The Truck Build: Concept

Designing and building the truck did not differ too much from buying a house.  We first needed to figure out what we were planning on doing with the truck (i.e., established campgrounds, rock crawling, solo backcountry expedition travel, driving mostly asphalt, dirt, or a combination of the two, etc.) which then lent itself to our wants vs. needs. If we satisfied every want, we would have used our entire travel budget before leaving the garage. However, if we did not satisfy our true needs, we would end up “surviving” in our living situation for the next 24 months.

Expected Use – How did we envision using the truck?

  • 50k(+) miles of continuous overland travel: We planned on driving over 50k miles without access to our original “home base” or “garage”. Therefore, everything needed to be designed to last two years. Any wear and tear or broken components would likely result in having someone else fix it in their shop… ($$$).
  • Mix of paved and gravel roads: It’s silly to think that we’ll never hit a four-lane highway, but we want our main route to be mostly secondary roads, logging roads, BLM/National Forest access roads, and hard packed gravel up north or in rural areas. Because of the 50k+ miles without going back to a home base, we never intended to do much hardcore off-roading, rock crawling, or anything of that nature.
  • Full-time residence: No weekend trips here, we needed to be able to live out of the truck full time for 24 months. Obviously, we’ll take every warm bed/hot shower that comes our way as we travel, but we can’t rely on them!

Constraints – What were our wants vs. needs?

  • Stand up inside the living compartment: The only thing that truly sucked about living in Mushu, our 1993 Subaru station wagon from New Zealand, was that you could never stand up. On a sunny day that’s not a problem. On the other hand, if it’s raining for 3 days in a row, you end up laying in the back of a 2 person coffin trying not to kill each other. To do this trip for 24 months, we NEEDED to be able to stand up in our living space.
  • Longevity: We couldn’t afford to have expensive repairs every couple of months nor did we want to regularly breakdown on the side of the road in a country that we didn’t speak the language. The truck had to be in good working order and built to last.
  • Stay on budget: Based on early projections when we first started discussing the concept of this trip in 2015, we wanted to keep the budget under $50k. This meant doing much of the work ourselves and making sure that every purchase we made matched our expected use (to the best of our knowledge at the time).

End Result – What did it cost and how long did it take?

Total Cost:    $55,135
   $29,000 – 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road (new)
   $26,135  – Modifications and Buildout

Planning Time: 3.5 years

Build Time: 6 months (primarily nights and weekends spread across 2016 to 2018)

GVWR: 6,900lbs (loaded for 5 days with extra fuel/water)


START: Build Concept
PART I: Bumpers, Sliders, and Skids