We remember the printed ad as if it had jumped off the press yesterday. "If we've heard it once, we've heard it a thousand times," went the first page. We had no choice but to investigate further. The next page read, "If only Toyota made a bigger truck." With those two lines, Toyota jumped into the fullsize truck market more than a decade ago. Looking back was not an option.
The new-for-'93 T-100 held big potential. Generous cab space replaced the compact surroundings Toyota pickup owners were used to. Hauling a full 4x8 sheet of plywood in the bed was at last a reality for T-100 owners. Finally, the T-100 was built with the same commitment to quality that has earned Toyota a reputation for longevity and reliability.
On paper, it was a match made in automotive heaven. On terra firma, the T-100's 3.0L V-6 was a lukewarm performer, and the truck's dimensions were more Dakota-size than fullsize. Before it was replaced by the Tundra, the T-100 saw a progression of intelligent, functional improvements that made it more of a contender. The T-100 and the Tundra passed each other in the hallway in 1998.
For the right off-roader, the T-100 can still be a heavenly choice. Since the newest T-100 is 7 years old, they're attractively priced in the used market. The not-quite-fullsize dimensions mean better ability on tight trails compared with fullsize, full-blood-American heavy metal. Although suspension kits are not plentiful, long-travel suspension kits from Total Chaos can be bolted onto T-100 4x4 frontends.
For Curtis Guise, a T-100 was the only way to go. "I have always wanted a fullsize race truck, but didn't have the money, so I bought a T-100 to build as a prerunner. I did most of the work myself to save as much money as possible."
Did we mention that Guise is a terminal Toyota fan? His first 'Yota was an '83 straight-axle 4x4, followed by a '90 pickup equipped with a T.C. front suspension. Other Toys in the lineup have included an '85 4Runner built for 'crawling and an '82 2WD pickup built to race Class 7. The '82 Class 7 fabrication was the perfect segue into the T-100 buildup: Curtis designed and built the rollcage and front coilover suspension. The '82 Guise-built was raced in MDR and VORRA for about two seasons. "The '82 was pretty compact inside, and it was still leaf-sprung in the rear. I was able to sell my old race truck and use the proceeds to buy the T-100 and some of the parts for the build."
There was another reason to sideline the Class 7 effort: filming. Curtis teamed with RaceDezert.com owner Klaus Rasch to film the Dezert People video series. To date, three DP films have been released, and a fourth is on the way. Curtis has also taken a solo venture into high-articulation world with the release of Gription, reviewed in this same issue of OR.
The Trophy T-100 was built in snippets of time squeezed between filming at races and editing the footage. In addition to balancing filming and building, Curtis also tried not to spend too much time away from his wife Jannel. We have to hand it to the guy: The videos are released, his truck is built, and he's still joined at the hip with his significant other.
How does the TT-100 ride? Remarkably. We had the chance to blast around the gnarled terrain of Barstow in the Toy' and can attest that Curtis' building time was well spent. The stock frame all but disappeared to make way for the fully fabricated front and rear suspensions. Mark Newhan, whose creations have graced the pages of OR in previous issues, designed and built the front suspension and 'cage.
Mark chopped the stock 'rails at the firewall, and Curtis chopped the 'rails near the back of the cab when he built the rest of the rollcage and the rear suspension. The truck's 19 inches of front and 25 inches of travel serve to smooth the desert floor. The cab does the floating, while the wheels do the dancing. The Toy's supercharged 3.4L V-6 does the motivating. Lessons learned? During the two-year project, "I learned to be patient and to do it right the first time. This project also enhanced my fabrication skills."
After experiencing the Trophy T-100, we've got new respect for Toyota's pre-Tundra big truck, but we've got even bigger respect for the hands that built it. Job well done.
DOM and 4130 chromoly were used in constructing the 'cage and suspension. Here's the front 'cage and suspension laid out and tacked into place. Why not finish the welds tube by tube? The heat of welding pulls the tubing out of line, resulting in a twisted mess that's way out of alignment. Getting the tubing notched, fitted, and tacked before burning in the final welds is the way to go. The big aluminum tank is a Unique Metal Products intake that incorporates circular baffles and a drain to channel big dust particles and water out of the cylinder before it ever gets a chance to get trapped in the air filter's element.