Ash Longhurst works alongside fellow BOP fireman Sam Roil. You have to wonder if some of Sam’s infectious enthusiasm for Overlanding and camping has rubbed off on the entire station. Of course everyone’s requirements and style of camping is different. Ash has swapped modes, from a Ute to a Landcruiser Wagon. Here’s a good study in what suits what.
My journey started with a 2010 Holden Colorado 4wd Ute. After a three week trip around the South Island, putting a small dome tent up and down everyday I decided I needed to upgrade to a rooftop tent. I’d seen them everywhere on my trip and knew that’s the direction I needed to go. At that time I was also becoming aware of ‘overlanding’, and the idea of getting off grid and away from the crowds was right up my alley. Not long after getting back I was at Crankworx Rotorua and saw Feldon Shelter had a display set up, I had a nosey through their tents and put an order in for a Crows Nest then and there.
The mods on the Colorado started with replacing dedicated road tyres with a good aggressive AT and adding a 2” lift. These Rodeo/colorados are known for having a low ride higher compared to other 4wd utes of the same era. Next up was a home made rack system for the roof tent which was mounted to the hard lid. This system didn’t last long as the added weight made the hard lid float around from side to side causing wear on the lock mechanism. The hard lid came off and on went a tub rack from SCF in Aussie. After a winter trip up north it became apparent we needed a tonneau cover to keep both the weather, dust and prying eyes away from the camping gear in the back. I made contact with Bay Canvas in Tauranga, sent them some ideas/drawings of what I was after and they knocked up a mint custom tonneau cover for over the tub rack. To allow us to rinse the sand off after a day at the beach. I built a solar shower using PVC down pipe, hose and fittings from Mitre 10 and a tyre valve to allow the us it to be pressured using a bike pump.
We ran this setup for another 3 1/2 week trip down south in February this year, down the east coast all the way to Bluff and back up the west. While the trip was epic, we had rain 90% of the trip, and putting a roof tent up and down everyday in the wet got real old, real fast. The solution was to build a new rig that could sleep inside of when needed.
In a past life I was a mechanic, doing my apprenticeship at a Toyota dealership so I’ve always had a soft spot for the brand, in particular the ‘go anywhere’ Landcruiser. While Hayley and I hated the thought of moving on from the Colly, we knew it was the right choice. It sold complete with the camping setup so we were staring again from scratch.
The ‘Blue Whale’ kind of fell in our lap. A good mate and former coworker owned this immaculate 96 HDJ80 Landcruiser, so I called him to get his opinion on 80 series cruisers. Call it fate (or just good luck), he was looking to move on from the Cruiser and back to a flat deck ute as it was just too nice to take hunting. Knowing he is as pedantic as I am with maintenance and care of a vehicle I threw a number at him and the deal was done. The bar work, performance mods and OME 2” suspension lift were already done. Then came 35” Kenda RT tyres full length roof and platform. Andy from Lucas Creek supplied the 270° ‘Fantail’ awning and LED camp lights, as well as a pair of custom mounts to fit the setup to our roof platform. It’s by far our most used but if kit.
The race was then on to fit a secondary 12v system and build a sleeping platform/drawers as we decided to lock in a winter roadie down South. I had drawn up a plan using aluminium to reduce weight, but with time running out I was convinced by Ken from Creative Campers to go with ply. I had gotten my hands on Sam Roil’s setup from his old Ranger, so managed to recycle some of the ply and drawer runners from that. I would’ve loved to have just slapped that in there and called it a day, but the unit was too tall to sleep on the the back of the cruiser, and too long to fit in behind the rear seats when those are back in. I wanted a modular system with drawers that live in the wagon full time, and a removable section to complete the sleeping platform which replaces the rear seats when we are heading away on a long trip. A double air mattress does the job for now, but will look at having squabs made up in the future.
We took the Blue Whale on its first trip to the mainland in July, and what a success! With only 2 weeks this time round we only went as far south as Queenstown.
Future plans are to fit an ARB spare wheel carrier to the rear bar, 12,000lb winch, hard top roof tent and finish off the drawers. They absolutely do the job but I’d like to tidy up the front, make them a little more presentable.
We find that having a wagon suits us better than the ute. The Landcruiser is more capable off road, and offers better security for our gear than a tray and tonneau cover. Having access to a trailer for firewood, rubbish etc also makes the transition to wagon easier.
For me, deciding between a wagon and ute to kit out really comes down to what it’ll be used for when not out missioning around. For me, having room in the back of the wagon for our dog, my work gear etc is more practical than a tray. For someone like Sam, who on occasion needs a flat deck ute, has gone with the M2 Overland removable camper canopy system. Again, it’s all about finding a good balance between a mission rig and a daily/work vehicle.
Check out Ash’s Instagram HERE