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Mississippi Taco turns Yankee build thread - ish.

Discussion in '1st Gen. Builds (1995-2004)' started by MR2, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. Dec 6, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    MR2 [OP] Master of none

    Aug 23, 2014
    Massillon, Ohio
    The only OLD TACO in Ohio
    So the title might already have you confused but I assure you this is(or at least will be eventually) an actual build thread of some sort. I will not be posting a list of A-Z of what I did until a later date because frankly it will take me a while to remember it all. It may be a boring life story to some but if you have something better to do then why are you here?
    Let's get started shall we?

    The year is 2014 in the month of, eh let's just say it's May. I am 23 years old working at an Independent Automotive Repair shop in Oxford, Mississippi.(Ole Miss! Go Rebels!) We mostly only did European stuff, a lot of VW, audi, land rover, BMW, blah blah blah. One of the regulars brings in his wife's truck which was the first vehicle she ever bought brand new but we had never seen it. A lovely green 1997 Toyota Tacoma extended cab 4x4 with the 2.7 4 cylinder and just a little dent behind the driver's door. The poor old girl had a blown head gasket at 248k miles, the owner needed a quote to fix her up but were already looking at new cars and were not sure if they would fix her or not. It actually wasn't very well maintained and needed some other stuff which we let them know about as well and quoted them the repair for the head gasket. They him-hawed back and forth about it for a minute and decided they would sell it but not sure for how much, I at that time offered them $700 bucks cash and I would cover any charges from the shop for the estimates. They got back to me a few days later with a counter offer of $1100, it had newer tires so I went ahead with it.

    I was the owner of my first 4x4 truck! *cue dixie horn music* Yee-haw!upload_2016-12-6_21-11-22.jpg
    The truck just sat on our lot for about a month while I saved up some money, but eventually I pulled in it and tore it apart and fixed it, only had $400 or so in parts to get it all running good. So there I was driving my 97 Tacoma 4x4 that I had about $1500 total invested, already having neighbors and random people at gas stations offering to buy it so I knew I bought the right truck!

    The previous owner came by after about a month of me having it fixed to show off their new car, a 2012 Subaru Outback of all things, which was funny to me because my fiance at the time had a 2003 Subaru Outback that I bought for $400 and fixed up kind of the same way I did the Tacoma. You also don't see many Subaru's in the south, you don't really need an AWD vehicle for anything. At that time they offered me the old "topper" for the bed for free just come get it out of their yard. You know that's a good price. "If it's free, it's for me!"

    In the mean time I had been doing maintenance to the truck, nothing too crazy really just basic stuff.
    New Front Brake pads and Rotors, had a drill one of the stuck slide pins on a caliper.
    New Ball joints upper and lower, both sides of course. (these were really bad)
    New Parking brake cable(you know the one)
    Changed fluid in the Front Differential, Rear differential, Manual Transmission, and Transfer Case. 75w-90 with a little Lucas mixed in for good measure.
    Replaced some bulbs.
    New Battery.

    The shop owner had been talking of moving away and wasn't sure of what would happen to the shop, I half ass ran the place 60% of the time anyway but had no money to buy it from him or I would have. I had an opportunity come up at that same time at a Subaru dealership(now it's getting funny) but get this, it's in Northeast Ohio. Reason being is my mom moved to that area about 4 years prior to be with a guy she met, he was a parts director of sort in a decent sized dealership and made sure my resume got seen and put in a good word for me. I did a few on the phone interviews with the service manager, we were back and forth over the next couple of weeks and he offered me some crap money a couple times and I turned it down, finally he made me a decent offer and I said well hell I guess I should take it. So I did. (What's that saying, if I knew then what I know now?) So I broke the news easy to the old boss, gave him plenty of notice and left on good terms.

    I spent the next month selling everything I could while still working, like 4 junk cars and everything else that piles up on 4 acres in 10 years by a kid. (My moms old place that I grew up and just rented from her) I BURNED A LOT of stuff, GAVE AWAY A LOT of stuff. It still wasn't enough but it helped.

    The Tacoma needed a new clutch since the day I bought it but I was easy on her so I made it last. The old boss helped me install a new clutch kit into the Tacoma THE NIGHT BEFORE I was leaving to OHIO from MISSISSIPPI. It was our last night hanging out and shooting the stuff but we were confident in our work especially together.

    It's funny that I moved across the country with 4 vehicles but I did.
    2007 Lexus ES350, lucky my mom drove it up a week before we did.
    1991 Toyota MR2 turbo on the car hauler behind the penske truck.
    2003 Subaru Outback driven by the wife with the kid in it.
    1997 Toyota Tacoma driven by my best friend for life since childhood, breaking in my clutch.

    I'm the lucky SOB that gets to drive the biggest Penske box truck offered with the diesel engine and it's full I mean FULLY PACKED LOADED DOWN had to leave stuff behind because the truck is full and pulling the double axle car hauler. Let me tell you, it drives like hell.

    So Yeah, it happened I moved to Ohio and was staying with my mom until we found a place, November 2014. I started work about 3 days after getting there, and the first or second week and this happens.
    Don't start now, "Oh look Mississippi boy never seen snow."
    I've seen snow plenty of times but it is usually more like the end of January and the freaking world comes to an end for about 2 days until it all melts. Nope this was me walking out to the truck to go to work. (at least we moved here with a 4wd truck and a AWD subaru right?)

    Time goes on, work actually sucked but I am stuck here for now so deal with it. Found our own place to live, it has a decent size garage. I think I can make it work.

    Yeah I know. I know. Mine is bigger than yours is. :rofl:

    One day I am over visiting my mom at her house and she was running a little late leaving for work, in a bit of a hurry she "barely bumped" the truck, her 2010 Buick doesn't have a scratch but the Taco had a fat lip.

    No big deal, life goes on. I actually bought new bumper brackets on ebay and it looked great after I fixed it, but it got me to thinking what if something hit it like for real?


    This was my first major purchase for my truck and I had literally no intentions of it ever being an off road toy, the bumper was purely for protection and for looks of course! :D
    Funny story though it didn't quite fit right and instructions were clear in saying don't grind anything to make it fit. So I emailed ARB and two days later they got back to me, well by then I had already ground on stuff and made it fit.

    At least I took pictures of what I did, I didn't hurt any structural integrity of it and I knew that. The guy from service was cool about it, wanted to send me something for my time and effort and I'm thinking yeah cool give me your stupid hat or t-shirt whatever.
    He actually gave me a few things to choose from which none were very cheap but I went with these sweet lights!

    It's funny how things work but it was right about this time I was spending some time in the local Ohio tacoma world thread. They had done previous off road adventures in groups and another was coming up! Well hell I've got a 4x4 and a sweet bumper, so count me in!
    Tacoma owners from different cities all met sort of in the middle of nowhere in North-mid-east-ish Ohio. :D Some drove 4 hours! I drove 1 hour.
    It snowed that day.


    It was fun, 1 fj, 1 4runner, and a bunch of tacos, nothing too crazy but we covered a lot of area. Had lunch as a big group in a 1 horse town. Split up after lunch where only 4 of us were left and did some harder stuff. I learned the limits of my truck, was surprised at what my truck was capable of, and found out what it wasn't so capable of.
    But it was all downhill from here, I was hooked.:taco:

    In the coming months I spent a lot more time on the forums chatting with the guys I could now put faces to screen names, but very few of them were local to me so I also spent time on other social media websites finding more local people who wanted to off road, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be but eventually it panned out.

    My next Mods were my new shoes 265/75R16 BFG A/T and the TRD bronze wheels, CB radio and antennae, CBI ditch light bracket used for my antennae mount. 2.5" OME lift kit with replacement rear leaf pack from wheelers off road. I was pleased how it turned out. Perfect for the weekend warrior it was becoming, looking back I'd have gone M/T tires but that's because my commute is very short to work. Other notable mods here will be the D-ring shackles and of course my trademark now to all my local friends "Old Taco" custom plates! Also no pictures of the install but right around this same time I added a lock-rite noslip style lunchbox locker. Replaced the rear wheel seals and bearings(the kind that press on the axle, stupid.) and the rear brake drums and shoes were also replaced.

    Did some light exploring alone trying to find places close by that I could ride, not too much luck but I had a little. Took along a local off road enthusiast who drove an Xterra. I didn't like going alone and didn't do it too often but didn't take long before I knew I needed a winch. This picture just happens to have it installed. Oh and the ARB bumper is heavy, the winch is heavy, them bolted together is extra heavy. My little tail picking it up and installing alone was priceless.

    So if your reading along by this point your saying OK things are starting to get serious. I was spending some money on the truck but I was making more than I was used to ever before in my life, I had quit smoking for almost 2 years, and I had been saving it up for a fun toy. I told myself at 2 years of no smoking I would have saved up 4 grand that would have went to cigarettes and I was going to buy something I wanted, well instead I was putting that much into the truck instead of buying a new toy, much better than any cigarette I ever smoked. Still the best decision I ever made and I encourage you to do the same if you smoke.

    The saga continues, Tacoma world group buys are a dangerous thing.
    All-pro slider group buy, I also opted for the rear bumper.
    No sliders on yet but I had to explore! You may also notice I got rid of the rings on my wheels, they are great at holding mud and that's about all.

    Here we go again with those dangerous Tacoma world group buys.
    RAT 3/16" steel skid plates 3 piece set test fit, covers everything back to the transfer case. Then of course I had to put my personal touch on them with my daughter's help.

    I also had the sliders welded on by a friend in my local off road group, no pictures of that, I remember taking one with his belly hanging out while laying under my truck welding. I guess your spared of that one because I can't find it. Darn.

    Speaking of friends in local off road groups, they never get pictures of you doing cool stuff but always get the ones where your stuck...
    This was the first time I experienced water coming into the cab from under the door. They laugh about me being on the CB saying "Uhh, TOM HELP! HURRY!" Lol anyway my carpet never did smell the same after this so I removed it and truck bed lined the floor in the cab. I like how it turned out.
    Can't find the picture of after the bed liner but this was during the interior stripping and me being funny saying I added a bucket seat.

    All the while still testing the limits of what I had created.
    Here's some that have the sliders installed and also rear differential armor that I got off a guy on the sales page here on tacomaworld, he didn't want to ship it but I was the only one local. He was two hours away but was nice enough to meet me half way for no extra charge. BAMF made the rear diff armor and don't think they make them anymore. Kind of hard to see but it is there and this is a build thread of sorts so there.
    I like that green paint if you have not caught on yet.

    Well ladies and gentlemen the story can't all be kittens and flowers now can it? Taking my sweet and loved 262k mile truck with the original motor and beating the hell out of it, how long could that really last?
    We thought the same thing...

    To be continued...
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
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    lowrange likes this.
  2. Dec 6, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    MR2 [OP] Master of none

    Aug 23, 2014
    Massillon, Ohio
    The only OLD TACO in Ohio
    Let's call this part chapter two. The beginning of a new beginning.

    So yes it was my fault, I was off-road with one friend and I was testing the rev limit in a mud hole which doesn't seem to actually have a limit. Lol anyways I started to hear a little knocking at high rpm and we decided it was time to go. Got out of the trails and on the road about 10 miles taking her easy and the knocking got bad so I shut her down. Funny story It was like two hours away from home. DOH! Thank god for good friends and you should never off road alone, he drives a v8 grand cherokee and tow strapped me to the nearest town, and then to the next nearest bigger town, and then said hell let's just keep going. So he tow strapped me back home, lol it was over 100 miles. CB came in quite handy but my tow bill was cheap.

    The OLD TACO sat idle for a while, I wasn't sure on what direction I would be going. Motor swaps came into question, full rebuild, what do I do? Either way a lot of research and money was going to be needed so I took my time on it. About a month in I actually decided just to rebuild my old 2.7 because I am a technician not a fabricator. It's all fine and dandy to say LS swap it or cummins swap it but there is so much custom work that goes into those things and I just needed a motor. I decided to rebuild my own motor, after the tear down I found the only problem was a spun rod bearing on cylinder number 1. well of course it had chewed up the crank too. So just throw in a set of bearings and machine the crank. Right? Right... :rofl:



    This whole taco down thing actually took over some time, about 5 months give or take.
    Here is a picture of the truck in that condition, visual evidence of off road abuse, tree branch pinstripes everywhere, a little dent, those kinds of things, yes I am a horrible person. Got it.

    So a visit was paid to our friends over at LC Engineering, a couple thousand may or may not have been spent. The goal was a reliable built bottom end and not sure what the future held. I am actually a little displeased with how MY personal experience went with LCE but I had heard nothing but good things so that is where I went. I'm about 90% sure it was just a sales guy that screwed up my order but won't go into details, anyways...
    I got a new crank, forged pistons, H-beam rods, all new bearings, underdrive light weight crank pulley, balance shaft delete kit, gasket kit(which was junk honestly), head stud kit, new timing chain, oil pump, water pump, etc, etc.

    Had my block at my machine shop for about a month but they did a good job for a good price.

    It was pretty but I knew it wouldn't stay that way, BREAK OUT THE GREEN PAINT!

    Also randomly got a fuel tank skid plate from low range off road and was painting it too.

    Time to put her back together!
    Header from LCE as well.

    And after a long 5+ months the old taco had a motor sitting in her again.

    It's all back together, had a couple of hiccups after the rebuild. A small fuel leak and a small oil leak that were fixed quickly. Had a lot of stuff apart for a long time so that was kind of expected. I've only driven about 1000 miles on it since the rebuild but everything seems to be doing good.

    To be continued... just to keep things interesting...
    On that note it's 12:20 on the east coast December 7th 2016! And it's officially my Birthday right MEOW! Happy 26th to me.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  3. Dec 6, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    MR2 [OP] Master of none

    Aug 23, 2014
    Massillon, Ohio
    The only OLD TACO in Ohio
    I suppose I'll just do a list of mods like everyone else does here.

    ARB front bumper
    All-pro sliders welded on
    All-pro rear bumper
    Low range off road fuel tank skid
    BAMF bolt on rear diff cover
    Ryno all terrain RAT 3 piece skid plates in 3/16" steel, Engine, transmission, and transfer case are all protected.

    Wheels and tires
    5x Bronze TRD 16" wheels with the fake beadlocks that I took off.
    5x 265/75R16 BFG all terrain K02

    Remove sway bar
    OME nitrochargers with 881 front springs and wheelers off road 5 leaf springs.

    Locker and gears
    Powertrax no-slip in rear

    Stock 3.56 gears for now but will upgrade to 4.88 in the future and hopefully ARB locker front and rear at that time.

    2.7 that I rebuilt summer/fall of 2016 all parts from LC engineering

    Bored .20 over
    Forged pistons 10:1 compression
    H beam connecting rods
    Machined factory forged crank
    Balance shaft delete kit
    Under drive crank pulley
    Head studs
    MLS head gasket
    New oil pump
    New water pump

    LCE header

    Other mods
    Cobra CB mounted in dash where middle vents used to be
    3' firestik mounted on CBI ditch light bracket on driver side
    Rear diff breather mod
    Brake line extension
    Interior carpet removed and truck bed linered the floor
    Some LED bulbs inside and outside
    Slime air compressor I use for airing up after doing any sort of serious off roading

    Smittybilt 9500# winch hidden mounted in the front ARB bumper, and clocked accordingly so it can be operated.
    A few smittybilt snatch blocks
    ARB tree saver strap
    Smittybilt 30' tow or recovery strap
    Angry beaver shovel mounted to roof inside of my cap
    Hi-lift 60" extreme Jack
    Hi-lift Jack base
    Snap-on leather gloves
    Other tools and fluids. (You never know)

    I'm sure there are some small bits that I am forgetting but I covered the majority.

    Future plans may include:
    4.88 gears with possible ARB lockers front and rear. Obviously an air source as well but possible holding tank to use for on board air for airing up tires and running small air tools.
    33s maybe.
    1" body lift
    Some sort of side bed mounted tool box for recovery gear storage
    Bed mount for the hi lift jack

    Further down the line...
    Solid axle swap
    Dual transfer cases
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  4. Dec 6, 2016 at 5:56 PM

    MR2 [OP] Master of none

    Aug 23, 2014
    Massillon, Ohio
    The only OLD TACO in Ohio
    Maybe also saving? :)
  5. Dec 6, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    YotePower yotepower

    Dec 27, 2011
    First Name:
    Louisville, TN
    96 Ext Cab 3.4L 5 speed 4x4
    Fixing the previous owners mistakes.
    Sub'd! :thumbsup:
  6. Dec 6, 2016 at 8:33 PM

    i_cappi Well Known Membhair

    Jun 30, 2015
    Canton, Oh
    2011 TX TuRD Pyrite DCSB
    OLD TACO respect :cheers:
    MR2[OP] likes this.
  7. Dec 7, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    Tretiak30 Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2013
    First Name:
    Cleveland, Ohio
    THE Ohioan.
    I chuckled at the bucket seat joke.
    MR2[OP] likes this.
  8. Dec 11, 2016 at 7:09 PM

    MR2 [OP] Master of none

    Aug 23, 2014
    Massillon, Ohio
    The only OLD TACO in Ohio
    Went on the first off road outing since the motor rebuild. It had been about 6 months so I was over due! I think the only different thing I did suspension wise was remove the sway bar when the motor was out and replaced my old leaky steering rack as well, I honestly could not tell a difference on highway driving or off road driving, maybe I got a little more flex but who knows. It was at Southington off road park in Northeast Ohio. We got a few good pictures but had a lot of fun.

    ThunderOne likes this.

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