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A 2WD Toyota Tacoma Turned Twin Transfer Case Trail Tamer

Posted in Features on December 1, 2017
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Photographers: Ken Brubaker

This rig started its life one driveshaft short of what normally appears in Four Wheeler. Tom Bingenheimer took what used to be his wife’s commuter, an ’01 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner, and much like a child with fresh modeling clay, he began cutting, building, and reshaping until his truck transformed into the trail-taming machine it is today.

Tom is a lifelong dirt junkie. He grew up surrounded by Baja Bugs and Trophy Trucks in California and only recently traded the desert for the big open sky in Wyoming.

Under the hood sits the stock four-cylinder 3RZ engine. Underhood modifications include moving the battery forward 3 inches to accommodate the solid axle, an aftermarket air intake, and towers for the F-O-A 12-inch-travel remote-reservoir shocks.

The ’01 Toyota began in the stock two-wheel-drive form with a 3RZ engine and automatic transmission. Tom’s plan from the beginning was twofold—keep the truck simple, but make it a capable crawler. Accomplishing this goal of “keep it simple” involved some surgery. The truck went under the knife and Tom removed the old stock independent front suspension. Though he was given grief from his friends, the old suspension was replaced with 5-inch-lift leaf springs in the front, 3-inch-lift leaf springs in the rear, and F-O-A remote-reservoir shocks. This strategy meant he didn’t need track bars or rod ends—all items that require maintenance. Tom was also able to locate the new Trail-Gear Rock Assault 9 front axle above the leaf pack, keeping the rig low to the ground, even when riding on big tires.

The stock independent front suspension was removed and replaced with 5-inch-lift leaf springs and F-O-A 12-inch-travel shocks. Tom also installed a Rock Assault 9 axle and hydraulic steering kit from Trail-Gear.
The rear axle is the stock Toyota 8.4-inch with 5.29:1 gears, a Detroit Locker, and Trail-Gear Longfield axleshafts. The 3-inch-lift leaf springs are kept in check by F-O-A 16-inch-travel shocks and F-O-A 2-inch-diameter bumpstops.

To accommodate the 39-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/A KRT tires, some work had to be done, since Tom’s days of towering lift kits were in the past. The front and rear fenderwells were trimmed and the frame was stretched 4 inches to create more clearance for the big meats. Some reshaping of the oil pan was also required to clear the front axle at full flex.

Even though the Double Cab was a shortbed, Tom wanted to keep the rear of the truck from dragging when he negotiated steep obstacles on the trail. With some skillful sheetmetal work, he was able to slice 10 inches off the bed and maintain a factory look, while improving the departure angle.

If it weren’t for the coat of bedliner, we would barely notice that the Tacoma’s bed was shortened by 10 inches. The tailgate bears two flush-mounted LED pods for reverse lighting and a hawse fairlead for the rear-facing Runva winch in the bed.

The two-wheel-drive Tacoma suffered from a distinct lack of a factory transfer case. Tom took this as an opportunity to insert his own combination of reduction boxes beneath the truck. The front case is a gear-driven RF1A with 4.70:1 gears (built by Inchworm Gear Products) and the rear VF2AM case comes from a ’98 Tacoma with factory 2.57:1 gearing. Tom stealthily routed the shift levers for both T-cases through the cup holders in the cab, with two cup holders to spare for sodas on the trail.

Up front, Tom drew inspiration from his Baja days with the tube-style bumper and front skidplate, both protecting the Runva 9.5XS winch and 21-inch lightbar.

As tube bending is his trade, Tom outfitted the rig with a custom PreRunner-style bumper, rock sliders, and a full exterior rollcage. (Tom is over 6 feet tall and he says that an “internal cage would make it pretty tight inside.”) Along with defending against rollovers, the cage gives ample space to mount a Hi-Lift jack, spare driveshaft, fire extinguishers, and both rear shock reservoirs. The preparedness in the bed continues with a fullsize spare tire and a rear winch spooling through the Toyota’s tailgate.

Not only does the bed hold a winch, but also Tom’s 39-inch spare tire, extra fluids, driveshaft, Hi-Lift jack, air tank, fire extinguishers, and custom towers for the F-O-A remote-reservoir 16-inch-travel shocks.

Even with the abundance of mods to the Toyota, Tom tells us it still behaves nicely on the highway, though the four-cylinder engine doesn’t quite enjoy passing on uphill grades. Tom plans on waking up the little engine sometime soon with a supercharger and adding more clearance in the fenderwells by moving the battery to the rear of the truck.

Tom left the interior as it came from the factory. However, because the stock truck had no transfer case, the dual shift levers now occupy two of the cupholders.

At a Glance

Vehicle: ’01 Toyota Tacoma
Owner: Tom Bingenheimer
Stomping grounds: Dubois, Wyoming

Engine: Toyota 2.7L 3RZ I-4
Transmission: A340E 4-spd automatic
Transfer cases: RF1A (front), VF2AM (rear), Inchworm Gear Products Dual Case Adapter
Low range ratios: 2.57:1, 4.70:1, 7.27:1
Crawl ratios: 38.1:1, 69.6:1, 107.7:1
Front axle/differential: Trail-Gear Rock Assault 9 housing, Trail-Gear Fully Loaded Six Shooter knuckles, chromoly locking hubs, Trail-Gear Longfield axleshafts, 5.29:1 gears/Detroit Locker Rear axle/differential: Toyota 8.4-in axle, Trail-Gear Longfield axleshafts, 5.29:1 gears/Detroit Locker

Front: Trail-Gear 5-in-lift leaf springs, F-O-A 12-in-travel remote-reservoir shocks, 7-in limiting strap, F-O-A 2-in bumpstops
Rear: Trail-Gear 3-in-lift leaf springs, F-O-A 16-in-travel remote-reservoir shocks, 10-in limiting strap, F-O-A 2-in bumpstops
Steering: Trail-Gear full hydraulic steering kit

Tires: 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Baja T/A KRT
Wheels: 17x9 Ultra beadlocks

Lighting: 21-in LED lightbar in the front, six 2-in LED pods on the cab, two LED reverse light pods flush-mounted in the tailgate
Armor: Custom rock sliders, rear bumper and PreRunner-style front bumper coated in Durabak bedliner
Cool stuff: Mountain Driveline custom driveshafts, rear-mounted Runva 9,500-pound winch with hawse in the tailgate, custom exterior rollcage, 2-in receiver hitch because this rig still hauls the firewood trailer in the winter

PhotosView Slideshow

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