shaft from the engine, its own clutch and its own output shaft. This means two input shafts, two clutches and two output shafts.
A computer chip monitors engine load, RPM, throttle position and all the things that any driver would if driving the vehicle manually.
Let’s say you are in 3rd gear and applying throttle and picking up speed. The Duonic will have the clutch for the gear train that handles 3rd gear “engaged”. BUT it will already have the parallel gear train engaged in 4th gear, just with the clutch disengaged. When the engine decides it is the exact right moment to change up to 4th, it simply disengages the gear train with 3rd and engages the gear train with 4th. That’s the beauty of the two input shafts, two clutches and two output shafts.
It can do this in around 0.03 seconds, i.e. much faster even than a traditional automatic transmission.
And of course, because the Duonic has no torque converter or transmission fluid, it has the towing capacity of a manual transmission rather than the de-rated towing capacity of an equivalent fully automatic transmission. It also has better fuel economy.
Plus it is a genuine 6-speed transmission, unlike the manual which (as noted earlier) is really a 4-speed tranny with a crawler gear.
This means the 6-speed Duonic can ensure the 3 litre engine is operating near its sweet spot much better than a 4-speed manual tranny can.
And if you are doing a hill climb and need to change down gear, the Duonic will do it in about 0.03 seconds. Compare that to the manual transmission, where I have timed myself and it takes somewhere between 1 and 2 seconds to change down gears, depending on the circumstances. This is a real issue in hill climbing because the Canter service (foot) brakes (drums all round) will NOT hold the vehicle on a very steep hill, so that changing down gears on a steep climb is fraught with danger. In many cases, it is better to stall the engine. But then the only option is to stall-start it in reverse and go back down the hill—sometimes a tricky operation and will be much trickier with no low range as the downhill speed (in reverse) will be that much higher.
And of course, if you are driving through sand and engine revs are dropping and you desperately need to change down gears, then with the manual transmission, as soon as you depress the clutch you’re stopped—and probably stuffed! However, the Duonic has no such problem as changing down is seamless. It will be a joy to drive in sand.
The Duonic has a fully automatic mode or the “semi-automatic” mode now the norm in automatic transmissions, where the driver can simply tell the vehicle to change up or down gear when he/she wants it to.
This means the Duonic is a very flexible transmission.
Another important point about the Duonic is that it has a “crawler” mode. In this mode, the vehicle will crawl forward (or backwards) and the driver controls vehicle speed via the foot brake. I’m not exactly sure how this option works, but as there is no separate crawler gear in the box, it is probably by computer control of clutch slippage. I’m not sure if this feature could be used for climbing over boulders or rocky ledges. If this is OK, then it would be a big plus. But Fuso would need to advise or the clutch could be burnt out.
Interestingly, in the USA the Duonic in the 4WD Canter has a choice of two diff ratios: 5.714 and 5.285. This gives US owners some additional potential for bush work, at a minor expense of highway driving speeds and fuel economy. And there is also the potential in the USA to fit an after-market transfer case with low range in it. For the very keen, this could be done either at initial purchase or afterwards.
I can see some downsides to the Duonic AMT. One is that as it has no conventional automatic box torque converter with automatic transmission fluid in it, then the engine will stall if too much torque is demanded from it. A normal automatic transmission won’t stall the engine (the transmission itself will stall, but the engine won’t). Secondly, because the AMT doesn’t have the traditional automatic transmission system, it doesn’t have a torque converter in it, with the great “torque multiplying” effect that we are all familiar with in auto boxes, which will be more of an issue with no low range transfer case than otherwise.
But apart from those two points, I think the Duonic, at least on paper, is an outstanding option for a 4WD truck—however, bear in mind I still haven’t driven one (as they are not available in the 4WD version of the Canter in Australia).

As a footnote, our EC has been over a weighbridge TWICE and each time I have had the front and rear axles weighted separately. It has an almost exactly 50/50 weight distribution (ours is a SWB). If you look at Howard's video, you can see how supple the suspension is, and that combined with the great weight distribution, along with the engine, transmission and 4x4 traction and absolutely brilliant LSD in the back axle (along with the ground clearance and approach/departure angles), does make these machines absolutely formidable vehicles off road.
rick
 

pugslyyy

Expedition Vehicle Engineer Guy
As a 5+year EC owner with the 4.9 litre engine and the 5 speed manual transmission, I'm pretty familiar with the pros and cons of that combination. however, I was asked on the EC owners forum some months back about the new Duonic transmission (paired with the new 3 litre engine), and this was my response FWIW (in terms of the transmission; I had a separate epistle on the 3 litre engine, which also looks great).
I'm glad to hear someone with such good things to say about the Duonic compared to the 5 speed. It's interesting how it really seems to fall into two camps - I know others have not been nearly as pleased as you have, glad it is working out so well for you.

I'm still somewhat dubious about the suitability of the auto-shift to rough road / low traction situations (where you would need to slip the transmission), but I admit I haven't tried it.
 

Czechsix

Watching you from a ridge
.......
It can do this in around 0.03 seconds, i.e. much faster even than a traditional automatic transmission.

Maybe in theory it can, but it's all dependent on the software. For instance, the shift from 3 to 4 can take much longer than 0.03 seconds, especially under power. To the best of my knowledge, I'm running all updates now. The truck is much better than it was when I first got it, but there are still little idiosyncrasies it has. Such as that danged 3 to 4 shift. I find that anytime I get into something sticky with it, I'm out of the fully automated gear selection, and doing the manual selection.


Another important point about the Duonic is that it has a “crawler” mode. In this mode, the vehicle will crawl forward (or backwards) and the driver controls vehicle speed via the foot brake. I’m not exactly sure how this option works, but as there is no separate crawler gear in the box, it is probably by computer control of clutch slippage. I’m not sure if this feature could be used for climbing over boulders or rocky ledges. If this is OK, then it would be a big plus. But Fuso would need to advise or the clutch could be burnt out.

The "crawler" mode basically just creeps along on a flat. Anytime you hit any kind of decent slope, the crawler function is useless. I know everyones thinking "crawler gears", etc....but it ain't so...

Interestingly, in the USA the Duonic in the 4WD Canter has a choice of two diff ratios: 5.714 and 5.285. This gives US owners some additional potential for bush work, at a minor expense of highway driving speeds and fuel economy. And there is also the potential in the USA to fit an after-market transfer case with low range in it. For the very keen, this could be done either at initial purchase or afterwards.

The talked about two speed transfer case option for the Duonic seems to be vaporware. From everything I've heard, both from Fuso and companies like EC, it's not going to happen. The Duonic will be a stand alone transmission with a single speed transfer case, at least for the foreseeable future.
....
rick
I'd like to hear if Howard has had any different experiences, likewise any other newer FG owners...
 

yabanja

Explorer
The 5.714 and 5.285 are actually different final drive ratios in the differentials which affect the ratios of the entire drivetrain.(Not a transfer case.)

I would think the different ratios make a profound effect in off road performance.

Allan
 

Czechsix

Watching you from a ridge
The 5.714 and 5.285 are actually different final drive ratios in the differentials which affect the ratios of the entire drivetrain.(Not a transfer case.)

I would think the different ratios make a profound effect in off road performance.

Allan
Oh yeah, definitely make a difference. I think Howard has the lower ratio, I have the higher. The other differences such as stiffness between the 19.5" and 16" tires will have an effect too. Height is similiar, but I'm positive that I'll have to hit things harder to hop up them, or air down much more (with all the associated issues there), than folks with the 16" tires.

One of these days we'll start having FG specific meets...one of these days. Then it'll be fun to compare.
 

GR8ADV

Explorer
Like the idea of FUSO meet.
.
Can we return this thread to the topic of the title and start a new Fuso thread? There is getting to be way too much good info here that would be better if it were not buried.
 
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Howard70

Adventurer
I'd like to hear if Howard has had any different experiences, likewise any other newer FG owners...
Hello Guys:

I'll try to provide some details on how we've evolved our driving techniques for the Duonic when we get back from our impending trip. If we can get through the snow and mud around Oak Grove, our plan is to go to Twin Point in the western reaches of the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Heidi will camp at the end of the road for several days while a buddy and I drop into Burnt Canyon for several days of moderate canyoneering. The basic plan is to make it to the river and then climb out of the canyon to the Sanup Plateau, cross that to the base of the cliffs below Twin Point (where Heidi will be camped), climb up a route to the top and have a beer! Here's a photo of the Twin Point Escarpment with Prima Terra in plan view - but so small you'll probably not find her (photo from a trip in May, 2014 when I explored the route down and back up from Twin Point).

 

Pentium

New member
Well, I found the first 2 pages of this thread from 2014 an interesting read in 2022 :)

Let's be honest, these vehicles were NEVER a good value for money, yet there have always been people willing to buy them new (after all this world is not without Gates's and Bezos's of all calibers). And that's what ultimately determines the prices - demand.

According to this page on EC site current base price of both EC EXP and FX is $400K. Compare that to the base price of $220K in 2014 posted by Michelle in post #10 of this thread. If you felt bad paying $250K back then, knowing that today it it would set you back around $450K should make you feel much better :)

Somehow web archive doesn't have snapshots of that page saved after Sep 15 2019 and the first snapshot is dated Jan 8 2016.

So available EXP base price history is:
Apr 2014 $220K (Michelle's post. Though she didn't specify it was EXP, it's a reasonable conclusion considering the prices of both EXP and FX in Jan 2016 - see link above)
Jan 2016 $240K (+9% in under 2 years)
Sep 2019 $255K (+6% in 3+ years)
Jan 2022 $400K (+36% in under 3 years)

So current COVID situation has inflated the prices on these vehicles faster than ever before and very well demonstrates my point - the prices are not about the cost to develop, build the vehicles and run the business with some reasonable profit, but rather about "what we can get away with", as even at current prices the waiting lists must be longer than ever before...
They also should be realizing that expanding the business to produce more vehicles might satisfy the crazy demand and in turn drive the prices down (including on used vehicles, what indirectly affects the brand's prestige), but they woudn't want that to happen, would they? Why work more to make the same amount of money that simply raising the prices gives them anyway?
 

rruff

Explorer
They also should be realizing that expanding the business to produce more vehicles might satisfy the crazy demand and in turn drive the prices down (including on used vehicles, what indirectly affects the brand's prestige), but they woudn't want that to happen, would they? Why work more to make the same amount of money that simply raising the prices gives them anyway?
Attempting to expand a business during these times, with labor and parts shortages, due to a temporary blip in demand... would probably not be a wise investment.
 

Zuber

Active member
Well, I found the first 2 pages of this thread from 2014 an interesting read in 2022 :)

Let's be honest, these vehicles were NEVER a good value for money, yet there have always been people willing to buy them new (after all this world is not without Gates's and Bezos's of all calibers). And that's what ultimately determines the prices - demand.

According to this page on EC site current base price of both EC EXP and FX is $400K. Compare that to the base price of $220K in 2014 posted by Michelle in post #10 of this thread. If you felt bad paying $250K back then, knowing that today it it would set you back around $450K should make you feel much better :)

Somehow web archive doesn't have snapshots of that page saved after Sep 15 2019 and the first snapshot is dated Jan 8 2016.

So available EXP base price history is:
Apr 2014 $220K (Michelle's post. Though she didn't specify it was EXP, it's a reasonable conclusion considering the prices of both EXP and FX in Jan 2016 - see link above)
Jan 2016 $240K (+9% in under 2 years)
Sep 2019 $255K (+6% in 3+ years)
Jan 2022 $400K (+36% in under 3 years)

So current COVID situation has inflated the prices on these vehicles faster than ever before and very well demonstrates my point - the prices are not about the cost to develop, build the vehicles and run the business with some reasonable profit, but rather about "what we can get away with", as even at current prices the waiting lists must be longer than ever before...
They also should be realizing that expanding the business to produce more vehicles might satisfy the crazy demand and in turn drive the prices down (including on used vehicles, what indirectly affects the brand's prestige), but they woudn't want that to happen, would they? Why work more to make the same amount of money that simply raising the prices gives them anyway?
The price increase from 2019 to 2022 is not really a good comparison. The 2022 model with the CORE chassis is not the same.

Used prices for the 2019 models are now in the $330k range though. So, the cost of ownership for them is -30%?
 
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