BAJA TACO

BAJA TACO

Built for Baja and beyond

Words and photos: Scott Brady

Published first in September / October 2005 issue

Some 4×4 vehicles are bought, with the owner delivering the machine to the shop and returning a few weeks later to a transformed Toyota. Others are built, painstakingly over time, with the greatest attention to detail and care of their owners. Chris Marzonie’s 1998 Tacoma was an eight year process, slowly refining the truck into an exceptional platform for remote and rugged expedition travel throughout the Southwest and Mexico.

Chris’ major goals when designing and modifying the Tacoma were reliability and performance, with the secondary goal of being able to camp and sleep out of the truck for on months at a time. Typically, requirements such as these require considerable compromise and excessive cost, but Chris’ truck meets those goals. The truck is capable of high speeds on Baja backroads or crawling along boulder-strewn canyons, finishing with setting up camp at a remote beach for a few weeks and relaxing in the sun.

FIRST STEPS
Chris knew his truck had to be reliable for selfsupported trips south of the border, so he focused on a 1998 4WD Tacoma SR5 with the 3.4L V6 and manual transmission. From this great foundation, he performed a few critical modifications in preparation for a four month expedition to Baja, Mexico, exploring the entire length of the peninsula. Stage One included a complete sleeping platform and storage system in the bed, under an A.R.E. fiberglass shell. To the shell, Chris mounted a Wilderness roof rack with a spare tire, jack and axe. A custom 14-gallon auxiliary fuel tank was installed between the frame rails to address the unreliable fuel availability on his long treks. With those key modifications addressed, Chris and his wife, Sharon, embarked on their 5,000 mile journey, visiting many of the abandoned Jesuit missions and the numerous hot springs that can be found along the peninsula. The trip was a success, but the adventure further piqued Chris’ desire to explore Mexico, and further modify his truck.

STAGE TWO BEGINS
With the basic camping and storage needs addressed, Chris began focusing his attention on the next phase, which was the Toyota’s off-road performance. The truck is equipped with Sway-A-Way Racerunner 2.5” coilovers with 650lb coils and custom valving. The coilovers were set to 2.5 inches of lift in the front to provide sufficient clearance on rocky terrain and a longer compression stroke for traveling on unmaintained roads at speed.
In the rear, custom Alcan springs work in unison with the Downey shackles to support the heavy load and provide a 2.5-inch lift over stock. To control damping in the rear, 2.5” body Sway-A-Way RaceRunner shocks were installed, also with custom valving and remote reservoirs. Chris’ investment in the suspension design has paid off, as the ride quality and stability of this 5,000-pound expedition truck is amazing.

Another requirement of the Taco was that it be able to safely traverse the challenging rockcrawling trails found on many of Chris’ trips. He installed 32×11.5 Goodyear MTR tires on the factory Tacoma wheels. In addition to larger rubber, Chris knew that body protection and approach and departure angles needed to be addressed. At the front, a custom tube bumper with recovery point, and front skid plate were installed.

Further down the truck, the sides are protected by custom rock sliders, which also allow step-up access to the roof rack from any point along the flanks. At the back of the vehicle, a custom rear bumper with quarter panel protection was bent and welded by Brittan Smith out of Chandler, Arizona. Progress on the trail is monitored by the new Total Vision Products vision system, with no less than five wide-angle cameras located throughout the truck’s chassis and bumpers. The 7” LCD screen mounted to the left of the steering wheel allows Chris to view the trail in front, under and behind his Tacoma. Pretty trick!

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The final stage of modifications performed by Chris was to address the needs of remote, self-supported expedition travel. Chris installed a second Optima battery, a Yellow Top, to augment to primary Optima Red Top. He monitors the batteries with a Xantrex Pathmaker Battery Management System. The batteries power a Norcold 60-liter fridge behind the drivers seat to allow extended distances between grocery stops. An ARB Safari Snorkel was fitted to the passenger fender to protect the truck during deep water crossings.

DONE..FOR NOW
Chris’ eight years of effort and a thoughtful, reliable design, has totaled up to one of the best expedition 4WD Tacomas in North America. His truck proves that given enough time and a proper design, it is possible to own a vehicle that excels in many areas, with minimal compromises. Now that Chris’ truck is finished (but are they ever?), look for frequent updates at www.bajataco.com, where his adventures throughout Mexico and the Western United States are logged.

SPECI F ICAT IONS:
owner/driver name: Chris Marzonie
age: 36
occupation: Fire
Protection Design
Vehicle: 1998 Toyota Tacoma SR5 4WD
sponsors: Sway-A-Way, TotalVision Products

engine and drivetrain
engine make: Toyota
type: 5VZ-FE V6
displacement: 3.4 Litre, 3378 cc, 206.1 ci
builder: Stock
output: 190 hp (142 kW) @ 4800 RPM, 220 ft.lbf (298 Nm) torque @ 3600 RPM
camshafts: One piece cast (Stock)
connecting rods: Forged steel (Stock)
crankshaft: Stock
cylinder head: Aluminum DOHC (Stock)
engine management: Stock
exhaust system: Stock
ignition/rev limiter: Stock
ignition wires: Stock
injectors: Stock
intake system: Cast alum. manifold (Stock), OEM
Airbox & Safari Snorkel
lines and fittings: Stock
oil: Castrol GTX
oil cooler: Stock
oil filter: Stock
oil pan: Stock
pistons: Stock
clutch: Stock
differential lube: Castrol
differential type/gears:
(Stock) Front: Hi-pinion 7.5”
IFS 4:10 gears w/ARB air
locker and OEM type locker
switch, Rear: 4-pinion 8”
4:10 gears w/Toyota electric locker
flywheel: Stock
shifter/shift kit: Manual
shifting trans & transfer (Stock)
transmission: Manual 5-speed
Transmission fluid: Stock
other mods: NA
interior/safety equipment
belts: Stock
gauges: Stock
pedals: Stock
roll cage/roll bar: NA
seats: Stock
steering wheel: Stock
other safety/interior gear:
Fire Extinguisher, Recovery
equipment, Hi-Lift Jack
suspension
type, f/r: Front: Double
wishbone IFS – Rear: Live axle
alignment settings, f/r: Stock
anti-roll bars, f/r: Removed
bushings, f/r: Polyurethane
shock absorbers, f/r: Front: 2.5” Diameter Sway-A-Way Racerunner coilover shocks.
Rear: 2.5” diameter x 10” stroke Sway-A-Way Racerunner reservoir shocks on custom mounts.
springs, f/r: Front: 2.5” Diameter Sway-A-Way Racerunner coils – Rear: Alcan Spring custom 9-leaf packs with Downey HD
shackles
steering type/ratio: Stock
other steering mods: NA
brakes
ducts: Stock
fluid: Stock
lines: Stock front, Extended rear
pads/shoes, f/r: Stock
type and size, f/r: Front: Disc
– Rear: Drum (Stock)
other brake mods:
Relocated proportioning valve
wheels and tires
tire brand/size,
f/r: Goodyear MT/R
32”x11.5”x15” Load Range “C”
tire pressures, f/r: Front: 34-35 street, 17-22 off-road,
Rear: same –
wheel brand/size, f/r: Toyota
15”x7” TRD Alloy
body
body construction/mods:
ARE Mpulse fiberglass camper shell
frame constructions/mods: Custom rear crossmembers.
paint/graphics: Stock
weight: 5,040 lbs.
Additional Modifications:
–TotalVision® Products on-board camera system w/5 cameras and 7″ color LCD screen
–LightForce 240 Blitz 100w Halogen lamps
–KC Daylighter 100w Halogen lamps
–50w rear auxiliary lamps
–Osram CoPilot “K” 5w halogen map and camper lights
–Optima Group 34 redtop starting battery
–Optima Group 31 yellow-top auxiliary battery
–Xantrex Pathmaker Battery management system
–BlueSea auxiliary fuse terminals
–Lev-O-Gage clinometers
–QuickAir II on-board air compressor w/2 gallon tank and plumbing for tires/air locker
–Norcold 60-liter Fridge/Freezer w/custom temperature monitoring
–JVC MP3/CD player, Kenwood speakers
–Radio Shack TRC-514 40 channel CB radio w/K-40 Superflex antenna
–Yaesu FT-2600M 2-meter VHF radio w/Hustler 5/8 wave whip antenna
–Magellan Meridian Platinum GPS receiver
–Custom 14 gallon aluminum auxiliary fuel tank w/stainless steel skid plate & in-cab transfer switch & illuminated fuel level gauge.
–Custom cab-high camper shell with cargo deck, toolbox, 12v power, and sleeping quarters
–Garvin Wilderness roof rack on Yakima hardware w/Spare tire, Hi-Lift jack, axe, shovel
–Various recovery gear
–Nichols Auto Fab custom front bumper – High clearance with (2) 2” receiver tubes.
–Custom “AZRain” steel skid plate
–Custom rear bumper
– High clearance with (1) 2” receiver tube, (2) D-ring mounts, 1/4 panel body protection
–Custom rock sliders (round tube)

Sleeping Cap
Opening the sides of the A.R.E. Shell provides excellent ventilation and access to the sleeping platform and camping supplies.

Fridge Cap
The 60-liter Norcold takes up much of the space in the Xtracab, but also allows for weeks of food storage and plenty of cold “beverages” for relaxing on the beaches of Baja.

Inside cap
The 7” screen supplied with the TotalVision® system allows Chris to monitor any one of fi ve cameras. Also visible in this photo are the front and rear locking differential switches.

Jump
A custom valved Sway-A-Way RaceRunner suspension helps control the heavy truck at high speeds, including the occasional launch.

Fuel Tank
The rear, multi-leaf Alcans and long travel 2.5” body RaceRunner shocks provide excellent compression travel and articulation. The custom 14 gallon fuel tank sits high in the chassis to ensure sufficient clearance, and also provides Chris a 512 mile road range.

Lights
Up front, Chris installed 100W Lightforce auxiliary lights, a custom bumper and the front, wide angle vision camera. The front camera allows the driver to see over blind crests, and view the position of obstacles directly in front of the truck.

 

Up front, Chris installed 100W Lightforce auxiliary lights, a custom bumper and the front, wide angle vision camera. The front camera allows the driver to see over blind crests, and view the position of obstacles directly in front of the truck.

The rear, multi-leaf Alcans and long travel 2.5” body RaceRunner shocks provide excellent compression travel and articulation. The custom 14 gallon fuel tank sits high in the chassis to ensure sufficient clearance, and also provides Chris a 512 mile road range.

The 7” screen supplied with the TotalVision® system allows Chris to monitor any one of fi ve cameras. Also visible in this photo are the front and rear locking differential switches.

 

The 60-liter Norcold takes up much of the space in the Xtracab, but also allows for weeks of food storage and plenty of cold “beverages” for relaxing on the beaches of Baja.

 

Opening the sides of the A.R.E. Shell provides excellent ventilation and access to the sleeping platform and camping supplies.

 

By | 2016-12-06T04:53:28+00:00 December 6th, 2016|Categories: 1st Gen Tacoma, Articles, Spotlight|0 Comments

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