Probably the first item on any 4×4 owners shopping list is the tailgate mounted, swing away wheel carrier. It is almost a badge which separates the 4×4 owner from the mere 2 wheel drive owners. The selection available for Landrovers and Toyotas is vast, but for the Syncro family they are few and far between. Plus the usual quality issues are present with many of the options looking good, but being utterly unsuitable and failing to hold up to the rigours of use, whilst also potentially damaging the van. It pays to buy a quality item and believe me, they are not cheap.
After some research and talking to people with some of the other offerings, we elected to go for the Rocky Mountain Westy version, which is probably the best of the available offerings in the U.K. Undoubtedly the aficionados will say that the best is the original VW designed carrier, but these simply don’t ever come to market and are no longer made. This carrier is sturdy and has a powder coated finish which makes it look very attractive when bolted to the back of the van. It’s capable of carrying 15” and 16” wheels and swings easily away for access to the tailgate. The build quality is good, with nice clean welds and stainless steel rose joints which allow the carrier to swing effortlessly away from the van. The supplied fitting kit is good quality (note they are American AF sizes) and has resisted the British weather for several years so far, although some of the smaller fittings have shown a little rusting on the ends.
You will need to drill some holes in the van, but the carrier acts as a good template and it’s very easy. The one poor item is the retaining pip-pin, which holds the carrier away from the the van. Ours bent quickly, probably made worse by the holes in the frame not lining up as well as they might.
The big selling point for me though, is that the kit is supplied with some reinforcement panels which sandwich the skin of the vehicle and brace everything up. One fits inside the rear quarter panel, deep inside the air vent which would be hard to get to, but the panel has blind nuts and a helpful extension tang which allows you to easily position it.
The other is inside the engine compartment (remember the van is rear engined) and braces the latch. This stops the panel distortion seen on many vans with inferior wheel carriers fitted and to date I have seen no sign of the metal stretching or cracking under the strain. This carrier doesn’t sit on the rear bumper, so all the weight is carried by the skin of the vehicle, therefore these braces are essential.The carrier itself has few components: an adapter arm which allows the carriage of a wheel, a locking mechanism which locks the carrier to the rear of the van, preventing it swinging out into traffic. RMW do make another version which instead of the wheel, has a fold away tray to carry boxes or up to three jerry cans, hence the wheel adapter.
Fitting it is easier with a friends help and a set of sharp drill bits, plus some paint to dress the edges of the holes is a good idea. Fitting took a couple of hours and most of that was spent adjusting the rose joints to get the wheel swinging smoothly and engaging with the latch on the rear. The latch has two parts to
the lock mechanism: One engages and releases the carrier from the latch on the rear of the vehicle and the other isolates the first, to prevent inadvertent operation. It is worth noting that the wheel is not theft-proof on the carrier though, so either locking wheel nuts or in our case a bicycle lock threaded through to secure it, is probably a good idea.
In summary, this is a great if expensive addition to the van. It is good quality, but there are a couple of niggles: firstly the pip-pin I mentioned before, but also the powder coat is easily damaged and the metal will quickly rust if left untreated.
If you fit a cover, remember to ensure it has a drain hole in the bottom, or it will fill with water, rust the wheel and rot out.
This carrier is available direct from the manufacturer, but remember it will likely incur import duty etc. In the U.K. it is available from Camper Van Culture (no affiliation) in either the wheel or tray configuration and in left of right side orientation.