Words: Micah Weber - 2001 Toyota Tacoma TRD Built For Overlanding
Photos: Micah Weber
My name is Micah Weber, and right now we are living on the beautiful central coast of CA, in San Luis Obispo. I’ve lived up and down the west coast and moved more than 25 times between Oregon, Washington and California.
I’m a photographer by profession, but I’ve been super blessed to have grown up in a fantastic family with a dad always wrenching on cars. If the family car ever went to a shop, he included us whenever he could in the repairs. It was a great way to grow up and it definitely shaped my childhood and way of thinking about problems in general.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with all things motorized and off-road. Between the ages of 8 to 11, I lived on a large farm in Oregon and have a clear memory of wheeling with my dad and brothers in a red Pontiac Fiero on some mountain roads. Just as we crested the top of the steep mudded bank with the tiny engine wailing under my dad’s heavy foot, a giant lifted Bronco came around the corner and the shocked faces of the driver and passengers had all of us laughing all the way home that night.
Now, being a young father, it as been such an incredible gift to bring my son with me on adventures. You can just see the light in his eye when we are out together enjoying nature and it’s just such a great way to spend quality time together.
There are so many reasons why I had always planned on owning an adventure rig like this! Growing up, I can clearly remember building working motorized 4×4 LEGO creations from scratch and modeling them as closely as possible the classic Land Rover Discoveries and Defenders used in the old Camel trophy classic challenges. I’ve always been drawn to the function and utility over fashion approach to vehicles used in these challenges as well the ones used in the military or government work so this was a strong inspiration for my truck.
There is just something classic and elegant about a truck built around these principles. We had some old off-road driving school VHS tapes that covered the basics of off-road driving skills and the info and images really stuck with us as kids. I think this combined with growing up in a very outdoorsy household and lifestyle, the truck feels like more of an extension of who I am rather than just a truck built for a single purpose.
I built it to further expand my reach for all my outdoor hobbies as well as widen the scope of what’s possible on family road trips! Things like photography, archery, backcountry adventures, cross-country road trips, shooting, hiking, crossfit, athletic events, just plain old off-roading, as well as future backcountry adventures!
The truck is also my daily driver, and I want it to function just as well on a trip to the mountains as it does on a trip to the grocery store. So I try and keep both of these things in mind when choosing upgrades.
The rear storage drawer and the sleeping platform is just a homemade setup – nothing special – and im sure very similar to others. It’s inspired by images of similar bed boxes.The rear leaf pack is a combination of my old original leaf pack and used leaf pack from a 2001 Extended Cab I found for $40 on Craigslist.
Typically I don’t start with a specific budget in mind. My first stop for shopping for mods is whatever might be already lying around in the garage! But really, it just depends on the mod I’m doing. There are a lot of small things that are actually cheaper and better quality then what I could build myself. For the bigger ticket items, most are just out of reach of my self-imposed budget, and I start designing and thinking about how I could make it myself or find it used on Craigslist. I’d say the most unique mods on the Tacoma are the homemade roof lights and leaf pack, plus the lift and tires. But that eBay snorkel is pretty cool, too.
I’ve been blessed and the truck hasn’t been to a shop yet. I do try and tackle everything I can at home, and as my experience grows, the list of things I feel comfortable taking does, too. Having a dad that was swapping engines and repairing our family’s as well as friends’ cars doesn’t hurt either! Although I couldn’t join in because of work, I recently watched my dad and one of his friends do a complete frame swap on 2017 Jeep Wrangler in less than 24 hours! While it certainly helps to have grown up around cars, it’s not a requirement.
I want to inspire others to tackle basic repairs and modifications and with tools like YouTube and online forums, combined with a healthy dose of “can-do” attitude you can really save a ton of money. But better than saving money is the feeling of accomplishment you get from a successful fix or improvement!
After driving more than 12,000 miles in the last eight months since I’ve owned the truck, there are three things that I think would increase my enjoyment and capability of the truck the most. First would be front and rear-facing cameras. The rear camera for safety with kids in the driveway, and the forward camera for better line selection and because lots of my trips are just my son and me. It’s often unsafe to leave the truck mid-drive and try to find a new line.
Second would be proper skid plates and sliders which will help us push deeper and explore more. Third is a supercharger because I like hearing the whine of the blower; the daily enjoyment of that is well worth the cost to me. I’m hoping to either find a wrecked low-mileage Tacoma with a supercharger and maybe just do a full engine swap later on. Down the road I can see a front locker, front bumper and winch as well as onboard air.
This is a pretty easy trail and doable in a slightly lifted 4×4. However, it does offer plenty of optional routes that range from difficult to the insane. About 200 yards into the trail there is an option for either “more difficult” or “most difficult,” and I looked at my brother and said, “It’s more fun to fail, than to pass through easy.” We headed up a steep, dusty and super rocky climb. About 3/4 of the way up, I was surprised we hadn’t gotten stuck yet.
Then we came to a section where it was almost impassable. With my brother acting as a spotter, and Christian safely out of the truck and away from a possible roll, we were able to reverse and make a couple more attempts. With a slightly better position, we picked a better line, cleared the sticking point and made it to the top without issue. It’s amazing how much further a good line will take you than a heavy foot and all the mods in the world.