Addicted's "White Trash" Project

Addicted's "White Trash" Project

Addicted Off Road White Trash projectOne man’s trash is another man’s treasure

I've been building Toyotas, Jeeps, and Broncos for years. For the last 8yrs, I've specialized in building hard core Toyota rock crawlers though. Toyotas have always had a sweet spot in my heart, since my first car was an 86' standard cab pickup. Now, I've always thought that the double cab Toyotas were one of those cool trucks that we could never get our hands on here in the states. They've been building them in South America, Australia and in European Countries for years, but until 2001 Toyota never offered it in the U.S. market. Needless to say, I've always wanted to build one the right way. But, they hold their value so well that it never made sense to buy one only to rip it apart for a full build up.

So, when a local tow yard owner wandered into my shop and asked if I had any interest in buying one for parts I told him that I did. He wasn't all that sure of what he had other than it was a four door Toyota truck that was involved in a front end collision. So, I told him that I would at least come take a look at it. What I found was what I believed to be a very salvageable vehicle. It was a 2004 Double Cab TRD 4x4 Tacoma. The truck had 204K on it, but was involved in a pretty big impact up front. It rear ended the back of a tow truck that had both of the forks out in back. One of the forks went through the grill of the truck on impact. It proceeded to make contact with the power steering pump which was sheared off the head of the motor putting a quarter sized hole in the head. It then proceeded back, punching another small hole in the head, and then crashed into the firewall pushing it back about 10" into the cab. Obviously on impact, both airbags deployed. This was a pretty significant impact, and I would guess it occurred at around 40-50mph.

Well, upon inspecting it, I was surprised to see that the damage was isolated to the body only, and not the frame. Even the stock front bumper was untouched by the collision and in very good shape. So, I was willing to risk buying it based on the fact that even if the frame was slightly tweaked, it could easily be fixed. The tow yard owner had the title on the truck as the previous owner had signed it off to him to cover the tow and storage fees. So, I bought the whole truck with the title.

My plan for this truck was simple. I wanted to build an expedition kind of family crawler out it. Not your typical expedition vehicle that you see with a roof top tent, bed cage, fuel cans, and a snorkel. But, it will be a fully built, solid axle crawler on 37" tall tires that I could drive anywhere in the country, wheel the hardest trails, and drive it home. I've built one of these before, and truly miss it.  

My build plan:
Stage One:

  • Paint and body work
  • Rebuild the top end of the motor
  • Get the truck running good and reliable

Stage Two:

  • Solid axle conversion with selectable locker
  • Dual transfer cases
  • 5.29 gears in the axles
  • Upgrade the valve body in the transmission to handle the power
  • Supercharger or custom turbo system
  • Interior roll cage
  • Front winch bumper
  • Rear bumper/tire carrier system
  • Heavy duty rock sliders

So, after getting the truck back to my shop, I immediately tore into it to try to see if it was going to be fixable. After cutting away most of the damaged sheet metal, I decided to have a local body shop come look at it. My biggest concern was pulling the firewall back into shape in hopes of getting a windshield back into it again. So, after removing everything in the way including the dash, interior, motor, tranny, etc, I took it to them to have it worked on. To my amazement, it all pulled back into shape. And, they were able to get a windshield into it.

Next on the list was to get the motor fixed. When I first looked at the truck, we tried to start it to make sure it would turn over. And, it damn near started. So, I knew it was a good builder at the very least. So, when I tore into the motor I was amazed at how incredibly clean everything was inside it. Not an ounce of sludge anywhere. And, even after 204K on the motor, the block still had cross hatching in the cylinders. So, I replaced the bad head with a new Toyota cylinder head and had all the good parts moved from the damaged head to the new one. Whenever I do head gaskets, I always try to use Cometic head gaskets. They are simply the best IMO, and I made sure to use them in this rebuild. I then buttoned it up with a new complete Aisin timing set with water pump to make sure this motor was going to be as reliable as possible over the next 100K miles.

I then turned my attention to body work. I managed to find a complete inner fender in a junk yard that was in perfect shape. So, I cut it out and fabbed it on to the truck. This requires a lot of patience and measuring, but once in place assures that everything will line up correctly.

Since this is somewhat of a budget build, I went ahead and ordered up some Certifit fenders, and a hood out of Denver. I figured that since it’s going to be a crawler, that I might as well save some money in this part of the build in case they ever take some body damage from the rocks. And, Napa is a great place who can get you quality color matched paint and mixing supplies for a decent price. Couple that with a Harbor Freight HVLP gun and a 12'x12' easy up and you have a make-shift paint booth in the works.

At this point, the truck is now back on the road. It runs and drives great. And, I have already started gathering parts for the next stage of the build-up.

IMO, I have saved thousands over buying a truck like this at market value. And, now I know this vehicle inside and out. While a project like this may seem daunting to most, it’s honestly not as hard as it looks. I have now owned the truck for just under two full months and feel very confident that I picked the right truck. And, I have really only dedicated nights and weekends to rehabbing it. So, for those night & weekend mechanics that want a project, I highly recommend looking for something like this. While you may not be able to do all of it yourself, a majority is doable with things you have around your garage.


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