TOUGH NUT: The Fuso Canters were really put to the test - and passed the tough terrains with flying colours.
TOUGH NUT: The Fuso Canters were really put to the test - and passed the tough terrains with flying colours.

Getting there in a Fuso Canter

GIVE us some mud. Give us potholes, and ruts deep enough to bury your mortal enemy. Give us tracks so narrow that you'd never take your beloved four-wheel- drive down (or up) them. And give us a Fuso Canter or two to play with. This is called living!

And so it was, folks, that we found ourselves behind the wheel of two of Fuso's latest offerings, the 4x4 Canter in both long (crew cab) and short (regular cab) wheelbase versions - the latter of which has a turning circle of only 11.4m, outdoing most 4WDs and certainly my old, beloved and long-gone ZL Fairlane. Even the long wheelbase turning circle was a liveable 13.4m.

Let's get speccy first. Both variants offer a GVM of 6.5tonne with 4.5 being optional for those who only got as far as a regular car licence (which does not apply to anyone reading Big Rigs of course).

Similarly, GCM is 10tonne with 8tonne optional. Motive power is a 4P10 3.0 litre four cylinder turbo diesel with variable geometry turbo putting out 110kw at 2840-3500rpm and 370Nm torque at 1350-2840rpm. This low-down torque means leave it in second gear and go up or down just about anywhere over any terrain.

Transmission is anything you like as long as it's the five-speed manual with the hill-hold assist feature. It drives through a two-speed transfer case. I found the 3-4plane a bit notchy, but these were new vehicles and the boffins assured me they would free up in time. Certainly the shift was ideally placed, virtually at the fingertips of the left hand. The clutch was light, so constant changes in the bush or traffic should present no problem.

Front axles were reinforced, full-floating hypoid on multi-leaf suspension with double acting shockers, while the rear added LSD. Inside you get a multimedia display with sat-nav, a reversing camera and dual airbags.

Fuso soaks up the terrain.
Fuso soaks up the terrain.

Yes, the interior is spartan but that's understandable given the target market are the CFA, off-road linesmen and similar.

Seating is for three in the shorty and up to seven in the crew cab - and that's seven with good for the class legroom in the back. The old line 'not so squeezy' certainly applies here.

Now, if you're going to take one of these things where we did, make sure you're in the driver's seat which is a-la-truck. If you love your passengers, I'd upgrade from the standard bench seats.

But then, most won't be going where we did. If it was rough, we found rougher. If it was narrow, we found positively skinny, and if it was muddy, we found some really good bog.

The Canters handled it all with aplomb. I had the time of my life and I can only apologise to my host and offer to pay his chiropractic bill when it comes in.

On our way around the goat track we came across a two-wheel-drive 'Unbreakable' heading toward us. Two of us and one of him meant he lost the toss and had to back up for a kilometre or so before he found room to let us pass. No idea what the driver had posed to his girlfriend but 1.he lost, and 2. he needs a new clutch.

With the payload these Canters offer, if I was contemplating an around- Australia trip with 3.5tonne of caravan behind me, I'd be mighty tempted to invest in one of these.

At around half the price of the caravanners' favourite rig, a payload that puts them to absolute shame and servicing every 30,000km, I'd have a heap of cash left over for my favourite scotch.

If you're in the market for a vehicle of this type, you must check out the Fuso Canter. Tell them to take you where they took me. You'll have a ball!

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