Aussie Hilander



I don't think any 4WD I've ever owned has been perfect. There's always been a modification or a change I’d like to undertake to make it that little bit better. Perhaps I'm never happy with what I've got; maybe I just like to tweak things to improve on what already was great – a perfectionist, perhaps.

Since returning from our first huge trip away in the 4WD converted HiAce, we had already agreed on investing in a better mattress. While we'd selected a product that we thought would be good enough. The original combination of one eight-cm thick layer of memory foam, stacked with a second seven-cm layer of gel foam on top, should have been OK; how wrong we were!

Interim fixes on the road of extra standard foam and a few yoga mats yielded little help.

A trip to Beds Direct Mattress Factory for a pocket spring mattress, custom-made to our required size, would be the way to go. Pocket spring beds consist of a box foam outer edge, inner-fitted pocket springs and a topper of your choice, which we opted for a latex pillow top. This resulted in a 190mm thick mattress overall, similar to our original foam layers and lighter – a winner all round!


From day one of the Aussie HiLander project, I had wanted a front bar, winch and driving lights to help with vehicle protection, recoveries and night driving. That didn’t happen. Having had to wait for ADR approvals and product availability, we went without all three products on our maiden voyage. Not ideal, but we survived to tell the tale.

Now, with a front replacement bar fitted, it provides two 4000kg rated recovery points and a winch cradle that'll accept up to a 10,000-pound winch. We opted for the newly released Bushranger 4X4 COVERT 10,000-pounder complete with synthetic rope. This newly developed winch is at the forefront of modern design. It is unique in that it has a built-in control box, meaning no bulky separate box is needed to be mounted either on the winch, the bar or under the bonnet – a real boon for saving space, especially in modern 4x4s.

The COVERT winch is a premium product, with the performance of the 5.3HP 12V motor driving a 4-stage gearbox, allowing it to achieve fast line speeds at lower current draws. The gearbox's improved load distribution, strength and durability comes via hardened steel gearing. One particular design feature that drew me to this winch is the zero-drag braking system, allowing no load while unspooling the rope. This means an easy and fast free-line removal, compared to many winches whose rope is under tension and sometimes needs to be powered out.

A 30-meter range, compact wireless hand controller combined with a five-meter wired unit allows easy winching control. An aircraft-grade aluminium Hawse fairlead is used and completes the all-black COVERT look.

While there are many other specifications to drool over, it’d be best to read them all at

While it's safer to drive in the daytime in the bush, that's not always possible. Sticking with Bushranger 4x4, I opted for a pair of new VBP (Variable Beam Pattern) LED lights. This kit allows the brightness of the light output and the beam pattern to be varied in eight increments at the twist of two dials. That will enable me to adjust the intensity and pattern of the lights to suit me and the driving conditions at hand. As an example, I can change the pattern from a narrow, far-reaching spot to a wide, all-encompassing broad beam, as well as dim the outputs from “wholly cow they’re bright” down to “hey, they’re much easier on the eyes with those huge reflecting road signs”.

Again, if you want to catch up on all the technical specs, best to skip over to


That first shakedown test run of almost 10,000 kms sure was a hard way to find and fix faults before leaving the comforts of our well-equipped mechanical shed. Yes, I had to fix a few faults early on in the trip that others had caused. No, not everything is perfect to this date. Still, the overall design inside and out of the Aussie HiLander has provided us with a convenient and easy way to tour remotely and to allow us to access most 4WD-only destinations.

No, the 4WD converted HiAce isn’t as off-road capable as my Troopcarrier, nor does it return as much interior space as a larger motorhome, but it’s a great allrounder.

Given my penchant to modify and make better, I’ll look into ways to enhance the HiAce’s offroad ability through further increased ground clearance. I’ll also look into powering up the engine with an ECU remap to help turn the larger diameter rubber, enable the automatic gearbox to hold gears better during highway speeds, and hopefully reduce fuel consumption all around. An increase in torque should help with all those problems, so check back in to see what I can achieve.

Other than that, it’s getting close to planning our next big adventure with dates and approximate routes to coincide with the wet and dry seasons of our northern parts of Australia.

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