Travel – 4WD Swagman – Solving the Shorty Forty Storage Issue with a Trailer

The little short wheelbase Landcruiser has a big problem – storage space. Being a soft top shorty forty, mine has even fewer options for storage than normal – no provision for roof racks for example.

The path of least resistance was to pick up a trailer. Such a trailer would literally only be used to haul camping equipment, so I’m not planning for any roof-top tents, slide-out kitchen units, under-floor water tanks or anything else like that.

With commercially-manufactured, purpose-built offroad trailers typically going for a couple of grand, I went for an army surplus option in the form of a No. 5 half ton trailer, which cost me under A$1000 on the road.

The Trailer.

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Australian army diagram of the No. 5 1/2 ton trailer.

According to the excellent Registry of Ex Military Landrovers (REMLR) site, my particular trailer was manufactured in Australia in 1963, which makes it 54 years old this year.

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A still image from the Army’s original 1 hour Bush Tucker Man documentary from 1985. Les Hiddins’ vehicle is the big brother of my short wheelbase BJ40 Landcruiser, a modified Toyota Landcruiser HJ47 long wheelbase troopcarrier as used by the Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Units like NORFORCE, the Pilbara Regiment and the 51st Bn FNQR. The Troopie is towing a No. 5 trailer just like mine. In the later ABC series Bush Tucker Man, Les Hiddins used a standard Australian army general service Perentie Landrover and often towed a No. 5 Trailer. The Perentie Landrover is a Landrover 110/Defender modified to Australian army specs.

I was fortunate the trailer was already registered when I acquired it, so the hard work to make it street legal was already done. However, as far as I can tell, the only modification made for rego was to replace the 12-pin NATO electrical plug with a flat civilian 7 pin plug which is standard on most vehicles.

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The trailer as acquired. This is the “before” photo. You can see the big lunette ring at the end of the drawbar.

The trailer doesn’t have a standard ball hitch, but rather uses a bombproof military system. A lunette ring on the trailer is secured with a pintle hook on the vehicle, making it an extremely secure hitch system.

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The trailer has a chassis number which matches Army Registration Number 101-163, but this sticker from the original Australian Frontline Machinery disposal auction at Minto NSW in 2015 indicates that the trailer is ARN 101-001, which would make it the second of these trailers to ever enter service. I don’t know which is correct, but I’m leaning towards the chassis number being the right one.

 Planned Repairs and Modifications

My plan is to keep the trailer mostly original, and to take it back to a Vietnam War-era configuration and paint job. Before I start prettying it up I need to make a few small repairs and make or replace some of the equipment for the trailer to make it safe and useable.

Lunette Ring – When the army’s “Perentie” Landrovers came into service a rotating pintle hook on the back of the Landrover was adopted. As originally manufactured, the lunette ring (pintle ring) on the trailer was rotating. When the Perentie rotating pintle hooks came in, the lunette ring on the trailer had to be modified so it was fixed. With a fixed ring and a rotating hook, a trailer which flips won’t also flip the vehicle. The pintle hook used on the Shorty Forty is fixed via a Hayman Reese compatible hitch, so I need to unlock the lunette ring so that it rotates as originally designed. Luckily there are detailed instructions on how to unlock the lunette ring on the REMLR website forum.

Rust Repairs & prevention– There is not much rust at all in the tub, just some surface rust which I’ll remove with a wire wheel on the angle grinder. I’ll prime the interior of the tub and then paint the inside of the tub with spray-on body deadener. I’ve used this before inside trailer tubs and it works well. There is a little rust on the chassis at the rear of the trailer, but this isn’t deep. I’ll give it the same treatment, but instead of the body deadener I’ll use the original army olive drab “Camouflage Green” rattlecans from Protec Pty Ltd. The “bucket” in which the brake/tail light is mounted is a little corroded so I will cut out the rusted areas and rebuild them before painting the bucket olive drab and reassembling and installing. Any other rusted areas on the trailer will simply have any surface rust removed and then primed. After painting, the underside of the trailer will be fish oiled for the best rust protection. Old timers swear by this method and happily, modern fish oil protectants don’t actually smell like rendered fish.

Canopy and Bows – The canvas canopy is missing, as is the bow which holds it up. I have some old galvanised steel tent poles here with the correct 90 degree bends which I’ll cut and shut to the correct dimensions. For the canopy I have a good quantity of WWII-era tropic-proofed jungle green 12 oz tent canvas and I also have the blueprints for the No. 5 Trailer canvas canopy. To add the icing to the cake I also have an old Singer 201 sewing machine which can easily handle four or six layers of the canvas. So I’ll sew up my own. Eyelets will be normal brass eyelets which I may paint olive drab unless I oxidise the brass grommets with pure ammonia fumes before setting them in the canvas. The cordage for the canopy is supposed to be 8-10mm olive drab nylon cord. I’m just going to use army surplus 10mm olive drab shock cord because it’s quick and easy.

Paint finish – To give the trailer the same look it had before the introduction of the current camouflage paint job, I’m going to paint it Vietnam War era olive drab. I’m not rubbing back the whole trailer to bare metal. The original camouflage paint was applied very professionally, so I’ll just scuff it up a little before hitting it with olive drab paint. This (as well as a lot of digital photos) will help to preserve any original markings on the trailer should I ever on sell it to a collector in the future. For ease of touching up any dings or big scratches, I’ll grab a couple of spare Protec army issue “Camouflage green” rattlecans.

Hubs – At the moment, the trailer is running Army Perentie-compatible hubs and rims. To make it compatible with the tow vehicle and with the various spares I have, I intend to swap the hubs over to 6-stud Toyota pattern and run it with 16 inch split rims and 7.50r16 Hi-Miler pattern tyres like the BJ40 tow vehicle. If the modification proves difficult, I’ll just grab a whole axle with the correct length and the 6-stud Landcruiser hubs already fitted. It shouldn’t be too hard. The NORFORCE Landcruiser HJ47 troopcarriers towed No. 5 Trailers with 6-stud hubs fitted with Toyota split rims. I’ll put the original Landrover-compatible axle into storage.

Canoe Rack – A bolt-on/bolt off rack for carrying a couple of canoes or kayaks. I’ll weld this up out of square tubing and it will bolt to the front and the rear of the mudguards. I’ll get a lot of use out of such an add-on.

Spare Tyre carrier/Jerrycan carriers – For long distance use, the trailer really needs its own spare tyre. The tow vehicle is fitted with two, but there’s a good chance both may be needed for the vehicle. I’m carrying puncture kit plus spare tubes and rust guards for the split rims anyway, but it might be a good idea to install a spare tyre carrier on the front or rear of the trailer anyway. Having the ability to carry a spare water and a spare diesel jerrycan in or on the trailer would be useful. I’d probably fit jerrycan carriers to the front of the trailer.

Then there’s mudflaps, etc. I’ll write up another post on the trailer once I’ve decided the final configuration.

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