The Toyota Tacoma as a platform to build on

To be quite honest, I had no idea when I bought my Tacoma, that it would ever reach the level of performance that it has. Granted, I researched the available trucks at length before making my purchase, but since owning this vehicle for so many years I have been pleasantly surprised that it has met my expectations and surpassed them. My original intentions were to get the most reliable and capable light truck that I could, in the hopes that I could reasonably develop it as a "road trip" machine that would aid in my pursuit of an outdoors and travel related lifestyle. I found out that the more I used this truck and gained experience from it, the more I found myself carefully developing it, and the more I enjoyed it. This has turned out to be the "perfect" expedition vehicle for me, because it suits all of my needs for what I want to accomplish.

I like to think of my camper and modifications as "backpacking equipment" for my truck. I have tried to design everything with the "go light" philosophy in mind. Every ounce counts. Yes, there are ways I could have made some components even lighter, but unfortunately, cost has to be considered when evaluating these things. I like the fact that I can get on the highway in this truck, and cruise comfortably at high speeds with amenities such as cruise control, air conditioning, premium audio and refrigerated refreshments (haha!). Then, I can pull off of the highway, air down the tires, and venture into inhospitable terrain (trails rated at 3.5 + on 1-5 rating scale) to get into some remote areas, or just to have fun challenging myself and the vehicle. When the day turns to night, I can find a place to park, crawl into the camper, and sleep in a comfortable bed. If I really like the place, I can set up a base camp and stay awhile. When the trip nears an end, I can air up the tires, get back on the freeway, and this truck will still drive straight as an arrow with no vibrations. I have been using this truck like this for years and years, and it always makes me smile.

To summarize my truck, I would say that it is a light expedition vehicle, for the minimalist traveler, who wants the capability to traverse difficult terrain, yet maintain long distance efficiency, with the option of traveling self-contained for up to two weeks at a time.


A very popular modification to the Tacoma these days is what has become known as an "SAS", which is an acronym for "solid axle swap". Basically, it is removing the IFS (independent front suspension) and replacing it with a straight-axle. Here is my take on the SAS with regards to an expedition vehicle on a Tacoma platform:
1. If you can justify the cost of the swap for what you will be doing with the axle, then that is a big part of the decision. What I mean is that, in my opinion - you will not really see 100% of the potential of the SAS if you put it on an expedition vehicle. The reason is that an SAS has some incredible trail capability, but only if it is matched with a lighter truck, 35" or 38" tires, super flexy suspension, and low gearing. 3 out of those 4, you wouldn't ideally see on an expedition rig. Although the suspension issue might be worked out with additional project time and expense.
2. If you do decide to SAS after considering the above, you would probably want to keep the amount of lift considerably lower than the average swap that is seen done so often. The first reason being the center-of-gravity. You are already at a disadvantage with COG because of the weight (and possibly height) of your expedition rig/gear. If you put full width axles in front and rear, this would help, but can lead to more decisions when considering Tacoma platform. The second issue being your rolling resistance or profile where fuel economy and power-robbing wind, and  are concerned. This also gets into the issue of tire size. 35" or 38" tires are generally not considered efficient or economical for long distance touring on a light truck like the Tacoma.
3. By increasing the trail capability of the rig with the SAS and the things that come with it (larger tires, more lift, more articulation) you are inviting yourself to tackle much more technical obstacles and therefore you get into issues of strength where the frame and cross-members, shackle hangers, etc. are concerned. If you have a heavy expedition rig, these considerations are amplified.
I have definitely entertained the thought of doing an SAS for a few reasons, but so far I have decided not to do it for the reasons I mentioned above. I don't claim to know it all though, and I certainly might change my mind - only time will tell. For now, I am more than happy with the Tacoma IFS. I think it is a very strong, reliable, and comfortable setup - for being an IFS. As long as I am doing long-range trips and have 33" or smaller tires, I'm pretty happy with it.