Masanori Tsuda has been playing in the dirt since childhood. At the age of nine, he was driving a Suzuki Jimny in the densely wooded mountains around Nara, Japan, where his father worked as a forester. Since then, he's built and driven a variety of trail machines, including a Lexus-powered Mitsu-Jeep that's been a winner at Japanese rockcrawling championships. But Masa and his brother Naozumi, a fabricator who has built competition drifters and drag racers, are always seeking new challenges, so they decided last year to build a long-travel rock racer for the 2007 UROC series. As if that wasn't enough, the brothers constructed a UROC-spec concrete crawl course, as well as their own Mini Rubicon-using 1,500 10-ton truckloads of imported rocks-as a proving grounds for their handiwork. Hey, like we said, these guys like a challenge.
The Tsudas based their buggy buildup on a Toyota FJ100 Land Cruiser Prado, known Stateside as the Lexus GX-the same basic platform as our late Project TraiLex, albeit with solid axles and selectable diff-locks that you can't get in the States. While it may look like it's been overhauled from the ground up, it's actually a good example of leaving well enough alone; the stock Prado frame, while chopped, has been retained, and the engine, transmission, and axles were all still bone-stock at the time we spied it, in Japan last autumn. By the time you read this, the Tsudas' flexy TraiLex will have made its debut at the Supercrawl World Championships, held last December in Las Vegas-though it's also due to be sporting some built Dana 60s under that long-travel suspension by then.
Owner: Tsuda Racing, Gara, Haibara Prefecture, Japan
Vehicle/Model: Custom Toyota Prado/GX rock buggy
Estimated Value: $40,000
Type: 4.0L Lexus 1UZ-FE V-8
Aspiration: Stock EFI
Output, hp/torque (lb-ft): 290/300
Transmission: Stock four-speed automatic
Transfer case: Atlas two-speed
Front: Custom three-link, Panhard rod, 16-inch-travel Fox 2.5 air shocks
Rear: Custom three-link, torque arm, 16-inch-travel Fox 2.5 air shocks
Front: Toyota FJ100 8-inch; factory diff-lock
Rear: Toyota FJ100 8-inch; factory diff-lock
Wheels: 17x8.5 custom KMC bead locks
Tires: 37x13.50R17 Nitto Mud Grapplers