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Ready for anything

Scania powers many boats, but customers rarely specify a truck to carry their boat and pull a caravan.

David Thomas is not a typical Scania truck customer. He’s a businessman who ran a significant family-owned enterprise providing access control and master key systems to commercial properties.

As he contemplated stepping back from this role after 47 years at work, he decided he needed to purchase a truck with which to tow his 24-ft Bushtracker caravan and carry his Anglapro boat. All the utes he considered were vastly underweight for the task, so the logical solution was a 4x4 Scania XT.

In line with Scania’s devotion to tailored solutions, this task did not present any problems for Travis Damianopoulos, New Truck Account Manager at Scania Laverton, Victoria.

Travis worked with David to create the truck of his dreams for his post-work round-Australia grey nomad adventures.

“We didn’t skimp on anything,” said David. “We wanted to get the best and most comfortable that we could, so we put on everything that we needed.

“I started as an apprentice locksmith in Footscray (Melbourne) in 1973, and after becoming a partner we continually grew the business and now it employs around 50 people and is the biggest family-owned commercial locksmith business in Victoria, if not Australia,” David says.

“I had a Dodge Ram with a 6.7-litre engine but with the boat and the caravan on board we were very close to the weight limit,” David says. “I talked to a few mates and one was a driver for Scenic Tours and has always been a lover of Scania and I wanted a 4x4, so we looked around to see what was available, and ordered one from Scania and set it up for retirement and touring.

“I designed the canopy for the truck on the floor of my shed using blue tape. I had MFI Service Bodies in Pakenham build it for me. They’ve done work for me before on my Dodge so I know they do a good job. The project took a while but that was fine as I was not in a hurry.

“The XT looked like the perfect solution. We want to leave the tarmac, but we’re not going to go across the open plains. We want to do the famous tracks, like Birdsville and Innamincka, we’ll do serious driving, but within reason. I don’t mind getting the truck a bit scratched up, but don’t want to be forging my own path,” he says.

The Scania 5-cylinder 9.0-litre, 280 hp/1400 Nm engine is mated to a 12-speed transmission shifted via Scania’s Opticruise automated system (featuring Economy, Standard and Off-Road modes), and drives through a dual-range transfer case, giving two-wheel drive for on tarmac, and high and low 4x4 drive for unsealed conditions. Diff locks at the front, centre and rear allow a full range of traction options, reducing the possibilities for the vehicle to become stuck. David specified super single tyres front and rear, resulting in 385/65 R22.5 Michelins being fitted. Suspension all round is by parabolic leaf springs, and there are drum brakes backed by ABS, and exhaust brake and the famous Scania R 3500 Retarder. The rear axle uses a short 3.77:1 ratio and hub reduction all round.

In line with Scania’s NTG trucks, the 4x4 comes with a steering wheel-mounted airbag and twin side curtain roll over airbags, LED head and tail lamps, and LED driving and fog lights.

In the cabin, David has specified premium leather upholstery, suspension seats for both driver and passenger, and a range of Scania storage boxes. The navigation system is boosted by Scania’s Active Prediction software to help achieve the highest level of fuel efficiency, something that will be appreciated given the premium paid for fuel in the Outback.

The truck has been set up to be totally self-sufficient, so David and his wife Jan can live off-the-grid. They have a 6kVa diesel generator in the back of the truck, a sat phone and HF radio. The generator draws diesel from the truck’s twin 600-litre fuel tanks. In early testing the truck is returning 30-litres per 100 km, which would be good for a few day’s driving with 1200 litres on board.

Within the canopy on the back there are lockers containing all the camping and goodtime gear they will need, including tents, a gazebo, chainsaws a couple of 95-litre Engel fridges and of course the all-important fishing gear.

Even the caravan contributes to the power generation. “We have the solar on the roof so we shouldn't run out of power,” David says.

The 4.4 m Anglapro centre console 424, powered by a 50 hp Suzuki motor sits on its trailer on the roof of the canopy, and is winched up using a hefty 17,000 lb electrical motor and a set of 4 m aluminium ramps. It takes David about 30 minutes to unload or load the boat onto the truck, a job he says he’ll do when he’s set up at a campsite for a week or so.

To pull the Bushtracker he’s specified a Class 7 Air Safe 2.5-inch tow hitch to work with the truck’s relatively stiff suspension and protect the caravan’s drawbar.

“The main reason we did that was because of the stiffness of the suspension on the truck – I didn’t want to damage the drawbar on the ‘van. But now it rides beautifully; it takes all the jolt out of it. On the back of the Scania the Bushtracker caravan looks like a pop-top,” David laughs.

“I have had a licence for a truck this size for about a year and Jan will get hers as well. She’s confident behind the wheel, plus the truck is very easy to drive with the Opticruise automated gear-change system. We’re itching to get away in the truck just as soon as we can,” he says, pausing. “We might be gone a while.”

According to Travis Damianopoulos, the project shows once again just how Scania can tailor any solution for a client’s needs.

“This was the first 4x4 of the New Truck Generation that arrived in Australia. It was a significant step up in size from our customer’s previous vehicle, but together we have created the ideal solution. We were able to marry David’s ideas with our truck’s capabilities, delivering him a vehicle ready for every adventure,” Travis said.