COASTING: TOURING BUS OR 4WD…WHY NOT BOTH?

Ever imagined a 4WD touring setup that’d allow you to traverse the country’s most remote reaches in comfort and style, while allowing more space and more varied seating options than any of the popular consumer 4WDs on the market?

Have you dreamed of something different than the conventional touring wagon/ ute plus caravan or offroad camper setup for long range family touring?

You’re not alone.

Bus 4×4 is Australia’s foremost authority on 4WD conversion of larger passenger vehicles. They’re based in Brisbane and specialise in offering AWD conversion kits for Toyota Hiaces and Coasters, and additionally build bus bodies on Iveco Daily 4×4 cab chassis.

We sat down with Bus 4×4’s Head of Marketing, Merwyn Machado, and got down to the nuts and bolts of 4WD conversions and all things Bus 4×4.

 

ORIGINS

Bus 4×4 was established in 2011 and have built over 600 vehicle conversions to date. Conversions are limited to Toyotas and they will convert all variants of the current 300 Series Hiace as well as the larger Toyota Coasters for clients.

It’s safe to say that these guys know their stuff. More so than any other operator servicing the Australian market.

The modified people movers utilise high end, genuine Toyota components, with both the Hiace Commuter and Coaster using a common conversion kit platform developed from the 200 Series LandCruiser transfer case.

For Toyota stalwarts, and anyone with an analytical brain really, this is a huge plus. The 200 Series ‘Cruiser is a time tested and proven rig, one of the most popular across Australia, so developing the conversion kit based on the 200 Series just makes sense.

The last thing you’d want when shelling out six figures for your dream touring rig is to end up with some Frankenstein contraption made up of odd parts from various aftermarket factories.

These things are anything but. The builds are as slick as they come, the genuine Toyota component reliability is retained and the level of workmanship that goes into these vehicles is truly remarkable.

 

WHAT DO YA GET?

According to Merwyn, one of the primary aspects that buyers’ are looking for when purchasing a Bus 4×4 converted Hiace or Coaster is the additional clearance that’s required when travelling offroad or accessing remote areas.

“The converted Hiaces gain an additional 180mm of clearance and the Coasters gain about 210mm on top of factory standard,” he explained.

“That works out to about 400-450mm of total clearance.”

Which is a lot of breathing room for these types of rigs, when you think about it, and plenty for tackling just about any sort of terrain that you’d think about driving in a vehicle this size.

Another selling point of these converted 4WD vans and buses is that while Bus 4×4 do the hard work of converting the running gear for offroad duties, you’re paying for that and that alone, rather than a whole slew of superfluous bells and whistles.

Bus 4×4 are aware that their client base is many and varied, and we’ve all got out own ideas about exactly what we do and don’t want inside our rigs.

The company leaves interior fitouts up to the buyer, so you’re not wasting money on a setup that isn’t exactly what you want.

 

WHO’S BUYING ‘EM?

Bus 4×4 converted Hiaces and Coasters are known for turning up in some far-flung corners of the globe. Wherever there’s a need for specialised, large offroad capable vehicles and where ultimate reliability and performance is a prerequisite.

“Our vehicles are in use in the Dominican Republic. Our African distributor is testing them fairly soon in the Namibian Desert, and we have converted several vehicles which are being used in the sands of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.”

“We have also supplied to Egypt, and look forward to expanding across Africa,” he said.

“We have a distributor in PNG, a distributor in Japan and another in the Netherlands, which supplies left hand drive vehicles for use in West Africa. Once the COVID pandemic is brought under control, we plan to set up distributors across Central and South East Asia.”

Throughout Australia, there’s an obvious need for these sorts of vehicles both in the commercial sector and for private buyers with specialised needs.

While there’s a growing market for Bus 4×4 converted vehicles amongst buyers running tourism operations and for their own touring needs, “upwards of 90% of our vehicle sales are to the mining industry, as the mining companies require a capable, cost effective all in one solution to their remote transport needs,” according to Bus 4×4.

As many would know, if a vehicle has proved its mettle in the mining sector, that means its hard to break.

Approximately 60% of their remaining vehicle sales are to business tourism operators, with the remaining 40% of non-mining industry sales to private buyers.

 

LEGALITIES

When queried about the legal status of owning and registering a Bus 4×4 converted vehicle, Bus 4×4 assured us that that all conversions on new (unregistered) vehicles come under SSM (Second Stage Manufacture), which is a Federal Compliance Plate which applies across Australia.

All vehicles converted at Bus 4×4’s Brisbane HQ are engineer certified for registration in all states on the east coast.

Vehicles sold in Western Australia are fitted up and certified by authorised distributor Perth Motor Bodies (Pilbara Motor Group), while St John Ambulance NT are the authorised distributor for the Bus 4×4 conversion kits in the Northern Territory.

 

GOING FORWARD

While Bus 4×4 have certainly found their niche in the Australian and global offroad markets, within industry and with buyers requiring specialised solutions for specialised needs, the company has an eye on the future.

Bus 4×4 have also been pioneering solutions to help tailor their vehicles to the needs of their buyers. One of them is called Seat Sense, which is a seat belt warning system that notifies the driver (through a console) how many passengers are seated and buckled versus how many are just seated. This is a very important safety feature that almost all mining companies now request to be added in their vehicles.

While Australia is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, Bus 4×4 is monitoring the rollout and uptake of electronic and hybrid vehicles.

“If Toyota offers electric Hiace or Coaster variants in the future, then we will absolutely cater to the needs of buyers and offer 4WD conversion kits for them,” confirmed Bus 4×4.

A full sized, offroad capable touring van or bus may not be a viable option for many punters, but for those with large families and long range touring aspirations, these vehicles can represent an all in one solution.

Check them out if you’ve been dreaming of something different bus4x4.com.au