Off-road racing is arguably one of the most addicting sports known. There must be something in the dirt because it seems that once people get into it, they can't seem to get enough of it. Jim Wimmer of Cerritos, California, is the perfect example of this. The proud owner of this '01 Toyota Tacoma mulled ideas in his head for years before embarking on this journey.
As an employee of Toyota for the past 15 years, Jim is on the same payroll as one of off-road racing's most legendary race teams. Of course, we are speaking of none other than Ivan "Ironman" Stewart. Taking advantage of the perks of his profession since 1985, Jim fueled his passion for off-road racing by hanging out with Ivan and the crew at PPI as often as possible. Over the past decade, Jim has spent numerous summer days sitting shotgun to the Stewart, prerunning for an upcoming race. On race day, Jim was always a part of the Toyota army -- off-road racing's largest pit crew with more than 100 soldiers strong -- ensuring that the Ironman finished on the top of the podium every weekend.
During the last couple of years as Ivan Stewart began his retirement tour, Jim found his lifestyle with a key ingredient to happiness missing. It was this void that prompted Jim to pull together all of his resources and take his love for off-road racing to the next level. As a manager at TRD, he has some pull in the automotive industry. Jim went to work on his campaign to build a race-winning Class 7s Tacoma.
The '01 Toyota Tacoma was sponsored by Toyota motor sales. The brand-new Toyota was stripped to the bare metal. Mike Parsons took up the reconstruction project. The project began with a full chrome-moly rollcage. The handcrafted 4,130 chrome-moly cage is tucked neatly into the Tacoma cab. It supports the front and rear suspension system, providing upper shock mounts for both. In order to keep the cost of these trucks from getting too high, the rules for Class 7s limit the suspension to the stock configuration. This basically means the fabricator is limited to stock pivot locations for the springs and arms and travel limits. These rules help the trucks remain equal between brands. The rear suspension of this Toyota uses a Deaver spring pack combined with a Sway-A-Way Race-Runner shock on each wheel to produce the rulebook-limited 16 inches of travel.
The Toyota Tacoma has an A-arm front suspension system using beefed-up A-arms. The upper shock mounts share the upper coil's spring mount. Together they both mount at the top of the spring retainer. The stock spring location usually limits Toyota owners to reaching the legal 12 inches of travel. Without moving the actual stock spring bucket, Jim extended it through the top of the stock mount, thus giving him more spring to work with. Longer springs mean more travel up front for Jim. In fact, with the combination of the dual Sway-A-Way Race-Runner shocks, the front suspension produces the rulebook limit of 12 inches of wheel travel.
With a job at Toyota, there was no question as to who would build the engine for this truck. Jim talked Bruce Nogrady into putting together the powerplant. Just in case you haven't heard of Bruce, he is the man responsible for Ivan Stewart's championship-winning engines in his past Tacomas and Tundras. Pulling all the TRD speed secrets out of the bag, Bruce got the 3.0L V-6 Toyota to produce 290 horsepower. The screaming Toyota redlines at 8,500 rpm. With 225 lb-ft of torque, Jim's Tacoma should have no problem pulling Fourth gear up the sandy washes of Mexico.
Jim gets the power to the ground using race-winning rubber from BFGoodrich. He uses the ever-popular 35-inch Baja T/As. Just in time for his first race, we get our first look at the brand-new Type 181 model wheel from Ultra racing wheels. These never-seen-before wheels are bead lock-equipped and are ultra (pardon the use of ultra) stiff for maximum efficiency -- not to mention, the high-polish finish adds to the glory of the Tacoma.
Getting the truck stopped in time for the big holes is no problem with Brembo brakes. The same Brembo that makes the brakes for the Champ car series also makes brakes for Jim's 7S truck. Brembo takes off-road racing to a whole new level with its four-piston caliper 11-inch rotors; Jim can get the truck stopped with the leg strength of a five year old. One added feature from Brembo is an in-car front-to-back bias adjuster. From the cockpit, Jim can tune the brakes as the course conditions require at any time with just the turn of a knob.
Toyota has been one of the most successful manufacturers in any type of racing. In desert off-road, it was one of the first manufacturers to win an off-road race in a truck. In Stadium racing during the Eighties, the company completely dominated the series. More recently in the CORR racing series, its Tundra program has been proven very successful for the short time the company has been involved. With the retirement of off-road icon Ivan Stewart, Toyota has taken a little break from desert off-road racing.
Although Jim is not a full factory-sponsored driver for Toyota, he does fly with the factory colors. The truck is painted just like the Ironman's Tundra was during his final trip to the tip of Baja. Jim is a good representation of the true spirit of off-road racing. He set out to bring Toyota back into desert off-road racing with the main goal to have fun and try winning a few races. Surely, we will see the return of the Toyota army, stronger and more spirited than ever. If not in full force, at least the soldiers who really love off-road racing will be there in the true spirit of the sport.
Owner/hometown: Jim Wimmer/Cerritos, California
Make/model: '01 Toyota Tacoma 2WD
Engine: 3.0L TRD V-6 by Bruce Nogrady
Transmission: A340 four-speed automatic by Rancho
Suspension: Rear leaf springs by Deaver; front Eibach A-arms
Shocks: Sway-A-Way Race-Runner
Wheels/tires: Ultra Type 181/15x35-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/As
Additional features: Financial sponsors, Steel Horse Inc. & Longo Toyota; Brembo brakes; Auto Meter gauges; Simpson five-point harness; Duralast batteries; graphics by Molly Design; K&N filters; Fuel Safe 40-gallon fuel cell; Howe steering system; MOMO seats; Power Vault exhaust system by Mike Hamm Engineering; high-pressure lines by Goodridge; Hella lights; fiberglass fenders by Fibernetics