Isuzu FTS700 'Wicked Turtle'


Hi Expo et al,

I’d like to re-introduce myself, I’ve trolled through the pages of the projects, information, the good and the not so ideal solutions to the prospect of an expedition truck. Not my first time to expo forum, but certainly noticeable between drinks.

I’ve trolled enough and believe that I have taken more than my fair share from the knowledge trust.

Time to contribute.

In July 2012, I purchased an Isuzu FTS700 crew cab 1994 model, flew to Adelaide with my then 3.5yr old son. Tool box, child seat, backpack of personal gear and a teddy bear named Blue (to some this item will not seem important), checked in at the airport. Off we go for an adventure. Arrived at the holding yard, changed filters and engine oil, checked over the truck. Secured the child seat in the front, the back seat was definitely not suitable. Canberra, here we come. Overnight in Waikerie, South Australia. All good so far, departed Waikerie without a hitch, so it seems. Truck is cruising along quite well, young bloke in the front seat, up high seeing everything going on. Not much time spent of the DVD player, more interested in the roadside and on coming trucks.

A long day in the saddle, Canberra on the horizon. Home sweet home. What a trip, time for the young bloke to head off to bed. WHERE'S BLUE TED? It seems that Blue Ted decided to stay at the Waikerie Pub for a few extra drinks and an after party. A quick call to the Hotel had Blue Ted on the next Australia Post Express flight home. Damage control underway.

It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. I think someone important said that.

Weeks go by, truck is studied and items not required are removed and sold/disposed of. The overall condition of the truck is OK to fair, with its share of rust. That's fine, as long as the bones are good, something to work with.

Interior stripped of all things beyond serviceable. I have a plan.

First priority, source workshop manuals and parts catalogue. Hello EBay and Gumtree.

Parts sourcing and orders. Anything and everything that can be rebuild, service kit or new ordered. Hold it right there, the engine, gearbox and transfer case appeared to have been serviced/replaced at one time given the use of gasket goo and other tell-tales. Having driven the truck 1200km or so from Adelaide to Canberra without a hitch gave some comfort to the mechanicals. Whilst not a guarantee, but some comfort. No strange noises, started without trouble, idled nicely, gear selection all good, steering response, check, check and check.

There are some items that are not economically viable to repair, service kit plus time, cheaper to replace item. I found this approach was far more economical than i first thought. The beauty of trucks is that there are so many interchangeable components across a vast number of models, a new component is a far more cheaper and readily available option. Even the purchase of a genuine Isuzu crew cab roof turret, was far more economical to replace than to repair the rust holes.

I ordered enough kits to service all brake components, clutch components, air valves, front axle, fuel system and an extra kit of each as a spare. Nothing worse than stranded in the middle of nowhere because of a $50 spare part.

I should say at this point, in a past life I was a diesel and heavy earth-moving plant fitter working in mining, I think that I never really stopped being one. The complexities of and working on heavy machinery is not foreign.

Thank you to Expo et al that have unknowingly contributed to this un(?)healthy obsession.

Well, that’s where it ends…………………….or so it begins.




And the project continues………………or so I thought.

What’s that saying? Life gets in the way of making plans.

So, the truck sits idly by the way as major house renovations take precedence. The truck is no longer a priority. That is life.

2 years pass by, house renos completed, truck still waiting in the wings. Anyone who has undertaken any sort of house renovation/extensions understands the shear frustration, exhaustion and blood sweat and lots of tears of such an undertaking. Many a time the words were muttered and shouted from the kitchen ‘I am never doing this again’. There is a fleeting comment, let’s move to the coast………………Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

We are a sucker for punishment.

Yep, after major renovations of one house, we moved to the coast and built a new one. The truck still waiting idly by. There is a consolation, I get a shed. Yes Yes Yes!!!

Another two years pass, truck is once again on the back burner, ever so more looking derelict and ready for the wrecking yard. I still have hopes and a plan.

Woohoo, new shed built, new house built. With some work done during the home build time, nothing substantial. More parts purchased, ideas researched, plans altered, 2018 is the year of the truck.

The truck is pushed into the shed, I have my fortress of solitude, I can see the miles of 4wd tracks to be explored, the remote beaches and land marks just waiting to be found, a kind of Zen falls over the project.

One thing lead to another and the cab was completely stripped. What have I done!!

The more I removed of the interior, the more it become a shell. What initially started as a quick fix up and get to the exciting part of using it, turned into strip it and start from bare metal. So……………………………


Rust repairs 101

Much to the annoyance to my neighbours, a lot of grinding, cutting and welding.

My initial investigation of the truck, lead me to a realisation that the roof turret would need to be replaced. A gratuitous plug coming up. A new genuine Isuzu crew cab roof turret sourced through Canberra Trucks, at a price that was far more economical than spending a month repairing rust and holes. I removed the cab from the chassis and continued with the repairs. This is now bigger than Ben Hur.

Cab removed, dolly fabricated for ease of moving cab around. With the cab on the dolly, working from the floor is now a lot easier.

With the cab in such condition the opportunity to make changes and modifications was capitalised. The original plan with the interior was to change the seating to four air suspension seats with integrated seat belts. These seats were purchased in the initial stages of the project. Time to incorporate the seating requirements. I reconnected with an engineer regarding the mods, put forward solutions to the seat mods and requirements. Additional mounting points, reinforcements installed and anchor points confirmed.

Doors refitted in preparation for the removal of the roof turret

Roof turret removed, gaps in doors didn’t change, a successful start.

Off to the sandblaster* for stripping.
*sandblasting is only a reference term. I fully understand the ramifications of using sand as a media for abrasive blasting and the resultant of silicosis.

As part of the blasting, the baremetal shell was primed in epoxy primer. The stripping highlighted other areas that needed to be addressed. These areas were repaired and reprimed in epoxy primer.

New roof turret installed. This one won’t let the rain in.

Preparation for painting commenced.

The saga continues…………………………




Thanks Dave. I indicatively plan to have the truck back to driveable (not usable) by the end of the year, and with the work so far, I think that this is achievable.

Chapter 3 – The Important Decision

As I read through the ‘eXpo Files’, the important questions are always revisited in some way or form. Single Rear Wheel conversions, wheel size, load ratings and white lettering. Suspension systems, Parabolic, reset spring pack, air bag or coils, 4 link vs. 5 link. Camper construction, composite, steel or aluminium. And the list goes on.

All of these questions fade into the background when the ultimate question is tabled.

So, what colour do I paint the truck? The possibilities are endless.

Desert Sand, coffee cream or as some of the guys in the office call it ’hearing aid beige’. The colour conjures up images of faraway places, on safari in some remote part of the world, battling the elements, or the interior of a 1980s Toyota Corolla. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like Desert Sand and the idea of faraway places. Some of the sample colours I toyed with, well, they belonged on the cover of a fast car magazine.

So, what colour do I paint it? Hearing aid beige? Nope, Medium Sea Grey, but with a twist.

Medium Sea Grey.

I chose a colour that was easy on the eye without attracting too much attention. It doesn’t look shiny, some may say. And yes, and you would be correct.

The twist. I painted the truck in Raptor Liner, gasp, horror!! What?? Yep, if this stuff can handle the abuse of being used as the coating of a bed liner of a truck, then it can be used for the whole of a truck. The roof, pillars, rear wall and inside of the doors are painted in a smooth finish, when reducer is added, it flashes off in a satin/flat look. The doors, door sills and lower part of the pillars are painted straight from the Raptor bottle. This does has a gloss to it.

Smooth of the left (HVLP), textured on the right (Schutz gun).

The smooth finish does have some texture to it, more like the texture of a kitchen benchtop.

When I researched the use of the product, one of the factors that appealed, was the ability to repair areas without too much background prep work.

Sound deadening, insulation, new headliner and interior lining.

Overhead console mounts

Newly fabricated overhead console with speakers.

Visible side of console with speakers and rear view camera screen mount.

Continuing with the use of the Raptor Liner and the desire to no longer have the 1990s blue colour scheme, the dash and other interior plastics where changed to black. This involved a fair bit of prep work for the plastic before the Raptor liner was applied over an adhesion promoter.

A new centre console fabricated with ample storage, USB and power supplies and drink holders. Room for a fridge between the rear seats. Paint cups in the drink holders preforming the foam insert.

Rebuilding of the interior is near completed. All four doors rebuilt, including door seals, window glass bailey channel felt, tinting and remote locking/unlocking. Quarter vent glass stripped, painted and reassembled. I rebuilt the door hinges early in the build. This is where the cost to rebuild was certainly cheaper than new. I sourced a hinge rebuild kit from Rare Spares, to suit Holden HK HT that had similar size pins and brass bushes, and a new drill bit. All doors close with a click and unlock at the touch of a button.

Side Note: When I reassembled the dash, I wired in a separate 12v system, located in the glove-box. This allows for 12v power supply to the central locking, radio/stereo, UHF, USB's and 12v power outlets for the rear. I used 24v relays to switch power with ignition key. Central locking has constant 12v supply. The centre console makes up for loss of storage in the glove-box.

Cab nearing completion.

Onwards with the to-do list…………………………………………………..




Thanks FF4x4. Certainly a labor a love, that somehow, in the back of my mind I knew was going to happen. A lot of support from the 'boss', wife went for an overseas holiday with the in-laws, and came back with new found enthusiasm for local travel with 'Lets get the truck finished and go'. Gotta love that!!




Glad to see someone else using Raptor, I'm planning on doing the bathroom with it and maybe the outside of the storage lockers. Did you find the coverage per bottle was as stated?

Cheers Steve


Gday Steve, I based the quantity required as per the 3m2 per litre, I then bought double the quantity. Sounds a bit extreme, but I find that the coverage rate of paints misleading. I purchased 2 x 4l tintable pack, 1 x 4l black pack, I didn’t like the idea of needing an extra litre and not having it. My paint supplier is a four hour round trip.

The main draw back with shooting it straight from the bottle is once it’s mixed, and you don’t use all of it, well it’s a 2k system, any left over is wastage. I prepared extra small parts ready to paint, so that I had minimal wastage.





Is this better?
I have one son going for the chookies, and the other one for the sharks 😂.
Seat covers were a better option than the club stickers on the outside of the doors😮.


The truck element of the project is moving along, with only a few jobs to do before the task of joining cab ‘A’ to chassis ‘B’, which leaves us with ‘C’, the camper component.

After much research, I purchased a Jayco Eagle Outback camper and plan to mount this to a sub-frame and attach to chassis. I will admit that I could have paid the registration on the newly purchased camper and driven off into the sunset. I had previously done this some years ago, but that led to our current situation, an expedition camper.

Take one truck, add this, and abracadabra!! Yes/No? This is not the actual unit, I don't have a before picture. Thank you internet.

Reading through the many pages of ‘what sort of camper do I need?’ ‘What do I build my camper with – straw, sticks or bricks? I concluded that within all the replies revealed the truth. ‘Whatever you believe that best suits your needs, wants and desires’. I went with this.

The camper option provided both positive and negative elements and like any project, compromises must be acceptable.

Already built – I researched the idea of fabricating a living unit. The figures didn’t add up. Purchasing a ready-made unit and modifying seemed a better solution. I found a camper, that for the price, best suited my plan ‘Whatever you believe that best suits your needs and wants’.

Size – the overall dimensions allowed for the camper to not protrude over width, such that if the truck cab can get through, then the camper will follow. The length best suited the truck chassis also allowing for spare wheels to be accommodated without the issue of questionable overhang. And, the height, in travel mode the height of the camper is below the cab, somewhat achieving better aerodynamics than a brick (tongue in cheek, who am I kidding, it’s a truck).

Internal layout – Easily modified to suit sleeping and living needs. Didn’t change too much internally. Stripped out the interior, and started again, well almost. Removed the kitchenette, fridge and sink. Replaced this with a long bench (more usable space) and 12/240 fridge. More storage space and no LPG to worry about. Removed the club lounge and installed a collapsible bunk bed system that allows for the two boys to have their own space with storage under the mattresses. Fabricated a full width pull-out draw system, accessible by existing hatch, better use of existing storage. Removed front pull-out bed system, truck cab and spare wheels will take up this area.

Canvas infill wall – allows for good air flow, easily repaired/modified. Compromise? Cold climate, doesn’t provide any form of insulating effect. I don’t see this as a show stopper – Australia doesn’t really an issue with blizzard conditions, and for those places, I’m holidaying somewhere else.

Replacement parts – Any replacement parts that may be needed are readily available at any caravan store or internet. No custom fabricated essential components here.

Outback’ chassis – The ‘Outback’ range of the Jayco camper has a 150mm chassis frame, substantial for a camper of this size. Provides a suitable foundation for the camper. The main issue is the width, 1500mm between the rails, the truck chassis has 850mm rails. Solution, install a new set of chassis rails on the camper to marry up with the truck. Continuing with the 150mm camper chassis height, I installed 150x100x6 RHS with 90mm OD heavy wall pipe as cross members, intersecting the existing camper chassis. This provides a very rigid platform for the camper that results in very little chassis torsion. Combine this new chassis with a truck mounting system that will allow for the independent movement of both truck and camper chassis. End result, a camper that won’t be pulled apart at the first dip in an ‘off the beaten track’.

Do I keep the aluminium foil cladding or replace with a more substantial? The plan is to clad in aluminium checker plate.

Internals stripped out, in preparation for new flooring and bench top. Wheel wells to be filled in.

New fridge, flooring and storage system underway. Left of picture shows the bottom bunk.

Before installing the new flooring, I secured the existing floor of the camper to the new chassis rails. I used Sikaflex and metal bugle screws, substantially more than self-tappers from the original factory.

Large internal storage drawer with bearing sliders. Also shows the lift mechanism for the roof.

Anyone who is familiar with this type of camper understands the frustration of hand winching the roof system up and down. Add to this the height of the camper on the back of a truck chassis with 4wd suspension. There has to be a better way. The internet is a wonderful thing, google Jayco camper electric lift and there are ideas and devices to assist with lifting, from as simple as an 18v drill to a full assembly that replaces the hand winch. I went somewhere in between. I purchased an ATV winch with remote control and a couple of load rated sailing pulleys. I had some offcuts of RHS from the chassis rails and a few other bits and pieces. I came up with this.

An electric lift system for Jayco camper roof.

Sailing pulleys providing the change in direction. I reinforced the existing hand winch mounts. Position of pulleys with the roof a full height.

Running the new winch cable through the pulleys and onto the existing hand winch provides a redundancy to the electric winch failing. The hand winch is still functional in the present setup. What if the new winch cable breaks? This would be the same scenario as the original, the cable is long enough to allow for breakage and can be readily secured at either end, and fully function as normal.

With the press of the remote control, roof goes up, roof goes down. The winch kit also came with manual controls that, with some additional cabling allows this to be located for easy reach. No more laborious task of hand winching*. *only required if the electric winch fails.

External cladding (pressed aluminium) removed and preparation for a more robust panel. I think that’s a forced smile. Child labour is not free, there were negotiations of sick leave, annual leave, smoko breaks, pocket money and a swim at the beach.

This one cost substantially more. There is a specific trade award that had to be negotiated. There were threats of bringing in the muscle, but I stood my ground. No help, no pocket money, no beach. I’m still paying for this one.

I took the opportunity to infill the wall space with foam. Did I have to? The jury is still out on this one. Wheel wells infilled, and new wiring installed and tidied up. The top of the picture shows the bunk beds. The top bunk lifts with the roof. The end panels lock out with gas struts.

The camper units now sits on a dolly for ease of moving around the shed, still the job of removing the springs and axle. The truck cab prior to being fitted out.

The camper and truck cab were worked on simultaneously. When waiting for parts or pauses in the cab rebuild, the camper is worked on and vice versa.

The canvas is with an upholsterer being modified to suit the new arrangement.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I just hope it's not a train.


Great project; any idea on the weight (mass) of the empty cab? Corner scales would be quite helpful, or a very large boom crane with a load potentiometer :)


Hi Dzltoy, the workshop manual states to allow about 750kg when removing cab from chassis. When I loaded the cab, no roof, on the trailer to deliver it to the sandblaster, I could lift the back or front to locate it on the trailer. I would guesstimate it to be about 250-300kg.


Sometimes to move ahead, a side track is needed.

Have you noticed the projects on the home improvement shows always seem so easy, the presenter has all the required tools laid out at arm’s reach? Doesn’t matter what the task is, it just seems so easy. There has to be a correlation between the ease of completing a task and the tools required. Something like?

Successful project completion is the result of 20% determination and 80% tools.

It also helps if one knows how to use them, but there are some people that should not be allowed to buy a chainsaw*.
*I am sure there are lots of other tools that fit this category.

The task of reuniting the cab and chassis is looming.

I removed the cab from the chassis with the use of scaffolds, planks and straps, a rather crude method, but function over form.

The cab is in a delicate phase, with the months of hard work, forethought and money invested, I would rather a battle scar from some remote track, a long forgotten path or overgrown access to a land that time forgot with a story to tell. A mark caused by a rush of blood or heavy handedness is poor form.

Knowing this task was forthcoming the search for a suitable means to lift the cab and camper on to the chassis commenced.

The new addition to the shed. 2 post 3 tonne hoist. It won’t lift the truck, but it will make tasks easier.

I don’t know why I didn’t buy one years ago, certainly makes servicing the cars easier.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program………………………………………

PS. And I thought I tidied the shed.

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