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Crawl This Way

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 25, 2004 Comment (0)
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Contributors: Gabriel Sheffer
Brian Anderson and his heavily modified '81 Toyota pickup.

You might see Brian Anderson out at some rockcrawling event in Utah or New Mexico this summer. You'll see him take a line, traverse some bodacious boulders and finally make it to the finish, where he's likely to flash a bright smile and a confident thumbs-up. This is where Brian feels at home, crawling rock from the cockpit of a rig that started life as an '81 Toyota pickup. He's modified it so heavily, though, that it's barely recognizable now.

A salesman at Randy's Ring & Pinion in Washington, Brian says he's grown-up 'wheeling. After years of running the "same old trails" with his '78 fullsize Bronco, he became fascinated by the world of rockcrawling. Consequently, Brian fell in love with Toyotas. Why? "I love their wheelbase," he says, "And they're just so dependable." Built to compete at UROC events, this tube-frame 'crawler, which has been upgraded regularly over the past five years, is Brian's fifth Toy.

Getting maximum articulation is key on the rocks, so Brian's 'crawler relies on a set of 14-inch RaceRunner coilover shocks. Brian machined a set of Moser axles to work in a flanged full-floater conversion of the housing. He fit the rear pumpkin with a Yukon spool and a 5.29 ring-and-pinion.

It's definitely his best. The rig is powered by Toyota's factory 22R engine, which Brian converted to propane. Brian performed the swap himself in about 90 minutes. Ask him why he went propane, and Brian answers, "So it'll run upside down." Told you he was a serious 'crawler. The only other modifications under the hood involve the addition of a Schneider cam and a set of Northwest Off-Road headers that empty into a Magnaflow muffler. The engine remains mated to the pickup's stock manual five-speed transmission. As with any rockcrawling vehicle, however, the really intensive mods are to be found in the drivetrain and suspension systems.

Using an Advance Adapters dual crawler adapter, he mated his original transfer case to a second Toyota 'case fitted with 4:1 gears. Brian runs his original Toyota front axle with a Birfield-eliminator kit, and he uses tough Spicer 5-760x U-joints to reduce breakage and thus reduce downtime. The front differential is a high-pinion Toyota 8-inch. It is stuffed with Yukon Gear's 5.29:1 ring-and-pinion and an ARB Air Locker. For the rear, Brian machined blank Moser axles to work in a flanged full-floater conversion of the stock housing. The third member runs Yukon 5.29s and a Yukon spool. He kept the stock Toyota hubs, spindles, bearings, rotors and calipers adapted for the rear.

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Brian sourced his truck's front springs and hangers from a junk '78 Wagoneer he spotted in someone's front yard. In the rear, he employs 14-inch RaceRunner coilovers with a triangulated four-link suspension. A custom 1-inch body lift clears a set of 38.5x14.5 TSL/SX tires on 15x10 TrailReady beadlock wheels.

After a couple of rollovers Brian realized he didn't want to spend his Mondays repairing crushed sheetmetal, so he decided to go all tube, with a full exoskeleton. The Toy's frame was cut off at the rearmost cab mount. From there it was completely tubed by BNS Fabrication of Kirkland, Washington. BNS used 1 5/8-inch DOM seamless with a 0.120-inch wall thickness. The interior features RCI Racing seats and a Grant steering wheel. Recovery gear includes a Warn M8000 winch.

If you're a rockcrawling fan, chances are you'll see Brian and his '81 Toy out creeping along some rocks this summer. Expect to see a cool tube-frame 4x4 and, of course, one truly happy driver.


Owner: Brian Anderson
Vehicle model: '81 Toyota Pickup
Estimated value: N/A

Type: Propane-powered Toyota 22R
Displacement (liter/ci): 2.4L
Aspiration: K&N air filter, Northwest Off-Road headers, Magnaflow muffler

Transmission: Manual five-speed
Transfer case: Two Toyota transfer cases with Advance Adapters dual crawler adapter

Front: Jeep Wagoneer springs, custom 1-inch body lift
Rear: 14-inch RaceRunner coilover; triangulated four-link

Front: Toyota 8-inch with Birfield-eliminator kit, ARB Air Locker, Spicer 5-760x U-joints
Rear: Machined Moser axle with full-float conversion, Toyota 8-inch housing, Yukon spool
Ring and pinion (f/r): Yukon gears 5.29:1

Wheels (in.): 2.5-inch backspacing on 15x10 TrailReady beadlocks
Tires: 38.5x14.5 TSL/SX


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