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This 2004 Toyota Tacoma Owner Has His Cake & Eats It Too

Posted in Features on April 25, 2016
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Jason Berry isn’t the kind of person who likes compromise. He has built his 2004 Toyota Tacoma to do just about everything, and do it well. Rockcrawl? The truck is fully armored and has ARB Air Lockers front and rear. Blast through the desert? A Total Chaos long travel kit and King bypass shocks have that handled. And with the custom trailer hooked up on back it has enough supplies to allow Berry, his wife May, and their sons Jordan and Alex to camp in the backcountry for days on end. Just about anything you can do to a Tacoma, or in a Tacoma, Berry has done.

Jason Berry already blew up one engine when he hydrolocked it. He takes it all in stride. The current engine is a 3.4L V-6 topped with a TRD supercharger and URD 7th Injector Kit. Note how there is no battery in the engine bay; it has been relocated under the toolbox in the bed for better weight distribution.

The interior was left relatively unmolested for comfort, but Berry does have a full ’cage on the short list of future modifications. He likes to row his own gears, so the 5VZ-FE engine is backed by a five-speed transmission and the factory transfer case, which uses a lever to engage it.

A Pioneer head unit routes tunes to a JL Audio Monoblock amplifier and a pair of 10-inch JL Audio subwoofers mounted in a custom enclosure. Below the head unit, a Uniden CB is used for trail communication and the toggle switches control the bevy of lights on the Tacoma. A similar set of switches mounted on the dash control the ARB air lockers and compressor.

Relentless Off-Road Fabrication is best known for its line of plate bumpers for Tacomas and 4Runners, but the company does custom fabrication as well. The crew at Relentless built Berry’s tubular prerunner front bumper and added a one-piece, 1/4-inch-thick aluminum skidplate that extends all the way back to the transfer case. Dual 20-inch Rampage LED light bars from Relentless Fabrication work in conjunction with the curved 42-inch light bar mounted on the roof line with Relentless brackets.

The front suspension is a Total Chaos long travel kit that uses 4130 tubular control arms 3 1/2 inches wider than stock, along with Tundra axles, to retain 4WD. The 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 8-inch-travel King coilover shocks work in conjunction with 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 8-inch-travel King two three bypass shocks that Berry has custom valved himself. Total Chaos gussets on the coil buckets and spindles help keep everything straight.

The one-piece Relentless Fabrication aluminum skidplate protects the factory 7 1/2-inch front differential. The diff has been upgraded with an ARB Air Locker and 4.56 gears that route power to modified Tundra CV axles.

The rear suspension uses All-Pro leaf springs mounted under the axle with Total Chaos pivots and 12-inch shackles. The spring-under configuration allows for greater spring arch, which translates to more uptravel before the axle contacts the 4-inch air bump. Huge 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 16-inch-travel King two tube bypass shocks on custom mounts control the suspension motion with Berry’s own custom valving.

A heavily trussed 8.4-inch axle from a Toyota Tundra is out back. The axle uses the same six-lug bolt pattern, drum brakes, and axleshaft spline count as the Tacoma axle but is 6 inches wider to match the front track width. An ARB Air Locker and 4.56 gears were loaded in the third member before the axle was slung under the Tacoma.

The bed ’cage is designed to be completely functional, holding two upright spare tires and the upper shock mounts. A Kobalt toolbox holds spares and two fire extinguishers ensure that nothing catastrophic happens if the two NATO fuel cans spill onto something hot. The bed ’cage is also modular, accepting mounts for skis, bikes, a rooftop tent, or a cargo basket.

Rolling stock consists of 33-inch-tall 285/75R16 Hankook Dynapro MTs mounted on bronze 16x8 Stealth Custom Series F-5 five-spoke rims. Berry reports that the Hankooks have a soft compound that provides excellent traction. They do wear out a little faster than rival tires, but the affordable price of the Dynapros more than offsets the reduced tread life.

Berry and his family never have to worry about space in developed campsites. Under the Tepui rooftop tent a Camp Chef stove is securely mounted to the Formica countertop that is mounted on sliders for easy access. The trailer is fully functional, with table space for the Weber grill, paper towels, and even a spot for a camp table.

The axle under the trailer, rated at 3,500 pounds, uses the same 6-on-5 1/2 bolt pattern as the truck and uses 285/75R16 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2s mounted on the same Stealth Custom Series F-5 rims as on his Tacoma. Suspension is handled by Pro Comp 4-inch YJ leaf springs and Fox 6 1/2-inch-travel emulsion shocks. Although Berry’s personal preference is King shocks, the shorter body offer by Fox was useful to fit under the trailer tub.

Despite the lack of sway bars, Berry’s Tacoma corners very flat due to the custom valving in the bypass shocks. Even when towing he reports that the truck has very little sway on the road.

When Berry drops the trailer at camp he can really let loose in his Tacoma. Between the supercharged engine, locking differentials, and long travel suspension, there are few places this Tacoma cannot tread. For this shot Berry locked the rear Air Locker and left the truck in 2WD to pitch the rear sideways.

The long travel suspension and bevy of King shocks ensure smooth landings when Berry gets airborne. The truck landed this jump with ease and took it all in stride, even after we had Berry make repeated passes for our camera.

Tech Specs
2004 Toyota Tacoma
Engine: 3.4L V-6 with TRD supercharger
Transmission: R150F 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Toyota
Front Axle: Toyota 7.5 IFS with 4.56 gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Toyota 8.4 with 4.56 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Total Chaos long travel kit with King coilover and bypass shocks (front); All-Pro leaf springs and King bypass shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 285/75R16 Hankook Dynapro MTs on 16x8 Stealth Custom Series F-5 wheels
Lighting: Rampage LED 42-inch light bar on Relentless Fabrication mounts, Rampage LED 20-inch light bars on bumper
Other Stuff: Relentless Off-Road Fabrication front bumper and aluminum skidplate, URD 7th Injector Kit, URD Short Shifter, MagnaFlow exhaust, Demello Off-Road rock sliders, Glassworks fiberglass fenders and hood, Trail-Gear frame plates, Powertank PT10, Kobalt bed box, dual spare tires, Harbor Freight Tools aluminum jack, Total Chaos steering rack bushings

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