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Toyota Tundra - A Trail Tale

Posted in Features on July 1, 2004
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Recently, my monday morning ritual was interrupted as I strolled into my office to find OR's tech editor, Gary Blount, waiting for me. "Go down to the parking garage because someone trashed your truck," he said without warning. Now, you have to know that we joke around at the office quite a bit, so I was in utter disbelief when I walked into the parking garage to find no less than four police cruisers strewn about. Officers were probing every corner of the garage with flashlights, assessing the damage. Several cars had also been broken into, vandalized, and their contents stolen.

It only took a few minutes to realize how screwed up my own ride was. Five of the six BFGs were slashed, apparently because the thieves couldn't get the wheels off my truck. All my CDs were stolen from the cab, my toolboxes had been broken into, and the tools were gone, too. The punks even broke the hood latch and air-conditioning condenser in an effort to get at the engine.

It took a solid week worth of phone calls to my insurance company to get the damage repaired. Unfortunately, the contents of my truck, including my tools, weren't replaced. Ya gotta love insurance deductibles, right?

About the time my truck was back in one driveable piece, it was time to take photos of a really nice red Toyota Tundra built by Donahoe Racing. So off to Barstow I went with Gary, in search of mud, jumps, and clear skies to take pics of this truck.

At best, I'm an amateur off-road driver. I know the basic rules of thumb, but by no means am I going to win any races in my truck. We met Kreg Donahoe and the owner of the other Tundra, a nice guy named Garrett Russo, just off the highway, and spent the next hour exploring the terrain to find a suitable photo location. This particular area is an excellent place to test out your truck's suspension because of the different types of terrain available. We drove through whoops, silt beds, and rocks, and even found some mud that day.

I'd spent quite a few days having fun in my truck in Barstow without incident until that fateful day. Coming around a sweeping corner, I accelerated to approximately 40 mph and aimed my truck at a 1-foot-deep section of whoops. As I hit the third roller, the right-front tire folded over in the wheelwell, and the truck slid to a stop. A cursory inspection of the front suspension revealed my worst nightmare come true. The only stock suspension component left on my Tundra happened to be the spindles, and indeed this was the point of failure.

No big deal, I thought. I'll simply get the tools from the back of the truck. Dammit! I realized that I hadn't replaced the jack, wrenches, air compressor, or tie-downs that had been stolen weeks beforehand.

Thank God we were there with cell phones and friends. In no time flat, Kreg had the truck up on a jack, and together we duct-taped and tie-strapped the broken spindle to the upper control arm so that I could drive backward out of the trail and back to the highway. Kreg even tried to round up a local tow truck to save us. Gary had a better plan and whipped out the trusty AAA card.

Less than 20 minutes later, a flatbed tow truck showed up, retrieved the Tundra, and gave us a 130-mile ride back to Camburg Engineering in Huntington Beach, California. Although none of the aftermarket suspension parts that my truck was equipped with had failed, I hoped that the crew at Camburg could help. In just a few days, Camburg had located a used set of spindles, repaired the damage, and had my truck back on the road with zero hassle. The guys even revalved the front coilovers to help the truck soak up the whoops better.

As I write this, I'm five minutes away from leaving the office in search of a new jumping spot and another photo shoot appointment with the red Tundra. With any luck, I'll get the pictures taken, have some fun in my truck, and make it back home without the need of a tow truck. Until next month, enjoy this issue of OR, keep an eye out for big holes, and be prepared for the unexpected. You never know what's waiting around the next corner to take a bite out of your truck.

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