Building an affordable Troopy camper

When your overlanding vehicle has a cargo area large enough to return echoes, you have a lot of options for configuring it. The basic, perfectly functional route would be to install about 40 tie-down loops in the floor, strap in a ground tent, cots, sleeping bags, a few jerry cans of water, a fridge (or three), and a chuck box, and go camping.

We sort of went the other direction.

Last year we drove our 1993 Land Cruiser HZJ75 Troopy (in the company of friends Graham Jackson and Connie Rodman in their own Troopy) from Sydney to Alice Springs and subsequently across the Simpson Desert via the Madigan Line (see here and here). Before the trip, Daniel Fluckiger at the Expedition Centre in Sydney neatly sliced off the roof of our perfectly sound vehicle and installed his signature clamshell pop top incorporating a full-sized drop-down bed and mattress. Although that was the extent of the modifications for that journey, the implications of having full standing headroom in the back of a Land Cruiser were clear, and we left the vehicle with Daniel to complete its transformation into a fully equipped camper that would retain the trim (?) original contours of the 78 body.

The first task was to eliminate the bank of internally-secured jerry cans we’d needed to ensure an adequate supply of water on the 600-mile no-resupply route across the Simpson. Daniel had the solution in the form of an exquisitely constructed 90-liter (23 gallon) stainless-steel tank mounted solidly under the floor between the chassis rails, in the perfect position to preserve—in fact microscopically enhance—the center of gravity. The tank’s multilevel construction ensures clearance for the driveshaft and axle at full rebound. A pump will deliver contents to a sink inside, and a gauge monitors the level. Despite the snug fit and complex construction, the tank can be removed if needed by simply disconnecting the driveshaft.

With dual (stock Toyota) fuel tanks totalling 48 gallons (and an efficient diesel engine), and 23 gallons of water, it’s unlikely we’d need extra capacity; however, it’s smart to have backup, and also a way to manually refill both fuel and water. So Daniel installed a Kaymar rear bumper with dual swing-out posts.

Daniel and Roseann inspect the jerry can/gas bottle holder for the Kaymar.

One will carry the spare tire (and our nifty outback braai); the other incorporates a bespoke dual NATO can carrier—one diesel and one water—and a mount for a gas (propane) bottle. The Kaymar rear bumper/rack is still the standard by which others are measured for strength and convenience, and the ball-bearing swing-outs have proven rattle-free after tens of thousands of kilometers of outback roads. 

No matter how clever the interior of the camper proves to be, we have no intention of holing up every night. On the inside of the rear door we find a drop-down table from Front Runner, this one distinguishing itself from similar items with the addition of a slide out side extension—brilliant. The Front Runner table, combined with our Kanz Kitchen chuck box (which incorporates a Partner Steel stove) means we can arrange an efficient outdoor kitchen in a few minutes. 

But what about shade for that kitchen in the desert? We have that . . . covered, with an Eezi-Awn Bat 270º awning, mounted on mighty aluminum brackets to the passenger (left) side of the vehicle. Fully deployed, it shades both side and back, providing plenty of shelter for cooking, eating, and relaxing. If desired, side wall panels can be added for privacy or blocking wind. 

Next up is the core of the Land Cruiser camper concept—interior plywood cabinetry made to our specs, with a recess designed to secure the Kanz Kitchen so it can be used in situ or removed to stand on its legs outside. We'll also be addressing the stock seats, completely collapsed after 23 years of what must have been ample Aussie backsides riding in them.

The Expedition Centre is here. Front Runner is here. Kaymar is here. Eezi-Awn products (and many others) are available through Equipt, here