- Year: 1997
- Model: Toyota Tacoma
- Motor: 3.4 V6
- Wheelbase – 122 inches
- Axles: Toyota Rear/ HP Dana 44 front
- Suspension: 3link front/ Leaf rear
- Tran/Tcase: Stock
- Gear Ratio: 4.88s
- Mods: 12″ Bed Bob/ Custom Armor
Here at Busted Knuckle Films we feature quite a few backyard built vehicles in our Off Road DVDs. There is just something amazing about the rush you get when you take the rig you built with your own two hands up an almost impossible obstacle. This rush explains why we spend so much time and money in the garage building our rigs only to go out and thrash them, break them, fix them and do it all over again. “The Taco” is the first rig I ever built. I learned to weld when building this truck (kinda scary huh?). This rockcrawling rig started out life as a 1997 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 truck. It was bone stock and my first vehicle I purchased when I was 15.
Since then It has gone through a 6″ IFS suspension lift phase. This is when I really got into rockcrawling. For some reason Independent suspension doesn’t fair to well for rockcrawling and after a few years of hard wheeling I had completely destroyed the front end. This left me with two options, I could either put it back to stock or build it right. So I started researching the solid axle swap.
After researching long and hard I decided to go with a Solid Axle Swap (SAS). I used a Dana 44 front axle out of a 79 F-150 with chevy blazer outers to keep it 6 lug. I first cut everything out from under my tacoma down to the bare frame. Ahh the point of no return had been achieved. Once everything was cleaned up we threw the axle under the truck and started building brackets for the 3link front suspension w/ panhard bar. We built some trick coil buckets to hold in the Early bronco coil springs. There were a few dozen Solid Axle Tacomas known at this time with only 3 using a coil suspension and zero using Early Bronco Coils. It was cool to be breaking new ground. One interesting thing pertaining to steering is that a factory tacoma has a rack & pinion steering. This obviously wont work for a solid axle application so we ditched it for a 93 toyota steering box. The front sump oil pan was swapped to a t100 rear sump pan for better clearance around the axle housing. We got a driveshaft adapter to mate the factory Toyota driveshaft to its new front axle. After a lot of measuring and welding we got all the suspension and steering together and took it out for its maiden voyage. Don’t let this article fool you. A SAS on a tacoma is no easy task for the backyard fabricator. But 3 months and 1 girlfriend later (she didn’t like rockcrawling anyway) I had built my dream truck. For more information on the Solid Axle Swap process check out my SAS thread on Pirate4x4.com
A true project truck is never finished. Since the SAS I have bobbed (shortened) the bed 12″, built front & rear bumpers out of 1-3/4″ HREW tubing, made my own hybrid leaf pack for the rear suspension using some old wagoneer leaf packs. I even added my own homebuilt hyrdraulic assist steering and a trick disk brake setup on the cheap. I even upgraded the front end with some chromoly axle shafts and yukon super joints. I just cant seem to let this one go. It has huge sentimental value for me and I love the uniqueness of having a Solid Axle Tacoma. I continue to modify this truck as I push it to its limits weekend after weekend. Because in this business you have to make it up some nasty trails to get the best shots.
Want to see this truck in action? Be sure to grab a copy of our OffRoad DVD Southern Shenanigans. It is onsale in our store for only $19.95 shipped to your door and it is jam packed with over an hour of all out rockcrawling mayhem. It will have you in the garage wrenching on that old Jeep in no time!