2013 Tacoma Access Cab with Chinook build

My name is Jay and I have spent a bunch of time seeing how other folks have built thier dream offroad campers and thank everyone who has posted and shared!

I am about a month into this off road camper build. I bought a beater 77 Toyota Chinook for the fiberglass shell and pop up and had it shipped down to Stuart Florida from Indiana....

I bought the 50K mile 2013 4x4 Tacoma at a salvage auction in NY and had it shipped... it was smacked from the driver's side rear. Pulled the bed off.. replaced the rear end with a low mile salvage one (bent axel and housing)...replaced rear shocks, driver's side leaf and frame shackle bracket... added 1500 lb super spring helpers and had the front end aligned. I want to keep the 4.0L Tacoma as stock as I can but am sure I will be revisiting suspension at some point. The truck has a Off-road TRD package and tow package with transmission cooler and high output alternator and factory 400 watt inverter.

Pulled the camper off the old Toyota and gutted it including the floors... I rebuilt the structure in the pop up roof as it was sagging fiberglass with rotten wood structure.

Cut 10" out of the front of the camper and laminated it back together. This put 10" more camper on top of the roof to compensate for the Access Cab and moves the weight forward. We have molded in mounts for the Tacoma taillights which are going to look pretty sexy...

My friend Pat has welded a 1x3 steel frame to mount to the truck and create a flat mount for the camper... this will beef up the cab structure as I will eventually cut out the roof and back of the cab to create a walk through.

The photos show a dry fit with no floors in yet. I plan a welded steel subfloor with a foam composit fiberglass floor. We have new crank out Windows to install. A propane system for cooking (outside pull out Chuck wagon)... 3kw propane generator, inverter, 3 way fridge, AC and plan a 100 watt solar system...

Lots to go but a good start. I plan to wander central and south America. I lived 4 years in southern Belize and have spent a bunch of time in Guatemala. I have talked to many travelers in everything from Hilux's with tents to rigged out Unimogs who were passing through Belize... Very inspirational.

Hoping to have the floors in and the Chinook mounted in the next week or so. I have a friend helping and it is moving along...

I have pics from the beginning but the uploading is tedious for some reason... I may have to dump them in a photo bucket


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I can't wait to see it finished either! Today I got a jump start on reconditioning the pop up scissor mechanism... took it apart and wire brushed the components..ospho and painted. Ready for reassembly....each side of the mechanism consists of 2 pieces of 1" square steel tube that pivot in the middle with a 3/8" Clevis pin... one side is fixed on a pivot on the top and bottom and the other side pivots on a slide... connected with a 1 1/2" x 12" stiff spring and Turnbuckle.... this pop up is insanely simple and effective. You can raise the top one side at a time with one hand.... a child could raise and lower it...... I can't improve a thing, put it back the way the built it 40 years ago...

Took apart the aluminum framed back door to clean up and paint. I have a pair of 15"x12" crank out windows that will get installed in the original door frame with a fiberglass skinned foam and wood interier. It will give me good viz out the back while driving and help with cross ventilation with the other awning style windows open..... also will install the backup camera from the Tacoma on the back of the camper shell someplace... TBD.... when the truck is in reverse the camera screen is in the rear view mirror... like a sneaky image apears directly in the windshield mounted rear view mirror! Never saw that before!.. I love the guy who figured out how to do that!


Ive always thought about this, and just yesterday I was driving through town and started thinking about going the salvage toyota route and putting an old chinook in the bed area. What are the odds. Definitely looking forward to this build! Thinking about a passthrough to the cab or no?
Full walkthrough Txmxer.... we welded a 1×3" heavy steel frame for the back of the cab and roof to add structure before they are cut out. The frame also gives a nice flat surface to join the Chinook to and make the waterproof seal. You will be able to enter the camper from the back door or from the access cab rear suicide doors.


Trying to escape the city
Excited to follow this build! I like the idea of just buying salvaged since you were planning on taking it apart anyways. Makes more sense to me. lol
I looked at Tundras from 2001-06 that have been used before for the Chinook swap outs and everybody wanted top dollar for them.. most had big mileage and then there was the rusted frame recall thing.

I started with the Tacoma Access Cab idea and found out that the late model Access Cabs are rare. The double cabs are very common and easy to find.... Then most of the salvage auction trucks are front end damaged.

I got lucky with this one as I bought it online, never saw it in person...and it had no frame damage except the leaf spring frame bracket that was riveted to the frame. Was able to find someone willing to grind one off another Tacoma and ship it to me. We attached it with hardened bolts and then tack welded the nuts....Leaf spring..shocks and replaced the rear end from a truck with a few less miles and my platform is good to go... and super nice for the same money as a gen one Tundra.... I love this truck.

The last 4x4 Tacoma I owned was a 1999 and I loved it. Drove it all over Central America. Even towed a boat from Belize through the entire length of Mexico to cross into Texas...got in a wreck north of Escarcega Mexico (that trip was worthy of Hollywood movie deal).....But the new Tacomas are sweet! Powerful and confortable... I am hoping for good things from this Tacoma with the Chinook camper...

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Walkthrough! The name escaped me last night. That is awesome man. Cant wait to see you build out my dream travel truck. Perfect size to have all the ammenities and still be agile enough in south america!
Thanks Txmxer....
I will see how far I get this week. I have my friend Pat on the camper shell prepping the openings for the new windows. The old aluminum slide by windows were in fine shape for their age but I wanted the crank outs so they can be open in the rain....
I had planned on using the original camper windows so we cut the side of the camper 1" outside the window to preserve the recessed window flange when we cut the 10" out of the camper body.... that makes for a bigger job today.? The perils of design changes.
I am very happy I made the call to shorten the camper body by 10"... by moving the front Chinook mounting surface back 10", the the truck axel matches the camper wheel fender flare cut out.... The LOA of the rig will be just over 17'.. but more importantly, the rear of the camper is closer to the rear axel lessening the possibility of bottoming the back of the camper out while entering steep hills or in rough terrain.... not building a rock climber here, but my wife and I have a tendency to follow a path just to see where it goes. You can't be lost if you don't know where you are going!

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We got most of the heavy fiberglass modifications done.... new window openings are done and the new awning windows were dry fit... put the camper shell back on the Tacoma with the steel cab reinforcement frame to get a better idea of how it all going to want to lay and to get a better thought of here the floor is going to want to be.
You can see in the photo how the walk through will look after the cab is cut out inside the steel frame.
Got the camper door frame painted and cut the door skins to accommodate the pair of awning windows. Still need to fabricate the inside with wood and foam...
Headed out of town for a week so there will not be an update for a bit.... next progress though should be to get the subframe and floors in the Chinook.