Whether you prefer a domestic pickup as your off-road assault weapon of choice or have aligned yourself with an imported weapon of mass dirt-destruction, you'll appreciate the style and prowess of our latest prerunner o' the month. Garrett Russo's mean machine has the goods, hauls the mail, and does it all with silky-smooth suspension action. The by-product of Donahoe Racing's years spent submerged in the battle against nature that is desert racing, this Tundra benefits from excellent fabrication and top shelf parts.
This project began long before the truck every left the showroom floor of Garrett's dad Gary Russo's Norwalk Toyota dealership. The elder Russo has been involved in Donahoe's racing efforts through sponsorship of the company's stock Tacoma mini race truck and Bob Graham's Donahoe-sponsored 7S truck. Norwalk is also known as a high-performance Toyota dealership, where speed parts for Toyota truck's are readily available. The Tundra prerunner came to fruition after Gary decided he needed a moving billboard for the dealership and a trick truck for his son. It was only natural that the crew from Donahoe would build the prerunner, which turned out to be one of the last large-scale fabrication projects for the group that now focuses mainly on its line of Ford Super Duty suspension kits.
If you think the custom-fabricated long-travel front suspension would fit nicely beneath the front end of your Tundra, you'd be correct. You can just get that idea right out of your head, though, because the custom-fabricated spindles and spherical bearing-equipped tubular upper control arms and boxed lower arms are a one-off exercise in fabrication that Donahoe has no plans of repeating any time soon. The IFS is controlled by Sway-A-Way 2-inch dual-rate coilovers and 2-1/2-inch bypass shocks, and easily cycles through 16 inches of useable suspension travel. This IFS works equally well on the highway and the unpaved byways of the West.
The rear suspension is a bit more grounded and attainable. Deaver Spring Company provided custom-tuned spring packs, and when combined with the SAW 2-1/2-inch bypass dampers, cycle through 18 inches of whoop-destroying travel.
Having a suspension capable of floating a fullsize 1/2-ton pickup across the Southwest's roughest terrain is all well and good in theory until the cab of the truck smacks the bed once the front wheels get stuffed into a ditch. Enter the often-overlooked but equally important rollcage, a custom-crafted device that not only saved Garrett's dome when he put the Tundra on its lid months before our photo shoot, but also kept the framerails and sheetmetal from becoming a tangled mess of steel.
If the radical suspension and chassis work don't cement this truck's status, the TRD supercharged V-8 engine will. The powerplant kicks out more than 300 hp to the custom Orange County Driveline Service driveshaft and Currie 9-inch rearend. The rearend houses 4.88 gears and 35-spline axles, and transfers the power to 17-inch Walker Evans bead-lock wheels and 35-inch BFG Baja T/A tires.
Garrett takes great pride in the fact that on weekends he can romp through the dirt, or chase the Donahoe team during desert races, and then drive his insane prerunner to school during the week. The streetwise and docile on-road nature can be credited to the master craftsmen who blended the rollcage into the truck, keeping much of the stock interior intact. This left plenty of room for three Beard seats, which were stitched up by Westminster Auto Upholstery, and the custom Planet Audio sound system installed by Dealer Sound. By no uncertain coincidence, Norwalk Toyota sprayed the factory Toyota Red paint over the entire body to make the flared bedsides and fiberglass front panels look as though they belong on a truck taking up residence on the showroom floor.
It's not cheap, but this truck serves up an image that most of us would like to eventually strive for with our own projects; that of a nimble and stylish pickup that'll get 'er done no matter what gets in the way.
'02 Toyota Tundra
4.7L I-Force V-8 with TRD supercharger and MagnaFlow exhaust
Front: custom-fabricated IFS with spherical bearings, custom spindles, custom control arms, and Sway-A-Way dual-rate 2-inch coilover shocks and 2-1/2-inch bypass dampers;Rear: custom Deaver Spring Co. leaf springs and 2-1/2-inch Sway-A-Way bypass dampers
4.88 cogs in a Currie Enterprises 9-inch housing
17.8-inch Walker Evans Racing polished bead locks/35x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Baja T/As
Bear suspension seating; TRD disc brakes; Planet Audio system installed by Dealer Sound