If you love four-wheeling and you live in northern California, then the Rubicon Trail is your lodestone. It offers everything the ardent off-roader could desire of a backcountry playground: lots of rocks in the summer and lots of snow in the winter. So when Jim and Terri Henle began building up their '87 Toyota pickup, they naturally set their sights on the kind of construction that would withstand lots of time and abuse on the Rubicon. Specifically, Jim wanted a trail rig that he could take snow-wheeling, which meant big axles, big tires, and plenty of Low gearing.
Jim decided to tackle the easiest part first and called Jim McGean at Dynatrac to order a pair of reverse-rotation Dana 60 axles. Both of these heavy-duty units are outfitted with disc brakes, 5.13 gears, and 35-spline shafts that will stand up to real abuse. The rearend is equipped with a full spool, while the frontend houses a limited slip.
To attach his nice, new axles to the Toyota, Jim devised a completely custom suspension setup. After building his own shackles and hangers, he bolted on a set of Ford F-350 Super Duty leaf springs in front and a set of Chevy 2500 3/4-ton leaf springs in the rear. The combination provided him with more than 5 inches of lift compared with the stock configuration, which created plenty of room for the 38-inch Swampers that he now runs for both rocks and snow.
With his axles and suspension set, Jim moved on to refining his drivetrain. Modifications to the engine were kept to a minimum. A K&N filter, Downey headers, and a Flowmaster exhaust all combine to let the 22RE motor breathe a little more easily. For the transmission and T-case mods, Jim went to Marlin Crawler, which rebuilt the stock five-speed, and then set up the truck with dual 23-spline transfer cases. As the rear case is equipped with 4.70 gears, the setup gives Jim some incredible Low range and much greater strength.
With that, Jim was ready to go to work on the body and 'cage. To create more useable interior space and really tie the vehicle together, he welded the bed to the cab, then created a walk-thru. Using 0.120-wall tubing, Jim designed and fabricated the front and rear bumpers as well as the internal 'cage, which extends from the A-pillars to the rear of the bed. The 'cage work is fully welded to the frame to tie the entire vehicle together and provide greater structural integrity.
Wanting to finish off the bodywork, Jim chose a clean, simple look that would be easy to maintain. He Rhino-lined the floor of the cab, then gutted the bed and finished it in aluminum paneling. To cap things off, Jim took the stock doors and cut them down to create a more open feeling in the cab. The craftsmanship here is excellent, and the repositioned door handles only add to the overall affect.
As a testament to his hard work, the entire project only took Jim six months to complete. The only trouble he encountered once he started hitting the trails was with the stock steering box. It simply wasn't strong enough to handle the kind of torque the new tires and suspension put on it. One call to Jeff Howe at Howe Performance Steering took care of it. Now, nothing stops Jim from hitting the Rubicon on a regular basis.
|Year/make/model:||'87 Toyota pickup|
|Owner/hometown:||Jim Henle/ |
Pollock Pines, California
|Transfer case:||Dual Marlin Crawler boxes|
|Frontend:||Dynatrac 60 with |
|Rearend:||Dynatrac 60 with full spool|
|Suspension:||Front: Super Duty springs; |
rear: Chevy 3/4-ton springs
|Wheels/tires:||15x10-inch bead locks/ |