Rugged Outdoor Type
A go-anywhere motorhome for the great outdoors…
by Richard Robertson
Earthcruiser has been around for a while, but last year the business changed hands and relocated from Queensland to Helensburgh, just south of Sydney. iMotorhome was recently invited to have a look at the new premises and take a quick spin in the Company’s latest creation: the Expedition 440T, built on a single-cab Iveco 4X4. The factory, in a secluded bush setting, is modest, but proprietor Mark Fawcett is focused and passionate about building the best expedition-grade motorhomes possible.
Iveco’s 4X4 Daily is an interesting beast. It’s a high-riding purpose-built off-roader with 24 gears (6 speed ‘box and 4 reduction ratios), big single wheels and masses of ground clearance. Earthcruiser builds on this – quite literally – adding unique wheels, shock absorbers and tyres plus its own fibreglass pop-top body to deliver a vehicle that can genuinely claim to be ‘go anywhere.’
You can read more about the vehicle’s features by clicking HERE but until we have time for a more thorough review we’ll just talk about its general design and – most importantly – driving attributes.
The first thing to understand about Earthcruiser is that is has a global customer base. Average unit cost exceeds $250,000 and it’s not unusual for the price to go north of that as individual requirements are met. It’s vehicles can be found on most continents at any one time and customers include Arab sheiks, but for the most part the company sells to well healed Australians with ambitious travel horizons.
Designed for easy transportation by shipping container, the Earthcruiser’s body is the same width as the cab and has a substantial pop-top that’s electrically operated by four stout screw jacks. Basic white is functional and easy to clean and the theme extends inside as well. Mark runs a program of continual development so there’s probably no such thing as two identical Earthcruisers – at least not since he’s been in charge.
It’s not just what you see in an Earthcruiser that’s impressive; the depth of engineering and thought that go into every detail is impressive. For example, the body sits on a kinetic mounting system atop the chassis, which provides for full wheel articulation. This has allowed the floor to be lowered to improve headroom and provide significantly increased storage without sacrificing ground clearance for off-road performance.
Then there’s the mud room; a clever multi-use entry area where dirty and wet clothes and shoes can be removed and which, through a clever folding door arrangement, becomes the bathroom – complete with an electric slide-out cassette toilet that hides out of the way when not required. And I haven't even mentioned the purpose-built Finscan touch-screen electronic control system. This clever Australian-made system does everything from controlling the lighting to pumping water, transferring fuel and showing what’s outside on the reversing or optional four-side video recording cameras. It’s wired independently of the Iveco’s wiring loom and has manual switching back-up for built-in redundancy.
Behind the Wheel
We took Mark’s personal dual-cab Iveco Earthcruiser for a run along a few local tracks before heading out in the single-cab for some town and highway driving.
Climbing into the Iveco’s cab – and it really is a climb – is worth the effort because the suspension seat is a beauty and the view commanding. Start-up is as simple as any other Iveco Daily and apart from the three gear levers – one black, one red and one green – so is the driving experience. The black one is the normal gear lever for the six-speed manual ‘box. The green one is normal range and an overdrive range for general and highway driving, while the red one has low and super-low for off-road driving. Drive is full-time 4WD spilt 32/68% front/rear and there are front, centre and rear-axle diff locks for when the going gets REALLY tough. Low/low reduction is a colossal 101:1 (a good 4WD is about 40:1)!
The steering lock is ‘majestic’ and the first tight corners catch you out, but otherwise this is an easy and pleasant machine to drive. First-up we tackled some basic bush tracks, with a few small sandstone ledges thrown in. Child’s play. Mark’s work to improve the Iveco’s already impressive parabolic spring suspension delvers an off-road ride that’s surprisingly supple, controlled and comfortable. This is a vehicle you could spend long hours in on rough tracks with minimal discomfort.
On-road – including a 100 km/h highway section – the raised body and big wheels do result in a bit of body roll, as you’d expect, but overall stability and controllability are good. Slipping the green lever into ‘overdrive’ the big Earthcruiser delivered a quiet and refined cabin experience even at highway speeds and conversation was easy.
Mark also builds on the Mitsubishi Fuso 4X4 light truck and says it has some advantages, like an exhaust brake for long descents and legendary Japanese reliability. But as Mark readily admits, for ride quality and sheer all-terrain ability the Iveco is unbeatable. Oh, and the body on the back? Well it’s impressive also (take a look at the pics), but we’re trying to prise the big dual-cab from Mark’s tight grip for a touring test and don’t want to give away too much too soon. Can you blame us?
Click HERE to visit the Earthcruiser website.
Click below to download a PDF of the test, including photos and contact details.
Earthcruiser Expedition 440T (1793 KB)