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Discussion Starter #1
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 The articles on my site are way out-of-date, and I'm just finishing-up another major overhaul.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 #3
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 #5
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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Discussion Starter #6
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 #9
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 #11
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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Discussion Starter #12
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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Lots of unique ideas on this truck. I feel your pain of having no bed space. My toolbox and 35" spare renders my 5ft bed useless.

-How thick is that steel you used for your bed? I thought about doing that in aluminum sometime down the road with steel tubes as support underneath it as the base.

-Why did you have your door tubes come down from the front instead of from the rear. I have never seen that before. Not knocking it just curious.

BTW the bike/materials shot is classic. I once wore my military ruck while riding my GSXR-750 street bike to work. That was a wierd site too.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Designed this bed to haul my dogs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, camping gear, etc. Primary spare is mounted under the bed on a chain-hoist from one of the older Toyota pickups, and I can carry a second spare on top of that using a Total Chaos spin-on mount. The thing with a bedcage is that you an design it to carry whatever you want, you just have to know what it is that you're going to want to carry. Most of the sheetmetal is 18g, and I did use aluminum the first time around, but I've made a lot of changes since then.

 

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Discussion Starter #15
When I first built the cage I ran the doorbars like this:



But quickly found it to be too much of a pain in the ass to get in/out of the truck. Didn't think I'd mind doing the Dukes of Hazard, but that gets old real quick. So I cut out that top bar. Would do it exactly the same way again. If you look at the cage, the B-pillar is tied into the bedcage, so it's not going anywhere. The A-pillar iis much more vulnerable, mostly because it's sloped backwards and is relatively unsupported. If you look at pictures of rolled trucks, this is where many of the cages fail. So I wanted to support the A-pillar with a second vertical tube, but had to but a bend in the driver's-side to clear the steering wheel. The other thing I was thinking about was frontal impacts. The rollcage extends forward through the firewall to the front of the truck. If I hit anything head-on, I didn't want the cage shifting rearward. So if you follow the lines of the engine cage, they go through the firewall, tie into the A-pillar, and then go straight down to the frame. Seemed like the best way to brace for those type of impacts. There are tubes in the engine compartment, just in front of the firewall, that do the same thing.







 

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Discussion Starter #16
Sweet dude, what's on the list to "finish" it? I know the truth, it will never be done, lol. Links and an LS7?
Nope, this one really is almost done. For real. There won't be much left to do to it, and I would never rip it apart to make any major changes like that (links as an example). It was designed/built around leafsprings and the current drivetrain, to change anything major just wouldn't be worth the time/money. This truck is what it is, and that's what it's always going to be. Actually, it would be pretty easy to put a straight-axle under it, and that's something I was seriously considering for a while, back when I was blowing-up CV's all the time...
 

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Discussion Starter #17
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 #19
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 #20
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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