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Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Custom Paint Job & Body Work

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2002
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Contributors: Marty Fiolka
After removing the tailgate and taillights and giving the remaining sheetmetal a light sanding, our Tacoma was ready for paint. Molly Sanders designed the paint scheme to mimic that of the BFGoodich Toyota-powered Class 1 car of Groff Motorsports. Molly used a combination of the perfect yellow (with just a hint of orange) and a silver stripe along the rocker panel to really bring the truck to life. The stripes were created by using a vinyl decal mask to separate the yellow from the production base black.

For the past two months we've been at work building a Toyota Tacoma TRD 4x4 that we're going to give to the lucky reader who wins Four Wheeler's 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes. And we've been keeping Four Wheeler readers up to speed on our progress.

About this special truck: Not only will the winner and a friend come to Los Angeles to pick up the keys to this baby, but they will also have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join the Groff Motorsports team at the 2002 SCORE Baja 1000. Our lucky winner will join one of our staffers to chase the Baja 1000 in this trick Toyota. The winner also will have the opportunity to jump in the BFGoodrich Toyota-powered Class 1 car as a co-driver in the race itself. All you need to do is fill out the sweepstakes card found on page 55 in this issue. Do it, because you can't win if you don't enter.

Now, about that Sweepstakes Tacoma: In our first two installments we concentrated on the mechanical upgrades we wanted to add to the truck. The first round saw us install a TRD power package that included TRD's stainless-steel header and exhaust system, along with the company's popular supercharger package. These parts really added some life to the Four Wheeler Sweepstakes Tacoma. The next area to be massaged was the truck's suspension, where a new ProComp Explorer 4-inch lift was installed, along with the company's trick new coilover shocks up front and MX-6 shocks in the rear. All of these additions came together well, and the combination of more power and a better suspension really got us excited about our progress.

But that was all function. The Tacoma's form remained stock. Not that that's a bad thing, but we needed to do better than that. We wanted the Tacoma to look just as good as it ran.

PhotosView Slideshow
The Line-X installation process requires a professional technician and all the tools. Applying the textured coating with smooth, even strokes, technician Justin Muldoon sprays the Line-X onto the Tacoma's bed. Two chemicals are heated and mixed into the gun, with a finished result that has a factory look and finish. Cost of a typical Line-X bedliner installation is around $400.

For help, we turned to legendary graphic artist and paint wizard Molly Sanders. An institution in Southern California automotive and motorcycle circles, Molly has provided the vision behind some of the most widely recognized graphics and colors in the industry. His resum includes work on the Toyota Motorsports/PPI racing trucks of Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix celebrity cars, the famous yellow, black and white design of Yamaha, the green made famous by Kawasaki-heck, he even invented the Lexus logo. Perhaps more important for our story, he created the striking BFGoodrich/Toyota Motorsports paint scheme used by the Groff Motorsports Class 1 car that's such an exciting part of our 40th Anniversary sweepstakes.

During our initial planning session, Molly suggested that instead of copying the race car and painting the front of the Tacoma yellow and keeping the back of the truck's stock metallic black, as is shown on our artist's rendering, we should think about painting the back yellow and adding a bottom stripe of silver. He mentioned something about the truck's flowing lines, and discussed other artistic stuff we didn't really understand. But it sounded good to us.

A week after our first meeting, we were called down to Molly's Huntington Beach facility to see for ourselves. Molly's talented crew had just finished applying the yellow color and adding the silver base along the bottom sill of the Tacoma. The effect was simple but striking. We sat down and laid out the truck's graphics, including the special Four Wheeler 40th Anniversary logo for the hood. A couple of days later, the truck was delivered to our offices. Wow, with the graphics all in place, our Tacoma is a showpiece. Molly had even taken the time to apply several layers of clear-coat over the vinyl decals to finish off the job in style.

Just for fun, we also had the Line-X folks apply some protective material to the Tacoma's front and rear bumper assembly. This is a very popular thing to do, and keeps those parts looking good. Cost is about $75 each.

The problem now was that the stock wheel and BFGoodrich tire combination was not in keeping with our Toyota's hot new looks. The addition of the ProComp lift kit made that even more obvious. So we ordered a new set of 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires to outfit the rig, along with a brand-new set of Colorado Custom's new Slickrock off-road alloy wheels. Everyone knows about the off-road performance of the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains, but folks might not be up to speed on Colorado Custom's new wheels. The fit and finish were first rate, and the styling was a nice departure for the dirt crowd. But after mounting and balancing, we bolted on the set only to find out that the front-wheel studs were too short. A quick trip to a dealership later for a new set of the longer rear studs solved that problem, and the installation was complete. The combination really set off the paint, and the new wheels actually look like the ones used on the Groff Class 1 machine. Perfect.

The final step was to finish the bed with an application of Line-X bedliner. Not only would it quiet the truck thanks to its thick material, but it also would protect the bed's finish. The whole operation only took a couple of hours, and the results were the ideal finishing touch.

But hold on, we aren't done yet. In next month's final installment, we'll add some front and rear tube bumpers, a set of KC lights, a trick rear spare tire mount and a specially made set of Beard seats to finish off the interior. We'll also put the truck through a complete chassis dyno and driving test to let you know how it all works. Then it's on to the 2002 SEMA show in Las Vegas before we turn it over to one of our fortunate readers-who might be you. After that, it's time to head south for the SCORE Baja 1000.

Sound like fun? Be sure to enter our Four Wheeler 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes today.

Because the stock hardware just won't do for this special Tacoma, the next step was to add some wheels and tires. We chose a set of 265/75R16 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains. The tire isn't massive, but it looks great and fits under this mild lift without fender clearance problems. A set of Slickrock wheels from Colorado Custom was the perfect addition. We really liked the style of these aluminum rims, and the additional billet center caps finish them off perfectly. The only problem we had was that we needed to buy a set of Toyota rear studs for the front hubs-a common fix for installing aftermarket wheels on one of these trucks.

Toyota's are notorious for tight fenderwell clearance in the front and rear, so to avoid having to trim the interior fenderwell sheetmetal, we stayed with 32-inch tires.

Be Studly
When fitting aftermarket wheels on a '02 Tacoma, thicker aftermarket wheel centers often mean that the stock front studs are too short. Not dealing with this when you add aftermarket wheels is a risk, because if you're unable to run the lug nuts far enough down the studs, you risk stripping the stud threads and not getting the amount of lug-nut torque you need. We solved this problem by exchanging the stock front studs for longer Tacoma rear-wheel studs. The Tacoma's rear studs (on top in photo) are available from your Toyota dealer under part number 90942-02052.

The longer rear studs are easy to install since you do not have to remove the hub assembly. Once you have removed the original studs-do so by backing them out and whacking them with a soft mallet-locate the axle grease, a few large washers and some type of spacer (here we used the closed end of a large wrench). Lubricate the washers, splines and threads of the studs with grease. Stack the washers and the spacer so that you can use the lug nut to pull the stud in without reaching the beginning of the threads. The grease allows the bearing surfaces to slide along nicely and let the nut pull the stud into place.

Project 40th Anniversary Tacoma - Part 1, click here.
Project 40th Anniversary Tacoma - Part 2, click here.
Project 40th Anniversary Tacoma - Part 4, click here.


BF Goodrich Tires
Colorado Custom
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Molly Designs

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