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1995 Toyota Hilux Desert Race Truck - Vendetta

Posted in Features on September 1, 2007
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Not many of us at the age of 15 ask our parents to buy us a welder so we can build our first vehicle into a prerunner out in the garage. The history of this '95 Toyota Hilux truck goes back 10 years when Tyler Fain was 15 and the build process of this truck started with the help of a couple of friends. The original intention for the project was to fabricate a truck that would suffice Tyler's growing desire to get involved in the sport of desert racing. He began going to the races as soon as he was allowed behind the wheel of a automobile. That passion quickly turned into Tyler teaching himself how to weld, notch, cut, and bend steel. Having a buddy like Mike Clark of ESB Fabrications is a great way to assure you're going to end up with a quality build. Tyler and Mike grew up together and have been wrenching on this truck since its conception. As the build took form and Mike's business took off, crucial parts of the truck were rebuilt for additional strength.

"The stock Toyota powerplant eventually had to go," says Tyler.

He wanted to push more horsepower using an engine that had plenty of available aftermarket components.Tyler chose a Ford Racing 5.0L High Output engine that pushes over 250 hp. He's confident that his new Ford engine will produce efficient power for his truck. The internal components of the engine remain stock at this point; however, Tyler has added Ford Racing headers, a Ron David radiator, a Flowmaster exhaust system, and a Mallory fuel pump to keep things flowing properly. Holding enough fuel to keep that engine pumping is a 32-gallon JAZ fuel cell built to racing specifications. The transmission is a Tremec T-56 six-speed transmission which keeps all control with the driver. Some racers prefer the ease of an automatic transmission, but as Tyler tells us, "What fun is that? I want to be able to control the entire vehicle myself and tell it when to shift, stop, jump, and outrun my competitors."

In the rear is a Ford 9-inch axle, which is a very popular choice because of the enormous amount of available replacement parts and accessories. Not to mention, the design is simple yet extremely strong. The rearend is stuffed with 5.47-ratio gears, a full-time spool, and Currie 31-spline axleshafts. To complete the rear end, the truck was delivered to Oceanside Driveline in Oceanside, California, to receive custom-built driveshafts.

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The chassis on this truck is the original Toyota 2WD frame.The 'cage is constructed of 1.5-inch, 0.120-wall DOM steel tubing, while all suspension components use 4130 chrome-moly tubing. Much of the original 'cage work has been redone due to an unfortunate rollover that Tyler experienced. The new 'cage is well thought out and built even stronger. Although rebuilding is a long and tedious task most of us never want to experience, this rebuild was not only necessary but well worth it. Both Mike and Tyler's skill levels and experience dramatically changed since the original 'cage went in, which meant the new fabrication would make for a much tougher truck.

Both the front and rear suspension systems have been custom-designed by the Vendetta team. The front A-arm suspension measures 80 inches side to side. The tie rod, drag link, and pitman arm have all been constructed using Mike Clark's ESB designs. Take a look at the images and you'll see just how far Mike's skills have come. King 12-inch coilovers and Bilstein 10-inch, four-tube bypass shocks are mounted to control front suspension movement, with Bilstein hydraulic air bumps keeping the movement in line. The original rear suspension was a three-link system that Mike tells us worked great. As they began to race more and more, they decided to develop a better four-link rear suspension that would allow a more fluid travel movement with more control to boot. The rear features King coilovers and three-tube bypass shocks with Bilstein hydraulic air bumps. We noticed while reviewing the rear links just how precise the double-sheared TIG welding was.

Tom Porter of Escondido, California, laid a coat of fresh paint on the truck, covering the FiberwerX fiberglass bedsides and Toyota Tundra conversion front clip. Tyler chose a set of 15x7 American Racing wheels to go along with the 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich M-T tires. To aid in night-racing duties, a full set of four Hella Rallye 4000 lights have been installed into a removable lightbar that hangs just above the windshield. Inside the cab, we find PRP racing seats with five-point Crow padded harnesses, an assortment of Auto Meter gauges, a Vertex race radio, and MasterCraft window nets for safety.

Tyler and Mike have recently started racing in the ever-popular MDR 1450 class. Together with their friends, they have teamed up and formed Vendetta Motorsports, which is now a force to be reckoned with on the racecourse. Our photo shoot took place as the team was headed to the MDR Ridgecrest race - in which they took Third Place. For much of the race the team was ahead of the pack in First, but due to some late-in-the-race mechanical woes they ended up in a lower podium position. Keep an eye out for Tyler and his Toyota at the next race - or rather, watch him as he blows by.

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