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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an actual experience is worth a thousand pictures. How many times have you returned from an off-road adventure and then struggled to relate just how cool it was to your family/friends/significant other? The solution: Figure out a way to take them with you.
Norwood, Colorado's Pat Vigil was in just such a situation. The proud owner of a hardcore FJ40 truggy, he was never at a loss for words when it came to talking about his off-road adventures: "I was basically born into off-roading and outdoor activities. I've been into hunting and fishing for as long as I can remember. I had a stock FJ40 and I got tired of getting stuck, so I bought some lockers for the axles. The lockers worked so well on the trails that I realized I could go rockcrawling with my hunting rig."
Pat's hunting rig evolved into a rock truggy. Performance was to be had in spades, but seating, especially comfortable seating for his wife and son, was nearly absent. Hunting was still possible with the truggy, but "dead deer looked funny" hanging off the back of the FJ40, which by now was mostly tubing instead of factory sheetmetal. Obviously, Pat needed a better way to mix his family with his outdoor adventures.
The FJ40 found its way to a proud new owner, replaced by a '94 Toyota ExtraCab 4x4 pickup. For a time, the ExtraCab wound its way through the trails with a swapped-in Toyota solid front axle, 7-inch Alcan leaf packs, a 4-inch body lift, and 40-inch Interco Iroks. As strong as Toyota axles are, they don't mix well with 40-inchers. Pat's truck had the seating he needed and the tire size he wanted. Big-time drivetrain fortification was in order, which meant a call to Rockworx 4x4 in Montrose, Colorado.
Rockworx, the same shop that recently crafted editor Phil Howell's white YJ, made sweeping changes to the Toy. The stock Toyota axles vanished, replaced by a Dana 60 front and a Dana 70 rear. The leaf packs went away too, and Rockworx custom-crafted front and rear link suspension systems that are long on travel and completely eliminate the axlewrap inherent to leaf springs. Gear reduction is now handled by an Inchworm crawler box that feeds into an Atlas II transfer case. Finally, Rockworx installed rollover protection with a custom-fabbed bed cage and an in-cab All-Pro 'cage that's tied into the frame. Thinking of building a Toyota truck for hard-core trail use? Pat suggests going "with 1-ton components from the beginning; that's where you'll end up anyway."
Off-Road caught up with Pat and his 1-ton Toy during the 2006 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, and we couldn't help but notice the ease with which the rig took to the rocks. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that this hard-core rig looks great too.
Pat's Toyota is a great blueprint for off-roaders who need a way to bring family or friends along during their off-road adventures. It's a lot more fun when no one gets left behind.