When Gustav and Annelise Marais came across this all-aluminium game viewer body built by Alu-Cab, they knew that they had found the perfect truck-body for their family camper vehicle!
The Marais had dreamt of owning a motorhome for years, but the cost of these vehicles is high. They also wanted a 4×4-capable motorhome that could easily go places where standard motorhomes with low ground-clearance and 2WD drivetrains cannot. The other issue was that most truck-chassis based motorhomes are usually only homologated for two: driver + one. So, unless you purchase a double-cab truck with a big price tag (and consequently give up a lot of potential accommodation space), where do you put the kids when you are on the road?
When they located this game viewer body at a truck yard, Gustav and Annalise and decided to project-manage a build themselves. They were confident that, with all the research they had done, and with years of camping and travelling experience behind them, they could design and custom-build a family camper just the way they wanted it. An added bonus was that this body had already been homologated at great expense to carry seven seated persons!
They did a lot more than just build their own dream camper. Knowing that the vehicle had to appeal to other families in an eventual sale, they decided not to add too many personal features, and concentrated on building a good all-rounder with all the amenities and features found in the best motorhomes.
To ensure that everything was done according to the book, for safety and insurance purposes, the Marais’ approached Rainbow Polyurethane − a registered MIB (Manufacturer, Importer & Builder) of vehicles based in Parow Industria − to do the conversion of their game-viewer body.
“Most people know Rainbow for their rubberising applications, “says Gustav, “but many do not know that they have fully-equipped workshops in which they design and build large orders of custom vehicles for the councils, and they regularly take on custom builds for private customers.”
The right truck
Before the fun could start, the body had to be fitted to their newly-purchased choice of chassis, a Fuso FG6-136 4×4. For this exercise, the Marais chose Vebody, a warranty-approved truck-body builder based in Stikland, Cape Town.
First they got rid of the dual wheels that come standard on the Fuso, and spared no expense in importing a set of 6x 17-inch tubeless rims from the industry leader in Australia! SGS Motorsport & Rim in KZN then helped to import and homologate specialist 37-inch tyres with a 131N rating, and a payload of 1950kg per tyre. These tyres are vital for this weight of truck. No other brand of tyre available on the SA market offers this load rating.
The choice of truck chassis was really dictated by the Alu-Cab body, as the body was manufactured for the Fuso FG6 4×4. It is classed as a light commercial truck with a GVM of 6 tons, and fitted with a proper Low/High-range transfer box and a central diff-lock – more than capable for a 4×4 family overland camper!
Although the maximum speed on the FG6 is electronically limited to 115km/h, the gear ratios are low − almost tractor-like − so the four-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel is happy trundling along at 80-90km/h when loaded. The national speed limit in SA for this size vehicle is in fact 80km/h, although motorhomes are usually exempt from this.
With its six 12-Volt deep-cycle batteries and two 3000W inverters on board, this camper is built for way off the beaten track − where 80km/h is quite fast enough. But, if you want to race to a campsite 300km away after work on a Friday for a quick weekend’s camping, then this vehicle is not ideal.
On sand, the Fuso is great, and proved this in early testing at the Atlantis dunes and at Walker Bay Nature Reserve near Hermanus.
FUSO FG-6 136 4×4
Engine: 3908cc turbocharged/intercooled diesel (4D34)
Power: 100kW @ 2900rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 1600rpm
High/low ratios: 5.380/0.722
Limited-slip rear differential: Yes
Max speed: 89km/h
Tank: 100 litres
Total unladen mass: 2550kg
The camper build
The main addition to the Alu-Cab shell for the Marais’s in terms of space, was a bed-over-cab extension to facilitate a queen-size bed, thus freeing up living space in the rest of the body. For this, some engineering drawings were required − and the front of the body was cut out accordingly to allow for the extension.
What is interesting about this bed-over-cab extension, which also features a pop-up roof, is that the entire assembly can be raised on pneumatic cylinders at the push of a lever. This allows the truck cab to be tilted forward as it is designed to do, and is essential for servicing and maintenance tasks like checking oil.
Following all the structural work, it was time for the interior fitment: and here, no expense was spared. The body panels were full insulated, and then interior panels were laser-cut from lightweight aluminium sheet, providing a hard-wearing and easy to clean interior space. Everything inside the camper body has been manufactured with practicality and ease of maintenance in mind.
A well-planned, sleek and modern interior makes provision for ample storage, table-side dining for four people, and sleeping for four in two single beds and the queen bed. There is a full wet room with a Thetford electric flush toilet, basin and shower. A Hansen gas-electric geyser and two 24 Volt water pumps enable a water-flow of residential house proportions!
The kitchen section features a 230-litre Zero gas/electric fridge-freezer, and a microwave above it. Apart from the expected two-burner Dometic gas hob, and a sink with hot and cold water, the detailed craftsmanship is evident in the interior kitchen space: the drawers have cut-to-size inserts for plates, mugs and cutlery. In addition, there is an excellent exterior kitchen that includes a gas grill and a Snappy Chef convection hob, perfect for that quick roadside-coffee and boerewors-roll picnic. The hob also has its own dedicated magnetic-based pots and pans at hand.
At the rear end of the camper body is a dedicated storage room, separate from the living area and accessed by its own door. Apart from extra storage, this space also houses the battery bank and electrical installation.
A great practical feature is that this camper rig is fitted with a PTO, tank and rear hydraulic outriggers, which are great for levelling when parking to camp. They also come in very handy when having to change a flat rear tyre, as you can simply lift the rear of the truck off the ground with them! A roof-mounted winch that swivels above the two spare tyres mounted on the back of the camper makes child’s play of lifting those heavy wheels.
After some local camping excursions around the Western Cape and an epic 5000km round-trip in Namibia, the Marais family have decided to extend their travel plans. This means the Fuso (which Gustav and Annelise have fondly christened “Vlakvark”) will have to be sold.
Its replacement is a much bigger 15-ton truck, which they are already in the process of converting. The Marais family need plenty of living space to fulfil a life-long dream of home schooling their children on the road as they travel around the world for the next three to four years. They plan to leave from Cape Town early next year.
To contact the owner, Gustav, fill out the form below.