BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
4×4 Motorhomes Australia is part of the Bus 4×4 Group, the Brisbane based secondary manufacturer of 4WD Toyota Coasters and 4WD Toyota Commuters, in addition to coach building on Iveco 4WD models.
Bus 4×4 Group also includes I-Bus Australia which builds bus bodies on Isuzu Chassis Trucks. In the last few years, Bus 4×4 Group has diversified from a 4×4 converter of mining company transport vehicles to school buses, coaches, tour vehicles, campervans and motorhomes.
The Coaster and Commuter models require converting to 4WD before the campervan body modifications. Bus 4×4 does not build internal fitouts but can recommend quality specialists for internal build.
Bus4x4 has cut its teeth – literally – in the Australian mining environment and we can’t think of a tougher place to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Drivers of mining company equipment aren’t exactly noted for their loving care of machinery!
Bus 4×4 converts new or used
Toyota Coaster from two-wheel drive (2WD) to all-wheel drive (AWD), using in-house designed technology with genuine Toyota parts.
The 4×4 conversion work is currently done in Brisbane, but there are a number of approved service centres in other parts of Australia. The conversions suit both manual and automatic versions of these vehicles.
The transition from a 2WD Coaster to an AWD campervan starts by adding a lift-kit to the front and rear suspension. Next, another Toyota Coaster differential is added up front, which gets its drive from an AWD transfer case. With this system there is no need to engage free-wheeling hubs for off road driving.
The standard ventilated disc brakes from the Coaster are changed for an updated type, to accommodate the front drive axles. Calipers and disc pads remain as standard.
A front prop-shaft connects to an AWD LandCruiser 200 Series, two-speed transfer case that’s stirred by a simple dial switch.
At the back the drive axle is slung under the leaf-spring pack and with optional super-single tyres the ground clearance is increased to a whopping 230mm. Also on offer is a High Lift 2WD Coaster that can be converted to a campervan.
We inspected a Bus4x4 Coaster in build at the company’s Brisbane factory and were most impressed with the design and quality of the kit.
The dimensions have been worked out so that the new front hub carrier picks up the existing upper wishbone mounts and the front diff bolts to the standard lower suspension mounts. The front diff cradle carries the lower control arm and leading arm mounts, so the standard suspension parts are retained, but with a taller hub carrier, to increase ground clearance and allow room for a custom-built half shaft to connect to the front hub.
Also impressive is the use of standard propshafts and jack shaft. The remotely-mounted LandCruiser 200 Series transfer case is positioned so that the standard rear shaft and jack shaft become the front drive link and a standard rear propshaft – minus the jack shaft – becomes the rear drive shaft.
The whole concept is aimed at using as many standard Toyota parts as possible.
We took a 2017 Bus4x4 Coaster for a brief on-road drive and were most impressed with its ‘factory feel’. Steering, ride and handling felt no different from standard 2WD Coaster behaviour, despite the higher stance of the modified vehicle. The Bus4x4 Coaster is fitted with full-time 4WD and the dial control for 4WD with centre diff locked and for low range engagement is straight from the LandCruiser 200 Series.
Also on offer is a High Lift 2WD Coaster that can be converted to a campervan.
Price for a 4WD Conversion Kit for an existing Coaster is $49,990 + GST. The advantage of a converted Bus4x4 Coaster over a European cab/chassis is the use of readily available Toyota parts and Australia-wide support.
Also, the Coaster is available with an automatic transmission option that none of the Japanese or Europeans offered – back in 2018.
Toyota Hiace Commuter
The Hiace system is similar to the Coaster, in that it is also AWD, with independent front suspension.
The Hiace Commuter 4WD conversions are done to the SLWB models and mini-bus models, using a single-speed New Process transfer case and limited slip rear
differential with 110mm suspension lift.
Although Bus 4×4 does not build internal fit-outs, it can source them through reputed specialists who use cutting edge materials for innovative design, with ample storage
The most popular fit-outs recommended by Bus 4×4 fall into three types: Core Series, used predominantly for 6-7-metre vehicles and starting at $31,990; Executive Series, starting at $49,990, and the luxurious Premium Series, starting at $64,990. All fit-out prices are approximate and depend on the external contractor and the final layout and options.
All layouts include living, kitchen, shower and bedroom areas with vinyl flooring; cooktop, fridge, water tanks, hot water system, house batteries and an external awning. Slide-outs and extra body modifications can be planned at the campervan body build stage.
Bus 4×4 warrants its 4WD and external motorhome modification for 12 months and the fit-out warranty is dependent on the chosen contractor.
Bus4x4 has for some years imported higher-output Coaster models that Toyota didn’t import. The standard issue engine was a Hino four-litre with 110kW, but Bus4x4 supplied engines with up to 135kW. A manual five-speed and a five-speed auto were available.
The transition from a 2WD Coaster to a 4WD Campervan started with removal of the standard front end and its replacement by a purpose-designed live axle with Dana 70 or 80 centre, manual free-wheeling hubs and ventilated disc brakes.
The chassis was modified to accept long-travel coil spring front suspension and a front propshaft connected to a New Process, two-speed transfer case.
At the back the drive axle was slung under the leaf-spring pack, increasing ground clearance by a whopping 250mm. An optional Eaton TrueTrac diff centre could be fitted, with final drive ratios from 4.9:1 to 6.1:1.