When most of us think of vehicle features, we picture rigs with the biggest tires, most powerful motors, and extreme suspensions. This is the path that 4x4Wire's Hot Toys has followed in the past. Don West's 1994 Toyota pickup does not fit that mold. No solid axle swap. No flatbed. You see, Don's rig is a sleeper, and we at 4x4Wire have long been suckers for sleepers. Too often we run across high school kids with Toyota pickups that possess big tires, lots of body damage, and exo cages. Look beneath the surface though and you are often greeted by stock gearing and open differentials.
Don West's truck is the kind you might find easily dismiss if you saw it on the trail or parked in a local parking lot. After all, it still has the stock suspension and the body is relatively straight. It is the inner beauty of Don's truck that makes it feature worthy. While it is true that a lot of time and effort has to be devoted to a purpose built rockcrawler, more compromises must be made if a vehicle is to remain comfortable on the street. Don doesn't own a tow rig and often wheels trails in Death Valley and the central Sierras, hundreds of miles away from his Los Gatos, California home.
Don drove 200 miles, ran Dusy-Ershim, and drove home without a problem.
Wheeling the Slickrock Trail. Photo courtesy of Don West.
More crawling on the Slickrock Trail. Photo courtesy of Don West.
I met Don on the Dusy-Ershim trail, which he was running with his fellow Gettin' Off 4WD club members. Most of the other rigs in the group had solid axles front and rear, 35" tires, low gears, and lockers. When Don followed everywhere with his stock IFS suspension, I knew that I had to take a closer look at his truck. Don clears 33" BFGoodrich Mud Terrains on American Racing Outlaw II wheels with a 1" 4Crawler body lift and tweeked stock suspension. The front supsension utilizes cranked torsion bars, low profile bump stops, Rancho RS9000 shocks, and a modified (read: hammered) fender seam for clearance. The rear suspension consists of stock leaves with an add-a-leaf, 4Crawler extended shackles, and Rancho RS5000 shocks.
With only minor modifications to the suspension, Don was able to focus his efforts on other aspects of his truck. The differentials were filled with 4.88 gears, a front EZ Locker, and a rear Detroit Locker. Further gear reduction was achieved with a Marlin Crawler Dual Ultimate Crawler, resulting in a 206:1 crawl ratio. These are the modifications that allow Don's truck to perform such amazing feats on the trail. And because he often wheels with others running 35 inch rubber (or larger), Don knew that it was important to outfit his truck with sturdy trail armor. An ARB Bull Bar sits up front, while 4Crawler Rock Sliderz protect the flanks of the truck. A Smittybilt tube bumper brings up the rear, and a Budbuilt crossmember protects the transfer cases.
The flex from the stock suspension is surprising.
More IFS flex.
Beyond the lockers and gearing, the most remarkable aspect of Don's truck is how close it is to stock, which speaks volumes about Toyotas' rebliability and trail prowess. The motor is a 22RE outfitted with a K&N air filter, LC Engineering header, and catback exhaust. Other modifications include a 12V Thomas Air Compressor and custom air tank by 4Crawler, camper shell and rear storage setup for fishing and camping trips, and custom center console made from an old ammo box.
Don bought the truck in 1997 to take fishing and camping, but after meeting Scott Wilson and going to Hollister Hills OHV Area he was soon hooked on four wheeling. Despite how capable Don has made his truck, like all other four wheelers he still has more modifications in mind. He plans to add a winch to the Bull Bar, and maybe do a solid axle swap and add 35 inch tires eventually. Though Don's rig won't be a sleeper at that point, it will likely likely be unstoppable with the skills he has honed following the big dogs over the years.
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