All the information about this project vehicle is outdated, and needs to be updates. In the meantime, you can see what the tlt tacoma is looking like these days by clicking this link.
We purchased a used 1996 4cyl/5spd 4wd standard cab, base-model Tacoma with 90,000 miles on it for $8000, planning to document the progressive build-up of a capable, all-purpose, 4wd truck without compromising on-road performance and reliability. Instead of straight-axle swaps, we are exploring the performance of long-travel IFS that will IMPROVE high speed/on-road handling and ride quality, etc. A lot of the inspiration for this project comes from desert racing technology, but were building a VERSATILE off-road vehicle. That means were keeping 4WD (and all the windows).
After we installed the bolt-on long-travel Tacoma front suspension kit from Total Chaos Fabrication, we had to build the rest of the truck to keep-up. The front suspension is 3.5“ wider per-side and pulls 13“ of travel vertical wheel travel (retaining 4wd). The Sway-A-Way 2.5“ coil-over shocks & 2.5“ 3-tube bypass shocks are working out great, and custom-valving has made all the difference. Off Road Solutions Tundra CV shafts and boots have held up to thousands of miles without any complaints to speak of.
The rear of the truck is built around a pair of “custom-tuned “62 Deaver leaf springs using 2.5×16“ travel Sway-A-Way piggyback reservoir shocks and nitrogen-charged hydraulic bump-stops. This setup provides over 17“ of progressive vertical wheel travel with minimal lift, and doesnt leave anything to be desired.
Glassworks Unlimited fiberglass fenders and bedsides were mounted to the body in order to fit larger tires, accommodate suspension travel, and cover the width of a Total Chaos long travel kit. Were keeping this vehicle light and low, gaining wheel travel without dramatically changing the ride height from stock. Most of the increase in ride height has come directly from the tire size, which is currently 33×10.5“.
Performance upgrades focusing on efficiency and reliable power are next on the list. We chose to build the stock 4 cylinder 3RZ, because this 150hp 2.7L dual overhead cam engine is a ripping successor to the infamous 2.4L 22re and were tired of getting 10-12mpg in our full-sized trucks. Believe it or not, this is capable of over 400-500hp with a bolt-on turbo and STOCK internals. Import drag racers have tuned this engine to develop over 1000hp and are running low-8 second quarter mile times, with front wheel drive!
Front Range Off Road is working on a custom-fabricated full-floating rear axle-housing to provide us with a little more track width out back, and a whole lot more axle strength. Well be installing 4.88:1 or 5.29 gears in the rear non-TRD Tacoma/Tundra/T-100 third member soon, along with ARB Air Lockers and matching gears up front. The lockers and Marlin dual transfer-case setup should provide all the additional gear reduction and traction needed for rock crawling and low-speed off-road. Front Range Off Road is also developing a high-clearance transfer-case mount and skid-plate to protect our drivetrain. We plan to fit 35“ tires on bead-locked rims by clearancing the inner fenders and firewall.
We are addressing the driver and passengers protection with extra thought paid to the execution. Intrusive jungle gym rollcages are out, but comfortable bucket seats and harnesses mounted to a minimal, lightweight rollcage is a keystone of the project as we turn our attention to building a chassis that will hold together after hard off-road use. The stock pick-up bed has been entirely removed; replaced with an integrated roll-cage and utility-bed designed to accommodate a 22-gallon fuel cell, a full-sized 35“ spare tire, and an assortment of motorcycles, mountain bikes, camping gear, dogs, etc. More fabrication and upgrades will follow, as we assemble a truck that we can drive to work through the week, load the bikes and gear into, take off-road ANYWHERE, camp out of, and still depend upon to get us home and to work on Monday.