You pick up the magazine because a really trick rig catches your gaze. Your eyeballs scan across the pages - across the high-zoot motor, the custom chrome-moly chassis, the long-travel suspension, and the glass-like expanses of artistic body hues. Wow, you think. I want one!
But in a moment you come back to Earth realizing that owning a truck valued at the price of some small houses is just not in your budget. But that doesn't mean you can't have a fun piece of the action and a cool-looking truck to boot. This Toyota Tacoma was built for fun, a little flash, and with a budget in mind.
Juan Qiroz is a big fan of the desert race scene, and he races or attends events whenever he can. He wanted a truck that could comfortably serve as a daily driver, mild prerunner, and desert spectator vehicle while accompanied by his wife and two daughters. What you see here is an '05 4WD Tacoma that started its showroom life as a TRD Off-Road model several years back.
Juan scored his project base in the form of a bone-stock truck with only 19,000 miles showing on the odometer. He'd been wanting to do a build such as this for a while and began looking for the donor on which to transplant his ideas. His chance came at a local auto auction where this Tacoma, that was likely stolen and then vandalized, went on the auction list. After placing the winning bid, Juan trailered the truck home. The fact that it was wrecked was a plus toward procuring a cheaper starting point. The crumpled areas weren't an issue, as they were body parts that would be replaced anyway.
Mechanically, the drivetrain of the truck was in as good of shape as one would expect for a low-mileage Toyota. The one part that was damaged was a rear axleshaft. A trip to the local Toyota dealer soon had a new replacement in hand. All four corners got the fiberglass treatment via Glassworks Unlimited, and a new Toyota sport hood with scoop landed up front to enhance the overall stance of the body lines.
Juan performed all the upgrades on the truck himself except the gear installs and the body painting. Ken Francisco in Chandler, Arizona, swapped in gearing to a lower 4.10 ratio to help with turning the planned 315/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrains on Walker Evans Racing beadlocks.
Under the front clip, Sway-A-Way coilovers help with the damping duties and give the nose a 2- to 3-inch lift.
At this point, Juan has about $16,000 into the Tacoma, and that includes the cost of the truck. Parts shopping included watching some Internet classified and swap sites for some of the build pieces he needed. For about half the cost of a new truck and with a good bit of his own handiwork, Juan has a rig that looks good and drives great. The truck handles rough terrain well, even with the mild suspension changes. We took it blasting around some rutted dirt roads and sandy washes, and the V-6 motor scoots it around nicely, turning the 35-inch tires with ease.
Juan's not quite done yet as he's still adding to the truck. The to-do list includes the addition of a bed-mounted spare carrier and upgraded leaf springs and shocks for the rear. In its current state it's still plenty of fun and a capable ride.
So the next time you're looking to own a cool truck for your off-road pursuits, consider the advantage of a little DIY sweat equity to reach that goal. Juan has taken a beaten vehicle and turned it into a pleasurable daily driver, weekend prerunner, and desert chase truck.