View Full Version : Tray-top slide-ons from Down Under
07-15-2006, 02:23 AM
I wrote this note for the forum at www.expeditioncampers.com
Mounting a camper on a flatbed truck is popular
in Australia. Down Under, the flatbed is called
a "tray," so these campers are called
The tray-top camper has several advantages. The
unit can be quickly mounted or removed, freeing
the truck for other uses. The tray-top is better
suited for rugged off-road use than a camper trailer.
A tray-top does let you tow a trailer, if needed. On
an off camber road, the tray-top does not hang out
beyond the edge of the road as fara as a conventional
camper would. And a tray-top is less top-heavy and
more aerodynamic than a USA-style slide-in pickup camper.
The tray-top camper began as a simple cargo unit,
providing protected storage for traditional tent
camping gear. Here's an example
Manufacturers quickly improved on this design by
adapting tent camping trailers for use on the tray-top.
The tent becomes an integrated part of the camper
Tray-top campers in Australia are relatively small
because the trucks commonly used to carry them are
Japanese pickups, and vehicles like Land Cruiser 79
utility trucks. American pickup trucks are not
as popular as the smaller trucks today, but Toyota
is reportedly planning to import a version of
the Tundra from USA. So we may see larger
tray-top designs in the future.
One thing that struck me as I searched for tray-top
models is the willingness of the Australian
shops to work with customers on custom designs.
This reflects the fact that the company owner, sales
rep, and construction worker is likely to be the same
(end of part 1)
07-15-2006, 02:34 AM
A few manufacturers add a pop-top cab-over sleeper to
the design. The pop-top has a hard shell top and
canvas sides. Examples include:
Matilda Weekender www.matildamotorhomes.com.au
Many of these designs were brought to my attention
by OutbacKamper as he traveled through Australia in 2005.
07-15-2006, 06:31 PM
And to think, I own a jeep.
Thats it! I'm going down under!
07-16-2006, 12:07 AM
Overall I really liked seeing whats available in other places. Thanks for providing those links and information.
I would like to Debate you on some of the points of your article however.
And a tray-top is less top-heavy and
more aerodynamic than a USA-style slide-in pickup camper.
Why did you think the American design is best used as a bad example?
Many of the designs you show are similar to The US built Four wheel camper http://www.fourwheelcampers.com/ dating back to the late 60's and the Wesfailia designs out of Germany dating back to the early 50's.
The Matilda actually has about the same issues aerodynamically as the run of the mill US hard top slide in for a similar sized vehicle because it has to deal with the higher load floor even though it has a pop top. It has about the same overall travel hight and with a US Fleet side truck I would argue the US truck may actually have better aerodynamics.. Put a pop top like the Four Wheel campers and the US slide in has less profile.
I also will argue that the US slide in has a better CG than a tray top. A tray top carries all its weight above the wheels where a US slide in sits down nearly on the frame so while it may look a little more top heavy I would wager that when comparing units that have similar size and features the US variant will have the lower CG. It will also have better head room with less over all hight since the floor is going to be about 10-12 inches closer to the ground. The Matilda is a prime example. That bump out above the cab under the bunk is about the difference between a Tray top load floor and a fleet side load floor.
Most of the US designs date back to a time when Aerodynamics was not a huge consideration, Fuel was plentiful and motors were big. Its a difference of times and culture. The US market makes the smaller sizes but since we have built large trucks since the 30's and really didn't start building small trucks till the early 80's (the small 70's trucks were actually Japanese rebages...Chevy Luv is a Isuzu and the Ford Courier is a Mazda and Holden is a GM property) the large slide ins are better known and more common to have been seen since they have been built since the 50's as opposed to our small trucks that started in the 80's.
Small trucks was a Japanese thing that had more to do with their overpopulation, lack of building materials and ancient cites with narrow roads then anything else. The Japanese Government even taxes more for wider vehicles because of this. Logistics wise Australis proximity to Japan makes it cheaper to import from a Japanese source the a US or European source so the Australians have adopted the vehicle ideologies from the Japanese market.
I happen to like the utility of a flat bed truck but most US light duty truck buyers like the aesthetics of the bed that matches the body lines of the cab hence the fleet side bed far outsells Flat bed and box bed trucks in the US. We don't need near the utility out of a truck as is needed in Australia.
BTW remember that Toyota has its start deep in US design. GM helped get Toyota going after WWII as part of the rebuilding efforts. Thats why Toyota Trucks have the same wheel lug pattern as a GM truck and the FJ's have a I6 that is basically a GM 252. The FJ40 is a copy of the Jeep that the US Government asked Toyota to build when the U.S. occupied Japan after the war. Jeep had to ask Toyota to stop calling it a Jeep. ;)
07-16-2006, 02:00 AM
This is soooo SWEEEEEEEEET......!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!..........:shakin :
07-16-2006, 03:11 AM
Thanks so much for posting this up Chip. I am always impressed with your research and knowledge.
I really like this model. NICE!
07-16-2006, 03:46 AM
I am very interested in this topic ( Tray-tops & slide-ons ) since, if time and finances allow, I would like to build a tray back for my truck and eventually a pop-up camper to match.
Although the Ute Ltd tray looks very functional, I think they are wasting a lot of valuable storage space.
I would like to build something more like this with storage compartments in front of and behind the wheels on each side. The compartments are not only functional, but IMO also improve the looks of the tray and make it look a little less "industrial".
09-16-2006, 08:22 AM
When you talk Tray top campers, this IS the one here in Australia.
Also Carry Me Camper, by Candy Canvas
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