A Mild Arizona Tacoma That May Be The Perfect All-Around Vehicle
A few years ago, we wrote about this Toyota in Off-Road Magazine. As readers there had little interest in trail trucks, it's time to bring it to those who'll appreciate it.
Ken Francisco, the off-roader formerly known as Zuk, resides in Chandler, Arizona. He wants his vehicles to work everywhere, whether it's carrying him to work or exploring the backcountry. Ken has owned a number of capable vehicles, including his famous Samurai, a few Toyota pickups, and now this Toyota Tacoma extra cab. Ken searched for a clean Tacoma, which is a daunting task as most Tacoma owners drive their trucks into the ground then try to sell them for more than they cost new. He finally found this clean '01 Toyota Tacoma with a 3.4L V-6, automatic overdrive tranny, and TRD Off-Road package that includes a rear electric differential locker.
Ken wanted to use this truck for his favorite pastimes: camping and exploring the backcountry. He also wanted a reliable daily driver, so he decided to perform a mild build of the Taco so it wouldn't be too radical but would do what was asked of it. To this end, he contacted All-Pro Off-Road and ordered front and rear bumpers, rocker guards, and All-Pro's Tacoma suspension system. The suspension includes Bilstein coilovers for the front that Ken set at 2.5 inches of lift and supple leaf packs for the rear damped by Bilstein shocks. The suspension allowed Ken to mount 285/75R16 Interco TrXus MT Tires on the stock Toyota alloy wheels. The 285s are approximately 33 inches in diameter - not that much bigger than the stock 31s that came on the TRD Taco - so Ken elected to leave the factory 4.10 gears in the differentials. He also left the transfer case stock. Besides the excellent All-Pro bumpers and rocker guards, Ken bolted up a tough belly pan skidplate and front IFS guard from BudBuilt to keep rocks at bay.
Ken's Arizona Taco works perfectly for him. He drives it daily to work and on the weekends takes the truck to the Arizona desert and mountains. He ventured all the way to northern Utah, then into southern Idaho where we found the deep snow. Ken says he likes the reliability of his Toyota. With 115,000 miles on the odometer, the Taco has had no issues at all. Being Ken, the off-roader formerly known as Zuk, this Tacoma will never be finished as he tries out different parts on it. That being said - Zuk's Taco delivers in the desert dirt, sand, rocks, and snow, and on the pavement. Could it be the perfect all-around vehicle?