Big Red Test Drive | Bus 4x4 Group, 4x4 Bus Manufacture, Conversions, Sales & Hire, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, International

Big Red Test Drive

Big Red Test Drive

Big Red is Australia’s most famous sand dune standing 40 metres tall at the edge of the Simpson Desert. The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes covering part of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland. It is the fourth largest Australian desert, with an area of 176,500 square kms.
The Simpson Desert is underlain by the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest inland drainage areas in the world. Water from the basin rises to the surface at numerous natural springs, including Dalhousie Springs. It has the world’s longest north-south oriented parallel sand dunes and unlike most deserts these dunes are static and held in position by vegetation. They vary in height from 3 metres to 40 meters which is Big Red, also known by its native name, Nappanerica.

When Arid Air Outback Flights, a scenic flight specialist based at Birdsville showed interest in the Hiace conversion, Steve Hargreaves immediately hit upon an idea to demonstrate the vehicle to them in their local environment. In Australia, no trip to Birdsville would be complete without the buzz of 4wding Big Red, the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that shows the successes and failures of tacking the Big Red including drivers who are not sufficiently prepared and who do not lower their tyre pressures.

It was therefore fitting for Bus 4×4 to demonstrate the capability of the Full Time AWD Conversion of Hiace Commuter on Big Red and the desert, pitting the conversion technology against the harsh terrain of the land. We are always fond of quoting Allan Whiting from Outback Travel Australia who likes to say that Bus 4×4 has cut its teeth – literally – in the Australian mining environment because there is no tougher place to learn what works and what doesn’t. Hence, the Big Red test drive was an actual demonstration of cutting our teeth in the outback, an environment that tour operators like Arid Air would be driving every day.

The test drive over two days had an enthusiastic local audience in addition to Phil and Maria Van Wegen of Arid Air. Don Rowlands, Ranger of the Munga-Thirri National Park has been a local in the job for the last 22 years. Ben Fullagar, General Manager of The Birdsville Hotel also accompanied us in the drive. Both Phil and Don drive 200 Series Landcruisers while Ben drives around on the Hilux which they think are the best vehicles for the terrain. However, the 4×4 capability and the ride comfort of the Bus 4×4 Conversion of Hiace Commuter surprised everyone.

Phil Van Wegen, Chief Pilot, Arid Air – “The ride comfort is outstanding. Better ride quality than the 200 Series Landcruiser”

Don Rowlands, Ranger, Munga-Thirri National Park – “More comfort, drives over the sand dunes with ease. I love it!”

Ben Fullagar, General Manager, The Birdsville Hotel – “Pleasantly surprised, rode better and seemed to soak the terrain than the Hilux. It did really well”

The new 300 Series Hiace range is an ideal mini people-mover for a range of applications, from mining and tourism to remote transport. With a new ergonomic design and improved safety standards like ANCAP 5 Star rating (2 seat and 5 seat vans only), the Hiace comes in a four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbo diesel or 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. Due to a single walkthrough design, the Hiace Commuter is a perfect solution for tour operators who wants to offer outback experience to their customers with a walkthrough ambience and in comfort.

The Bus 4×4 AWD Conversion of Hiace complies with the Australian Government Motor Vehicle Standards Act of 1989 under the national vehicle standard (Australian Design Rule – ADR) through a SSM IPA (Secondary Stage Manufacture – Identification Plate Approval) issued when a road vehicle meets all the applicable ADRs. In addition to the High & Low Range dashboard electronic switch which makes it easy to operate without leaving your seat, the Bus 4×4 Conversion of Hiace Commuter has modified front suspension and upgraded rear suspension with a lift of 180mm over factory standard. Bus 4×4 also offers mine or tour specifications including ROPS, rear cargo barrier and seat reduction options. The Bus 4×4 Conversion of Hiace Commuter comes with an upgraded GVM of 4,300 kgs which is the highest in its category.

The trip from Brisbane to Birdsville and return took 36 hours on the road over 3,500 kms passing through Queensland outback towns with many admirers checking the vehicle at fuel stations and rest stops.
In summary, be it the outback of Australia, the sand dunes of the Middle East, Namib desert in Namibia or the Atacama Desert in Chile; the Bus 4×4 Full Time AWD Conversion of Hiace Commuter with High and Low Range 4×4 proves that you can tackle any challenging terrain in comfort and safety.

Watch the full trip video:

We love the Hiace Commuter Conversion as well!

If you are looking for outback capable 4×4 people movers or motorhomes, give us a call on 07 3276 1420 or email

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