BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
One of Trakka’s earliest camping conversions was done on the LandCruiser Troop Carrier, more than 30 years ago. The last development of the Bushman pop-top was a new design, but it’s now out of production. Some used examples are around.
Bush travellers’ tastes and expectations have changed since Trakka kicked off as little more than a backyard business in 1973. Trakka’s founders, Sally and Dave Berry – both, sadly, no longer with us – liked bush travel and discovered that there was a market for vehicles that were kitted out to make bush living easier. One of their earliest conversions was done on the LandCruiser Troop Carrier, a vehicle that combined a spacious interior and rugged bush dependability.
Since those early days Trakka has moved on to bigger things, but the company continued to build Bushman conversions on successive generations of Troop Carriers. However, demand slackened as the venerable ‘Troopy’ lagged behind newer machines’ performance levels. Then came the 78 Series, with 4.5-litre V8 diesel power and the inquiry rate at Trakka went up. It was time to redesign the Bushman and Trakka’s general manager, Martin Poate, described the process:
“Today’s bush travellers have different expectations from those who bought the original Bushman.
“Back then, it was OK to squeeze a cooking area and a dinette under the pop-top sleeping area, but we felt that design was too cramped for today’s buyers.
“This new layout puts the emphasis on outdoor cooking and sitting, with the interior reserved for storage, sleeping and backup seating in the event of really bad weather,” said Martin Poate.
To that end the last Bushman came standard with a side-mounted, roll-out awning and there were optional rear and side awning extensions that further increase the shade area.
The kitchen, consisting of a portable two-burner metho stove, flexible tap with hot and cold pressure supply, and a wash basin, rolls out from the side of the vehicle. Two long, deep drawers rolled out through the rear doors and a work bench clamped to the vehicle side. Even the 12-volt chest-type fridge was portable, lifting off its cradle at the rear doors.
The interior was primarily a storage area, with cabinets and drawers, but the tops were padded and upholstered, making a cosy living space when required.
The high density foam bed could be left made up when the roof was lowered. Gas struts took the work out of raising the bed and the roof, even with the optional 125-watt solar panel bolted on top.
Insulated curtains were fitted to all the windows and there were removable screens on the sliding panes. A fly mesh rear door screen was an option.
Durability has long been a Trakka hallmark and the company was confident the use of pressure-laminated Euro-Plywood for the cupboards and drawers ensured years of trouble-free bush travel.
The Bushman came standard with a 70-litre fresh water tank, 100 amp-hour deep-cycle battery, outdoor shower point, 240-volt plug and 12-metre extension lead, two 12-volt outlets, six-amp battery charger and battery condition gauge. The house battery charged when the engine was operating and when the
vehicle was plugged into 240V power.
Options included window tinting, a diesel space heater, a portable loo, drinking water filtration and a push bike rack.
Driving and camping
If you find a used Bushman the principal limiters on the Troopy’s abilities are the difference in front and rear wheel track and the fitment of old-fashioned split-rim wheels and skinny, 7.50R16 tubed tyres. We’d suggest budgeting for a pair of rear wheel arch flares and some modern wheels and tyres.
The Trakka Bushman rode beautifully on-road, with the additional weight of the Trakka inclusions taking the natural harshness out of the rear leaf suspension.
Handling was limited by the tyres, but most Bushman owners won’t be fanging around corners anyway.
Vision was good and the bucket seats gave reasonable comfort and support. The V8 diesel is a delight and doesn’t seem to suffer from the excessive oil consumption that the twin-turbo version in the LandCruiser 200 Series did.
The Troopy’s single-turbo 4.5-litre pulls strongly in all gears and delivers around 12-14L/100km economy, giving the Bushman excellent touring range from the Troopy’s 180-litre tanks.
Setting the Bushman up for camping is simplicity itself. The roof pushes up with little effort, the awning cranks smoothly and the kitchen slides out with finger tip control. You can be sitting down with a refreshing beer or G&T in five minutes. Importantly for many bush travellers, packing up the Bushman is just as rapid, taking the hard work out of overnight, roadside stops.
For long-stay camping, stage two involves setting up the optional shade extenders with poles and guy ropes.
The outdoor-living concept has made the new Trakka Bushman an ideal backblocks touring camper. However, it’s a shame the outdated Toyota running gear doesn’t match Trakka’s innovative conversion treatment.