Saturday, 12 April 2014

MOTORHOME NUMBER 8 - Billy, A Hi Ace pop top in Australia

In September 2002 we were heading for Australia.  Without seeing it we agreed to buy a 1988 Toyota Hi Ace pop top campervan from some friends.  We didn't think it would really suit us but would give us a vehicle and accommodation whilst we found something bigger and better when we could use it as a trade in.

Continuing with our Royal theme we named this one "Billy" after Prince William.  Little did we know that we would grow to love "Billy" and keep him for 4 years.  We agreed a price of Aus $8000 which at the time equated to £3040.  It was in good condition, had done about 190,000km but the interior was somewhat dated.

The layout suited us well as you could have 2 sofas in the back with a dining table in between or make it up as a large bed 5' wide and 6' 6" long.  We left the bed made up most of the time as we found we
spent most of our days outside.  (With hindsight we should have replaced the sofa cushions with a proper sprung mattress).   Forward of this was a 2 burner hob and grill with small fridge and freezer underneath.  Beside this a wardrobe with hanging space for clothes and above it a small cupboard where we kept food and  above that a shelf for crockery.  By the door was a sink with more storage space underneath.  The original 80 litre fresh water tank was increased with 2 x 25 litre containers carried on the back of the vehicle.  The toilet was either a folding version to be used out bush or a bucket with a lid.  For showering we had a solar bag that could be hung from a tree or from one of the awning poles.

With the pop top up there was plenty of headroom and even with it down it was possible to hunch over and still use everything.  The advantage of the pop top was that we were low enough to get under a 2m height barrier and also to venture down tracks with low hanging branches on the trees.  

The only times when Billy didn't work too well was in extremes of weather.  When the temperature soared to 46C by day it became unbearably hot and had the temperature not halved on day 3 we would have moved on or taken an air conditioned motel room for relief.  The other time was when we had 2 days of very heavy wind and rain meaning we were trapped inside and had to keep the pop top down however this was only 2 incidents within 2 x 6 months and 1 x 10 month trip.  

Storage space was great with pretty much the whole area under both sofas being available and accessed from both ends of the sofas or by lifting the cushions up.   

We spent £100 on a makeover - blackout curtains, covering the brown seat cushions, painting the woodwork white and fitting a carpet.  A friend gave us "go faster" stripes to enhance the outside appearance.

At a steady 80kph we got 10 km per litre of diesel but this dropped to 8 if we drove faster.  As a standard Toyota parts were easy to come by and relatively cheap.  Over 4 years we upgraded the alternator to keep the leisure battery charged, had to replace the master and slave cylinder on the clutch and had a couple of tyres blow out .    

4 years later we had numerous customers when we advertised Billy for Aus $9500.  At that time the exchange rate had changed and this equated to £4250 a profit of £1210.  

Overall this may have been the oldest and cheapest motorhome we ever had but it would come joint top  favourite along with "Harry" and we would certainly buy this type again for use in Australia.  

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