Iveco ML150 Euro­cargo 4X4 and Daily 4X4 in the Simpson

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Against an early morn­ing back­drop of glow­ing out­back rock es­carp­ments, I rolled out of my swag to con­tem­plate the com­ing day … and to have a wee.

The cries and squawks of birdlife wafted through the trees over­head as our party stirred and shuf­fled bleary eyed into the rapidly grow­ing light.

The early ex­plor­ers faced in­nu­mer­able hard­ships and chal­lenges as they tra­versed this harsh wilder­ness. In those early days, cen­tral Aus­tralia was no place for the faint hearted.

MOT­LEY CREW

Our party con­sisted of an anaes­thetist, an ENT spe­cial­ist, an exMo­toGP star and sports com­men­ta­tor, the owner of an ARB 4x4 store, two ex-RAF chop­per pi­lots cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the globe by mo­tor­cy­cle, a fix-it-all truck driver, a dirt bike-mad Iveco en­gi­neer and me … who was told there would be beer.

But, in­stead of camels and horses we had trucks and mo­tor­cy­cles. The bikes were a fleet of Honda CRF450s, the trucks an Iveco ML150 Euro­cargo 4x4 and an Iveco Daily 4x4.

As you may have guessed al­ready, the Euro­cargo be­longs to ex-Mo­toGP star Daryl Beat­tie. This truck is the core of his ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cle tour busi­ness where he guides cus­tomers along some of this coun­try’s most iconic out­back trails.

Cape York, The Simpson Desert and the Can­ning Stock Route all fea­ture as po­ten­tial itin­er­ar­ies for those who want a sup­ported dirt bike blast with Daryl Beat­tie Ad­ven­tures.

CUS­TOM OFF-ROADER

This Euro­cargo has been ex­ten­sively cus­tomised and fea­tures a Unidan body. This houses stor­age for camp gear and lug­gage, a mo­bile kitchen, work­shop and ex­ter­nal shower.

Un­der­neath the body are 1000 litres of wa­ter, 400 litres of shower wa­ter, 600 litres of diesel (aside from the standard tanks on the truck) and 500 litres of unleaded for the bikes. On the way to and from tours the truck also tows a trailer to trans­port the bikes, in­clud­ing Daryl’s per­sonal set of wheels, an Africa twin.

Power comes from a 6-cylin­der, 5.9-litre Iveco Tec­tor en­gine which makes 280hp at 2700rpm and 950Nm of torque at be­tween 1250rpm and 2100rpm. Gear chang­ing is via a 6-speed man­ual tranny.

The big cam­ou­flage beast is con­stant 4-wheel drive with a 2-speed trans­fer case. The front, rear and cen­tre dif­fer­en­tials are all lock­able.

This par­tic­u­lar truck has had a cou­ple of af­ter­mar­ket mods to help it in the rough stuff. The Iveco has been fit­ted with an AIRCTI cen­tral tyre in­fla­tion sys­tem, while a set of ex­tremely beefy

The load rack on top of the Euro­cargo’s Unidan body also found an­other use. I’d climbed up and tied some frozen steaks to it so they could thaw dur­ing the day

ad­justable King shocks have also been in­stalled un­der­neath.

Sans trailer, this truck grosses about 13,500kg when loaded for the bush.

Also along for the ride was an Iveco Daily 4x4 which came cour­tesy of Iveco head of­fice for some photo ops.

SET­TING OFF

Our start­ing point was Oo­raminna Sta­tion, about 35 kilo­me­tres south of Alice Springs. The sta­tion build­ings and the rem­nants of an old film set lie in a nat­u­ral rock am­phithe­atre that lights up in the morn­ing and evening sun.

It also turns out that there are a cou­ple of bars of 3G phone re­cep­tion from the top of a nearby hill. In ret­ro­spect, it was kind of amus­ing to see the sil­hou­et­ted fig­ures of phone-tap­ping in­di­vid­u­als with faces aglow send­ing last mes­sages to the out­side world be­fore ven­tur­ing into the desert and look­ing very much like a troupe of tech-savvy meerkats.

Our route was to take us to Mt Dare via Binns Track and Old An­dado home­stead and across the 1100 or so sand dunes of the Simpson Desert to Birdsville. A dis­tance of over 1000 kilo­me­tres.

The bikes would be fang­ing it. In the big Eur­cargo, though, we’d be slog­ging it.

Scott (Scooter) McLean usu­ally steers the big jig­ger on these trips, how­ever I scored first stint be­hind the wheel of the ML150 as we rolled out of the sta­tion via some bush tracks head­ing to­wards Santa Theresa.

LOW-RANGE ROLLIN’

I used low range for a bit un­til we got to the main (dirt) road to join up with Binns Track. The ML felt very much at ease on these roads.

The truck is a vi­tal part of the trip, mainly be­cause it has all the camp­ing gear, food, wa­ter and fuel on board, so I had to keep pedal to the metal. Clearly the bikes are faster but they rely on the truck get­ting there in rea­son­able time.

So I was able to play out my child­hood Dakar fan­tasies in the Euro­cargo. With a mas­sive plume of bull­dust stream­ing from the mil­i­tary-spec Miche­lin tyres, I kept the go-pedal nailed while keep­ing my eyes peeled for ob­sta­cles.

In fact, while the bull­dust holes were a chal­lenge for the bikes and their rid­ers, the big Iveco just ploughed through them with ease. I even man­aged a lit­tle amuse­ment at the bike tyre tracks in the dirt. Here and there you could see the out­line of a body and foot­prints in the dust where a rider had been bucked off in the pow­der fine dirt.

UN­DER PRES­SURE

With tyre pres­sures dropped to 52psi at the front and 67psi at the rear, the stretch from Old An­dado and its pre­served home­stead to Mt Dare proved to be a high­light as we wound through the trees at speed.

We rolled into Mt Dare 400km later to set up camp at what would be our last con­tact with civil­i­sa­tion for three days.

From here on in the truck would be much slower than the rest of the party.

The rock- and rub­ble-strewn land­scape sprawled out be­fore us as we took things at a much stead­ier pace.

We’d left well be­fore the bikes but I had to keep my eyes peeled on the mir­rors and rear-fac­ing cam­era for them as they caught up and at­tempted to over­take.

Once past the oa­sis of Dal­housie Springs and into the desert proper we dropped the tyre pres­sures again to 40psi on the front and 62 psi on the rear. As we fol­lowed the French Line we started the slow work of sand dune climb­ing and even slower de­scents.

BUSY TRACK

Although it was still pretty early in the sea­son, there was still reg­u­lar traf­fic along this route. The east­ern face of the dunes was al­ready be­com­ing quite carved up as a re­sult of un­locked driv­e­trains spin­ning up the sand.

The re­sult is a rut­ted off-set sand stair­case which makes a truck with a high cen­tre of grav­ity like the Euro­cargo rock and buck wildly if a slow and steady ap­proach isn’t adopted.

Af­ter hours of slog­ging up and down the dunes in low range it was al­most a re­lief to turn south onto the Rig Road and run high range be­tween the par­al­lel dunes.

We rolled to a halt to get a bit more stiff­ness in the ad­justable shock only to find that the hard desert driv­ing had taken its toll.

A bot­tom mount­ing nut and spacer had dis­ap­peared. Thank­fully the shocker was still sit­ting on its mount­ing, oth­er­wise there may have been a lit­tle more swear­ing and bush en­gi­neer­ing to re­mount it.

With the sun low in the sky, we rolled into camp just off the Rig Road to be greeted by a bunch of sweaty, dust-cov­ered bik­ers han­ker­ing for what passes as beer in these parts.

To a man, the rid­ers were all grin­ning like lu­natics af­ter the day’s an­tics. I don’t think I’ve ever met so many peo­ple who think that a good day in the desert is be­ing slammed into the dirt by your bike!

DINGO CHO­RUS

As the cho­rus of for­ag­ing din­goes faded, the speck­led cur­tain of night was drawn back by the sun and we stirred for an­other day. We packed up camp and hit the road again.

The width of the truck and the veg­e­ta­tion meant that today we ran with the mir­rors tucked in. Those mir­ror hous­ings may be tough but they’re no match for a re­peated bat­ter­ing from the hardy desert scrub.

We soon found our­selves again grind­ing through the dunes on the French Line head­ing east. Some may say that the end­less climb­ing of dunes and clay pan cross­ing can get mo­not­o­nous. But for me, the nov­elty of tak­ing in the view from the van­tage point of a truck cab never wore off.

It re­ally is a stun­ning land­scape of end­less hori­zons and scrubby dunes. Although I only re­ally got to con­tem­plate this when not con­cen­trat­ing on keep­ing the big Iveco up­right. It’s no mean feat to keep over 13 tonnes of truck mov­ing through the sand safely.

We hit Poep­ple Cor­ner, skirted the mas­sive salt pan and trun­dled up to the French Line to again find a rav­aging gang of bik­ers ea­gerly await­ing our ar­rival.

The load rack on top of the Euro­cargo’s Unidan body also found

an­other use. I’d climbed up and tied some frozen steaks to it so they could thaw dur­ing the day. I don’t know if the re­peated bat­ter­ing of the track helped ten­der­ize them, but at camp around the fire that night that steak would have to rate as the best I’ve ever eaten.

Judg­ing by the level of dingo ac­tiv­ity that night, it sounded like the wildlife agreed too. It also may have had some­thing to do with Scooter throw­ing the food scraps on the ground near my swag. Bas­tard.

DAILY TIME

Af­ter three days in the Euro­cargo, I snaf­fled the keys to the lit­tle Daily and pointed it east to­wards Big Red. Af­ter the truck, the Daily 4x4 felt like a sports car!

Ad­mit­tedly the Daily didn’t re­ally have any load on­board but this was the first time that I’d had a chance to drive the up­dated 4x4 in an off-road set­ting.

This lit­tle truck just flew up the dunes. Its low weight and a set of 37-inch mud ter­rain tyres and low tyre pres­sures re­ally made a huge dif­fer­ence in the desert. The Daily has high, in­ter­me­di­ate and low range, but in this ter­rain there was no need for any­thing other than high range with the cen­tre diff-locked.

The Daily uses a 3-litre Euro 6 turbo-diesel en­gine for power and makes 170hp and 400Nm of torque. This up­dated power plant does have a habit of be­ing a lit­tle laggy even though peak torque is from 1250rpm, but keep the tacho nee­dle at around 3000rpm (peak power) and it will have a fair old crack at most things. A cou­ple of times I grabbed the rear diff lock to make crest­ing of a cou­ple of dunes a lit­tle more dig­ni­fied.

BIG RED

Af­ter run­ning amok in the desert sand for a few hours, I crested a dune to find the Big Red sand dune await­ing me. I nailed the go pedal un­der the gaze of the wait­ing bik­ers on top of the dune and, to my em­bar­rass­ment, I didn’t make it to the top.

I could see the ner­vous look on the face of Iveco’s Joel Reid as he watched me make an­other at­tempt. If I hadn’t man­aged to get this tough off-roader to the top, they may still be search­ing for my body. Re­ally it just came down to speed and tyre pres­sures and the Daily scrab­bled to the top of the dune.

The close-gated gear shift in the Daily made it very easy to slip into the wrong gear when try­ing to grab a cog in a hurry. That’s my de­fence any­way!

Ul­ti­mately, I walked away quite im­pressed by the ML150 and its off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The long flat torque curve of the Tec­tor en­gine made it a flex­i­ble off-road per­former. Dura­bil­ity hasn’t been an is­sue for this truck to date, ei­ther. This wasn’t a staged me­dia drive, this was a work­ing truck with more than 40,000km on the clock so far, much of it in the out­back and on the dirt and close to GVM.

In this role, how­ever, a torque con­verter auto such as an Al­li­son would help with off-road tractabil­ity and would make the most of the Iveco donk’s avail­able ‘oomph’.

RE­TAR­DA­TION AND AUTO

The only down­side of an Al­li­son off-road though is that it needs some re­tar­da­tion. Re­ly­ing on an ex­haust brake to hold you back off road with smaller dis­place­ment en­gines equipped with an auto gen­er­ally re­sults in bump-fart-bump-fart kind of boo­gie on steep de­scents as the ex­haust brake cuts in and out in con­junc­tion with the ris­ing revs.

END OF THE ROAD

The Birdsville Pub was a wel­come sight af­ter a few days in the desert. It had been a great trip and, as an added bonus, af­ter four days shar­ing a truck, Scooter hadn’t felt the need to stab me with a biro. He must be a top bloke.

I’ve had a cou­ple of big nights in the Birdsville Pub in the past but this one took the cake. I’d go into more de­tail but, hey, what hap­pens on the road stays on the road.

Ul­ti­mately, I walked away quite im­pressed by the ML150 and its off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The long flat torque curve of the Tec­tor en­gine made it a flex­i­ble off-road per­former

8. Fuel stop at the Old An­dado Sta­tion turn-off

1. The lit­tle Iveco Daily 4x4 and the beefier ML150 Euro­cargo 4x4 2. Break­ing camp at Oo­raminna Sta­tion be­fore strik­ing east 3. Binns Track is a rel­a­tively high-speed run, but you have to con­stantly keep your eyes peeled 4. The Euro­cargo also acted...

The Simpson Desert is an iconic trip that fea­tures highly on many a bucket list. Matt Wood tack­les the jour­ney armed with a cou­ple of Iveco trucks and a fleet of dirt bik­ing lu­natics.

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9. The truck cab gives you a great van­tage point for ad­mir­ing the vast empti­ness of the desert 10. We lost a nut! Luck­ily the shocker stayed put! 11. We also needed to cut down a spacer; luck­ily Scooter is well pre­pared 12. Daryl Beat­tie mans the...

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