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2003 Toyota Tacoma Xtracab - Lucky 13

Posted in Features on June 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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If you've seen OR's recent racing coverage or have attended the Off-Road Expo, chances are you've caught a glimpse or two of BK Fabworks' desert-maulin' Toyota Tacoma. As good as it looks from a distance, it looks even better up close. We caught up with owner/fabricator/driver Barry Karakas to get the full story on this fast flyer.

"I've built 13 race trucks, but this is the first one I've built specifically for myself," Karakas revealed. "It's also my 13th year as a fabricator." Like many fans of fast-moving off-road trucks, Barry's dirt saga began with two knobby tires and a twist of the wrist. "I raced motocross and got hurt. There were 13 of us in high school who rode motorcycles together, and I was the last guy to get hurt. After my accident, I was in a coma for two days." Done with motocross, Karakas turned his two-stroke toward the wide-open Mojave Desert. Despite the more open terrain, he decided that four wheels would be safer than two and a lot more fun. That's when the tubing bender and TIG-torch were called into action, and Barry began his career as a fabricator. He's quick to give credit to buggy builder Funco for teaching him many of the tricks of the trade. BK's original shop in Rialto, California, was a few doors down from Funco, and Karakas availed himself of Funco's decades of fabrication experience.

In time, crew member Rick Lee moved to nearby Oak Hills in search of more room and lower house payments. Lee told Karakas that he should move to Oak Hills as well. "Are the lots big enough to put a shop on?" was the burning question. The answer was yes. Soon after, Karakas became one of the lucky few whose morning commute is measured in feet instead of miles. Rick Lee is just as lucky, as he only has to walk across the street from his house to Barry's shop. During the two-and-half-year construction period, Barry was also assisted by Bill Perkins and Robert Douglas.

The motorcycle? Barry still owns a YZ 250, but it mostly collects dust while race trucks and prerunners take shape. "I started it up a few months ago," he admits. "I never thought I'd get to this point, where it doesn't matter whether or not I'm riding a dirt bike."

Although the YZ mostly sits unused, the bike-handling skills learned on two wheels translate into valuable truck-handling technique, and Barry joins guys such as Larry Roeseler and Larry Ragland, who also honed their skills atop a two-stroke before climbing behind the wheel. That learning curve translates into smooth desert speed. Barry's lap times are almost consistent enough to set a watch by.

Having ridden in a number of fast-moving trucks with loud interiors, we were stunned to hear nothing but the motor when Barry let out the clutch and laid into the gas pedal. This truck is truly rattle-free. No fillers or adhesives were used to silence the creaks and rattles. Instead, Barry spent dozens of hours making sure that all the panels, components, and tubing fit together just right. "If there's a rattle or squeak, I'll find it." That's very impressive.

Is the truck perfect? It's close, but the 3.4L Toyota V-6 gives up some power to bigger-displacement powerplants from Ford and Chevy. The BK hauler instead relies on superior bump control. The combination of bump control and driving skill has proven itself with three MDR Class 7 championships and several Score class wins. For BK Fabworks, 13 is a very lucky number.

Specifications
Owner/hometown:Barry Karakas/Oak Hills, California

Year/make/model:'03 Toyota Tacoma Xtracab

Engine/transmission:3.4L V-6 with stock internals and stock fuel-injection, BK Fabworks custom six-into-one headers, stock Toyota five-speed manual

Suspension:Front: BK Fabworks custom lower A-arms, upper J-arms, Sway-A-Way coilover and bypass shocks, MasterCraft limit straps, 20 inches of travel; rear: BK Fabworks rear three-link, Sway-A-Way coilover and bypass shocks, MasterCraft limit straps, urethane bumpstops, 31 inches of travel

Rearend:Ford 9-inch built by BK Fabworks, BK Fabworks floating hubs, 31-spline axleshafts, full spool

Miscellaneous:Auto Meter gauges, G&J Aircraft fittings, Clutch Masters clutch, Twisted Images paint, Sign Pros lettering, Royal Purple oil

Build time:Two years

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