The 6-wheeler conversions (6x6 and 6x4) in Australia
Most light 6-wheel drive vehicles are either designed for military applications of as one-off show vehicles.
There is one country where you can find a decent number of light 6-wheel (6x4) and 6-wheel drive vehicle (6x6) pickup conversions, that’s Australia. These pickups (called a ute down under) are converted for work purpose. A few show ponies aside.
The Toyota Land Cruiser 79 is the most popular vehicle for these conversions. Other options are the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-Max.
To understand the popularity of these 6-wheel conversions, we have to take a step back in history. Let’s go back to the ‘80. At that time, there was a gap in the Australian vehicle market. The buyers had to choose between a Japanese 4x4 pickup truck (1-ton payload) or a big 4x4 truck (from Mercedes and other vendors).
An Australian car license covers vehicles up to 4500 kg. So people started to look for more payload and longer trays on their utes (pickups).
Mining companies do have large fleets of Toyota Land Cruiser pickup trucks and the required spare parts, so a 6-wheeler conversion does make sense.
Even 6x2 conversions, based on a 4x2 pickup do exist.
These days, this gap in the Australia vehicle market does no longer exist. The Iveco Daily 4x4, Mercedes Sprinter 4x4, FUSO Canter 4x4 and other vehicles cover this market. American full-size pickup trucks are also available (some via grey imports).
Despite the availability of these alternatives, there is still a demand for 6x6 and 6x4 conversions.
The US pickup trucks are expensive due to the right-hand drive conversions and the limited market share.
On some trails, full-size US pickup trucks or a Mercedes Unimog are just too wide. So these vehicles drive on one side on the hard shoulder or in the ditch.
The 4x4 versions of vans (Spinter, Canter) are rather tall and wide compared to a 6x4 pickup conversion. The comfort of these vehicles isn’t always on par with a pickup truck.
- same track width as a stock truck, some trails are to narrow for wide trucks like the Unimog or the US trucks
- mining companies do have a large stock of Toyota pickup trucks and the required spare parts, 6x6 conversions give them a larger vehicle without the need to buy a new stock of spare parts.
- the tandem axle is when properly implemented, more comfortable on rough tracks.
Over the years, some conversion specialist left the market while others entered the market. Some companies are still in business after 30 years.