Overland Taco
Photos and text by Scott Brady

as featured in Off-Road, November 2006

The deserts of the Southwest and Mexico are harsh environments to operate a vehicle. Remote tracks, rocky trails and thick dust stress the reliability of even the sturdiest vehicle and every system on-board. When the desert traveler is several hundred miles from the nearest town, the durability of the vehicle cannot be compromised. Traditionally, Toyota 4wd vehicles have performed outstanding in these environments, with engineering and design tailored for third world countries and the most demanding terrain.
Pasquale and Christina researched available models, and decided upon a 2004 Toyota Tacoma Xtra Cab for their overland project. With the temporary plates still hanging from the SR5 rear bumper, the modifications began.

Traveling at high speeds across desert terrain requires a strong foundation. Pasquale chose the Donahoe 2.5” coil-over, and set the ride height to 2” above stock. For the rear suspension, Scott Borne from Deaver Springs helped design a custom 11 leaf pack with inter-leaf friction pads and a 2.5” lift with a 1,200 lb. rear axle payload. This made room for the BFGoodrich 255/85 R16 Mud Terrain/KM on American Racing 797 16x8 wheels.

The long travel Deaver springs and compliant Donahoe coil-overs provide a smooth ride and keep the 255/85 R16 BFG tires in contact with the terrain.

The Autohome Maggiolina roof tent is attached to a custom bed hoop system and provides comfortable sleeping for two on a three inch thick foam mattress. Extended overland adventures require solutions like this to allow for efficient camp set-up, and a dry bed despite weather conditions.

For trail armor, a call to Jason Demello from Demello Off-Road delivered a custom winch mount front bumper with Warn XD9000. Demello rock rails protect the sheet metal of the long wheelbase, and a wrap around rear bumper with receiver guards the back of the truck. In addition to rock protection, these units allow for jacking and extraction from all four corners.

With the trail capabilities addressed, Pasquale went about preparing the truck for remote adventure and camping. Overland travel requires addressing food and water storage, sleeping configurations, secure storage and personal comfort. After several weeks on the trail the above investments are worth their weight in gold.


During Pasquale’s last adventure, which involved over 2,000 miles of driving down the Baja peninsula, all of the overland modifications were thoroughly tested. Sleeping comfort is addressed with an Autohome Maggiolina roof tent mounted to a custom rack. A 21 gallon poly water tank is mounted under the Weatherguard box and supplies water for drinking and showering with the Helton heat exchanger. A custom drawer unit houses the kitchen systems and personal gear.

Overland travel in the Southwest and Mexico requires strict attention to reliability and durability over high speed, technical terrain. The suspension should be long travel and provide secure handling on the road trips to access a distant track. The suspension must also provide a good load capacity to allow for extended range fuel and water tanks. The vehicle must also be a comfortable place to spend time, with good seats, a relatively quiet interior and even some good music. Pasquale and Christina have accomplished these goals with their Tacoma, resulting in a fast, reliable and comfortable expedition solution.

The ARB USA Safari Snorkel is fitted to the factory 3.4L airbox. A raised air intake not only protects the engine from water ingress, but reduces dust as well by placing the air intake above the heavy particles.



Demello Off-Road
(714) 444-4049

(888) 852-2359

Safari Snorkel

ExtremeOutback Products
(866) 447-7711