When the Tacoma was introduced in the middle of 1995, Toyota traditionalists were skeptical. The ’79-to-’95 pickups were long proven as rugged, dependable trucks even if they were so slow they’d lose a drag race with a refrigerator. The Tacoma models brought a new generation of engines and a new chassis to the Toyota stable.
Today, we’re in the twilight of 2012 and the Tacoma is now a proven truck that’s more than capable of holding its own in the dirt. Tacoma engines are much more powerful than the old iron. The Toyota Tacoma is a truck worthy of suspension upgrades.
If you’d like to take your Tacoma’s front suspension to the next level, you’ve got options and we’re here to present them. For the sake of continuity, were sticking to six-lug 4x4 models in this story.
Please note that none of the coilover kits come standard with shocks, although coilovers can be ordered through each suspension manufacturer.
Hardcore Tacoma suspension can be sliced into two main categories: long-travel A-arms (IFS) and solid axle swaps (SAS). If you’re building an all-around truck and want more wheel travel and better high-speed stability, a long-travel IFS upgrade is your best bet. If you want performance in the rocks and simplicity above all else, it’s hard to beat a swapped-in solid front axle.
Solid axles and leaf springs are a proven combination for hardcore ‘wheeling and rockcrawling, and Trail-Gear offers its Tacoma solid axle swap (SAS) kit in three different levels. The Trail-Gear SAS kits are for the ’96-to-’04 first-generation Tacoma models. Go for the “A” kit and source your own axle and steering box, or upgrade to the Trail-Gear “B” or “C” kit to find something more inclusive. Whichever option you choose (the “C” kit is shown), you’ll have a pre-engineered kit that takes the guess work out of a solid axle swap. Cutting, grinding, and welding are all required. It’s a straightforward process, but it’s still major surgery.
All-Pro Off Road
All-Pro Off-Road offers a long-travel IFS system that fits ’05-and-newer Tacomas, ’03-and-newer 4Runners, and ’07-and-newer FJ Cruisers. The All-Pro long-travel IFS system adds two inches of track width per side via replacement upper and lower control arms. Both the upper and lower ball joints are replaced with spherical bearings (uniballs) which offer more strength, easier replacement, and a greater range of motion. The All-Pro system is TIG-welded and made from chromoly tubing and cold-rolled billet steel. It’s made to use a single coilover and a bumpstop. Fiberglass fenders can be used but are not required. The All-Pro long-travel IFS kit has received some updates since the kit layout photo was taken. Check out All-Pro’s website for a more current photo.
If you’ve got a ’96-to-’04 Tacoma, All-Pro’s Taco Supreme SAS kit is an easy ticket to hardcore rockcrawling performance. The Taco Supreme SAS kit can be used with a variety of different solid front axles, but was designed around an All-Pro-specific Currie Rock Jock 60 front axle. The basic link and bracket kit can be supplemented with All-Pro shock towers to make installation even easier. Installing the Taco Supreme kit requires cutting, grinding, and welding. It’s a job best left to an experienced fabricator or a professional shop. Your stock Tacoma steering rack gets replaced with an ’86-to-’95 Toyota pickup Toyota steering box (much stronger).
Camburg’s long-travel kit for the ’05-to-’12 Tacoma adds 3.5 inches of track width per side. The lower control arms are made from plate steel, while the uppers are a traditional tubular design. Both upper and lower ball joints are replaced with 1.25-inch uniballs yielding strength and wheel travel benefits. The lower control arms pivot on one-inch uniballs instead of bushings, making the control arms less prone to deflection during hard cornering or over rugged terrain. Steering options include extending the stock tie rods or completely replacing the tie rods with a clevis-and-rod end system. This system fits both two-and four-wheel-drive models. Fiberglass fenders are required.
There’s a Camburg long-travel kit for the ’96-to-’04 first-generation six-lug Tacomas, too. This kit widens the truck’s stance 3.5 inches per side and also requires fiberglass fenders. The lower control arms pivot on one-inch uniballs, and you’ll also find a one-inch uniball in place of the stock upper ball joint at the steering knuckle. You can use Tundra CV axles to replace your stock Tacoma shorties. Run this kit with a coilover only, or add a hydraulic bumpstop and a bypass shock for ultimate control in the rough.
Total Chaos Fabrication
Total Chaos Fabrication offers its’05-’12 Tacoma long-travel kit in two widths: 3.5 inches wider per side and 2 inches wider per side. This photo shows the +3.5 kit. Lower control arms are made from boxed plate, while the uppers are made using tubing. Both upper and lower arms pivot on urethane bushings (Heim-jointed uppers are optional) which transmit less noise and harshness from the control arms into the chassis. Upper and lower uniball conversions are standard. If you’re looking for additional deflection control, you can use T.C.’s optional Nylatron bushings in your lower control arms. Fiberglass fenders are a must. Custom Total Chaos CV axles are inserted into the stock inner and outer CV joints. Total Chaos also offers several upgrades that will strengthen the chassis in conjunction with the long-travel suspension. These included alignment cam tab gussets, coil bucket tower gussets, and steering knuckle gussets.
If you don’t want to go as wide, don’t want to use fiberglass fenders, or are bound by SCORE Class 3 track width rules, then the Total Chaos +2 kit may be for you. The features are practically identical to the +3.5 kit, but in a narrower track width version. The +2 kit is shown on a 5th-generation 4Runner, but this system also fits the ’05-to-’12 Tacoma, the ’07-to-’12 FJ Cruiser, and the ’03-to-’09 4Runner.
Total Chaos offers a system for the ’96-to-’04 first-generation six-lug Tacomas. 4Runner owners of ’96-to-’02 models can also run this system. The T.C. first-gen Tacoma long-travel system adds 3.5 inches of track width per side. Modified Tundra CV axles are used to maintain four-wheel drive and to match the added track width. There are options with both the upper and lower control arms. Choose from bushing pivots and Heim joint pivots for the upper arms, and tubular or boxed-style lower control arms. The upper ball joint is replaced with a one-inch uniball. As with the newer-generation Tacomas, Total Chaos offers steering knuckle gussets, alignment cam tab gussets, and coil bucket tower gussets to prepare your chassis for hard use. Fiberglass fenders? Yes, you’ll need them.