Fuso’s Can­ter is the per­fect base for an ex­pe­di­tion rig.

Could the Fuso Can­ter 4x4 form the ba­sis of the ul­ti­mate ex­pe­di­tion truck?


OFF-ROAD light trucks of­fer a world of po­ten­tial for work and play. They’re rel­a­tively cheap and un­com­pli­cated, and the cab-on-chas­sis con­struc­tion makes them pretty damn ver­sa­tile for build­ing an ex­pe­di­tion truck or the ba­sis for a drop-on camper.

The Fuso Can­ter 4x4 is avail­able as 4.5-tonne-gvm, car-li­cence-friendly truck, or as a 6.5-tonne light truck. It’s also avail­able in sin­gle cab or seven-seat crew cab form. A 3.0litre Euro-5-spec turbo-diesel cre­ates 110kw and 370Nm, and be­hind that is a five-speed man­ual gear­box and two-speed trans­fer case.

Be­ing a Euro 5-spec truck means it uses ex­haust gas re­cir­cu­la­tion (EGR) to burn off diesel emis­sion nas­ties. And as it’s an EGR en­gine it re­quires a DPF re­gen burn-off on oc­ca­sion – de­pend­ing on work­load this can hap­pen while on the move, but it will some­times re­quire a parked re­gen which will need the truck to be parked for around 30 to 40 min­utes.

To keep the rear du­als firmly on the ground and my kid­neys in­tact for this jaunt in the Vic­to­rian High Coun­try, we had 1200kg of pay­load sit­ting in the steel tray.

Win­ter had ar­rived with a vengeance and most High Coun­try tracks were closed, so we headed to the Buck­land Val­ley in the shadow of Mount Buf­falo and tack­led Goldie Spur track. Goldie Spur pro­vides the per­fect ter­rain for a truck like the Can­ter: slip­pery for­est roads, fire trails and snow are all part of the nat­u­ral habi­tat for the Fuso.

Our trip to the moun­tains meant three hours of high­way travel, which was a good way to as­sess the Can­ter’s open­road manners. The Fuso felt at home on the black­top and cruised at the le­gal high­way limit with ease.

The 215/75R17.5 rub­ber that it wore on all four (well, six) of its wheels was rel­a­tively quiet dur­ing on-road use.

This truck was a fire ser­vice­spec truck, which meant it ar­rived sans airbags and elec­tric win­dows. The idea be­ing that, in the event of a burn-over dur­ing a bush fire, heat won’t det­o­nate the airbags and the win­dow wiring won’t melt and dis­able the win­dows.

The Can­ter’s in­te­rior is un­apolo­get­i­cally spar­tan and func­tional, yet it’s com­fort­able enough. Ba­sic switchgear is, for the most part, well placed and the gauges are easy to read. The dual cab seats seven, but un­for­tu­nately I couldn’t find seven peo­ple to cram into the

cab to see how ac­com­mo­dat­ing it is – ev­ery passer-by I asked to hop in the truck ran away for some rea­son.

Given that the pric­ing isn’t that much more than a pre­mium 4x4 dual cab ute, it’s fair to say the Can­ter makes a strong value state­ment as a plat­form for an ex­pe­di­tion truck. Just without the leather in­te­rior, the cli­mate con­trol and all the other cosy stuff.

The multi-me­dia sys­tem is pretty much the same as you’d find on equiv­a­lent trucks in this class, and it dis­plays truck­spe­cific nav­i­ga­tion if needed. The nav sur­prised me – even up in the High Coun­try the bush tracks and fire trails were all marked and of­ten named on the dis­play screen.

Se­lect­ing four-wheel drive is a mat­ter of press­ing a but­ton on the dash, jump­ing out to lock the front hubs, and then se­lect­ing ei­ther high or low range. From there it’s a case of point­ing the jig­ger at a gnarly ob­sta­cle to see how it goes.

The Fuso was sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble off-road. Ini­tial im­pres­sions were that the DPF and ex­haust were hang­ing a lit­tle low and would af­fect ramp-over an­gles, yet we didn’t drag the ex­haust at all. The Fuso’s for­ward con­trol lay­out also acts as a great pas­sive safety fea­ture – you only hit an ob­sta­cle go­ing too fast once; af­ter you’ve bounced off the roof a cou­ple of times you’ll slow the hell down and never do it again.

The fac­tory sus­pen­sion seat in con­junc­tion with the re­tractable fixed-po­si­tion seat­belt will also let you know if you’re be­ing a goose on the rough stuff, as the com­bi­na­tion will soon have you pinned in

the seat like a chimp in the coils of a python. So in the name of com­fort it’s best to take a slow and steady ap­proach when off-road.

Slip­pery fire trails were han­dled rel­a­tively eas­ily, as were some tougher off-road climbs and de­scents. We used the cleared area un­der the power lines be­low Goldie Spur to see how the Can­ter han­dled some more gnarly ob­sta­cles – an­gle of ap­proach was good; an­gle of de­par­ture wasn’t too bad. We cer­tainly didn’t drag its bum too badly.

Steep de­scents were made a lot eas­ier by us­ing the Fuso’s ex­haust brake. I’m usu­ally fairly scathing of the ef­fec­tive­ness of most Ja­panese ex­haust brakes; it’s of­ten just a fart sound without much ac­tual ef­fect. How­ever, if you keep the revs up around 3000rpm on an off-road de­scent it works rather well.

An out-of-con­trol de­scent is bad news in any off-road ve­hi­cle, but in a truck the ex­tra weight makes the po­ten­tial for car­nage even worse – grav­ity and mo­men­tum can have a way­ward truck slid­ing a long way. How­ever, with the Can­ter I was able to wan­der down to some tight tracks brim­ming with snow, slush and mud without any un­scripted side­ways ac­tion. The ex­haust brake kept my foot off the brake pedal and gently grabbed all four wheels on the way down the hill.

Get­ting the Can­ter to the top of a slip­pery slope was a more de­mand­ing task. The lack of a front diff lock ham­pers climb­ing quite a bit if you lose mo­men­tum, but the rear lim­ited-slip diff man­ages to keep things mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion in most cases.

One of the Fuso’s big­gest down­sides is a lack of wad­ing depth. In fac­tory form the Can­ter 4x4 is rated at a mere 330mm. In other words, don’t sub­merge the diff, trans­fer case or gear­box. If you do hap­pen to get it wet, it’s rec­om­mended you re­vise the ser­vice sched­ule to en­sure no wa­ter has leaked into the im­por­tant bits.

As you can see from the pics, I wasn’t aware of this at the time and … err … well, we didn’t have any is­sues with the truck af­ter ford­ing the Buck­land River.

As a road-friendly off-road truck the Can­ter 4x4 makes a ca­pa­ble plat­form with plenty of chas­sis real estate. Just don’t get its feet too wet.

Ba­sic, func­tional and plenty of room. The rear bench seat will take four pas­sen­gers.

The Can­ter could do with a front diff lock.

It proved at home in the mud and slush.

Earthcruiser Aus­tralia gives the Can­ter beefier sus­pen­sion and in­creases wad­ing depth to 1400mm.

Of­fered with three-year 100,000km/2000-hour war­ranty. Ap­prox dealer-sourced price: sin­gle $60,000; crew cab $65,500. With the Can­ter I was able to wan­der down some tight tracks brim­ming with snow, slush and mud without any un­scripted side­ways ac­tion

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