Southwestern Tacoma Crawler
The Southwest is full of nasty, rock-strewn canyons that are perfectly suited to rock buggies and huge tires. What do you do though if you don't have the money, space, or interest in a tow rig, trailer, and purpose-built rock buggy? Well, if you are David Mankins, you build a Toyota Tacoma that you can drive to the trail, wheel with buggies, and then drive back home. Mankins lives in Bosque Farms, New Mexico, in the middle of some of the country's premier rockcrawling.
Like most trail rigs, Mankins' '95 Tacoma has evolved over time to suit harder and harder trails. In this particular case, Mankins also had to wait for the aftermarket to develop parts for his vehicle or develop them himself. That is precisely what he did with the front suspension on his truck. Tired of breaking CV axles, the stock IFS was removed in favor of a Dana 44 solid front axle suspended by Jeep Wagoneer leaf springs and Rancho RS5000 shocks on Ford shock mounts. Although there are now numerous kits on the market to perform this task, Mankins fabricated his own spring hangers and shackles over three years ago when the conversion was still relatively rare. Custom steering was used to fit the Dana 44, utilizing an earlier Toyota steering box and Shakerbuilt steering arms that are connected to a 1-inch DOM tie rod and drag link, both with 1-ton Chevy tie-rod ends. The front axle is loaded with 4.88 Precision Gear gears, Yukon axleshafts, Longfield U-joints, a Tera diff cover, and a Lock-Right locker for added trail prowess.
To match the front lift height, the rear of the truck was raised with Alcan leaf springs that are damped by another pair of Rancho shocks. Beneath the suspension, a narrowed Dana 60 is packed with 35-spline axleshafts, 4.88 Precision Gear ring-and-pinion, disc brakes, and a full spool. The low gears turn 37-inch Super Swamper Iroks mounted on 15x10 steel wheels.