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1999 Toyota Tacoma - Rock Taco'

Posted in Features on February 1, 2008
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A year later, after some trail running, he decided to add a 3-inch IFS spacer lift and a 3-inch body lift. The truck was shod with 33-inch Goodyear MT/Rs on aluminum rims. The truck was then wheeled fairly hard, causing the body-lift pucks to push through the cab floor in places. These areas were repaired with 1/4-inch custom steel plates that were welded in place. One problem solved.

A couple of years after that, Mike was lucky enough to win an All-Pro Off-Road suspension package consisting of adjustable coilovers, upper uniball A-arms, and rear lift leaf springs. The wheeling continued as the capabilities of the Tacoma grew along with Mike's driving skills.

Jump forward to 2005 and 35-inch General Grabber Mud Terrains were installed, but soon after Mike set his eyes on gathering swap parts for the truck's largest evolution yet.

The tie rods, ball joints, and steering rack were all in a state of rapid decline. So rather than patch it back together with new parts, out came the plasma cutter. With help from friend Josh Boerner, the entire IFS drivetrain hit the garage floor in May 2006. When the grinder sparks stopped, the front framerails were stripped of all the old suspension bracketry, and over the next few weeks all-new front hardware was installed.

They started by building a front crossmember and spring hangers from 1/4-inch square tubing and plate steel. All-Pro 5-inch leaf packs were strung between there and some 3/8-inch plate shackles in the rear.

A '79 Ford Bronco high-pinion Dana 44 with disc brakes was mounted up under the front end. The nearly 30-year-old innards were replaced with 5.13 Yukon gears spinning an OX Locker and splined to Alloy USA chrome-moly shafts and U-joints. Other axle upgrades included Crane knuckles, Sky-Manufacturing high steering arms, and Warn Premium hubs.

Steering for the rig comes by way of a Scout II power-steering box that's been rebuilt and tapped for hydro assist thanks to PSC. The ram assist is on hold at the moment for a future project, but we'll see how long Mike lasts turning the big Michelin tires.

Tie rod and drag link were built to be beefy using 1-ton ends and 0.250-inch-wall DOM tubing. A modified Wagoneer pitman arm adds the final link to piece it all together.

Out back, a Ford 9-inch axle was used from the same Bronco donor. Performance upgrades include disc brakes, 5.13 Yukon gears, a Detroit Locker, and 31-spline Alloy USA 1541-H steel axle shafts.

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Crane knuckles and Sky-Manufacturing tall arms were used to configure the high-steer crossover steering setup. The front axle is locked and fortified with aftermarket chrome-moly components. 5.13 gears provide the grunt to go slow.

The stock Tacoma 3.4L V6, auto tranny, and transfer case were left in place and serve as a solid powerplant for the hardcore drivetrain Mike has added.

The Tacoma sits on a longish wheelbase of 128 inches, so good belly clearance and tall tires help keep it from dragging over boulders. Down below, a modified Front Range Off-Road T-case mount and skidplate get the job done. Michelin XZL tires on Cragar wheels stand tall at about 38 inches.

Clearance is king in the rocks, and a bodied truck does best when some of the sheetmetal has been removed. Mike started by bobbing 13 inches off the tail of the bed. Then, each of the fenderwells met the saw and was opened up to accommodate larger tires and more articulation. For added protection of the remaining sheetmetal, custom tube bumpers and sliders were added.

We spent a couple of days on the trail wheeling with Mike and his Taco' and the combo he's assembled works well. It has great stability and flexes more than adequately. With most of the work being done with his friends (especially Eric Mollencopf), Mike's driving a rig to be proud of.

Mike has already started working on the next round of mods for his truck. A beefier Dana 60 and 14-bolt set of axles will go under it, and he's planning to move up to larger tires. Other planned upgrades include the hydro-assist steering, a larger fuel tank, and the addition of lower transfer case gears.

This rig's a daily driver and weekend warrior, and you'll certainly spot some dents here and there on it. Street-legal it is, but Mike built the Taco' to tackle the rocks as well.

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