There are so many 4WD accessories and modifications on the market today that it’s easy to get lost in what’s important, necessary and actually useful. We’ve had our fair share of 4WD’s and spent a small fortune on setting them up to see this magic country. Currently we roll around in a 2016 Isuzu Dmax, and without a doubt our favourite, and most appreciated modification is the Canopy on the back.
About the Dmax
Our Isuzu came along to replace the 80 series Land Cruiser that was getting long in the tooth, and the Dmax became the primary family vehicle too. We wanted it set up to tick around town on family duties, but at the same time to be ready to head bush at a moment’s notice. We tow a Reconn R2 hybrid camper trailer, which allows us to travel as a young family in considerable comfort, but have always kept the two units functioning independently, so we can ‘live’ out of either.
The Dmax has been modified enough to make it reasonably capable, super functional and easy to use. We run an AFN Bull Bar, Runva winch, Bushskinz bash plates, Icom UHF, Old man Emu GVM upgrade, Bridgestone 697 all terrains, Provent 200 catch can, Fuel manager pre filter, diff drop kit, Ultra Gauge, Tow Pro Elite and last but certainly not least, a Bull Motor Body aluminium gull wing canopy.
About the Canopy
Having come from a wagon, and previously another Ute running a well body and fiberglass canopy, I wanted something that was going to give us as much usable space as possible. Nothing beats a gull wing canopy for this, and I manage to pick up a second hand Bull Motor Body canopy for under 4k. It already had a fair bit of gear inside and underneath, and was a bargain.
With a bit of messing around, the tub came off the Dmax, and the canopy went on, and I set about making it as user friendly as possible, without spending an insane amount of money. Sure, lithium batteries, inverters, microwaves and all the other fruit are neat, and useful from time to time, but for us completely unnecessary.
Today, the canopy has been on the vehicle for more than 2 years, and it’s done a significant number of kilometres around WA and the Northern Territory on all sorts of terrain. We love beaches and the coast in general, but also the Gibb River Road, Lorella Springs and Savannah way, Pilbara, Coral Coast, Southern coast and plenty of places around Perth. Overall, we are wrapped with it, and won’t be changing much.
In and on the canopy
On one side of the canopy, I’ve built an L shaped ply box, which is our kitchen. It has the fridge slide with a 55L Evakool fridge, drop down table and 6 of the Bunnings Oates Drawers, where we keep everything from spare parts to lights and camera gear, first aid, day trip food and snacks and towels/general day use gear.
On the other side, I’ve kept it pretty much empty, with a small tub to take our recovery gear, compressor and bits and pieces. I use two old Elocker boxes to store a variety of oils and grease, nuts and bolts, tie wire and strapping and other heavy spares.
Underneath, we have a 50L water tank and small water pump, which comes out to a tap on the kitchen side. This is extremely useful when you have two young kids!
Electrically, I built a small box above the kitchen which takes a Projecta 25 amp DCDC charger, circuit breakers and has plenty of Anderson, USB and cigarette plug outlets. I’ve also had a secondary solar controller wired up so if the DCDC were to fail, I can easily swap it over. All of the wiring was done by a qualified auto electrician who did an amazing job.
We run a 150 amp hour Bosch Deep Cycle battery which is shoved as far forward in the canopy as I could get it, and secured to the canopy and plywood. There’s a couple of LED lights inside, and we run a 42 inch Stedi LED light bar on the roof, along with a 200W solar panel that is fixed. We never have to touch the electrical system, and it will happily charge camera gear, Ryobi battery chargers, laptop chargers, fans and whatever else we need off a Projecta 350W pure sine wave inverter. The fridge and diesel heater also run off this as required.
Overall, it’s got a fair bit of gear in it, but we’ve kept it reliable, simple and relatively low cost.
What’s so good about the canopy?
There are lots of things we look for in a good touring 4WD, and the canopy covers a heap of them in one go.
The best thing about a gull wing canopy is the shelter you get when you open a door. I’d get fried just making sandwiches off the side of our 4WD, and knowing that the doors give us a small space to stand under is very much appreciated especially in the warmer parts of Australia.
There are a lot of canopies out there that are not very secure, and unfortunately a heap of dishonest people. This canopy has central locking, strong locks, and no glass to smash. Even if you did twist the locks, they’d snap internally before you got access, and that is greatly appreciated when you have expensive gear inside. No one can see what is inside either, which is a great first deterrent.
Lots of room
When you have two young kids, the more room you have the better. This canopy is brilliant for throwing bikes in, timber for fires, high chairs, porta cots and the ever growing list of gear that you take camping!
Easy access from both sides
Gull wing canopies allow you to get access to your gear at waist height. There’s no climbing in to get access, or trying to reach through tiny windows to pull things out. When you are constantly grabbing gear out, bad access is a recipe for cranky people!
It’s completely weather and dust proof
We’ve been on some shockingly dusty roads, and never had a single bit of dust make its way inside. There’s no vents or filtration either, just good quality doors and seals. If it pours with rain and you are standing under a door, you won’t get wet as the water is channelled to the side and runs away from you, like it should be.
The setup suits us
The inside just works for us. The little table is gold for making lunch, changing kids or whatever needs doing, and the room on the other side is greatly appreciated.
It’s well built and light weight
Bull Motor Bodies have been only making canopies for a long time, and they know what they are doing. Using a combination of aluminium and then fiberglass ends, the final product is extremely robust, and light weight. Now, I will agree they could look better, but it’s a small price to pay when you consider everything else. It weighs in at under 180kg empty, which is pretty impressive for what it is. I’ve seen enough bent dual cabs to know the importance of good weight management and distribution.
Our bingle up north
In 2018, we spent 3 months travelling through the Pilbara, Kimberley, Northern Territory and back down the Coral Coast to Perth. We had a couple of accidents, and the most significant one involved me backing into a tree at Katherine which I couldn’t see in the reverse camera.
Unfortunately for me, it moved the canopy forward and pushed the fuel filler into the cab, denting the main vehicles panels and requiring a fair bit of work to fix. Fortunately though, my insurance through Club 4×4 took care of the lot, with instructions to continue the trip as it wasn’t hindering anything (except my pride) and then had it repaired back in Perth working with Bull Motor body.
I’m now far more careful when reversing the vehicle, as I’d rather avoid any further bingles with our canopy. For us, this vehicle is perfect, and it’s made that way because of the canopy. We love it, and enjoy using it all over the country as often as possible. It’s still insured with Club 4×4, and covered at an agreed value of 48k, which would leave me happy enough to build a replacement should the worst happen.
What’s your favourite modification, and why?
Club 4X4 insures over $18,000 of mods and accessories, including the canopy on Aaron’s Rig. We’d love to quote you on your Rig to help make sure it is appropriately covered too! And right now, if you get a quote before 28 June 2020, you’ll go into the draw to win 1 of 6 Winter Escape packs. For full details go to https://www.club4x4.com.au/eofy/