Project Aussie Hilander

Toyota HiAce – My Perfect Offroad Bush Tourer

I forgive you for thinking I’ve gone bananas, flipped one too many jockey wheels or taken leave of the Top Paddock for even contemplating that a lowly Toyota HiAce could be my ultimate offroad, bush touring vehicle of choice.

Well, I’ve done exactly that, but there is a twist to this tale… stay tuned on that, but a little tell-tale is in the name of the project… HiLander – part HiAce, part Overlander… a vehicle that can tackle pretty much all terrains. Yes, it’ll end up with a 4WD conversion with low range. Yes, it’ll sport a winch, snorkel, diff lock, all-terrain tyres, GVM upgrade and everything needed to take us to all the iconic offroad destinations our great land has to offer. Like I said… stay tuned and be prepared to think outside the box.

Super Long Wheelbase

Toyota offers a few different configurations of their HiAce van; We’ve gone with the longest and highest roof version of the Super Long Wheel Base (SLWB) to maximise living space for both floor space and head height.

Off the showroom floor, the HiAce sports the same 2.8-litre intercooled turbo diesel engine as found in the venerable HiLux, it comes with a 6-speed auto gearbox, along with a plethora of modern safety and comfort features. One of the big selling points of the latest 300 series HiAce, is that it’s nothing like the previous 200 series. Gone is the flat-nosed, cab-over-seating position, narrow-bodied white turd that looks like it’s been squeezed out of a prehistoric arse… oh what a feeling indeed! Harsh but fair, I say.

Fair enough, the older HiAce was ever-reliable, but it just doesn’t do it for me. The new version is quieter, safer, and far more comfortable with car-like driveability (keeping in mind it is still a work van), is filled with seven airbags, cruise control, along with plenty of modern safety features.

French Vanilla

Unfortunately, Toyota slashed the colour selections of the HiAce. I would have chosen the silver, but given French Vanilla is the only choice now… then, boring old white it is then. The same goes for the interior; it’s grey or grey.

Unfortunately, the fuel tank is a measly 70 litres; I’ll be doing something about that, I can assure you, as touring the backblocks will need far more capacity. Think along the lines of doubling or maybe tripling the volume of fuel – that’s already in the planning.

Regarding factory accessories, I’ve just ticked the box for a heavy-duty towbar with a removable tongue. Unfortunately, the HiAce only has a towing capacity of 1.5 tonne. While that’s not particularly high, we don’t plan on towing too much, other than a tinnie for a spot of fishing at times.

The Future

Of course, given we’ll be touring around the country in the new HiAce, there’ll be an internal fit-out of some sort. Although I have done the rounds of a few RV shows, scoured the internet for ideas and talked to a truckload of others with vans, I’ve not settled on anything in particular yet. Yes, there’ll be a bed, and there’ll be a kitchen, water storage and battery power, but other than that, we’re still in the ideas and planning stages, and some of it may well be made up on the run.

As far as this machine being able to traverse deserts, river crossings, beaches and mountains; well, HiAce’s are not renowned for those skills. But, as I said at the top of this project introduction, there will be a twist to this HiAce build that will allow us to tackle all these terrains and more. Let’s just say that my current Toyota Troop Carrier will have some steep competition once the Aussie HiLander is finished.

So, why don’t I use my Troopy? Liveability, nothing more, nothing less. The HiAce offers far more in the ability to live in than the tried and tested Troopy. Being able to walk in via a side-opening sliding door, access from the driver and passenger’s seat to the rear living area, GVM carrying capacity upgrade, head height, overall width, as well as fuel economy makes the HiAce superior in most areas.

The only failings are the offroad ability of the HiAce, but this is where I’ll weave my “thinking outside the box” mentality to make it work – I don’t do “standard”.

The Ride

Please do come along for the ride; watch what we create and tell me if we’ve failed or scored a goal with what we build. While this project will focus on what we personally want, you may want something totally different, something similar or even exactly the same. Either way, there’ll be plenty of inspirational ideas thrown around, plenty of products to suit all occasions, plus help you not just to accept what is available off the floor in your pursuits of offroad adventure.

Project Aussie HiLander; the next level of ultimate outback touring.

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