BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
This pop-top conversion on the ubiquitous LandCruiser Troop Carrier is the latest brainchild of Stefano Bonetti.
For a while the now-defunct Kea Campers (Australia) offered the Conquerer; a rugged Troopy conversion that is still popular in the used vehicle market.
Following Kea’s demise, its fleet manager Stefano Bonetti bought a swag of parts and set himself up as a one-stop Kea parts and service shop.
Bonetti Campers was established in 2012. His first effort was a beautifully crafted European-style slide-on camper, known as the Mondo Pickup Musica that OTA inspected at the 2013 Sydney Camping and Caravan Show.
This slide-on is still in the Bonetti Campers lineup, but Stefano has more recently come up with something a tad more Outback-friendly. The Cruisinator is a LandCruiser 70 Series Troop Carrier conversion that he believes improves on the Kea Conquerer.
Stefano should know, because apart from his Kea experience he’s an avid camper and knows first-hand what works and what doesn’t.
Stefano’s conversion can be worked on any Troopy, so new or used vehicles are suitable. Also, it comes in two stages: roof only or total camper. That means handy DIYers can have Stefano do the hard work up top and finish the camper fit out themselves.
It’s the body of the Cruisinator – or more precisely the pop-top roof conversion – that matters the most and adds the greatest utility to the vehicle.
While it might look a bit top heavy, Stefano’s fibreglass pop-top has no apparent adverse effect on the Troopy’s drivability
Our good mates at iMotorhome, Australia’s best on-line motorhome magazine, tested a Cruisinator recently. They found that although the external changes do increase roof height and add an angular nose that you’d want to be careful about in tight bush driving, they reckoned it felt like any other Troop
Carrier to drive.
The roof conversion appeared well made and mated seamlessly to the body. The pop-top section was secured by three latches and while the taller testers had no trouble reaching them, the more vertically challenged ones felt that the optional rear step would make the opening job easier.
Included with the Cruisinator conversion is a Foxwing Awning that which incidentally came about as a collaboration between the Oztent and Rhino Rack people.
The aptly-named Foxwing unfurls to cover the side and the rear of the vehicle.
Our long-term Foxwing testing at Outback Travel Australia showed that, like most awnings, the Foxwing didn’t like windy conditions.
While through-cab access is possible you’d need to be supple, so the rear barn doors are the usual way to access the Cruisinator’s interior. Having unlatched the roof on your way around the back, a simple ‘heave’ when inside extends it on a traditional scissor lift, with gas strut assist, and you have instant,
There was good light and ventilation, thanks to a pair of screened zippered windows on each side and one in the rear, and zippered storage pockets had been built into part of the roof base and proved very handy.
The layout was quite straight forward, with seating and dining space on the left as you entered, cupboards and kitchen on the other side, and the bed up in the roof.
Stefano went to considerable lengths to equip the Cruisinator with excellent electrics that include USB charging outlets and LED strip lights, complete with dimmers. While a 100Ah AGM deep-cycle house battery is standard, Stefano can optionally supply an 80 or 130Ah lithium battery system and its associated monitoring and charging system. Naturally, solar is optionally available and uses a 140W panel.
The Cruisinator came with a portable two-burner Origo stove that burned methylated spirits. It stowed in one of the four kitchen drawers by the back doors and sat on a fold-down shelf on the driver’s-side rear door, which conveniently placed it at about waist height.
With the Foxwing awning extended this made an ‘al fresco’ kitchen area that was all the more convenient because the two-compartment chest-style fridge/freezer was under the cushions of the rearmost bench seat, by the other back door.
Above the stack of kitchen drawers was a section of bench top that extended inside, with a stainless steel sink at the far end and a cupboard below it.
The kitchen unit abutted a slightly taller wardrobe unit at the front, behind the driver’s seat and the sliding bed extended out above it.
Internal seating ran along the kerbside wall from the back doors to the back of the passenger seat, then turned right in an L-shape to butt up against the aforementioned small wardrobe.
A removable dining table attached to a wall mount close to the elbow of the ‘L’, providing a cafe-style dinette for two, even with the bed extended.
We were impressed by the quality of the cabinetry, which Stefano said was machined to very close tolerances by computer-controlled equipment.
The Cruisinator’s bed was truly spacious, running lengthways and measuring 2.10m x 1.45m. Comprising two sections, with the fixed head section in the over-cab nosecone and the other a sliding unit that sits securely in runners when set up, it was a solution that many motorhome owners would eye-off in envy.
There was also a Porta Potti provided, meaning no need for midnight trekking.
The Cruisinator seems to be a well-thought-out, well-engineered and well-built conversion that lets an owner convert any 70 Series LandCruiser Troop Carrier into a capable and comfortable camper that will take him or her way off the beaten track.
It’s a Super Trooper in every sense and well worth investigating if you want to explore the real Australia…