OWNER: BRIAN MCGEE @ITSJUSTBRIAN
WORDS/PHOTOS: BRIAN MCGEE
2010 LEXUS GX460 AND 2014 HONDA ODYSSEY
IT’S JUST BRIAN
I’m Brian, and I take photos. I love tacos. And I listen to ‘90s RnB music. Now to elaborate, I’ve been professionally shooting in the automotive aftermarket for almost 15 years and doing photography for more than 20 years. I’ve worked with countless companies in the automotive aftermarket space and have been blessed to have my work published everywhere. Photography has opened the doors to so many things in my career and has led me into brand managing for several companies over the years. I always find it amazing how people come to know each other through social media. My Instagram page, @itsjustbrian, was initially started to showcase my photography, mostly automotive with a little peak into my life. My photography, my love for tacos, my passion for fi tness and just working on being a positive person have attracted many to my page.
It’s humbling to be recognized by people at diff erent car/truck shows, out around town, and by fellow automotive enthusiasts at the annual SEMA Show which is something I never expected when I chose a career in photography. I’ve developed great friendships with fellow photographers, car/truck enthusiasts, and just good people and I am truly blessed to use this platform to meet people from all over the world, both in person and virtually. I’ve been into the car scene since I was a kid, so it’s a little unreal to be able to see my photography in some of the same magazines
I used to read. Recently, my passion for photography has led me off the pavement. I’ve been getting more into the off -road/overlanding community and building my rig on the GX platform.
ROOTED IN CAR MAGAZINES
My interest in custom vehicles started with reading my uncle’s car magazines as a kid. I grew up in a generation where we got all our info from car and truck magazines. Luckily, I was also raised in a community where everyone wrenched on something in the garage. When I got old enough, I would attend car shows and take pics of cars I liked, leading me to eventually work with the same builders and companies I saw in the magazines. Most of my builds were inspired by seeing these amazing custom rides in the glossy pages of magazines or seeing and hearing them in person at car shows through the years. My fi rst car was my uncle’s 1980 Datsun 200SX, a little import racer before that was a thing. I also grew up with my dad owning a lifted 1976 Chevy pickup with a 454 big-block nicknamed “Old Blue.” That truck was the genesis of my love for off -roading as I got older. I’ve owned several cars and trucks over the years, but my fi rst true crush was a 2001 BMW E39 wagon that I had shot photos of for a buddy. I saw that and told myself I wanted to have one someday. A few years later, I would own one, modify it, and even have it at the prestigious SEMA Show as a feature vehicle.
SOCCER MOM STATUS
The natural progression to eventually get into a big 4×4 was bound to happen, but I did not know how that would happen. I figured a Toyota 4Runner would be an excellent start for a good-looking and capable 4×4 for my needs. On the search for a 4th gen 4Runner, I was having issues finding one with the specs I wanted, but I came across the Lexus GX platform, which led me into a 2006 GX470 – the quintessential soccer mom SUV. Determined to redefine that stereotype, I went down the rabbit hole and began its transformation. A couple of years later, after doing everything I wanted and succeeding in getting rid of the soccer mom status, I decided to upgrade to the GX460, which would give me a little more elbow room and more modern amenities than the GX470. My dive into off-roading/Overlanding wasn’t far from what I did as a kid. Taking “Old Blue” out on fishing trips, equipped with a full camper, I had my share of trips I wanted to now experience as an adult. The overland community as it stands today was a progression of the car community aging out of the custom cars and into off-road vehicles. For the basis of why I chose to build an off-
road vehicle in the first place, adventuring and being outdoors is why I do this, emphasizing photography. Still, in the growing phases of my
outdoor photography, my GX is the vessel that gets me to locations that an average person cannot access—getting to places where I can camp for a couple of days and capture some incredible landscapes and astrophotography. If I can do this with a couple of good friends and a cold beer with a fantastic view, I’ve hit the jackpot. As my outdoor adventures are in the beginning phases, I don’t have specific go-to locations. But, put me next to a waterway, lake, river, or stream, and I’m in heaven. Having camped at a few locations like this, I know I don’t need much
else during my stays at these places. Here’s the kicker, I’m not a fan of the dark. Maybe it was watching too many Friday the 13th movies as a kid, all the things that go bump in the night, and growing up with too many stories. You’d be hard-pressed to get me to take any solo trips. Luckily, I don’t have any crazy stories, but on one of my recent trips, I made a random stop at Hot Creek Geologic Site, where I spent the night under a full moon and on an empty campsite. That yielded some awesome photos, and I experienced a hot creek for the first time.
The first mods on any truck for me are wheels, tires and lift. The goal was a big lift with big tires, but the bank account said, “you better go see what’s available on Craigslist first.” That’s where I started – a modest lift, tires and wheels, which changed the vehicle’s look. The goal was a balance in form and function, getting something that looks good but could make sure I have a practical use for it. A 6” lift and 35s were unheard of on the GX platform at the beginning stages, so I decided to do the unheard of. Everything else following would complement the build to be both show and functional for my needs. So the essentials for the GX would be a 6” lift and 37” tires provided by X-Comp Tires. This would be the FIRST GX460 in the country to have a 6” lift and 37s. I wanted to have the clearance for most of my off-road excursions but trailblaze the platform by doing something that’s never been done. Scott at Aiden James Customs in Orange County, CA, helped facilitate this part of the vision for me, with my buddy Victor assisting on how we could get this done.
The lift, wheels and tires were the foundation of everything else on the truck. Having experience from my previous GX470, I knew exactly what
I wanted, which started with the custom front bumper (Coastal Offroad), winch (Smittybilt), roof rack (JW Offroad), RTT (CVT Tents), and my tire carrier (RIGd Supply). Following those mods were the Prado tow mirrors, lighting, off-road jack, diesel heater, intake, snorkel, Pedal Commander, multiple molle panels, and my TEQ badges, along with a list of additional accessories. Having the experience of building on both Lexus GX platforms, the GX470 and GX460, I always believe I’m sitting at the 80% mark of completion; the remaining 20% will continuously evolve on current trends and sometimes how I feel that day. I would call myself somewhat of a hybrid truck owner, and I balance the functionality mods of my GX for off-roading but enjoy the show status of turning heads by putting 22” wheels on it for certain occasions. I also have my Honda Odyssey that I put together out of necessity but also to show. It came to be due to the need for a vehicle with better MPGs than the GX460 that I could daily. I’ve always been a fan of vans, this being my third one, mainly due to the drivability and storage capacity for carrying various items, as well as an easy place to take a quick nap. Because I like doing things a little differently, I wanted to make a road trip-ready twin to my GX. With its air-equipped suspension, I mounted a tire carrier with a full-size spare, then mounted a Smittybilt RTT with a small awning. Tossing in my cooler and e-bike, I’m ready for any road trip at the spur of the moment. Putting these rigs together comes from experience and being fearless. Even though it sounds cliché, it’s true. That fearlessness does not come from always having the answers but more from being ok to fail. You won’t always get it right the first time. Do your homework, look into what you want to do for your build, and research how you want to build it, the parts you want to use, and how it will look. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to do something different than other people; build it for yourself and do things because you want to.
Planning for each excursion varies from trip to trip, but one thing I make sure to have is the recovery essentials. Most of these items live in the GX, I always ensure I have: a toolbox, Pro-Eagle Jack, tow strap, shackles, recovery boards, air compressor and toilet paper. Yes, you must ensure you don’t get caught out in the wilderness without the TP. Camping essentials usually include my cooler, diesel heater, Jackery, fi re pit/grill, and Waterport. Since I’m not much of a cook when camping, Lunchables and Capri Suns are typically in the cooler. I try to simplify the things I bring out to keep mobile and light on the trails. Being a part of this off -road community has been incredible since I jumped into it a few years ago. One of the best things is that everyone is super helpful no matter if you’re out on the trails or at the mall. There always seems to be a helping hand, and everyone keeps that “leave no one behind” mentality. There is no competition regarding builds and everyone for the most part respects each other no matter how diff erent their builds and goals are with their rigs. Unlike some other segments in car culture that create competitiveness, the off -road groups love to do things together, creating a great and inviting vibe for other enthusiasts on and off -road. I’ve met many people on the way to the particular point and have had some great people help me with my Lexus builds. I’m always looking forward to the next adventure, and if you made it to this line in the article, thank you for taking the time to read about me and my builds. In no particular order, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get the rigs to this point: Victor, Richard, Chris/Felix Jimahajer Garage, Dan at X Comp Tires, JW Off road, Aiden James Customs, Freedom Off road, R1 Concepts, Coastal Off road, Steve at SSA Haus, CVT Tents, Buggywhip, Raceline Wheels, Pro-Eagle Jacks, Rago Fabrication, ProComp, Smittybilt, 4-Wheel Parts, Switch-Pros, Pedal Commander, Showerpouch, Ohana Rig Supply, KC HiLights, Alpha Garage, RIGd Supply, Wolfstorm Off road, Desert Does It, IntoVentures, Trailwolves, LRD Off road, TMD Overland, and my non-existent bank account.
2010 LEXUS GX460
2014 HONDA ODYSSEY