Lance Gillies couldn’t find the kind of rugged RV he needed for travel in comfort to remote areas of the world, so he built one. But then other people wanted a vehicle just like his, and he found himself in the RV business in his native Australia.
Now Gillies, 48, is bringing his EarthCruiser to the U.S., with plans to build the expedition vehicle at Host Industries in Bend, Oregon. Host, which builds truck campers and motor coaches, is also working with Gillies to manufacture the OutBack Explorer, a sort of EarthCruiser lite, with a few more of the features found in traditional American RVs and a lower price.
The EarthCruiser, which sells for more than $200,000, is built on a diesel-powered Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4 truck chassis that can plow through snow, climb over rocks and sweep across deserts. It has a solar panel system that can keep everything running off the grid for 10 days and a water purification system so that you can draw water from a river and safely drink it.
The EarthCruiser is a true, all-terrain vehicle, Gillies said. “If you want to drive it around the world, you can.”
Who buys the EarthCruiser? Gillies said current owners include wildlife photographers, hunters, surfers and rock climbers. It has also been used to deliver medical supplies to remote regions of the world. Companies in the mining industry have bought them for fieldwork. The first U.S. version of the EarthCruiser was sold to a California business executive.
Gillies formed his company, EarthCruiser Overland Vehicles, in Queensland, Australia, in 2008 and is continuing to build expedition vehicles there in a factory with about 30 employees. He moved to the U.S. two years ago so that his wife, Michelle, could be close to her parents, who live in Portland, Oregon. Michelle is a world traveler who has visited more than 100 countries and shares her husband’s enthusiasm for adventure.
They were in Malaysia when the idea of the EarthCruiser was born. He was competing in the Rainforest Challenge, an extreme off-road event that takes competitors on a six-day jungle trek across water, mud and fallen trees. Gillies said there was no suitable place for his wife to stay in that environment, so he saw the need for an RV that was comfortable and functional and yet could handle difficult terrain.
There are other expedition vehicles, such as the Unicat, that are equipped to go over rough ground and keep the occupants in style, but they cost $500,000 or more, and Gillies was convinced he could build something that would meet his needs at far less cost.
Research and development created a prototype that was tested on the sand dunes of Australia and across the tundra of Russia and Mongolia. From those efforts emerged the EarthCruiser, with a specially designed suspension system and a wheel/tire combination that gives the vehicle the ability to handle extreme angles over difficult terrain.
The EarthCruiser is 22 feet long. The cab offers a high driving position and large windshield to provide good visibility. Gillies said the interior of the living quarters was designed using techniques from the yachting industry. It accommodates two people, with a full-size double bed, an ergonomically designed kitchen, a dining area, shower and toilet. The cabinetry is fiberglass, and the walls and roof are built with an insulating and durable fiberglass composite. The vehicle is energy self-sufficient and there is adequate storage for long stays in isolated locations.
One advantage of the EarthCruiser during travel, Gillies said, is that the whole unit is no wider or higher than the cab. That means it can be driven through tight spots and also can be driven into a standard freight container for shipment anywhere around the globe. For example, he said, one customer finished touring Europe in the EarthCruiser and shipped it to Seattle for travel in the U.S.
If you don’t need a vehicle geared for international travel like the EarthCruiser, an alternative is the OutBack Explorer, which has many of the same features, including the Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4 chassis with a diesel engine. It is available with a queen bed, a dinette/sleeper and two slideouts for extra room. The retail price is $135,000.
You can learn more about the EarthCruiser at earthcruiser.com.au.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.