WHEN WE SET out to build our Ranger, a full replacement cargo body for the rear of the ute was an integral part of our plans from the start.
We wanted to retain the versatility of a ute that allows us to carry and store all sorts of equipment in the back, but we wanted to keep it all secure and protected from the elements.
We looked at several canopies from various manufacturers, but the one that impressed us most was the one fitted to Jamie Facer’s monster Ford F250 that we featured in the magazine back in 2019.
PROJECT RANGER: Follow the build
The aluminium canopy was beautifully made and had all the features we wanted in practicality and security. We just weren’t sure the unit off the big Effie would fit on our little Ford.
Jamie is the man behind Queensland’s Allsafe Mine Vehicles & Equipment (AMVE) and we spoke to him about building the body specifically for our Ford. With a growing business in building such bodies for mining and industry, as well as trade and recreational 4x4s, we knew AMVE was the team for us; especially when we found that each body is custom built to the owner’s needs and specifications.
“AMVE started in 2013, mainly supplying the mining industry with steel tray bodies, canopies, service bodies and full vehicle fit-outs to mine compliance,” Jamie told us. “Due to our experience in this sector and the harsh conditions of mining we became well-known in the industry for our quality and strength in our products. Our supply chain was, and still is mainly motor dealers, and with increasing demand from the recreational industry, we were constantly getting requests to build custom tray bodies and canopies. So we turned our years of industry experience to this part of our business in this area and hence the name AMVE 4X4 was born.
“Our motto has always been to build specific products to suit the customers’ needs and this has been a very good approach as we are prepared to build exactly what the customer wants,” he concluded.
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An important factor for our Ranger build from the start was overall weight, as we wanted to stay in the right side of our GVM. So we didn’t want a canopy filled with drawers, partitions, shelves and other elements that would add unnecessary weight. However, we did want the canopy to house a large fridge on a drop slide and all of our 12-volt management system, while leaving plenty of open space inside to carry things like swags, camera cases or even a Space Case when needed.
Jamie’s team took all this on board and recommended a full replacement body that replaces the tub or tray and bolts straight to the vehicle’s chassis. This saves considerable overall weight, as you don’t have a separate tray, and allows a lower floor height to maximise interior space and make access easier. Just two large doors are used to allow easy access while keeping the back of the canopy free to carry an extra spare wheel, the ladder and a couple of LED work lamps.
AMVE also went through the optional extras available and we went with a trundle tray that slides out from under the rear, lockable tool boxes on both sides, a ladder to access the roof rack, and a 30-litre water tank that sits beneath the front of the canopy and is plumbed to a tap at the rear.
There were also smaller details such as colour choices, interior LED lighting, where we wanted things located, the style of the tail-lights, and matching the overall height to the cabin. With separate Rola Titan trays on both the vehicle cab and the canopy, we wanted them to line up as best as possible.
Once we’d agreed on what we wanted and what could be done, the AMVE crew drew it up in CAD and sent us the files for approval before the actual manufacturing could begin at AMVE’s factory.
“Weight is a common problem across the board on all 4x4 utes with these types of builds,” explained Jamie. “So we have invested heavily in R&D and CAD software to design the product and present it to the customer prior to even laser cutting, so we can check weights etcetera.”
The AMVE body is beautifully custom-made from 2.5 to 3mm high-grade aluminium and the pieces laser cut, zinc-primed and powder coated before the final assembly. We went with matte black on the outside to go with our black Ranger and white inside to brighten it up in there. Some sections are welded while others are joined using Huck rivets and bonding, to allow an amount of flex in the body when driving off-road. This and the use of high-grade aluminium prevent stress cracking from the constant pounding they cop on rough tracks.
“We build all canopies out of high-strength aluminium with minimum of 2.5mm and certain items 3mm aluminium, to ensure a high-strength, light-weight product that will last many years in our harsh conditions,” says Jamie with a confidence that comes from years in the trade.
AMVE also installed the MSA DS60 Drop Slide for our myCOOLMAN 60L fridge, some adjustable tie-down points to secure luggage and storage boxes, and LED strip lighting. It also took care of the Redarc power management system; AMVE uses Australian-made Redarc products on most of its builds, be they for industry or recreational users.
For us, we needed to power things like the fridge, lights, water pump and other accessories, so the Ranger copped a comprehensive Redarc system incorporating the Manager 30 DC-DC charger to charge and maintain a bank of lithium batteries from Revolution Power Solutions. The batteries are mounted in their own box at the front of the canopy.
AMVE also installed the Redarc 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter to allow us to power and charge appliances using 240V power when out on the road, and a RedVision Total Vehicle Management System that monitors and switches all the inputs, outputs and accessories via this control panel or the Redarc App on the smartphone.
The Redarc system is integrated in to the AMVE body and using it and the lithium batteries we can power our fridge and accessories for up to a week in camp or indefinitely using a solar panel input, giving us the security we need for self-sufficient remote-area travel.
RANGER GETS REDARC: Tested
The canopy and all the systems inside it have lived up to our expectations on a few trips now, including serving as the back-up/tucker truck on our 4X4OTY test in the Victorian High Country, and a recent two-week jaunt through Tasmania.
Priority number one for the canopy was always keeping gear secure and protected from the elements, and it’s done that exceptionally well. Everything is easy to access, the adjustable tie-down points in the floor allow us to strap everything down, and it’s all kept out of the rain and dust when we’re travelling.
The ladder on the back makes it easy to get up on top to put things on the roof, and our photographers have found it as a great way to get up high for pics. We recently fitted an ARB awning on the passenger’s side of the Rola rack to offer some additional protection while in camp.
Likewise, the MSA Drop Slide makes getting to the fridge easy and the Redarc system keeps everything powered up. Having that 30-litre water tank onboard and easy to access from the tap at the back is another bonus.
The AMVE body really is the complete package that makes life on the road so much more practical and hence easier. It’s been the perfect addition to our Ranger and meets all the original ideas and concepts we had for it to carry our gear in secure shelter.