Isuzu FTS 700 4x4 expedition vehicle

The Dusty Truck

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I've recently completed a three-year project building a body on a 1989 Isuzu FTS700 4x4 truck, which we purchased as a cab/chassis.

The FTS 700 is a 12.5t GVM truck that is used extensively by Rural Fire brigades here in Australia and are known for their reliability. As a 4x4 they are obviously not in the class of a Unimog or other military type 4x4 vehicle, but they are capable of trekking along the outback tracks here in Australia. A large number have been converted to buses and are used by outback touring companies and the mines.

I have built this truck specifically to traverse the Simpson Desert, Canning stock route and Cape York.

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The floor frame is welded 70x50x3mm RHS, with 4mm x 40mm angle iron droppers to form the frame of the under floor bins.

The frame was then "fitted" to the truck by a certified truck engineer who used a fixing system that they use on off road seismic 4x4 trucks they build. The back is fixed, whilst the front is able to flex through the use of a trunnion fitting. He also cut the back of the cab to allow access to the living area from the cab.

Once the body mount was built, we removed the frame and had it galvanised to prevent rusting.

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The shell and internal walls of the motor home are made from fibreglass composite. The walls and floor use 23mm fibreglass composite (2mm glass, 19mm poly urethane insulation, 2mm fibreglass)., whilst the roof panel is 45mm composite. The panels were manufactured by Vanglass, located in Yandina on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. The panels weigh in at 7kg per square metre, so a 7 metre x 2.2 metre sidewall weighs around 110kg.

The panels are glued using polyurethane adhesive (sika flex 252, EMFU), then glassed using three layers of fibreglass inside and out on all seams. The end result is a lightweight but very strong pod.

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The furniture is 6mm fibreglass with a centre layer of core mat to make it very strong, with lightweight structural ply added where necessary to make dividers or support the roof. These were again glassed to the inside of the external shell and have added to the rigidity of the body.

The moulds included a kitchen, fridge/microwave cabinet, and pantry, wardrobe and side overhead cupboards. The furniture is finished in white gel coat to match the composite. Marine Manufacturing, also in Yandina (across the street from Vanglass) manufactured the furniture.

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The internal fit out includes a full on suite. Grey water from the shower and sink can be recycled through the macerating toilet to save fresh water. Water capacity is 400 litres split between two tanks (250 and 150ltrs). To top up drinking water supplies, a 5 stage reverse osmosis system is carried. This is capable of producing around 9ltrs of potable water per hour.

Grey and black water capacity is 90 litres each.
Hot water is provided by a Suburban 22 litre gas/electric system.

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All lights are LED and power is suppled by 3 x 210 watt Sanyo solar panels using a GSL MPPT 30-2 solar regulator. At the moment, we have 2 x 200 A/hr AGM batteries (200A/hr at 24 volt) with room to double it if necessary. Both 24 volt and 12 volt circuits are run throughout the body. Space has been left for a remote start generator.

The only mains voltage appliances are a microwave and Dometic 3kg front load washing machine. We run a small inverter to charge laptops etc.

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The pod is 5.4 metres long (18') by 2.35mtrs wide (just under 8'). Internal clearance varies from 1.9 metres to 2.2 metres at the rear. Overall height of the rig is 3.7metres (just over 12') to the top of the roof top air conditioner.
Ground clearance is 600mm (24”).

The original 9.00 x20 tube type tyres and rims (duals at rear) have been replaced with tubeless 385/65 super single tyres on 11.75” rims. Two spares are carried. A demountable winch is used to lift/lower spares from the rear racks.

The larger tyres offer better flotation over sand when the pressures are lowered, and do not collect rocks and mud that would have collected between the rear duals. They do however cause some bouncing over the front end at around 80klm per hour because of the low axle weight. I have yet to totally resolve this issue.

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The front bull bar has room for a winch (not fitted) and we have the option of either a hydraulic or 24 volt electric unit.

Brakes are air over hydraulic, so we have an onboard air compressor to inflate tyres (4.5 cu ft/minute), but an additional 24-volt electric unit and tank is fitted to help out.

The original truck seats have been replaced with two KAB 265 mine spec air suspension seats. Seats are fitted with armrests, a separate headrest and lumbar support. The ride is very smooth, even over the roughest ground.

We have fitted an after market Schwitzer turbo to the Isuzu 6BG1 engine. I picked up a kit from eBay for $800. The engine power has increased to around 200 hp, but more importantly torque is up to around 600N mtrs.

Gearbox is 6-speed synco, with high/low range. Top speed is 114 klm/hr and it cruises at 95 to 100 KPH (55 to 60 mph) very comfortably.
Rear diff is an Eaton “no spin”.

Fuel consumption on road is a little below 20 ltrs/100 Klm (15 mpg). Off road, the FTS 700's consume over 30 litres per 100K depending on the terrain. Two x 200 litre fuel tanks are fitted.

Front suspension is an aftermarket H/D spring pack manufactured by Carrol springs in Brisbane, and fitted with a single SAS shock absorber. I may add another to this later (jury is still out).

The rear spring pack is standard but has an added shock absorber. Depending on how this performs, we may change them to either a parabolic set or airbag.

Truck tare completed is 8.3 tonnes. Fully loaded with water, fuel and supplies is around 9.3 tonne.

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Hi,
I can see that this is an old post but I'm hoping you might still be on the forum. Having built your expedition vehicle quite some time ago, I am assuming that you've likely done a fair bit of travel in it. We are looking at building on an FSS and I was wondering how you went size-wise? Too big? Too heavy? Ever get stuck? Pros and cons? Would love to hear of your experiences.

Thanks
 

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