For whatever reason, Toyota Tundras are an uncommon sight on the trail. These trucks aren't any larger than late-model Land Cruisers though, and they use much of the same running gear as other Toyotas found on trails all over the country. This has often left us scratching our collective heads, but Joe Jovonovich has built a Tundra that finally illustrates what these vehicles are capable of when they are modified with the right equipment.
Jovonovich started with a fully loaded '01 Limited Edition Access Cab Tundra. The 4.7L V8 and four-speed automatic transmission were retained, as they provide a great balance between power, weight, and the reliability that Toyota is famous for. The stock transfer case was replaced with a Marlin Crawler dual transfer-case setup that uses a geardriven reduction box mated to a chaindrive Tacoma transfer case. This is the first dual transfer-case configuration ever fitted under a Tundra. The 128-inch wheelbase accommodates the added drivetrain length without a problem, and the 4.7:1 gears in the reduction box result in a crawl ratio of 308:1 in compound Low range.
From the rear transfer case, power is routed to a high-pinion Dana 44 front axle and the factory rear Toyota 8.4-inch axle. The front axle was sourced from a '76 Ford F-150 and filled with 4.56 Yukon gears, an ARB Air Locker, Warn chrome-moly axleshafts, CTM U-joints, and Warn hubs before it was slung under the front of the Tundra. The rear axle uses stock shafts in conjunction with a matching set of 4.56 Yukon gears and an ARB Air Locker. These axles spin 35-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers mounted on 15x8 TrailReady beadlock rims. The sticky BFGs are turned by a high-steer setup using 4x4 Trucksmith steering arms, a Redneck Ram hydraulic assist, a Toyota mini-truck steering box, and a Howe reservoir and filter cooled by a remote Setrab cooler.
In order to clear the 35-inch tires, the front Dana 44 was mounted under 6-inch BDS leaf springs intended for a Chevy Suburban. Custom mounts were fabricated to hang the springs and Rancho RS9000 front shocks. In the rear, the stock leaf springs were replaced with a custom three-link suspension that uses Skyjacker 6-inch TJ coils, Rubicon Express Super-Flex joints, and Fox Racing 12-inch-travel shocks. The three-link required that the stock gas tank be removed, so a custom 35-gallon fuel cell now resides in the Line-Xed bed. The front leaf springs and rear coils result in suspension that is quite balanced with the Tundra's nose-heavy weight distribution.
With such a potent drivetrain, it would be easy to pilot this truck into situations that would destroy the abundant stock sheetmetal. An ARB Sahara Bar replaced the stock front bumper and is fitted with a Warn M10000 winch wrapped in 125 feet of Master-Pull synthetic cable. 4x4 Trucksmith fabricated the rear bumper from 3/16-inch-thick tubing and plate with a design that bolts to the frame in the stock locations. Two-inch, 0.188-wall DOM rock sliders protect the long rocker panels and are welded to a 1/4-inch plate, which in turn is welded the length of the frame to provide ample frame reinforcement. A custom transmission and transfer-case skidplate from Skid Row Automotive round out the armor.
So how does it work? The truck now has over 114,000 miles on it, many of which Jovonovich accumulated traveling from his home in North Dakota to various trails around the country. As the dents and scratches can attest, this Tundra has run trails in Florence Junction, Johnson Valley, and Moab. The truck stills drives like stock on the road though and was driven, not trailered, to the above locations. If that isn't a testament to Toyota's durability and Jovonovich's building acumen, we don't know what is.