This is Betty White the amazingly capable vehicle we are presently using to get us into and back out of all the interesting and beautiful places we want to go, carrying more gear than we probably need. You know the saying though, “Better to have and not need than to need and not have.” She is named first and foremost because of her Factory paint job in “Super White” (paint code 040) but also for the iconic, beloved human being. UPDATE: Rest in Peace Betty White (January 17, 1922 – December 31, 2021).
2004 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Extra Cab, 3.4 liter V6 (5VZ-FE), 5-speed manual, Super White color. I chose the ’04 first and foremost because it is the last year of that model style and all the issues have been ironed out. I’m not a fan of being an early adopter/Beta Tester. Many of the things I own are the last version of their model. Secondly, there is a truly amazing amount of aftermarket parts and upgrades for this model. I could probably build a whole truck out of aftermarket parts if I was so inclined (nope, although it would be pretty awesome) and could afford to (a whole lotta nope again). When something breaks or wears out I can easily replace it with a part of equal or better performance for less than the OEM part. Thirdly, it’s a Tacoma, widely regarded as one of the finest examples of a light pickup truck ever made. It is iconic. They might not admit it out loud or in mixed company but even Ford, Chevy and Jeep owners know what it is when they see it and understand what a fine and capable vehicle it is.
On the day I bought it from the guy in Roseburg, Oregon it looked like this:
I quickly sold the bed toolbox on Craigslist and trickled down the set of wheels strapped in the bed (the original Tacoma wheels it came with from the factory) to a buddy. Next up was a camper shell in December 2015. I settled on a snugtop Hi-Liner shell. It was the only option in a shell higher than cab height for this year and model of truck so I got it. Huge P.O.S. – buy anything BUT this shell. My full rant and pictures can be found here.
We travel with lots of gear and have installed several item that have added even more weight. Most of the added weight come primarily from body armor (steel rock sliders in September 2016, a front CBI Moab aluminum bumper and Warn winch on August 22nd, 2017, and an Aluminess rear bumper with dual swing-outs on December 18th, 2018). Add to that the camper shell, bed platform, refrigerator, water tank, box of tools, box of spares etcetera and we trundle around WAY heavier than a normal Tacoma of our era. Too help rein in and control that extra weight we upgraded our brake system to Tundra spec with the Power Stop kit in January 2020. They are refurbished OEM factory cast calipers and are the larger of the two available sizes (231mm 13WL calipers instead of the 199mm 13WE). I essentially put the brake system from a 2005 Toyota Tundra 4×4 V-8 into my little 2004 Tacoma.
I quickly replaced the Toytec spacer lift that it came with for a full Old Man Emu Nitrocharger/Dakar package in 2017. That worked well and met our needs for a few years. We have since taken the next step and upgraded the suspension again in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was shifting into high gear.
In the front there are now Fox Factory Race Series Coilovers with remote reservoirs that have adjustable compression damping. The springs are from Eibach and are 600#. I also replaced the upper control arms with Icon Delta Joint UCAs.
In the rear we are still using the Old Man Emu Dakar leaf springs with their add-a-leaf but have replaced the Nitrocharger shocks with a pair of Icon 2.0 Aluminum Series shocks with remote reservoirs held snugly together with Billet Aluminum Shock Reservoir Clamps and the shaft protected with Shock Boots.
The original, factory air intake is in the front passenger wheel well under the liner. I’m sure Toyota considered other, “better” placement options but decided for various reasons to keep it there. We spend lots of time in desert environments so I wanted to feed my engine cooler and cleaner air than what it normally gets from the factory intake. To that end I installed an ARB Safari Snorkle in January 2018.
I have used Yakima racks since my second car (oh so long ago) and they have served me well since then so I based my external storage on their products. The base is a Yakima Control Tower set with 58″ Roof Rack Round Crossbars. This base supports a
RocketBox Pro 12 Cargo Box Yakima Load Warrior basket with the 18″ extension so we can carry more stuff up top, a Hi-Lift Jack, MaxTrax Sand Ladders and a small shovel.
The black, 6-spoke wheels in the above pictures are Relations Race Wheels, model RR4 (which they do not seem to offer anymore) shod with my second set of BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 (my review). The first set were the stock size (265/70R16 [30.61″]) This second set is a larger than stock 285/75R16 (32.83″) size. If I get another pair of these (even with newer options these are still in the running when the time comes) I am strongly considering trying “Pizza Cutters” at 255/85R16.
Besides what is on the truck I also have gear that’s used only for the truck.
So far this truck’s personal reconfiguration and upgrade have taken it in a direction that more suitably meets our needs (one human, one canine). It has taken 6.5 years and we’re pretty happy about how it has turned out. It’s not perfect. She’s not “finished” and she probably never will be but she keeps getting better with age much like red wine and her human namesake. Looking forward to many more years enjoying her company.