Associate Editor Dean Evans discovers a trans-tasman collaboration to create a new type of service truck.
ISUZU HAS TEAMED UP WITH SERVICE BODIES AUSTRALIA and Palfinger to create a quick-to-build lightweight urban workhorse that can be driven on a car licence.
It’s the perfect truck for operators who’ve outgrown a ute, but don’t want a big truck, and for when a one-tonne ute isn’t enough, but a three-tonne one is overkill.
That’s where the appeal of this Isuzu NLR 250S service truck, fitted with Service Bodies Australia Citypro bodywork, becomes clear when you examine it closely.
The Isuzu/sba combination is an exclusive partnership between Isuzu Australia and Service Bodies Australia (and Palfinger for the crane option).
Kiwi and Aussie companies have worked together to make a highly practical and compact workhorse based around the N Series of Isuzu light trucks.
The bodies are imported into New Zealand and fitted by two companies: CAL Isuzu in Hamilton does the work for North Island customers, and Smallbone Isuzu in Ashburton and Timaru for the South Island buyers.
SBA offers two main truck body models, the Citypro and Urbanpro; there are six to seven size derivatives and a range of payloads from 1800k to 2500kg that can be driven by car licence holders. Payloads of up to 4000kg for heavy-duty service, for both car and truck licences.
“There are six basic models across the range,” says CAL Isuzu’s Andrew Farrell, at the large Isuzu truck dealership in Te Rapa Park, Hamilton.
When LCV Magazine called, CAL had just finished its first unit, the vehicle pictured, a NLR 250S fitted with the Citypro body The ease with which the units come together is a key aspect of their appeal. “The units come in fully fitted and ready to be put on to a chassis cab,” says Andrew. “Fitment takes around three to four hours, depending on the level of accessories. “This is the smallest in the range, on the NLR narrow cab, short-wheelbase.”
The truck’s cab offers a good all-around view, and is wide enough to comfortably fit three across.
There’s a range of factory Isuzu equipment, including remote central door-locking, adjustable suspension on the driver’s seat base, adjustable steering, and a Bluetooth-enabled sound system that’s smarter than it first looks.
Offering both USB and 3.5mm inputs, it can operate satnav through an optional GPS SD card; the system also features an optional Isuzu reversing camera and audio unit, which is integrated into the body though a profile-cut hole.
It can run up to four camera/audio units that can be selected manually anytime. They can be selected individually, or as a combination for two, three or four split-screen displays.
There’s also a beacon button on the right-hand side of the dashboard which operates the optional accessory roof light.
The clue that the cab is a little bit special is a Din-sized panel to the left of the audio system that contains a solitary rocker switch for the internal body light.
It’s positioned to allow for easy access from either the left- or righthand side of the parked vehicle. The simple switch activates several LEDS that are incorporated cleverly throughout the storage areas.
The switch offers another clue about the integration of the body on to the chassis.
Three small harnesses that integrate into the Isuzu’s wiring loom
for the switch effectively enable the truck’s plug-and-play system, controlling LEDS and central locking, that unlocks not just the cab doors, but each of the 12 cabinet doors on the truck’s bodywork.
It’s also a smart system; if any of the doors are ajar, the central locking won’t activate, signalling the safety or security risk.
With the doors unlocked, the body reveals eight main storage areas. They start with a tall, narrow through box, which is accessible from either side of the truck, and is ideal for long tools – shovels, for example – or cylindrical objects that could roll around.
The doors themselves are double-skinned, thick and sturdy. They have slam-shut paddle handle locks that feature two-stage rotary latching: a quick flick for closing, or a harder shut for locking, though either stage is steadfastly secure.
Inside each door are several pockets for aerosol cans and small items; there are three shelves on each of the mid doors and four shelves on the taller rearmost locker.
And each door also has a damper, adding another level of quality and operation.
With the Citypro replicating the powder-coated body in a mirrorimage cabinet design on both sides, the leading door on each side is the sealing door.
Each of the shelves can be tailored through a range of nine heights in the mid bins, or 14 heights in the rearmost lockers; or they can be removed completely. For example in the rear cabinets, they can be removed to take an oxy-acetylene kit, with provision for venting.
Additional considerations in the body include a cut-out for access to the spare wheel and fuel filler, and a small lower front door on the passenger’s side allows access to the battery and jump-start terminals.
At the rear, anti-slip steps and dual grab-handles make three-point access easy, with grip-tape on the edge of chequerplate maximising foot traction, allowing safe and easy access to the bed’s storage area.
There are six tie-down points on the bed. Affixed to the subframe, each is rated at one tonne.
Rear gates are also lockable in both the open and closed positions, with a top collar to help safety should something work loose in the rear.
Additionally, forward protection is integrated into the body, with anticrash safety mesh built-in for rear cab protection.
Finishing off the rear is a towbar rated to 2000kg, which has racked up its share of Airpoints, being manufactured in NZ, sent to SBA Australia, and then shipped back again.
There’s also 2500kg of rated payload in the body. All up, tare weight is 2800kg.
The key option is a Palfinger crane which incorporates neatly into the rear, with stabilisers, and the addition of a switch in the cab that activates the PTO.
There’s a range of accessories. The non-crane unit pictured was fitted with ladder racks which are bolted on to the structural point of the unit.
Andrew says some customers bolt on awnings. The cab also features a sunvisor and stone guard, and daytime running lights, though Andrew says they can either be factory optioned or aftermarket retro-fitted.
Of course a key feature of this model is not just the convenience factor – Andrew quotes two to three days from start to finish, depending on the customisation – but the size.
Because it can be driven on a car licence, we head out for a quick drive and photography, and are immediately impressed by the response of the unladen unit.
With a manual gearbox – an automated gearbox is an option – there’s plenty of urgency from the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine which develops maximum power of 110kw and peak torque of 375Nm
As we head down a dead-end road, the super tight 8.9-metre turning circle – better than not just any ute, but even a Toyota Corolla’s 10.8 metres – is a reminder that this is a small and agile combination.
Says Andrew: “it’ll fit into a standard car parking spot, so you can pull up and park as a car would.”
With models available with or without a crane, the Isuzu/sba combination offers a lot for something that isn’t too large.
And it will suit a wide range of operators. “It could be for mobile mechanics…councils like them as they can store a lot of tools…local government bodies, plumbers, drainlayers and electrical companies.
“We have different sizes, such as 4x4 crew cab models of NPS 450, between crane and non-crane versions, and we are in the early development stages of a crew cab 4x2.”
All Black and green and gold don’t always go together, but with this New Zealand and Aussie combination working so well, it’s like Goldilocks has found the perfect range of light trucks, that are just the right size.
Above: Isuzu’s 110kw/375nm turbodiesel ensures the service truck has plenty of power. Standard truck can be driven on a car licence.
Below left to right : Doors all open – the SBA body provides a lot of lockable secure storage. The door-locking system locks and unlocks the cab doors and the doors on the storage compartments.
Above:two companies fit the bodies. CAL Isuzu in Hamilton does the work for North Island customers, and Smallbone Isuzu in Ashburton and Timaru for South Island buyers. The blank canvas, Isuzu cab/chassis ready to be fitted with SBA body. Below :