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Custom Toyota Prerunner Truck - Stretching for Success

Posted in Features on September 27, 2006 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Mike's Race Photo

Skills and abilities change one's view of the world. The mechanically inept tend to see a truck as transportation, a bit of fun, and as a way to help their favorite automotive technician pay his or her bills. The mechanically inclined see a truck as a ready recipient for a long list of bolt-on upgrades and accessories that will help the truck take him or her farther into the backcountry and kick the fun-factor up several notches. Those with fabrication skills see a truck as raw material - a blank canvas that can be cut, welded, notched, and shaped into a machine that boldly goes where most bolt-ons fear to tread.

Before we forge ahead with the rest of this tale, a disclaimer is in order. We've seen bolt-on accessories and suspension systems boasting stellar performance, and we've seen custom fabrication leave behind wounded, impotent trucks in its wake. Good parts are good parts whether they're one-of-a-kind or one of a 10,000-unit production run.

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"I've been building trucks since I was 16," Shawn Giordano tells us.
We'd seen Shawn's truck humble the field at Rialto Off-Road Raceway, and we knew that his latest creation should be shown to Off-Road's readers. Giordano ran sans fiberglass at ROR, so we could see the clean fabrication as well as observe that the truck was suspended by custom A-arms up front and tried-and-true leaf packs out back. Since there wasn't a hood to block our view, we could also see that four-cylinder power motivated the truck. Under a microscope, there's nothing too crazy or exotic about any single part on this truck, quality fabrication notwithstanding. Assembled as a whole, the complete package works astoundingly well. On a regular basis, trucks with more suspension travel and more horsepower than Shawn's are left peering through a fading dust cloud, wondering why they got passed. This truck simply works.

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Giordano started not with a truck, but with a pile of parts. The frame came from a wrecking yard, and the cab and engine were bought from a friend. Single-cab trucks tend to be rather cozy inside (some would say cramped), but the standard cab weighs less than an extended cab, requires fewer feet of tubing to properly 'cage, and replacement cabs are cheaper and more readily available should the truck take a nasty tumble. The cab and the frame fit what Shawn had in mind - almost. The truck needed more wheelbase.

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Rather than start over with an Extra Cab or go scouring the wrecking yards for a longbed frame, Shawn put his fabrication skills to work and added 8 extra inches between the front and rear wheels. Custom spring hangers were welded to the frame behind the stockers, and a section of 2x3-inch tubing was spliced onto the tail end of each framerail to give the shackle pivot a home. The 8-inch stretch brought the wheelbase to 112 inches. The gains? The truck has a smoother ride and is much more stable at speed compared to an equally built truck with a shorter wheelbase. Extra length between the front and rear axles means that it's tougher to upset the chassis.

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Another chapter of Shawn's story is plastered onto the single cab's doors. Giordano's passion for building off-road trucks led him to open his own shop, Unlimited Motorsports. For a decade, Unlimited Motorsports' doors were open for business. In time, another opportunity presented itself. Shawn had the chance to put his fabrication skills to work for Fabtech Motorsports in the big blue's R&D department. Although his commute to work is now much longer, Fabtech gave Shawn a schedule that lets him make the drive to and from work during the hours when traffic is light. Once he arrives at the company's Chino, California, facility, Shawn is part of a team that designs and builds suspension systems for the latest trucks available to the buying public. Custom, one-off designs are built, analyzed, tested (read: abused in the dirt), and finally put into production. To the end user, this means that his or her bolt-on suspension kit has a heritage in that which is custom-fabbed.

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OFF-ROAD recently had the chance to crawl under, climb over, and ride in the Unlimited Motorsports/Fabtech Toyota. The truck begs to be driven hard, assuring the driver he's got a stable platform from which to assault the terrain and the competition. The engine needs to be driven hard. The four-cylinder 22RE is at its best when the rpm and the momentum are kept high. What impressed us the most, though, was the way that the added wheelbase gave the truck a different personality. With predictable handling and a smooth ride, it's easy to see why adding 8 inches beats the competition by a mile.

Dirt Logic
Although the stretched Toy worked well with a variety of brand labels on the suspension dampers, Shawn's truck was fitted with a full cadre of Fabtech's Dirt Logic shocks and bumpstops in the weeks following our photo shoot.

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Dirt Logic shocks are not relabeled shocks from another top manufacturer. They are produced in-house at Fabtech and serve to showcase the blue company's capability to produce hard-core off-road suspension weaponry. Key features include Viton seals, 7075 aluminum end caps, and hard-anodized internals. Check out the immaculate TIG welds used to construct the 7/8-inch bypass tubes. The shock bodies are electroless nickel-plated both inside and outside for good looks and even better performance. The Dirt Logic lineup includes coilover shocks, bypass shocks, and bumpstops. The coilover and bypass units are built in a variety of diameters and stroke lengths.

Look for Dirt Logic shocks on all of Fabtech's team trucks and as part of selected Fabtech suspension systems. Dirt Logic shocks are also available for custom applications.

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