Expedition vehicles are often no-expense-spared behemoths combining powerful truck cabs, advanced expandable living modules and upscale interiors outfitted like luxury apartments. Portland's Base 4x4 takes a simpler approach. Conceived, designed and built by industrial designer Mark Schoening, Base 4x4's Mitsubishi Fuso-based pop-top finds a niche somewhere between pop-up off-road camper vans like the Sportsmobile Sprinter 4x4 and more elaborate expedition trucks like the EarthRoamer XV-HD. The aluminum-box off-road motorhome offers a more affordable, more customizable expedition option.
It's always struck us as strange that many an expedition vehicle has a fully furnished cabin nicer than some homes, stuffed with amenities like high-end A/V systems, washer/dryer combos and even wine cabinets filled with specially engraved wine glasses. These are vehicles designed to thrash about through mud and dirt days away from civilization, not tailgate the local polo match or regatta. We understand things like food prep, sleeping space and water hauling are necessities for extended off-grid travel, but such non-essential amenities seem to add a lot of unnecessary weight and fluff to vehicles designed to explore demanding stretches of road and trail.
But if you have the money, we guess you don't have to skimp on luxury. Maybe a comfy interior is part of the bargain the more adventurous family members make to persuade those who would rather be island hopping or touring Europe to go exploring through the middle of nowhere instead.
Not everyone has the money, though, and Base 4x4 intends to reach some of those who want a simple, functional adventure truck without all the expensive bells and whistles. It all starts with the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG4x4 and its 161-hp four-cylinder turbo diesel. Base 4x4 swaps out the dually rear wheels for singles.
From there, Base 4x4 slaps a steel flat bed on top of the chassis and builds a welded aluminum tube frame skinned in aluminum. A three-point articulated mount isolates the camper module from frame twist, and eight heavy-duty rubber isolators further keep driving forces off the camper body. The walls are insulated with 1.5-in rigid foam and covered inside with fabric acoustic paneling. Dual rear doors offer loading versatility, the small one is for regular use and the larger one swings open for loading motorcycles and other large cargo.
The camper expands via an electrically-actuated fiberglass pop-top that raises 1,000-denier Cordura canvas walls around a one- to two-person sleeping area. On the prototype pictured, you'll also notice a bright-yellow Cordura-walled flip-out on the side, which is available optionally for expanding the cabin sleeping space.
The base 110-in (2,794-mm) wheelbase Base 4x4 sleeps three to five people on its combination of pop-up platform, L-shaped cabin bed and behind-cab bench bed. From the sounds of it, it's really made to sleep three people comfortably, four or five when couples are willing to cozy up.
Standard equipment includes 21-gal (79.5-l) fresh and gray water tanks, a sink, cassette toilet and outdoor shower, and an electrical system with battery and 2,000 W inverter – no fine hardwood cabinetry, pillow-top mattresses, granite countertops or home theater systems here.
The lack of luxurious amenities shows up at the cash register. Base 4x4 hasn't set final pricing but hopes to keep the base price around US$95,000. That may not seem cheap to the average car/light truck buyer, but when you look at prices of more complex Fuso-based expedition vehicles, like the $175K EarthCruiser FX 4x4, or even an off-road camper van like the $120K Sportsmobile Classic (both prices from 2015), you can see how Base 4x4's strategy of less equipment and luxury equates to lower price.
The base interior isn't for everyone, which is why buyers are encouraged to customize it, whether on their own or with Base 4x4's help. Base 4x4 is still filling out its options list, but it tells us that the list will include add-ons like a $5K propane system with cooktop, furnace and water heater; a $1K indoor shower; and a $3K upholstered pass-through between driver cab and camping cabin, not to forget the aforementioned expansion flip-out ($7,500). It's also working on a suspension upgrade and plans to offer a 134-in (3,404-mm) wheelbase model, as well as the 110. All prices are estimates.
Beyond just good old fashioned globe-roaming, Base 4x4 imagines its truck finding use for activities like hunting, prepping/survival and even off-road racing. At 8,700 lb (3,946 kg), the prototype scales in well under the Fuso's 14,050-lb (6,373-kg) gross vehicle weight rating.
Base 4x4 is ready to start taking orders, but it's run into a bit of a snag: the current Fuso FG4x4 is sold out and the new model won't be debuting until the first quarter of next year. That leaves the possibility of converting low-mileage used trucks or waiting it out until 2017. If Base 4x4 does get a used Fuso to build your expedition truck on, lead time is 90 to 120 days. The company is also considering developing a ruggedized 2WD version on a different cab-over truck chassis from Isuzu or another manufacturer.
Source: Base 4x4View gallery - 17 images