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1981 Toyota 4x4 Pickup - The Phoenix Project

Posted in How To on March 1, 2008
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Photographers: Dan Barcroft

You never forget your first truck. I've still got mine. I purchased my '81 Toyota 4x4 pickup over 10 years ago, and it's been growing on me like a fungus ever since. The association of the name "Toyota" with the term "reliability" is usually a hand-in-glove fit. This particular truck missed the boat. To those who say, "you can't break a Toyota with a stone," I counter: you can fry the engine with a clogged radiator, you can have an L-45 transmission shaft fail when you least expect it, and you can have a rear axleshaft snap during street driving. The clogged radiator was my fault, so I have to own that, but caring for this truck has shown me that when you paint a picture with broad strokes, you're bound to miss a few nooks and crannies.

As of this writing, the Phoenix Project has been sitting with a dead engine since late '03. Why resurrect this thing? The reasons are part sentiment and part practical: I've grown attached to it, I already own it, and it's still got a lot of untapped potential.

When the Phoenix Project finally rises from its current bed of ashes, I envision a truck that's much more powerful than before, more comfortable to drive than in the past, and will beat the terrain beneath instead of the occupants inside. Let's get started.

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