We had a long hard think about what additions and modifications we may need on the truck when we ordered it.
We ordered the obvious Bull Bar, Tow Ball, Lights, Tray, Reverse Camera and a long range fuel tank. We also had a large water tank added under the tray. If we offloaded the camper off the truck, we didn’t want to have to load the camper back on to fill up the campers water tank every time it ran low. We also ordered an air seat for the drivers side to give John a more comfortable ride and to protect his back, which is an issue for him at times.
We knew that the truck was made to carry a heavy load, and that it was likely to be a bit of a rough ride until we had the weight of the camper on the back. We got a quote from Isuzu to upgrade the suspension to parabolic to give us a better ride, and replacing the dual back wheels for super singles, but the cost was high and we thought we’d wait and see if we needed them. The quote was for installation by All Terrain Warriors on the Sunshine Coast, a company we knew of, so getting the modifications done by them at a later date if needed seemed like a sensible option.
This truck needs a light rigid truck license, which was not a big deal to get. In fact having some instruction before we went for our license test was excellent, as it gave me an opportunity to brush up on road rules and defensive driving. I only needed an hour and a half of training before the half hour driving test. None of the truck driving schools in Rockhampton have light rigid trucks to learn on, they offered us the option to get our heavy rigid truck license, but with a far longer and more complicated test, so we opted to wait until we got our truck to take the test. It felt funny driving around at our age with L plates!
We both enjoyed driving the truck, and as a passenger, the view is amazing! The large windscreen and side windows give you a very clear view, and the additional height means you can see into and over everything as you pass by.
But it very quickly became obvious that we would need the parabolic suspension and single wheels if we were to keep our teeth in our heads, and able to walk at the end of a long trip. After all, there will be times when we use the truck without the camper on the back. Not only was the ride very rough, we found the truck wandered over the road, and was in certain circumstances difficult to regain control over.
We decided our comfort was important, and the expense worth it, so we spoke to All Terrain Warriors about the upgrades. What these guys don’t know about truck upgrades is not worth knowing!
We went ahead with the upgrade to parabolic suspension, super single wheels and also a diff lock, as well as add tool boxes either side under the tray. For those of you who want the nitty gritty on the upgrades, I have taken this from the All Terrain Warriors Website:
A Parabolic Spring is a spring that consists of two or more tapered leaves. Each leaf represents a complete spring in itself and will act as such. To enable this the leaf is tapered, from the centre (thick) to the outer ends (thin). This tapering is parabolic, which means that every centimetre (or inch) the thickness of the leaf decreases in amount that relates to the square function of its length. This is where the thickest part of the spring is mounted to the axle and tapers out to the ends of the spring that mount to the chassis. In between these two points the leaves do not touch each other as they do with conventional springs.This allows each leaf to perform individually rather than one pack of conventional springs.
The design of ATW springs increases the vehicle height around 40-50mm (1 1/2-2 inch) lift and will transform the ride from very harsh to a more comfortable, controlled ride. The parabolic springs are designed to bolt on to the existing spring mounts of the chassis. This means no drilling , cutting or grinding to mount the springs. The parabolic suspension upgrade kits are available for Isuzu and Mitsubishi / Fuso models that replace most, if not all of the OEM suspension components.
Depending on the exact model truck, kits include:
Parabolic springs, shock absorbers, grease able shackle mounts with urethane bushes, bump stops, ubolts, extended brake lines, extended ABS wiring, brake line extension mounts,extended sway bar links.
Single Wheel Conversions
ATW have developed a single wheel conversion that is simple yet extremely effective way to improve the ride, look and handling characteristics of a 4×4 truck. From factory all of the Japanese 4×4 truck chassis’ come out with dual rear wheels. This means you have 4 tyres on the rear axle and 2 tyres on the front. This is not ideal when traversing through sand, mud and rocky environments.
To enhance the capabilities on and off road the ATW single wheel conversion replaces the OEM wheels with ATW rims and tyres which are larger in diameter, wider in width and a larger load capacity. The rims have an offset suited to each vehicle manufacturer. This also gives the following benefits:
- The offset of the rim creates the rear wheels to align in the compacted wheel tracks of the front resulting in greatly improved off-road performance especially in soft sand/mud.
- Larger overall rolling diameter which results in a smoother ride & better handling over corrugations and rough ground.
- Same rim offset allows wheel to fit front and rear axles for scheduled rotation and also creates the same track.
- Inflation valves on both sides of ATW rims make inflating & deflating tyres easier, also easier access when tyres are rotated.
- Eliminates the scenario of rocks caught between the dual wheels causing severe tyre failure and potential third party damage.
Auto Torque Front Diff Centre
Our ATB diff lock is fully automatic and progressive in operation. Unlike conventional diff locks and LSD’s , ATW’s will never lock but will seamlessly and progressively transfer power and torque away from a spinning wheel to the one with the most traction. This is the opposite action of an OEM ‘open’ diff which in soft or loose conditions will promote wheel spin and loss of drive. In off road situations, the ATB diff significantly reduces torque steer, under steer and steering ‘snatch’ associated with common clutched type LSD’s and air or electric diff locks.
When off-road, this translates into reduced wheel spin (improved tyre life), virtually no torque steer and less under steer during cornering (improved safety and control)…..most importantly, it will greatly enhance performance and drive in soft mud and sand, therefore reducing the chance of getting stuck and the need for recovery. If one wheel is lifted from the ground so that there is no torque bias, the diff will revert to the same operation as an open diff, however simply tapping the brakes will be enough to regain maximum torque to the opposite wheel still in contact with the ground.
The ATW Auto Torque Biasing (ATB) Helical Gear Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is a direct replacement for the front axle OEM factory ‘open’ differential centres on all Fuso FG Canters and Isuzu NPS.
OUTCOME – and more to come!
We’ve just had the upgrades completed, and we are very happy with the outcome – it’s worth every penny we’ve spent. The truck sits on the road much better, we don’t feel like it’s going to wander, and the ride is so comfortable now. This was important for us, as the truck and camper will be home for a few years at least and we need the comfort and safety these modifications have provided.
The diff lock will give us confidence to hit roads less travelled and launch the boat under less than ideal circumstances, knowing we have the diff locks to help us out in an emergency. We always try to avoid anything too risky, but sometimes it’s just plain unavoidable.
We’ve also finally had the air assisted drivers seat installed by Isuzu, it has also made a huge difference, Johns back is loving it!
We have decided get a couple of other modifications done:
- The larger fuel tank is very low which will affect our clearance, so we will be replacing it with two 140L fuel tanks, one on each side, which we can switch between as needed.
- SPRUNG BODY MOUNT KIT- this will be installed under the tray to give the camper a softer ride and stop it jolting as much, resulting in less wear and tear. The camper is a big investment and we want to protect it as much as possible.
- RAISED BREATHER KIT to prevent water ingress.
And finally, as we have a number of grandchildren still in their safety seats, we’ll have the fittings installed to attach the kids seats to. After all, there will be times we want to share the adventure with family!
These are only minor modifications, but they will make a big difference to us.
Now the only other thing we are contemplating is a winch, and I suspect that will not be too far away.
If you want to find out more about All Terrain Warriors, here is the link to their website:
And here’s the link to the specs on our truck if you want more information:
Now we have the truck sorted, we can’t wait to get the camper fitted and hit the road!
Bring it on!
I guess the seed was already there to be full time travellers… A number of years ago my wife Peta and I had spent quite a bit of time travelling around in an Isuzu D-Max with a small slide on camper, when we were frequently on the road producing The Fishing DVD, later known as Fishing DownUnder. 42 DVDs were produced between 2004 and 2016, and as Peta and I did all the location shooting, that equates to a lot of time on the road!
We loved the freedom and mobility of the ute and small slide-on, but we were always conscious of the weight restrictions of the D-Max. Having a camper on the back of the ute, as well as towing a boat, adding the weight of people, fuel, water and all the camera gear, food, plus what you need to travel… we were usually very close to the limit of what that little ute was designed for.
Fast forward to about 12 months ago, when we first discussed hitting the road permanently. I remember the day very clearly. I was living and guiding in the Rockhampton region, and had just had a very memorable day guiding a father and son on the Fitzroy River in the middle of Rockhampton around the top rock bar. It was a great session, 5 barra landed, the biggest fish was a solid 1.28m – a fish of a lifetime for the son.
I arrived home to find a wife with a very unusual proposition – that we sell up and hit the road permanently – she was missing the old days of travelling around, and was too far from kids, grandkids and family. I thought she was joking!
No, she was not, as I soon found out. She reasoned that I was at an age where I could semi-retire, could work on the road… and travelling was something we wanted to continue to do. I didn’t need much convincing!
Over the next few weeks she did her homework and came up with the best solution for us as we would need to tow a boat: A slide on camper that was big enough and comfortable enough to live in permanently for a few years at least, one we could off-load and make a well set up camp for longer periods if needed, but could be mobile as required. That needed a good reliable truck with good weight carrying capability.
We needed a truck that was 4×4 for easy launching of the boat in remote areas, and preferably auto – manual for easy driving on long hauls. After much research and visiting truck dealerships, we decided on the Isuzu NPS. As we would be travelling with our dogs, and as I’ll continue guiding over the coming year, we decided on a dual cab as the best option.
Finding a suitable slide on camper was not as easy as we first thought. It became obvious we would have to custom build one to suit our needs. One with a shower, toilet and well set up kitchen, and a North South bed. (we’re too old to climb over one another in the middle of the night!)
We’d spoken to, and visited a few manufacturers, when mid last year we went to a Rockhampton Caravan and Camping show and met Danny Dragan Voyka from Aussie Roadrunner RVs. We were immediately impressed with the quality and build of the slide ons, and one on display was ideal for our needs, we just wanted a few changes made to suit our lifestyle. Danny was happy to design to our needs and the camper has been ordered and nearly ready to be picked up. We can’t wait!
I admit I’m very lucky to have a wife with similar interests, wanting to take on a new adventure at this stage of our lives. However, I’m sure she is going to enjoy it as much as I will, she always jokes she is part Gypsy! We can’t wait to hit the road, spend more time with our families, check out new fishing locations, and explore the more remote areas of Australia that we both enjoy!