Enter: Walter. He’s a 1999 Mitsubishi Challenger with only 269tkm (estimate for time of sale), 4WD, Auto, V6 Petrol. Engine in great condition, this car will take you anywhere you want to go. Complete documentation with manual, service book and even workshop handbook and the marketing flyer of the time. Timing belt done at 212tkm, due at 312tkm. More about the vehicle itself will be described further below.

The car is registered, roadworthy and ready to go. You can get it from the 15th of March 2019 in Helensvale (Brisbane / Gold Coast), 5.500 AUD drive away, negotiable.

The really good part about this rig is its equipment. You will have seen a lot of cars which are advertised as “fully equipped”, because they have a mattress in the back and a gas cooker, plates, and cutlery. You can get a car “fully equipped” in this sense for about 400 AUD, because cooking gear can be obtained cheaply in Australia.

Walter’s equipment is worth more like 2.400 AUD. I bought an empty car and eqipped it myself.

It took me some good 2 weeks (you can now save all that time!), and most of the stuff in/on the car will be less than 3 months old at the time of sale, and is still under warranty. Now this is what I call “fully equipped”:

  1. Rooftop tent,
  2. Camping gear,
  3. Electric gear: Dual battery, solar panel, fridge, 240V inverter, and
  4. 4WD recovery gear (not many backpacker cars have that last part covered at all!)

For me it was important to have a vehicle which would get out of a tough spot, I’m a rather careful character. Also I’m a digital nomad, so I needed electricity when there was no power plug, and I wanted my milk to be good for breakfast. And I’m a little lazy and I didn’t want to shuffle around all that gear every night to sleep inside the car (and then run out of breathable air inside), or find that perfectly even piece of ground to set up a normal tent. Also, sleeping 2 metres above the snakes and spiders feels right in a country like Australia. So I bought the rooftop tent, all the electrical gear to keep my laptop and a fridge going, and the recovery gear to be able to go places without too much fear of getting stuck.

I will give a few more details on all the 4 sections now.

1. Rooftop tent.

You can sleep in comfort, in your very own penthouse and wildlife viewing platform.

The rooftop tent has a sleeping length of 2,40m (!! Yes really!) so stretching out is easy. Try that in the back of a car. It is 1,20m wide, which provided plenty of space for my girlfriend and myself to sleep in. It has large windows with mosquito nets in every direction for perfect ventilation. The bedding and lighting is included also.

It is the current model of King’s Tourer, as sold by 4WD Supacentre for 595 AUD (and one week of waiting time even for pickup), in perfect condition, like new, all the parts present, no damage whatsoever. Installation took half a day. Now it is put up in about 5 minutes and taken down in a similar amount of time. I added proper ABS pegs for soft ground, and made the ladder adjustable in 3 different positions. I also added the bedding (2 sheets for changing, 2 pillows, 1 blanket). The tent rests on brand new crossbars from ProRack, the S-Model, also branded as the “Whispbar” due to its aerodynamic design, which eliminates wind noise while driving and reduces fuel consumption compared to the standard roofracks.

Retail price is about 420 AUD including the vehicle specific mounting kit. It is rated at 75kg carrying weight. The rooftop tent weighs 59kg so that’s a match. Wait, don’t you weigh more when you sleep inside? Yes that is true, the indication of 75kg is the dynamic load, i.e. while driving the rack can hold 75kg of load which is bouncing up and down while the car does 110km/h on the motorway. In a static condition, the acceptable load is about 3-4 times higher than during motion, so don’t jump around in the tent and you will be fine. There is a third rack in the back of the car, different model (and old), I just use it as a handle to climb on a tyre for mounting / unmounting the rooftop tent. Maybe you find more use for it.

The overall height of the rig with the folded rooftop tent is 2,20m (depending a bit how tightly you squeeze the tent when folding and how flat you make the protective cover). This allows you to get into most of the commercial shopping mall parking decks, many of them had just 2,20m as the limit. Be sure to look out for the height clearance signs at the entrance, if it states a max height of 2,20 or more, you can go in. During the trip, I only saw one private underground parking (not a mall) which was limited to 2,05m where the car would not fit in, everything else was a go.

2. Camping gear

This is the “normal” section and indeed, it has what most people have.

Deluxe Gas stove with windshields and igniter
3 Kg LPG bottle – I used about 2kg in 6 weeks so you don’t have to worry very often about resupplying.

20l water jerry can with tap – running water in the car! I also have a BRITA Water Filter so the water always tastes good. Don’t underestimate how dodgy tap water can taste around here, depending where you find it. Too much chlorine is quite usual.

2 chairs, Rollup Table, Cutlery, Plates, Pans. Plates and cutlery are metal, not plastic! Also cutting knives and boards are there and a noodle strainer.
Spare tent for 3 people
Camp shovel
Solar shower
Large food box and several smaller boxes to store stuff

I built a box into the back of the car to optimize storage space. It can also be used to cut veggies at a good height, or cook food on the gas burner. At the same time, all the built-in compartments in the back of the car are accessible, both at the sides and in the bottom of the trunk. The bottom of the trunk is important because that needs to be accessed to lower the spare wheel in case of a flat tyre.

Also included is a starter supply for all necessary commodities, and a dinner for 2! (Spaghetti and sauce….) The box contains salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and maybe some other food. Also available is dishwashing liquid, a 7 l box as a “sink” for washing dishes, washing powder and some drying towels.

3. Electrical gear

This part is interesting because it provides electrical independence.

– The Deep Cycle Battery (2nd Battery), is hooked up to the solar panel and to the car’s electric system, so it will charge when the solar is up, or when the car is driving around. It is disconnected from the car’s electrical system when the kar iginition key is in the “LOCK” position (or pulled out).

– Solar panel with 10m extension lead. 160W nominal power. Park in the shade and put the panel into the sun.
– Waeco electrothermic fridge. A small fridge to keep your drinks and veggies cool. It isn’t too noisy, even when the car is off and the fridge still on (thanks to the second battery). I did turn it off at night, as it got cool enough then, but the heat of the day will be taken away from the perishable food. No need to buy ice all the time.
– The LED Lighting strip lights up the rooftop tent, but can also easily be taken out of there and provide light anywhere else. It is quite powerful and doesn’t take too much energy out of the 2nd battery at all.
– 6x USB adapter in the front (hooked to the car power system), 2x USB in the back (hooked to 2nd battery)
– 240V Inverter. This is one of the tricks of having such a power source in place. The laptop can be connected when needed, day and night, anywhere. It is a quality inverter with 250W peak power and 150W continuous power, more than most laptops will ever need. Inverter can be hooked up to car power system or 2nd battery via 12V cigarret lighter connector.

– Radio with line-in via FM transmitter, so the phone can play music over the car radio. Aftermarket SONY radio/CD player with good sound.
– Universal Phone holder, and a spare for the phone holder in case it breaks. I found it fairly rigid though.

4. 4WD recovery gear

I’m not sure why nobody pays attention to this. I have read a lot of car ads in particular when I was looking for a car, and I didn’t come across many offers which had this properly covered. In particular in this kind of price range. What is this about anyways? Well, the recovery gear is needed when the car is bogged down, or in other words, stuck somewhere. This can happen at any time while driving off road, in soft sand or mud for example. As soon as the bottom part of the car sits on solid ground and the wheels don’t have enough traction to carry the car out of that spot, you will need recovery gear. The best gear is something that you can use on your own. If that doesn’t help, a second vehicle is needed to get you out. And one of them must carry the snatch strap.

So I’d think that there is a three step logic for recovery: 1. Prevention, 2. Self recovery and 3. Aided recovery. I don’t have a lot of experience in all of this myself, but I have some gear that I used and which also helped others.

– Tyre deflator. This is the most important tool for prevention. Before you drive on soft sand, deflate the tyres. I was surprised to see a number of people who didn’t google this before they just drove on the soft sand, and – surprise – got stuck straight away. I have a Kwiki Tyre deflator with a rather precise pressure gauge I think. This lets you set the tyre pressure to 16 PSI for soft sand, and suddenly the tyres will form tracks of their own, have a much larger surface and prevent the car from getting stuck in the first place.

– 12v Compressor. After you drive out of the soft sand, you want higher tyre pressure. That’s what the compressor does. To be honest, my compressor is cheap plastic, but it gets the air into the tyres eventually. You want to put only as much as you have to, because it just takes ages to inflate. Also you should stick to the instructions printed on the device (max 10 minutes continuous pumping, then 8 minutes cooling). So you may want to put 26 psi on the tyres and at some later time adjust the pressure further at the next fuel station.

– Recovery tracks. 10 tons heavy duty model, 1,05m long and rugged UV stabilized nylon if I remember correctly. This is helpful for self recovery. The car gets stuck, you dig out some sand, put the tracks under the tyres and hopefully can free the car. We used these frequently, but not because we were stuck – we just parked one or two wheels on them for levelling the car when parked on a slight slope, to make sure the rooftop tent is always as even as possible!

– Snatch strap kit. Consists of a snatch strap, 9m long, 8 tons rated, and two bow shackles 8 ton, and a carry bag for the set. This is used to get pulled out with the help of a second vehicle. Never used it, it’s unpacked but still new. Hopefully I don’t have to use it either, but it is reassuring to know that you have it with you.

Just below here I will put a new category which I haven’t introduced previously:

5. Wheel change  and other self help gear

Make sure you buy a car which has the necessary gear to cope with a flat tyre! Towing is hugely expensive in Australia, as I was told. Hope I never get this experience myself. I didn’t inspect Walter properly when I bought him, and had to buy a functioning spare wheel, a jack and two stands. Also got some pavers in case the jack is not high enough (it’s a standard bottle jack). Just lift the car to put on a stand, then put some pavers under the jack and cover the remaining height to change a flat tyre. The jack is good enough to change a wheel when inflated, but you may need the two step process when the tyre is actually flat. The good thing is that now there are two new stands, so in case you ever need to get under the car, you can use them and crawl under safely. Also there is a large and complete toolbox included, if you have something you can fix yourself, at least you will have some basic tools available to help you (or a mate you can find somewhere) to do the job.

6. A car.

Yes the car is also included in the set!

Mitsubishi Challenger PA

Quick facts again: 1999 / V6 3L Petrol / Automatic / 4WD / 279.000km / Bullbar / Rego / RWC / Ready to go

This car is a medium size four wheel drive vehicle (just in the same way that Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Pathfinder are medium size 4WD vehicles. Large ones are the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Nissan Patrol, if I am not mistaken. I’m just writing this here because I didn’t know when I started looking for vehicles, just came across the term “medium size 4WD” and couldn’t place it). It comes with a full 4WD transmission: 2H/4H/4L (2H = rear wheel drive for sealed roads, 4H = four wheel drive high gear, same transmission ratio as rear wheel drive but powering all four wheels, 4L = four wheel drive low gear, much lower transmission ratio for difficult terrain, slower speed, more force. Shifting between 2H and 4H can be done while driving up to 100km/h, but to shift into 4L, the car must stand still and transmission in neutral position. The four wheel drive transmission is mechanically sound and works in all positions, it was well proven on Bribie Island in deep soft sand, and it’s handy to change into 4WD on the fly whenever the ground gets soft. It sometimes hesitated to go back to 2WD, that is also mentioned in the manual so it’s not age related but typical to the type of transmission. I found it helpful to just keep the 4WD transmission lever pulled back for a second while driving. The manual says to just press and depress the accelerator while driving on a straight road.

The Challenger performs well on forest trails and sand, as mentioned on “Take it to forest trails and it will cope with ease, likewise it handles beach driving well.”  I tried both and can confirm 🙂

First registered 10/1999

269.000 km (estimate for time of sale). This is a very low mileage for a car this age. Most vehicles in this price and age bracket will trade rather around 380 tkm.

Automatic transmission. It smoothly shifts when it is supposed to. There is also a transmission control button, where the car can be set to Power Mode, Normal Mode and Hold Mode. In Power mode the car will shift to lower gears more aggressively and let the engine rev higher. Only in this mode the engine will actually go to higher RPM and show you its hidden power. But of course it will also use more petrol. In Hold mode the car becomes more reluctant to shift gears, it will “hold” the gear longer and not shift down if you accelerate. This is useful if you want to prevent unneccessary gear shifting. Most of the time I would use normal mode which is balanced and economical.

3 litre V6 engine which very reliably turns on every time, doesn’t lose or consume water or oil. Very reliable, got serviced regularly, and is the last thing I would worry about in this vehicle. That is a good thing, as engine failure is probably the most costly problem you could have on a used car.

The engine takes any petrol fuel offered in Australia, I used ULP91 mostly.  E10 is not really cheaper, because it contains less energy than pure petrol. As the reduced energy content is about 3%, at a pump price of 1,20 AUD for ULP 91, E10 should cost 3,6 cent less. Most of the time, E10 only costs 2 cents less and is therefore more expensive than ULP 91. On top, in 1999 there was no E10 so the engine may not be optimised for it.

Fuel consumption and tyre pressure: I consistently drove the car around 12 l/100km. The rooftop tent seems to have little or no impact on fuel economy, much to my own surprise. However tyre pressure has a great influence on fuel economy. I didn’t like the manufacturers recommendation of 26 PSI, fuel consumption was more like 13,5 l/100 and it felt wobbly. An info plate at a station said 38 PSI was good for small to medium 4WD vehicles. I liked 35 PSI best (cold tyres). Up to you what you want to use.

Walter has Cruise Control! That is important for those long Australian motorways.

In the front: The bullbar. It may seem like a detail, but it can be all the difference between continuing the journey and ending the journey. It is a genuine, airbag compatible bullbar.

If you want to tow a trailer: Walter is equipped with a tow bar, towing ball, lockable pin and trailer brake control unit.

Maintenance done:

Replaced 3 tyres (2 rear and 1 spare)

New brake pads at 260.000 (all wheels)

New brake fluid at 260.000

New belts: Power steering and alternator belt at 260.000, timing belt at 212.000

New alternator and starter battery at around 240.000 (before I bought it)

Maintenance not done:
Replace A/C compressor. Aircon doesn’t do anything. The seller hid the broken compressor from me. We just had the windows open when it got hot, and it also worked just fine. Actually it got pretty chilly on the Great Ocean Road so we ended up using the heating 🙂

The car drives good and gave us zero breakdowns. Walter is a safe bank to go places.

The challenger is quite popular also for commuting to work, it behaves like a normal car on the roads thanks to its lower body compared to Pajero or Prado, and still gives you 200 mm ground clearance for offroad capability. Bear in mind that even when you want to be able to go off road, you will end up on normal streets like 95% of the time so the car should behave there, too.

Walter will be sold with a new QLD roadworthy, and registration valid until 10th April 2019. I can prepare all the paperwork that is necessary. The buyer will have to personally go to the road transport authority to register the car to their name. Online transfer is only possible for people living in Australia, not for travellers.

By the way, the rear side windows are fully intact. I just added reflective material on the inside, because I very rarely wanted to look through them and the sun heated the bags up, so I just covered them up. It can be taken out without residue (good old gaffa tape at work here).