WE'RE spoiled for choice when it comes to equipping ourselves for adventure.
This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of 4x4 Australia.
A cursory look across the pages of 4X4 Australia demonstrates just how many options and accessories we Australians have to choose from when setting up our vehicles to perform a chosen task.
But what if that task was to not only see the continent (and possibly the world) but also to replace our house and go just about anywhere? This is the domain of the truck-based 4x4 camper, such as the SLR Adventurer.
This decision, to live on the road, is not an altogether uncommon one but it usually accompanies the decision to purchase a caravan and a tow rig. Queenslanders Ali and Sally have different thoughts. They plan to see just about everything and have no interest in being hampered by the access limitations inherent with a large caravan.
“We realised very quickly that although many of them [motorhomes] offered fairly sumptuous accommodation, there were definite limitations on where they could travel. By this stage we realised the vehicle we were looking for had to be far more robust,” Ali said.
“To our surprise and delight we found SLR and we knew instantly we had found what we were looking for. As an added bonus, SLR is a company that we had confidence in.”
The SLR Adventurer is certainly a striking vehicle. The Isuzu NPS300 platform is a significant sized truck in its own right, but the motorhome on the back does not look like a boxy add-on, it looks like it is right where it is meant to be. This is partly due to the fact that the ladies ticked the ‘Custom Colour Truck and Motorhome Body’ option, and partly due to the build quality produced by SLR.
The NPS is appropriately proportioned with the optional raised ride height and the thoughtfully placed fuel tanks and spare wheels (usually a shortcoming on other Isuzu 6-tonne trucks). The recessed spare tyre design is an SLR innovation. The spare tyres even have remote controlled winches above for an effortless tyre change.
The motorhome body is galvanised steel chassis and frame. The body is suspension mounted to the truck’s chassis, allowing the truck chassis to twist independently and reducing twisting forces from the body. This separation of the chassis and body allows for improved wheel travel, maximising the reach of the optional improved ride height suspension.
The frame is clad with a composite fibreglass skin – consisting of a honeycomb core between two outer layers of fibreglass. This layered skin provides a massive degree of strength and insulation. The body will be able to sustain a knock from the eventual, unavoidable bumps that it will encounter with life on the road.
High on the list of priorities for Ali and Sally is the need to feel safe when out on remote roads and tracks but also when camped overnight. The SLR provides them with a lockable, secure home which will withstand most attempts at entry by all but the most determined thieves.
The door is solid and the locking system is robust. Should the need arise to move from the living quarters to the steering wheel quickly, it can be achieved thanks to a well thought out insulated and articulated ‘passage’ between the truck cab and the body.
INTERNAL LIVING QUARTERS
Upon first entry into the SLR Adventurer it seems quite small inside, however after sitting down with Ali and Sally at the dining table (which would have comfortably sat at least a couple more people) and taking it all in, the overall impression is that it is exactly how big it needs to be for two people to travel and live together.
There are a few interior layout options for the SLR and the ladies chose an option with a very clever electrically operated, height adjustable double bed over the dining area. The bed can be lowered all the way down to a slightly higher than usual bed height, raised completely to the ceiling to be totally out of the way, or somewhere in the middle to allow sleeping and dining area usage or to sleep four people. Taking the bed out of the way and putting it up against the ceiling when it’s not bed time is a great space saving idea.
The living area of the SLR has been well thought out to have plenty of storage and ample bench space – interestingly the ladies have already observed that, unlike the kitchen at home, the bench space can only be used for immediate needs and not as a place to leave things. They’ve also noted they have over-packed and are wondering how long it would be before they start shedding some of the ‘must haves’ which are not being utilised.
Opposite the entrance is a full height cupboard for day to day essentials and next to this, heading to the back of the living area, is the walk-in en suite with a permanent, full height shower and separate toilet and hand basin plus plenty of storage. Hot water is supplied by the optional diesel water heater – diesel also powers the cooktop and space heater allowing for efficient use of a shared resource.
ENTERTAINMENT AND POWER
SLR campers believe they have created “an almost self-sufficient power system – essential for long stays in the wilderness.” On good sunny days, the 450A hour battery and 405W solar panel combination, supply more than the required power for the compressor fridge and LED lighting system. Additionally, the system can take a 40Ah charge from the Isuzu when driving. With the supplied Honda generator as backup “you may never need to plug into a powered site again”.
The SLR team use and recommend lithium battery systems supplied by Mastervolt with technology found only in the Superyacht industry, creating what they believe to be “the most advanced and efficient electrical system available in Australia”.
With all of this capacity, it seems fitting that the ladies get to enjoy their time indoors, should they find the outside conditions unpleasant. A 21.5-inch flat screen TV/DVD mounted on a pivoting bracket enables easy viewing from the bed or dining area. A satellite dish folds out of the way on the roof for transit.
This is a truck, and is significantly bigger, heavier (and slower) than the small sedan that was the previous form of transport for Ali and Sally. They intend to share the driving in their new home so both went out and earned their Light Rigid vehicle licence.
“We collected our vehicle at the end of May and started on the road at the beginning of August. The first few weeks required us to increase our knowledge base in a variety of areas. We had to familiarise ourselves and become accomplished at running the state of the art instrument panel inside the home – monitoring the battery, water tanks, solar voltage as well as learning to use the diesel heater, diesel cooktop and erect the awning successfully,” Ali said.
The Isuzu NPS is a well-known and respected platform for many offroad touring companies, and for Rural Fire Services. The generous cabin space, excellent visibility and reliable Isuzu engine and drivetrain make for a great starting point for any ‘built for purpose’ large offroad vehicle.
Inside the cab, the SLR team has made a few changes to improve the comfort levels for their clients. From the moment you enter the cab the Stratos suspension seats make it a comfortable place and offer adjustability and comfort on long hauls behind the wheel. This takes some of the harshness inherent in forward control vehicles away.
The vehicle will sit comfortably on 100km/h – it may take a while to get there but will happily hold that speed on most highway terrain. The super single tyres and wheels (doing away with the dual wheels on the rear) offer a degree of sure-footedness both on and offroad. This also takes away the ‘dual wheel’ problem known to many who use trucks offroad.
Narva Extreme spotlights light up the road ahead, mounted in the alloy bar which also houses the 15000lb Warn winch. A portable UHF radio, with car kit, helps Ali and Sally stay up to date on current conditions.
The ladies have already put the adventurer on some angles which made those outside the vehicle a little nervous, but which, from inside the truck, felt quite comfortable. This provided them with a sense of confidence in the ability of the vehicle to sensibly negotiate the type of terrain they’re likely to encounter on their way to seeing and experiencing so much.
“The drive is comfortable, even on relatively rough ground, and the views are expansive because we are seated so high off the ground. The accommodation is very comfortable and spacious. The thing we’d really like to change would be the awning.”
The SLR Adventurer has been built for a purpose. Its design brief is to allow modern day adventurers to explore the country (or the world in fact) in safety and comfort and without the need to tow a trailer. Owners of an SLR will be aware of the limitations that the size of the vehicle creates, but they will also be encouraged that they will be able to take their four big wheels to places that a conventional 4x4 could not tow a caravan with similar specs.
When we last spoke, Ali and Sally were heading towards Longreach (where it had been raining), and had been forced to stay on the bitumen. There’s lots of blacksoil out that way and that’s one environment that the SLR, and everyone really, should avoid.
You can follow the ladies’ adventures on their blog Red Dragons' Adventures