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2002 Toyota Matrix - Matrix

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2003
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Tracy Jordan likes two things more than anything else as far as we can tell: rockcrawling and Toyotas. From the bit that we have talked to him it sounds like every day after work and every weekend is spent wheeling in the rocks around his Phoenix home. Though he says it's just for the pure fun of it, we can tell that it's the best practice available since he seems to be scoring very high in-or winning-every rockcrawling competition he enters. His previous FJ-40 Land Cruiser rockcrawler and research vehicle was a pretty crazy creation with front and rear steering, full hydraulic suspension, and a narrowed body.

So when it came time to start fresh for the 2003 season he took all his lessons learned and sat down with his fellow wheeler and fabricating mastermind, Jason Paule of Twisted Customs in Rapid City, South Dakota, to come up with a plan. (You can see Jason's rig in "Twisted" in the Sept. '02 issue and Tracy's old rig in an ad on page 35 of that same issue.)

The plan involved a smaller, lighter vehicle with competition and recreation as a priority. The drivetrain of choice is a mixture of old reliable with a bit of extreme overbuilt added for good measure. The 4.3L V-6 is from a '97 blazer but has had some work to the computer to get an extra 30 hp. A TH350 built by TransTech from Rapid City is mated to an Atlas transfer case. From the transfer case two 1350 driveshafts from High Angle run to the front and rear steering axles. The axles have been assembled from various Terra 60, CTM, and Ford Super Duty components. This entire system was then set into a full tube chassis made from 1.75-inch chrome-moly tubing with 0.120-inch wall thickness. The chassis was made narrow to help fit the tighter obstacles and ended up being only 48 inches at its widest point.

With a 23-inch-high bellypan when running 37-inch tires, a 101-inch wheelbase, and a total weight of around 3,200 pounds, the buggy was coming together as a substantial machine, but it still needed something. Tracy wanted a look that would get it noticed, and since all he needed was the skin of a hood for his buggy he looked again at the Toyota lineup. Believe it or not he chose the fenders, hood, and headlights from a '02 Toyota Matrix. Though a Matrix is hardly an off-road machine, the design lines did set Tracy's buggy apart from the crowd, especially when Jason sprayed on pearl lime-green paint.

The final creation was revealed at the end of the 2002 season and placed Second in the Supercrawl competition, Second in a CalRocs competition, and won the first-ever Baja Rocks event in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Keep your eye on Tracy and his bright green buggy. He's been circling the winner's circle and he's gunning for number one.

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