The Commander Off-Road Equipment (CORE) chassis is built to meet the needs of fleets from disaster relief to emergency response and many more in between. - Photo/Lauren Fletcher

The Commander Off-Road Equipment (CORE) chassis is built to meet the needs of fleets from disaster relief to emergency response and many more in between.

Photo/Lauren Fletcher

EarthCruiser is known for its capability in building overland vehicles. That’s why many folks got excited but also more than curious when it created the CORE Commercial Chassis lineup. 

In August 2020, I met with Lance Gillies, a native Australian who has a passion for big trucks and problem-solving, to find out more about the new truck option. I had the chance to look at the truck models and find out everything about how they are being built. 

A quote stands out from my first talk with Gillies, who told me, “It’s not just an idea — we are doing this. We are building for the future where you can buy a capable fleet vehicle that meets the value of a community.” 

Now, I finally got the chance to take the truck for a drive and see its capabilities firsthand. And I was not disappointed. 

At the ‘CORE’ of it All

First, some background. CORE stands for “Commander Off-Road Equipment.” The lineup was built to meet the growing demand for high-performing 4X4 chassis for commercial and DIY overland vehicle builder use. 

Manufactured initially on Mitsubishi Fuso chassis, after the truck makers exit from the U.S. market, EarthCruiser had a decision to make. After looking at both the Chevrolet LCF and Isuzu NPR, CORE trucks are now built on Isuzu single and quad cab chassis. 

The CORE trucks are made in Oregon and support small Oregon-based businesses in much of the componentry. There are more than 20 small companies that contribute to the truck. Just a short drive away, the fenders are made in Prineville, Ore. 

When asked why he was so supportive of the local community and businesses, Lance replied: “You are always going to do a better job for your neighbors.” 

These trucks are ideal units for any agency looking for a nimble cabover unit that may also be worried about space. From municipalities to linework, fire and emergency response, recovery, utility work, and so much more, these trucks are built to get technicians or personnel right to where the trouble is.

EarthCruiser technicians go through every inch of the truck to ensure that it’s ready to endure the tough conditions the trucks are meant for, but you won’t be able to tell their updates from the factory standard equipment.  - Photo/Lauren Fletcher

EarthCruiser technicians go through every inch of the truck to ensure that it’s ready to endure the tough conditions the trucks are meant for, but you won’t be able to tell their updates from the factory standard equipment. 

Photo/Lauren Fletcher

Modifying the CORE Chassis

A lot goes into making a CORE truck. EarthCruiser technicians go through every major component and update it while ensuring that factory specs are kept. They don’t simply take an Isuzu truck and slap a CORE logo onto it. I couldn’t tell the factory wires from the added ones when looking at a finished modification. 

Why does this matter? These trucks are meant to be put into the trenches, driven through ditches, and be used. That means they are going to need maintenance and quickly.

Through standard, readily available parts, fleets can quickly repair units themselves or take them to their service dealer for easy repairs. 

And with the option of a 38- or upgraded 60-gallon fuel tank and around 10 mpg (internally tested), while fully loaded, these trucks are going to get your team as far as it needs to go. 

A few additional updates and enhancements (although far from a comprehensive list) include: 

  • Transfer case from Atlas.
  • Remove original axles and upgraded to a Fusion Dana 80 rear axles and Fusion Pro Kingpin 80 front axle with Auburn E-Lockers.
  • Upgraded four-wheel disc brakes. 
  • Custom springs for both the front and rear. 
  • Fully DOT approved/certified. 

We headed up China Hat volcanic butte and took a rutted, steep road up the hill. Then we took the equally steep and far more rutted and rolling road down the other side. The truck handled the terrain with ease. - Photo/Lauren Fletcher

We headed up China Hat volcanic butte and took a rutted, steep road up the hill. Then we took the equally steep and far more rutted and rolling road down the other side. The truck handled the terrain with ease.

Photo/Lauren Fletcher

Taking ‘Clifford’ for a Spin 

As a truck editor, I have driven more trucks than I can count. And, if you have ever driven an Isuzu cabover truck, you know that they are capable trucks, easy to maneuver through tight spaces, and with the power to haul heavier loads. 

For my first test, we took a red CORE truck loaded with 14,400 pounds in weight and affectionaly nicknamed “Clifford” to a small parking lot where we tested its incredibly tight turning radius. The truck had no problem turning around in a spot that most full-size pickups would need to make a three-point turn minimum. 

Next, I drove with John Stafford, business development manager for CORE vehicles, out to the high desert just outside of Bend, Ore., (where EarthCruiser is headquartered).

Here, I was shown the truck’s capability to easily get emergency rescue fleets, utility fleets, lineman, fire response, and more to remote locations. 

We headed up China Hat volcanic butte and took a rutted, steep road up the hill. Then we took the equally steep and far more rutted and rolling road down the other side. The truck handled the terrain with ease. No slippage, and it tracked beautifully. 

These roads would stop most full-size trucks in their tracks, and the CORE truck handled it all with ease. I was given a chance to take the wheel to go back, and the drive was effortless even for a novice rock crawler to handle.  

Finally, I took the truck down a heavily wash boarded backroad and picked up the speed. Topping 40 mph, the truck found a sweet spot and gripped the road, floating above the bumps.

At the end of the day, the drives were utterly uneventful and easy to handle, which is what you want for your drivers. There is enough stress involved in handling a fire or other emergency. You don’t want the drive to add to it all. 

Affectionately named ‘“Clifford,” the big red truck has been tested on all roads and weather conditions to see exactly what a CORE chassis can handle. - Photo/Lauren Fletcher

Affectionately named ‘“Clifford,” the big red truck has been tested on all roads and weather conditions to see exactly what a CORE chassis can handle.

Photo/Lauren Fletcher

Acquiring a CORE Truck

There is a decent price tag attached to these trucks, but the modular capabilities offered to fleets help offset some of the higher costs. One truck chassis can work for multiple needs. For example, a fire and rescue fleet may be looking for a Brush Truck for a portion of the year and a command center at other times. 

Currently, the State of Oregon is contracted to purchase CORE trucks through a SPIRE grant for use in its fire services fleet. Fleets interested in finding out more about the CORE chassis or purchasing a unit for their operation should contact John Stafford at CORE directly at john@corevehicles.com

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