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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Trails Less Traveled Tacoma

This little Tacoma has been around for a while, and I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with it. Sean and I published a lot of articles about it on off-road.com over the years, and it's gone through a lot of changes. The articles on my site are way out-of-date, and I'm just finishing-up another major overhaul. Was thinking about selling it, but have ended up putting so much time and money into it over the last few months that I'm not sure I want to part with it anymore. Just posting here to share some of the recent updates with you guys. After all these years, I wanted to see this thing DONE.



Probably ought to start with a quick run-down of what it's all about, and then I'll get into what I've been up working on lately. It's a 1996 base-model, standard-cab, 4cyl/5spd, 4WD truck (But there's not much left of it). The frame has been boxed, and it's fully caged (bumper-to-bumper, solid-mounted cab, etc.) Built like a full-kill race-truck, but it's still got 4WD (5:1 atlas transfer-case). It's basically a desert truck that can get pretty shifty on the trails too.

Total Chaos long-travel kit up front, with 2.5" SAW coilovers and 3" triple-bypass shocks. ESB heim-jointed steering, Total Chaos double-shear mounts, Total Chaos spindle gussets. Custom-tuned 62" Deaver springs with Deaver's Baja bushings, custom-built 12" shackles and another set of 3" bypass shocks, along with a set of SAW 2.0x4" stroke hydraulic bump-stops.

Junkyard engine. K&N intake and Downey header. Otherwise stock. Solid-mounted, mandrel-bent exhaust system though. Marlin-built V6 transmission, adapted to the 3RZ using a custom plate from Advance Adapters. Also has a B&M short-shifter installed. As previously mentioned, Atlas 5:1 transfer-case with HD 32-spline front output. Clocked so that it's almost completely flat. Major increase in ground clearance and break-over angle. Custom HD 1350 / Toyota driveshafts front & rear.

Custom Tundra-width rear axle. Custom Tundra-width Diamond Axles housing, stuffed with 5.29's and an ARB, full-floating 4340 axleshafts custom-made by Superior, FROR's full-floater kit, and Longfield drive-flanges. Custom-made disc brake caliper mounts adapt Tacoma calipers & rotors to the rear axle, so it's got 4-wheel disc brakes. There's a proportioning valve mounted in the cab, and I also installed CNC cutting brakes. Front differential has also been re-geared to 5.29's and I'm running Total Chaos-prepped CV's.

Built the rollcage around the stock interior, including the full dash, door-panels, etc. Sparco Evo seats and Crow 5-point harnesses. I've also done a lot of sheetmetal work, so the 'bed' is very usable. I can still haul two large dogs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, camping gear, two full-size (35") spares, tools, coolers, etc. Glassworks front fenders. Front fenders and the firewall have been modified to clear 35" tires. Running 17x8" forged Alcoa 8-hole wheels, with OMF bead-locks and 35x12.5" BFG Mud Terrain tires.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
About two years ago I reworked the bedcage and outfitted it with most of the sheetmetal that I had always planned on adding. Was planning on finishing it, but got distracted. As a result, the thin coat of primer that I'd sprayed on the all that fresh sheetmetal wore through and was starting to rust. Nothing more than a little bit of surface rust, but I decided to tear the whole back half of the truck apart and have it sandblasted. I wanted to do some more fabrication work on the bedcage anyway, and that figured that would make it a lot easier.

This is what it looked like a few months ago.







 

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Discussion Starter #3
Also needed to finish the interior. Passenger's-side dash, carpet, headliner, rollcage padding, etc. Built this truck to be a DRIVER and wanted to get it back to a point where it flet like something closer to a stock truck (talking about comfort and noise mostly).

 

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There was also a bunch of mechanical stuff on my to-do list. The rear axle was leaking because I used the wrong type of RTV sealant when I built it. Check engine light due to the custom exhaust. Shocks needed to be rebuilt. All minor stuff. Most of the components on this truck were relatively new/low miles, but I wanted to give everything a once-over.
 

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First thing I did was strip the whole back half of the truck, and then took it down to Agri-Trade School in Salinas to have the bedcage sandblasted. Talked with Tom about it beforehand, and worked out a deal on a sandblast, sandblast, paint deal. Meaning that he would sandblast it for me, I'd take it home and do a bunch of fabwork, then bring it back and he'd sandblast it again and paint it for me. Really happy I went this route. Sandblasting (twice) and paint ended up costing me under $400 and saved me a lot of time.









 

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Discussion Starter #6
Don't think I took any pictures of the rear axle rebuild, but I pulled the third and the full-floating adapters/spindles and re-sealed everything.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Moving on to fab work:

Added these sheetmetal caps to the front part of the bedcage. The oval cutout is for a moto-style fuel jug, which I found out are made with filler spouts in a few different locations. On the other side I made a cutout for the Powertank, which I've been running for a while.









 

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Added some sweet-ass Yosemite Sam mudflaps a while ago (back off!) to get a fix-it ticket signed-off, and had a crazy idea to use those as the foundation for some small storage platforms that would sit outside the framerails, behind the rear wheels. Wanted to be able to lash-down soft luggage (dry-bags), a small cooler, etc. But I ditched my fiberglass bedsides a long time ago because they got thrashed running trails, so I didn't want anything hanging off my frame that might get damaged or hung-up on anything. This is what I came up with:





 

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Discussion Starter #9
I made some drawings for the sheetmetal parts in SolidWorks and then sent those files over to Pacific Fabrication. Would normally use my Tacoma to run these type of errands, but seeing as that's what I was working on, I couldn't exactly use that to pick up parts.

 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oh yeah, been doing all this work outside. That's why I had to plan on having the truck sandblasted twice. Funny to be back wrenching on trucks in the driveway. Spent the last two years building a custom motorhome, and have been planning on spending some time traveling as soon as it's finished. Wasn't intending to get into any of this type of work, so most of my tools were in storage. Making do with the bare minimum here, but I've seen more done with less, and I've managed to avoid cutting corners by outsourcing things that I don't have the ability/tools to do here (like these sheemetal parts).



 

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Finished the storarge platforms off with these CNC plasma-cut sheetmetal pieces. The cutouts are there so I can get tie-down hooks around the 1" tubes to secure whatever I'm carrying, and the big cutouts at the rear are to access the levers for the... I'll get into that later. Anyway, they're asymmetrical because of the hi-lift that's mounted on the passenger's-side of the truck. Also finished the fuel jug mount. It sits on a little shelf right above the battery. Have to take a better picture to show how that works.





 

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Installed a higher-clearance radiator from a 2WD 2.4L Tacoma (more info here). Radiator height went from 20.5" to 18.5", and I also raised the radiator mount up a little bit. Just elongated the holes with a dremel and then welded washers to the sheetmetal where I wanted the new holes to be located.

(before)




(after)




 

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Discussion Starter #13
This left plenty of clearance for the skidplates that I'd designed.



 

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Discussion Starter #14
I wanted to be able to mount a winch up front, and didn't want to have that weight hanging out there over the frontend all the time, so I decided to build a receiver-hitch into the front bumper. A BURLY one. This would also serve as the cross-bracing for the skidplates.

No drillpress here, so I had to hand-drill all the holes for the receiver hitches using my 1/2" Milwaukee Magnum drill and a receiver hitch-mounted vice that I made. Yeah, it took a while... but they came out as nice as anything I've ever built in a proper shop. I made three receivers because I wanted to have a place to store the winch on the bedcage, along with a hitch, or any of the other number of receiver hitch-mounted tools and accessories I've got.



















 

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Discussion Starter #16
Added these 1.5x.120-wall tubes to brace the lower half of the skidplate (which I expect to take a beating) and brace the receiver hitch and front bumper. Was using a JD2 notch-master to do all this work. Good quality tool, but not quite as nice as my JMR notcher. The vertical adjustment that allows you to do offset notches is nice, but I've had problems with it slipping, and the offset marks don't line-up with the centerline of the tubes.

Skidplates are made of 3/16" aluminum, and were CNC plasma-cut, so if/when they get thrashed, I can just have replacements cut. Got that stainless steel mesh from mcmaster-carr.

Welding the mounting tabs was a minor pain in the ass. I've seen a few different methods used effectively, but what I did was bolt the tabs to the skidplates using large nuts to space the tabs far enough away from the skidplate that I was able to tack them into place. Worked out alright in the end.

Turned out pretty well I think. Really like the way the frontend looks now that it's finally finished.













 

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Discussion Starter #17
Spent a bit a considerable amount of time adding little details here and there. This shovel mount has already come in really handy. Used to carry a small folding Gerber military-type shovel, but got tired of having to get down on my hands and knees, and only being able to scoop up handfuls of dirt/mud/sand/snow at a time.

Bought a nice D-handled shovel at Home Depot for about $25 and made a really simple mount using a door handle (like this), which the tip of the blade fits into perfectly (they come in different sizes). Drilled a hole in the handle, welded a 7/16" clevis pin to my rollcage and whammo - all done. I love it when there's a small project that I can actually complete with small parts that I can find at a local hardware store.








First trip in the Tacoma after getting it all back together was down to the tassajara hot springs for new years. We were camping on a ridgeline up at about 5000ft and got hit with a lot of rain (and a little bit of snow). Would have been seriously pissed if I'd only had that Gerber shovel to work with. Yes, there are FOUR dogs in the back of my truck. Told you guys there's a lot of space back there! Only took the receiver rack to carry a bunch of firewood.





 

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Discussion Starter #18
Another thing I've added that I'm just absolutely LOVING is this longacre rearview mirror. Bought it from Summit, and think it cost about $65? Thing is, when I'm all buckled in, movement is restricted. Duh, that's the whole point. The sparcos and crow harnesses are a great combination, but I had a few blind-spots. Problem solved.













 

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Discussion Starter #19
Added these tubes to the roofline. That's 1" x .120-wall tubing, and it's tied directly into the rollcage. Had an idea for a really neat roofrack, and also liked the protection (from things like tree branches). The idea is basically to build a removable roofrack that will be mounted to the top of the rollcage at the B-pillar on pivots.

In position 1) the roofrack will be forward, over the cab. There will be driving lights on the leading edge of the roofrack, and the front of the roofrack will be mounted to the tubes that I just added with some type of quick-release pins. This will be useful when hauling dirbikes, as it will be a great place to carry riding/camping gear.

In position 2) the roofrack will be rotated 180-degrees, and will be horizontal behind the cab. It would be supported at the front (now the back) of the roofrack by simple struts that would run down to somewhere around the upper shockmounts. This is how I imagine the roofrack would be set up/used most of the time, and would accomplish a few things. First, it would give my dogs (have four of them - big ones) a roof to get them out of the wind and rain. Second, it would get the driving lights and roofrack out of the wind, and hopefully help with gas mileage. Third, would still be able to use it as a functional roofrack (important because my dogs take up a lot of space).

In position 3) the roofrack would be rotated downwards from position 2, towards the upper shock mounts. The idea here is to create and enclosed and LOCKABLE storage area. Thought this would be awesome, being able to stash a bunch of gear in the back of the truck and not have to worry about anything getting ripped off.








 

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In order to create an enclosed space though, I'd need to do something about the open triangular spaces between the cab and the upper shockmounts. But that was something I needed to address anyway, in order to protect the back of the cab and the rear window from all the dirt and rocks that get kicked up by the back tires. Had an idea to use 1/4" solid round to make a kind of cage and this turned out to be a metric shit-ton of work. Probably took me close to 20hrs to do this.

I had to connect three tubes that were on two different planes, which meant I'd have to bend the tubes, and I wanted the tubes to look like they were horizontal when viewed from the rear, which meant that each tube had to be bent at some specific and wacky angle. Used a quite a few sticks, and was amazed that when it was all said and done, I only had a few random bits left over. Kind of uncanny how things like that have been working out lately, and specifically on this project.



















 
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