The first SLRV-kitted Hino 817 may well be the last.

SLRV Expedition Vehicles has fitted a motorhome body to the Hino 817 4x4 chassis, with mixed results.

When we first drove the Hino 817 4x4 light truck we thought it would make an excellent motorhome base, but if SLRV Expedition Vehicles' experience is anything to go by the new Hino might not be ideal.

Before checking out this new motorhome our experience with the Hino 817 was confined to loaded tray-bodied vehicles with low centres of gravity that behaved quite well on fire trails and steep gradients.

The fact that the Hino's double chassis at the rear made its frame height about 150mm higher than the Fuso Canter's and 80mm higher than the Isuzu NPS 300's didn't seem to be an issue.  

However, when SLRV put a motorhome body on the 817 chassis the company found that handling was less than desirable, with pronounced body sway in a standard lane-change manoeuvre that SLRV performs with all its motorhomes.

SLRV believes that the combination of stiff suspension and torsionally stiff chassis makes this high centre of gravity vehicle less stable than those that have inherent chassis or suspension flex.

Several suspension modifications later, including leaf spring changes and the fitment of a rear anti-sway bar, the Hino behaved much better, but not to the same level as European models or the Isuzu NPS 300 4x4. SLRV told OTA that it doesn't intend to do any more motorhome conversions on the Hino 817 chassis.

At OTA we're well aware of the fact that Hino is a Toyota Group company and that organisation is infamous for its propensity for litigation, so we have to be very careful what we say: their barristers are way out of our league! That said, we and the owner are very disappointed with Hino's lack of investigation into the issues with this truck.

Sure, a motorhome wasn't one of the primary vocations intended by Hino for its 817 4x4, but the truck's leading specifications should have suggested its appeal to the motorhome fraternity. Despite our urgings during 2016/7 Hino did no pre-release investigation of the effects a wide-single-tyre conversion would have on steering and handling. However, we now understand that the company has fitted four wide singles to a development truck and we've been promised a drive when it's ready.


On and off road

We conducted our own test on the SLRV-Hino, with the kind permission of its new owner and came away largely impressed with what is still a work in progress. The Hino's specification list is ahead of the opposition's, with traction control, stability control and four-wheel disc brakes as standard and that was the attraction for its owner. However, when we drove the vehicle its lifted and revised-rate suspension was still being refined.

The loaded machine tipped the scales at a shade under seven tonnes, so it deserved some respect through the twisty bits. However, the fitment of a non-standard anti-sway bar to the rear axle kept body roll controllable.

The principal issue was steering action that was reluctant to return to centre after a turn. It was difficult to keep the truck on line during a right-angle turn, so the owner has to do some fiddling with steering geometry and free-play to get that sorted. The problem relates to the fitment of single 285/70R19.5 tyres front and rear, replacing the standard skinny singles up front and duals at the rear.

Off-road the Hino 817 was very capable and conquered our rocky climb test without more than the odd bout of slight wheel slip. Downhill control was also excellent.

SLRV's equipment levels are well respected and the Hino model boasts all the expected comforts, including a vented bathroom/cassette toilet. We particularly liked the diesel stove, two-drawer pull-out fridge-freezer unit and the secondary fridge outside, with a drop-down MSA4x4 slide unit.

The SLRV design had a fixed-height roof, so there was, literally, no set-up time: just open the side door; press the electric step button and walk in. The bed remained made up and the dinette was always in place.

The fixed-height roof made installation of a large side windows, a TV aerial, 240V aircon and interior 12V fans straightforward.

There were also ample storage compartments and a custom spare wheel frame at the rear, with winch-operated lowering mechanism.

On the subject of winches, the Hino was fitted with forward and rear-operating electric winches, for self-recovery.

The owner had  extensive bar work fitted up front, to protect the cab, its auxiliary lights and aerials, with roof access via a stylish inbuilt ladder.

Fit and finish was exemplary, on this bush home away from home.

We'll report further on the steering fix early in 2019.

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