View Full Version : Well shoot, guess it's my turn

11-30-2011, 08:36 AM
So, back in '07 or '08, I decided that I needed a car that was slightly more reliable than my 1970 VW bus. I'd always liked the look of the older generation of Tacoma, especially the 4wd ones. As luck would have it, I found a 2002 4x4 V6 TRD extra cab with 114k miles on it, a shell, roof rack, and a price tag that I was comfortable with in the SF Bay area where I was staying at the time. The weekend after I bought it, I did a road trip up to the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show up in Portland Oregon. It was on the way home from that trip that I made the phone call that would change my life. A friend and his family were taking their jeeps out to Death Valley for a weekend, and did I want to come along? Not really knowing what I was getting into, I said sure. I swung by the storage unit that I was quasi living out of, picked up my camping gear, and off I went to his house. Turns out that 8 people, 3 dogs, camping gear and food for a week (not weekend as I'd heard over the phone) don't really fit into three in three jeep wranglers. My truck was about to play the pack-mule role:


Yes, all three jeeps were as loaded down as the one in front of my truck. And yes, inside the bed of my truck is stacked that high all the way forward. Not exactly a "fast and light" sort of trip. It wasn't until the 2nd day of the trip that I had my "aha!" moment. I'm even lucky enough to have a picture of it, taken as we came out of the Eureka Dunes area heading towards the hot springs:


My first time ever in 4wd, and I had a blast. Heck, the entire trip was a blast, with day after day of that stupid grin on my face. I got home and started looking around at what I could do to make my truck more capable. I had crunched in the stock front bumper when I bounced into a rock, and I figured something a little more stout was needed up front. I found a sale on the ARB and a Warn 8000, so out came the wallet. That worked out great right up until I got on the freeway. With the stock suspension up front, every time I hit a bump the truck would porpoise down the road for a few up and down cycles. So I started looking around at suspension. I found another sale going on with a set of ICON coilovers, so I swapped them in and dialed them to the stock ride height. What a difference that made! Now we're cooking.

I took out the stock double DIN radio and installed a single DIN aftermarket radio and a DIN sized Cobra 18 WX ST II CB radio, mounting the CB mic bracket above the airbag on/off switch. The picture was taken after I installed the HAM radio you'll read about later:


I wandered around the US for a little bit before finally stepping up to a slightly more aggressive 265/75/16 General Grabber AT2. I was also sick and tired of having to climb around in the bed of the truck anytime I wanted to get something that was up by the cab. I asked around at the Leer shell dealers and was told repeatedly that I couldn't retrofit my existing shell with windoors. I tried selling mine for a couple of months before finally giving it to a friend that was trying to upgrade his truck on a highschooler's budget. I replaced it with a fancy Leer with the windoors, a locking gun box, and the 12v outlets. I also replaced the rear leaf springs with a set of Deaver's and adjusted the coilovers to level the truck out a little better:

I did a little more wandering before deciding (at the prompting of my then fiancee) that sleeping in the bed of the truck needed some improvement. I poked around for a bit before coming up with a sleeping platform idea that met my needs for a platform that could sleep two people, allow for storage underneath, and allow for two bicycles to fit in the bed:
The build thread for the platform can be found here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/50667-Hey-look-another-sleeping-platform?p=731228#post731228. In the picture you can also see our home-made bug screen on the driver side windoor. We made a template out of cardboard then transferred the pattern onto some screen material, then ran some velcro around the edges. We put the loop side around the perimeter of the window frame. We've since made another one for the passenger side and made curtains that velcro to the inside of the shell.

While I was in the woodworking phase, I also made up a little shelf that can be attached to the side of the truck for cooking. Additionally, I installed two studs in the roof rack rail on top of the shell that allowed me to attach a tarp to the top of the truck with some wingnuts. Combined with the cooking shelf, it makes a nice little food prep area:

The build thread for the shelf can be found here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/57972-Cooking-shelf?p=839932#post839932. I've since replaced the plastic tarp with one made by a local canvas shop using the plastic one as a template.

The test run for the sleeping platform did not go very well. I hadn't installed the fabric yet, and the sleeping pads were about 3" too thin. And then this happened:
Somewhere east of McCall Idaho, I tried squeezing between a tree and a rock, and, well, the tree won. To add insult to injury I'd been hemming and hawing over sliders for several months before this. I'm not sure that they would have helped, but they might have. I was also down to my last two payments on the truck.

Fortunately, I had comprehensive insurance. The fender flares had gotten pretty scratched up along with the rest of the truck, and my insurance wanted to replace all four of them. The damage was strictly cosmetic and you couldn't even feel any of the marks. I was able to work with the body shop and got the fender flares coated with Line-X. The price difference between the new flares and line-xing was more than enough to cover my deductable and result in a check back to me, which still seems odd. Since my insurance rate didn't change after the accident, I basically got paid for crunching up my truck.

Right after I got the truck back, I was on the road again, off to Idaho to visit with some friends:
Since I new I would be nearby, I called up CBI and ordered up a set of bolt on sliders and frame reinforcements. I dropped the truck off at CBI for the day and they installed the sliders and welded on the frame plates:

As a result of the whole truck crunching incident, my fiancee expressed concern as to what would happen if we were in the middle of nowhere and needed to get the word out to someone. We frequently travel alone and we're not very good at picking a route and then sticking to it. At the same time, my dad was getting his HAM license and sent me his study books when he passed the test. I studied for a couple of days and then was off to get my technician and general ticket. My fiancee picked up her technician ticket too, and then we were off to pick out a radio. We opted for the Kenwood D710, in part because it allows us to monitor 146.520 and nearby repeaters simultaneously. Eventually I might mess around with some APRS stuff too, but I'm not quite there yet. I looked around at various ideas for mounting the radio, but many of them looked too much like an afterthought to me. So I built an overhead console to store the radio, head unit, 2 speakers, and a scangauge:
The build thread can be found here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/63521-Working-on-my-setup?p=911248#post911248. It's still a work in progress, but it's very nearly finished. My plan is to move the switches for my auxiliary lighting to the console to put them in a spot where either myself or the passenger can operate them. Once that's done I'm going to cover the console with something a bit softer than the coat of paint that's on it now.

I was also able to parlay the accident into a new synthetic winchline from Viking offroad. It's much easier for her to handle than the wire rope. I also talked her into going to the Overland Rally in Ellensburg WA. We both felt that it would be helpful for her if she had a chance to get some instruction in a controlled environment. We had a blast, and if work permits we plan on being there next year:

After a few more adventures I realized that it was time to do something about the fiancee situation, so we fired up the bus (yes, I still have it) and got hitched:
http://i950.photobucket.com/albums/ad341/louisd75/Fun/376244_243213809073215_139522136109050_682965_1627 868330_n.jpg

The most recent addition to the truck is also the favorite of my (now) wife and myself:
Yep, seat heaters. I ordered up a set of the WarmSeat heaters for the driver and passenger sides and spent a couple of evenings before Thanksgiving installing them and wiring them up. I don't know why I didn't do it sooner. Their maiden voyage was a short jaunt out to visit a friend in Absarokee, Montana and they performed like a champ. *edit* Here's a link to the seat heater install: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/70223-Seat-Heater-Installation?p=997914#post997914

And that's pretty much where things stand. I'll try and keep this up to date as we make improvements on the truck. Hope you enjoyed!

11-30-2011, 11:58 AM
Great Truck and fantastic build summary. Let me know when you are headed towards Durango and we can do some bike riding and Overlanding.

11-30-2011, 12:13 PM
Excellent. I love the handcrafted overhead console. Nice wedding photo with the VW bus. Classic.

11-30-2011, 05:32 PM
^ Agreed! Nice job. Build and market that console and you could start a new industry for yourself.

Dave Bennett
11-30-2011, 05:47 PM
Great thread Louis, nice to see you guys on here - congrats on getting hitched!!!

11-30-2011, 06:20 PM
Nice truck! I am glad the two of you are getting out and seeing the world!

Okay, I need info on the seat heaters...Where are the pics? ;-)

11-30-2011, 06:39 PM
Sweet build! I like the side table, very clever.

11-30-2011, 07:11 PM
Nice build. Ditto on the overhead console idea. I believe the market is there. You "build it and the orders will come" (IMO).

Seat heaters have crossed my mind more than once -- (not just when my head is up my #$$ either). I'm getting close to hearing "these seats are cold" too many times. So share a link and some impressions of the install.

11-30-2011, 09:12 PM
Wow. What an adventure, Louis. Congrats to you both, on owning both a nice Taco and that sweet Bus, and for living life in grand style!

Thanks for sharing and keep us updated.

11-30-2011, 10:54 PM
Sweet rig! Also interested in more info on the install of the seat heaters. Did you have to remove the factory upholstery to install them and then re-secure the factory upholstery?

12-01-2011, 01:06 AM
Love your truck. Looks like a newer version of mine. Also love your town. I used to live in the 'ham and hope to be again in the near future. Thanks for posting links to your build threads too, very helpful.

12-01-2011, 01:23 AM
Great looking truck, that console turned out great :cool:

washington taco
12-01-2011, 05:09 AM
Great thread Louis! Congrats on getting married! Looking forward to doing your Tundra brake mod.

12-01-2011, 07:03 AM
Thanks guys! The console was definitely a bit of work. I've been toying around with the idea of making 'em out of fiberglass (the plywood method I used was extremely time consuming), but just haven't had the time to try it out yet. I've also just posted up a write-up on installing the seat heaters. You can find it here: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/70223-Seat-Heater-Installation?p=997914#post997914

12-01-2011, 03:07 PM
Great thread - and was a pleasure meeting you in E'burg!! Congrats on the nuptials & very cool shot with the VW. Some great ideas as I put mine together - truck, already have a wife!! And agree - seat heaters are great!!!

03-26-2012, 05:06 AM
Finally got around to some more little things I've been planning on. I upgraded my headlight wiring harness with one I picked up from SUV lights.com quite a while back. I also wound up replacing my headlight bulbs because one of them decided to burn out. I can't say how much of a difference the new harness made vs the new bulbs (Sylvania Xtravision), but the before/after is remarkable. Things are much, much better now.

I also went ahead and installed a dual battery setup. I picked up a dual battery tray and National Luna intelligent split charger from Columbia Overland. Installation was a little bit of a pain since the dual battery tray needed to use space that I had already used running winch power cables, aux headlight relay and the new headlight harness relays. Fortunately I was able to shift things around enough to get everything to fit snugly. For batteries I went with a pair of DieHard Platinums in the group 35 size. They both fit into the new battery tray, but I had to trim some plastic off of the battery casings. There was a lip in the casing at the bottom that I shaved off with a file in order to get both batteries to fit.

After fitting the batteries into their new home, I started wiring up the split charger kit. I'd gone with the kit after somewhere getting it stuck in my head that it came with larger gauge cables than it actually does. I had planned on wiring it up following the schematics for a "Split charge system with a winch fitted" seen on page 10 of the manual (http://www.nationalluna.com/Datasheets/Split-charge%20manual.pdf). To do so, you wire the battery without fuses, which means you need a heavier gauge wire than what the kit comes with. I was also a little underwhelmed by the battery terminal clamps. Basically, what I should have done was to buy the intelligent solenoid and the dual battery controller and saved myself a hundred bucks or so. So here's your opportunity to learn from my mistake. If you're using a winch, it's probably cheaper to buy piecemeal. And now the real reason you're here: Pictures. I've still got a little bit of tidying up to do. All of the cables will get covered with split loom tomorrow but you can get an idea of how things ran:


I mounted the isolator solenoid on the driver's side of the engine compartment near the brake booster. The small relay mounted just forward of it is for the driving lights. The main battery is inboard, the aux battery is outboard. The winch positive and negative cables connect to the main battery. My aux fuse block power comes off of the aux battery. The had the 1aught red cables and black cable made up for me, ran about $50 with the connections crimped and heat shrink put on. The price also included the new battery terminals for the aux battery.

I ran the cable for the controller from the isolator solenoid through the firewall, under the dash, and up the A pillar. I taped it in with all the other wires I've run through here, and routed it up to the rear view mirror under the headliner. From there, I ran it into my overhead console and popped it out the side:


And it works!

In other projects, I've found that the Leer-installed Yakima roof rack track was leaking into the bed of the truck. Unfortunately, I didn't catch it for a few months (sometimes working at sea sucks). The sleeping platform didn't fare too well, so now I'm working on removing rotten moldy wood and deciding whether to start anew with marine grade plywood or salvage what I've got.

03-27-2012, 02:58 AM
Hey man love the truck! Keep the updates coming!

08-22-2012, 01:46 AM
There isn't a whole heck of a lot of new stuff going on with the truck. I took part in a few day run down part of the WABDR with Washington Taco and some friends from the Northwest Overland Society. We ran from north to south towards the Overland Rally in Leavenworth WA, but I had to bail out in Chelan due to my schedule:



Washington Taco's rig:



I've been busy repairing and getting a kayak seaworthy again, but since that project is winding down, I've shifted my focus back to the truck:


I've added some padding to the center console of the truck where my elbow goes since there wasn't any before: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/82825-1st-Gen-Taco-center-console-arm-rest?p=1168411#post1168411

I've also installed a Green Light Labs GPS 710 module for my radio. The GPS puck mounts out of sight behind the rear view mirror and the cables pass into the front of the overhead console.


It's very easy to install, essentially plug and play. There are a couple of settings to change on the radio but the instructions detail how and what you need to do. It's nice having a redundant GPS that's a part of the radio. What I did not realize is that the GPS module is not compatible with Overland Navigator. I don't run O.N. at this time, but I may have gone a different route had I looked into it a little more and realized that the two won't work together.

I'm planning on starting a version 2.0 for the overhead console. The kayak project has given me some good experience working with fiberglass, and I think that's the route I'm going to go with the next console. I'm toying around ideas for making a mold so that I can make more consoles. I know that there's a market for them, I just don't know how much of a market there will be for 1st gen xtra cab tacomas. The contours on the headliner, distance between sun visors, and location of the overhead lighting will make it very difficult to go with a one-size-fits all sort of approach.

Anyhow, that's where things stand today :)

washington taco
08-22-2012, 06:55 PM
Nice update! Looking forward to your help Saturday.

Glenn C
08-22-2012, 07:07 PM
Nice Rigs mate , congrats on the wedding and the photo is a cracker looking forward to more updates

08-24-2012, 08:54 AM
So, with the wings of the sleeping platform folded up I'm able to store a bicycle on each side. Unfortunately, I never really had a good method of securing them. You don't want to use too many tie downs because then it's a pita to get the bikes out. If you don't use enough, they tend to wander. I'd been using a bike tight mounted to a board that spanned the gap between the bedside and the sleeping platform, but that was far from ideal. I can say that I now have a good solution:

More info can be found here:


11-13-2012, 11:40 PM

you sir.. are AWESOME!

11-16-2012, 11:02 PM
I think the overhead console idea is awesome! There are plenty of 1st gen tacos running around in the expo/off road world. I doubt you'd sell a million of them but if you got the process to where it didn't take too much labor I bet you'd be able to sell enough to fund some future modifications to the truck.

Love your build.

11-17-2012, 05:37 AM
you sir.. are AWESOME!

Naah, I just try to enjoy the heck out of my time on dry land. Half of my year is spent making up for lost time from the other half of the year I'm busy walking around on ship engines:


That little fella is only about 15,500 horsepower and is one of four on the ship I currently work on.

I think the overhead console idea is awesome! There are plenty of 1st gen tacos running around in the expo/off road world. I doubt you'd sell a million of them but if you got the process to where it didn't take too much labor I bet you'd be able to sell enough to fund some future modifications to the truck.

I've been giving a bit of thought to this. I've been playing around with the idea of making a mold that would allow me to make them out of fiberglass, which would be far less time consuming than the one I made. That being said, the one I made wasn't difficult, it just took a little bit of time. The only tools I used were a cordless drill and a jigsaw. Throw in some masking tape, glue and epoxy and there you have it. The most difficult part was getting the headliner contour close, and it wasn't really difficult, just awkward and time consuming. At this point, the biggest thing holding me back from making and selling them would be litigation. It's not exactly soft or light and it's in the general area where your head may want to be in the event of a rollover. I don't think that this would be an issue for most people, but all it would really take is one person with a better lawyer than I could afford to make my life pretty miserable.

12-19-2012, 10:04 PM
Naah, I just try to enjoy the heck out of my time on dry land. Half of my year is spent making up for lost time from the other half of the year I'm busy walking around on ship engines:


That little fella is only about 15,500 horsepower and is one of four on the ship I currently work on.

Well, you've got me beat by about 58,000 horsepower...

Really enjoying following your build - I might get a thread of my own going at some point in the near future.

How do you like your 2 meter rig? Seriously contemplating installing one in the empty DIN slot below my stereo.

Stay in touch, I'll be back your way on the 3rd.

12-20-2012, 05:48 AM
Well, you've got me beat by about 58,000 horsepower...

Really enjoying following your build - I might get a thread of my own going at some point in the near future.

How do you like your 2 meter rig? Seriously contemplating installing one in the empty DIN slot below my stereo.

Stay in touch, I'll be back your way on the 3rd.

I'm liking the HAM setup that I have. It's handy being able to monitor multiple frequencies. I also like being able to use the radio as a backup-backup-backup GPS (which reminds me, I need to dust the maps and compass off to make sure they still work). You may run into problems with the 2m in a DIN slot with overheating if you go with a higher power units. I haven't had any problems with my setup in the overhead console but I can hear when the fan kicks on and off. Don't forget, if you go 2m you'll need an FCC license. I have had no problems with the CB where it's mounted, though for some reason some people can hear me just fine and others can't hear me at all. When we were on the Christmas tree run I could hear John but he couldn't hear me, but Grant could hear and talk with both of us. If you decide to go with a CB in addition to the 2m, let me know because I've got an SWR meter for tuning the CB antenna.

Have a safe trip and drop me a line when you're back in town

12-22-2012, 07:07 PM
I was a little apprehensive about taking the Technician license test, but after doing a few "practice exams" online it looks like tha majority of it is basic electrical theory and etiquette. Really like the idea of having a 2 meter rig in the truck, and the APRS with GPS interface as well. Thinking of putting in a CB as well, one like the Cobra 75 remote mount. I'll recess the connector into lower dash, or somewhere else out of the way, going with a self-contained unit because I don;t really anticipate using it for much else than trail comms., and want to keep my cabin as uncluttered as possible.

Amazing how much time can be spent thinking about trucks...

Looks like there is a M & G on the (10th?), I'll be there.

Standing by,


12-22-2012, 09:58 PM
That's why I mounted mine in the center console

01-01-2013, 04:22 AM
So my stock alternator was having issues keeping up and charging the battery with the increased electrical loads I've been running. Time for a bit more electrical oomph with the installation of a 140A GM model:


07-04-2013, 05:09 AM
Just a little maintenance and repairs. I beefed up the endcaps on the truck after they began to fail: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/113203-1st-Gen-Endcap-Mod

Before that, my headlights began flickering. I've been running a wiring harness upgrade from www.suvlights.com (a website that no longer seems to be working), which is a plug and play harness that uses the voltage from the stock headlight wiring to activate relays that power your headlights directly off the battery. The aftermarket wiring is a larger diameter and it definitely improves the brightness of the headlight. The downside for me is that the most convenient way to install the harness put the relays outboard of the Columbia Overland dual battery tray. Which means that when the relay burns up like this:


you've got to pull both batteries in order to get to it. Ugh.

In other news, I've got my toe in the market for an additional truck. The most recent modification to my life doesn't fit behind the passenger seat:


She's already got me wrapped around her little finger, and I do mean little. How the heck can they be so small? We've been walking the paths around the house lately and it's been a blast. I can't wait to start traveling with her.

I've been looking at the doublecab offerings from all of the truck companies but we're still at least a few paychecks away from being in the market. I'll be sure to ignore all of the other threads and start a "What truck should I buy?" thread before I do :sombrero:

07-04-2013, 05:40 AM
Congratulations! I'm sure you'll find that's the most exciting mod to date

Joaquin Suave
09-10-2014, 04:35 PM
WOW! What a COOL thread! Congradulations on so many counts!
I just bought a '02 extended cab and have been scouring threads for info... Boy, did I find a gold mine here!

Did you ever end making the mold for you're overhead console?

09-11-2014, 05:07 PM
WOW! What a COOL thread! Congradulations on so many counts!
I just bought a '02 extended cab and have been scouring threads for info... Boy, did I find a gold mine here!

Did you ever end making the mold for you're overhead console?

Thanks for the kind words! I never did get around to making the molds. New kid, new (to us) house, and all the little things that go along with those have kept me from doing too much work on the truck. Then the console got stolen. Yeah. Pretty bummed about that still: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/63521-Working-on-my-setup?p=1583825#post1583825. Insurance basically covered the cost of the radio but not much else. I didn't think I had all that much stuff in the truck until I started actually doing an inventory of what was missing. Grand total came in well north of 2k, and quite a bit of it isn't made anymore. Ugh. Oh well. It's just stuff. The truck still works. On the plus side, I was moving a stack of wood scraps and ran across the templates I had created when I was making the console. When I finally make version 2.0 it'll be out of fiberglass.

06-15-2015, 09:11 PM
Great build thread; thanks for all the ideas!

Maybe I'll see you floating around out there sometime.