Meet trucko. This is the original in his home habitat in sunny San Diego.
Used Toyota Tacoma's are hard to come by for a good price and decent mileage. I found trucko through TacomaWorld, where the owner, Jesse, was intrigued by our plan for the truck and fortunately had not listed the vehicle up for sale at that time. After quite a few emails back and forth with Jesse and a satisfactory inspection by a mechanic, I decided to bite the bullet, fly down to California and make a road trip over the long labour day weekend to bring him up to Seattle.
It was a fantastic test drive, and the vehicle lived up to my expectations: no problems whatsoever on the drive up, and it did not have any issues with the (relatively tame) offroad shenanigans I put him through.
Trucko has undergone some changes since those days in early September. In no particular order, this is a short documentation of the modifications we made to make the truck a place where can sleep, and in a mechanical sense, bring him up to par to the best of our knowledge and abilities for the long journey ahead.
For a little extra security in case we happen to hit an unavoidable animal or have a minor fender bender.
LED light bar
This became a must on my upgrades list on the day I bought the car. Driving in south-eastern California at night proved to be far more challenging than I expected once the street lights faded away and the paved road gave way to sandy gravel sprinkled with large rocks.
Thanks to Essential Automotive and Offroad for installing the bull bar and LED lights. I was running out of time and lacked the tools and patience to make it happen. Everything else was done in a covered parking garage at work and at C&C's street parking in Seattle, thank you guys for letting us crash for two weeks!
Canopy (a roof to sleep under)
A canopy of sorts was a must if we wanted to be able to sleep in the vehicle.
At first, we were strongly considering a canopy with a roof top tent (RTT) on top, but eventually it became clear that we did not have the time to make it work and it was quite pricey.
The canopy by itself cannot hold the weight of the RTT and two people, so a support structure would have to be built around the canopy.
RTTs are also expensive; you can get cheaper models (~$1500) that are basically your regular camping tent on top of a car, or you can get more capable models that can withstand all kinds of weather and winds (~$4000).
Finding a suitable regular canopy on Craigslist ended up taking a few weeks, but eventually I did get a commercial style canopy for $500. It suits our needs well enough: it is sturdy, has a storage shelf, a window, and, it is large enough to sit upright.
Initially, the canopy came with two interior shelves, but we cut out one of them to make room for living space and it also gave us a very nice lockable window on the side!
Insulation & Carpeting
This turned out to be the most time-consuming and labour intensive part of the upgrades. Extremely well worth it so far: it was -7.9°C outside in Revelstoke, BC and a relatively comfy +3.1°C inside the canopy! Hopefully it works just as well insulating us from the heat in the future.
There is a layer of 1'' rigid panel insulation on the roof, sides, front and back, along with a thin layer of reflective insulation everywhere else.
Additionally, almost everything is covered with a carpet to help with condensation, appearance, and so that stuff doesn't just bang against raw metal on bumpy roads.
The existing 32'' KO tires were nearing the end of their useful lifespan and would last for another year or so. Given the ambitious nature of our trip, risking a higher chance of a blowout on the road in the middle of nowhere was not worth it.
Splurged for a set of 33'' BFGoodrich KO2 tires, but in retrospect, the up-size was a bad idea.
On the nice U.S. and Canadian highways, rarely do we get to use the 5th gear. The lack of power in the lower gears also becomes obvious when climbing hills and I have already stalled the truck a couple of times on a steep forest service road with deep-ish snow. Considering spending the money to re-gear and hopefully get some MPGs back in the process. Time will tell...
Rust & Paint
Jess still probably thinks this was unnecessary, and it most probably is, but I felt better getting rid of most of the existing rust (nothing too bad). This consisted in sanding/grinding rust away and finding a suitable time to apply new layers of paint in the rainy Seattle weather.
Shift level bushing
Occasionally it was hard to get into first gear, so I scoured the interwebs and found that a likely suspect was the shift level bushing.
Upon disassembling the shifter, the existing shifter bushing was indeed mostly little chunks of rubber. A few days waiting for the delivery, and a few hours of work later everything was back in business.
Unfortunately, it did not solve my shifting woes (changing the transmission fluid did the trick) but I do feel a lot better now that the shifter is not sitting on top of desintegrating chunks of rubber.
Flushed the coolant system and replaced it with fresh Toyota coolant.
Changed engine oil and filter, and replaced it with synthetic 5w30 Royal Purple oil.
Replaced transmission fluids with Redline MT-90 oil. Happy to report that this has gotten rid of my earlier shifting concerns and overall does feel very smooth!
Replaced the front/rear differential and transfer case fluids with Redline 75w90 oil.
Radiator hoses replacement
Easy enough, when flushing the coolant, I replaced the upper and lower radiator hoses. Completely preventative, but given that a good number of road-side failures are due to busted radiator hoses, it was a no-brainer and easy enough to do.
An aluminum bar cut in half, some L-brackets, nuts & bolts and some carpet made a cheap and so far effective roof rack. It is currently carrying two snowboards, a pair of Maxtrax recovery devices and an empty fuel canister.
The Tumor, and waterproofing
There was an annoying water leak in one of the front corners of the canopy that could not be remedied with silicone. Time was getting short, and in a moment of desperation I grabbed a can of polyurethane foam and made sure no water would get through. It looks interesting, but as long as it keeps everything dry, it is good enough for me!
Everything else has a thin layer of silicone around it just in case.
Storage shelf & table
In addition to the side shelf provided by the canopy, I made a wooden shelf attached with L-brackets. This allows us to store things on top while keeping the floor of the bed empty. It may not seem like much, but it is what makes all the difference for being able to sleep with your legs fully extended just like a normal bed.
It could also be used as a table, although so far we have enough stuff that it has always been used exclusively as a storage shelf.