The deserts of the Southwest and Mexico are harsh environments to operate a vehicle. Remote tracks, rocky trails, and thick dust stress the reliability of even the sturdiest vehicle and every system on board it. When the desert traveler is several hundred miles from the nearest town, the durability of the vehicle cannot be compromised. Traditionally, Toyota 4WD vehicles have performed outstandingly in these environments, with engineering and design tailored for Third World countries and the most demanding terrain.
Pasquale and Christina researched available models and decided upon an '04 Toyota Tacoma Xtracab for their overland project. With the temporary plates still hanging from the SR5 rear bumper, the modifications began.
Traveling at high speeds across desert terrain requires a strong foundation of course, so Pasquale chose Donahoe 2.5-inch coilovers and set the ride height to 2 inches over stock. For the rear suspension, Scott Borne of Deaver Springs helped design a custom 11-leaf pack with interleaf friction pads and a 2.5-inch lift with a 1,200-pound rear-axle payload. All this created room for the BFGoodrich 255/85R16 Mud-Terrain T/AKM tires on American Racing 797 16x8 wheels.
For trail armor, a call to Jason Demello of Demello Offroad delivered a custom winch-mount front bumper with a Warn XD9000. Demello rock rails protect the sheetmetal of the long wheelbase, and a wraparound rear bumper with receiver guards the back of the truck. In addition to rock protection, these units allow for jacking and extraction from all four corners.
With the trail capabilities addressed, Pasquale went about preparing the truck for remote adventure and camping. Overland travel necessitates careful consideration of food and water storage, sleeping configurations, secure storage arrangements, and personal comfort. After several weeks on the trail, the time invested in these considerations can be invaluable.
During Pasquale's last adventure, which involved over 2,000 miles of driving down the Baja peninsula, all of the overland modifications were thoroughly tested. Sleeping comfort is addressed with an AutoHome Maggiolina roof tent mounted to a custom rack. A 21-gallon poly water tank is mounted under the Weatherguard box and supplies water for drinking and showering with the Helton heat exchanger. A custom drawer unit houses the kitchen systems and personal gear.
Several criteria must be met when building a vehicle for overland travel in the Southwest and Mexico. The suspension should be long-travel and provide secure handling on the road trips to access a distant track. The suspension must also provide a good load capacity to allow for extended-range fuel and water tanks. The vehicle must also be a comfortable place to spend time, with good seats, a relatively quiet interior, and even some good music. Pasquale and Christina have accomplished these goals with their Tacoma, resulting in a fast, reliable, and comfortable expedition solution.