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Banzai TrailLex Rock Buggy

Passenger Side View
Douglas McColloch | Writer
Posted March 1, 2007

From the Land of Godzilla, this tubed-up TraiLex shows monster flex

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.

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Gauges? Who needs gauges? The cockpit of the Cruiser is an epitome of minimalism. A custom carbon-Kevlar seat and Greddy steering wheel locate the driver and vehicle, respectively, though sharp eyes will notice the lack of a harness--like we said, the Cruiser was a work in progress when we shot it. For low-buck building, you gotta love the stock floor-mounted tranny shifter and console, though there's also an added panel for the diff-lock switches, and twin sticks for the Atlas below it. Behind the driver is a single Optima Red Top and a Jaz fuel cell. All the custom cagework was fabbed by Masa and Naozumi at Tsuda Racing's shop in Gara, Japan.

GENERAL
Owner: Tsuda Racing, Gara, Haibara Prefecture, Japan
Vehicle/Model: Custom Toyota Prado/GX rock buggy
Estimated Value: $40,000

ENGINE
Type: 4.0L Lexus 1UZ-FE V-8
Aspiration: Stock EFI
Output, hp/torque (lb-ft): 290/300

DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: Stock four-speed automatic
Transfer case: Atlas two-speed

SUSPENSION
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

AXLES/DIFFERENTIALS
Front: Toyota FJ100 8-inch; factory diff-lock
Rear: Toyota FJ100 8-inch; factory diff-lock
Ring-and-pinion: 4.30:1

WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels: 17x8.5 custom KMC bead locks
Tires: 37x13.50R17 Nitto Mud Grapplers

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