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1985 Toyota Pickup Diesel McFly

Posted in Features on September 8, 2017
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“Doc, this is heavy. The Cummins R2.8 Turbo Diesel isn’t available to the public in the U.S. yet. Here it is though, under the hood of an ’85 Toyota Xtracab. Did we go back to the future?”

Not quite. Walt Wagner, owner of Tactical Application Vehicles (TAV), holds one of the few exclusive contracts from Cummins that allows his shop to beta test the four-cylinder R2.8 crate engine. Walt’s shop partner Marc, the lead mechanic on the build, explained to us one of the challenges of squeezing the Cummins diesel into an ’85 Toyota pickup engine bay. “It gets hot; there’s no space for heat to escape, which is why we added the hood cowl,” he says. Thanks to the additional airflow, a Champion aluminum three-core radiator with dual electric fans and a small charge air cooler ahead of that perform masterfully on- and off-road.

After building the truck in just two months Marc drove it six hours from TAV headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the FJ Summit in Telluride, Colorado, where we watched it stretch its legs on some old mining roads.

Black and chrome accents complement this truck’s ’80 Toyota Celica green paint. Not only is this ’85 Xtracab dashingly handsome, but it is exceptionally capable off-road and a comfortable highway cruiser that can log miles like a true Toyota 4x4.

The sophistication of this truck is in its clean, creative design and bulletproof mechanics. Maxing out at 161 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, the compact turbodiesel provides more than enough power to push the Xtracab’s 35-inch Goodyear MT/Rs over obstacles with ease. A combo of Bilstein 5100 shocks and modified Trail-Gear leaf springs give this TAV shop truck plenty of travel without adding any unnecessary weight. The 4.10:1 diff gears with Yukon Grizzly lockers front and rear keep it crawling along. The stock W56 five-speed transmission was retained. Custom flywheel machining was completed by Axis Industries, and there’s a custom bellhousing. Power is delivered via front and rear custom-built CV driveshafts and a Marlin Crawler Dual Ultimate Crawler T-case setup.

Though simple and sturdy mechanically, this beautifully kept Xtracab is outfitted with all the amenities that make for a perfect camping rig. Below the Front Runner Outfitters bed rack is ample room for gear storage and an ARB slide-out fridge. Given that this shop truck resides in New Mexico, A/C is a must, and the truck has it. Due to limited underhood space, the A/C condenser and fan are mounted in the bed of the truck. To top it all off, a James Baroud Evasion hard shell rooftop tent makes this truck not only a capable and easy-to-maintain rockcrawler but also a well-outfitted overland hauler.

TAV put some serious work into the front end. The stock front axle was retained but it was trussed and gusseted for strength. A high-pinion differential from a J80 Land Cruiser was swapped in and the hubs were changed to IFS-issue units in order to match the rear axle width. The diff has a Grizzly Locker and 4.10:1 gearing. Braking comes from Tacoma rotors and calipers from a later-model V-6–powered Toyota pickup.
Bilstein 5100 shocks and TAV-modified 3-inch-lift Trail-Gear leaf springs keep the truck flexible and provide support for as much camping gear as TAV can fit in the longbed. For exhaust, a Cummins DOC system is followed by a TAV-fabbed 2.5-inch-diameter straight pipe.
The Cummins R2.8 Turbo Diesel is a fuel-sipping torquey solution to a crawler’s nightmare, a blown motor. That’s what happened to the original Toyota 22R-E from this ’85 Xtracab. With 161 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 to 3,000 rpm the R2.8 is more than a satisfactory replacement, offering up plenty of power to haul two passengers and a few weeks’ worth of camping supplies deep into the wilderness. An Optima RedTop battery helps provide electrical current.
A Marlin Crawler Dual Ultimate Crawler T-case setup features multiple low range gears for crawling with large tires. It delivers power to the front and rear via custom CV driveshafts built by TAV.
The factory rear axle was swapped out for a wider housing from a later-model IFS-equipped Toyota pickup. Like the front, it has 4.10:1 gears and a Yukon Grizzly Locker. When we photographed the truck it was sporting 35-inch Goodyear MT/Rs on 15x8 steelies.
The spare tire and wheel is mounted on a custom-built swing-out tire carrier attached to a Marlin Crawler rear bumper. Also mounted on the swing-out is a jerrycan and a new “Chile Capital of the World” New Mexico plate, which gets as many comments as the Cummins badges, we’re told.
A James Baroud Evasion hard shell rooftop tent and a rear-facing awning sit atop a Front Runner Outfitters bed rack. Underneath, an ARB slide-out Fridge Freezer is mounted with plenty of remaining room for storage. The A/C condenser and fan setup is also mounted in the cargo bed due to limited space underhood.
The low profile front bumper is custom made in-house at TAV and features Rigid Dually fog lights and a Smittybilt 9,500-pound winch with Viking synthetic rope. Hitch receiver mounts front and rear make room for even more accessories.
Inside, an FW Murphy temperature gauge is mounted next to the steering wheel. The guys at TAV have this ’85 tuned so well that it never overheats, so this gauge is simply a precaution.
Alongside neatly mounted indicator lights for the R2.8 is a Pioneer head unit that powers an upgraded Pioneer sound system with a 12-inch subwoofer. Corbeau bucket seats keep passengers comfortable.

At a Glance

Vehicle: ’85 Toyota Xtracab
Owner: Tactical Application Vehicles LLC
Stomping grounds: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Build time: Two months

Engine: Cummins Repower R2.8L Turbo Diesel
Transmission: W56 five-speed manual
Transfer case(s): Marlin Crawler
Low range ratio(s): 2.28:1, 4.70:1
Crawl ratio(s): 36.9:1, 76.1:1
Front axle/differential: Toyota 8-in HP, 4.10:1 gears/Yukon Grizzly Locker
Rear axle/differential: Toyota 8-in IFS width, 4.10:1 gears/Yukon Grizzly Locker

Front: Modified 3-in-lift Trail-Gear leaf springs, Bilstein 5100 shocks
Rear: Modified 3-in-lift Trail-Gear leaf springs, Bilstein 5100 shocks
Steering: Trail-Gear High Steer Kit

Tires: 35x12.50R15LT Goodyear MT/R
Wheels: 15x8 steel

Lighting: Rigid Industries D-Series Dually
Armor: Custom TAV front bumper, Marlin Crawler rear bumper with custom TAV rear tire carrier and full spare, custom TAV hood cowl, Front Runner bed rack
Cool stuff: Smittybilt XRC 9,500-lb winch with Viking synthetic rope, Corbeau bucket seats, FW Murphy engine temp gauge, Pioneer sound system with 12-in sub, James Baroud Evasion rooftop tent, ARB fridge

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