Glenn Torrens was an avid reader of motoring magazines in the 1980s and early 90s and, after university, he followed his dream and began writing for motoring and outdoor mags.
Years later, inspired by his years of experience with vehicles and travelling, the journalist again felt the urge to take a risk; this time to manufacture practical, affordable and well-engineered camping vehicles.
For reasons of appearance, light weight and durability, Glenn’s concept for his vehicles was to build on modified dual-cab ute tubs and, when the current generation Toyota HiLux ute really hit its stride as one of Australia’s favourites, he knew he’d found his maiden base rig.
Glenn’s intention was to offer integrated single- and dual-cab touring utes, as well as camper trailers that matched customers’ tow vehicles. Enter the GT Camper.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Basically, the Expedition is a two-door (single-cab) or four-door (dual-cab) ute with modified, pressurised and dust-sealed tub, GT Campers Hard Deck structural lid, pop-up ‘bikini’ awning and fold-out double-sized rooftop tent. A powder coated aluminium fridge/storage cabinet and under-slung pannier storage cabinets open to the sides of the vehicle.
The GT Campers’ kitchens are made by Drifta to Glenn’s specifications with three drawers, a cupboard and a plastic sink tub on a slide. A three-burner cooker is standard for the allocated space on top. The kitchens are finished either in natural ply or laminate, though Glenn believes the former is better equipped to survive the hard knocks of remote area travel. The slide-out kitchen’s stainless steel tether is detachable, allowing the Expedition to carry tools and equipment during the week before the kitchen is simply reinstalled for touring.
The GT Campers Tub Tank installs over the HiLux’s wheel-arch, behind the kitchen, to carry 70L of water, safe, cool and secure in the tub. On the tailgate, adjacent to the kitchen, is a large nylon food preparation shelf that is easily removable for cleaning, and there’s a 12V plug inside for lights or other electronics at the back.
The Expedition’s kitchen is sheltered by a stand-up fan-style awning. It stores on the lid alongside the tent. The stainless steel post is raised with the assistance of a gas strut and it’s then simply a matter of grabbing the end rope and walking it around in a semi-circle. The whole process takes about 20 seconds. The self-supporting shelter – Glenn refers to it as the ‘bikini’ awning – provides quick shelter for track-side rest or lunch stops.
Knowing the limitations of traditional poles, pegs and guy ropes on most types of terrain, Glenn designed complimentary V-paired tent poles with a flexible neck that interface with the awning, eliminating the need for ropes and allowing use on surfaces as varied as beach or desert sand and rock-hard ground.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With its fridge and storage cabinet mid-wheelbase, the single cab Expedition is intended for longer-term travel but the dual-cab conversion has more appeal for families wanting to do some weekend camping. The light weight, low centre of gravity and low roof (unlike a motorhome-based conversion) doesn’t compromise offroad performance in steep or heavily vegetated tropical/jungle areas. Being a self-contained camper, the Expedition allows the flexibility for people such as fishermen or remote-area workers to tow boats or equipment trailers. Of course, that should work for caravanners, too, with the Expedition providing the opportunity to explore more remote areas for a few days, after leaving the caravan in short-term storage.
Converting a customer’s vehicle with the Expedition setup costs around $16,000 for a single-cab model, or an even more affordable $9000 for the dual-cab version. Going the whole hog with a new vehicle plus conversion, such as a HiLux, will set you back about $55,000 (HiLux diesel manual). Offroad touring accessories such as frontal protection bars, under-vehicle protection, long-range tanks, suspension and interior/seat upgrades can fitted during the vehicle build.
- Neat efficiency of the conversion
- Self-contained nature and a well thought-out package
- Flexibility of the design, adaptable to a wide range of vehicles
I would have liked...
- A more sheltered awning
- A bigger fridge box for extra storage and a larger fridge
- More electronics
The full test appears in Caravan World #538 June 2015.