by Chris CordesPhotography by David Alejandro Gonzalez

I feel that there are two types of truly cool four-wheel drives. The first type encompasses all the dream vehicles, Earth Roamers, Unimogs, brand new Defenders, and portal axle G-Wagens. The sort of things we all secretly long for, but realistically could never afford. The second category, which happens to be my favorite, are the down to earth, well used, real world four wheel drives that simply get the job done. Each one is packed with character, and whether from international adventures or just many fun weekends on the trail, their dents, scratches, and unique modifications form stories which capture my imagination like no brand new car ever could.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

And that’s where David’s 1994 Toyota Pickup comes in. After repeatedly seeing his truck on Instagram, I reached out to learn more about the cool little camper, and it did not disappoint. With a history spanning back to his early school days, this truck has been a nearly life long passion for David, and it is now as much a part of his family as any vehicle could be.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

The following excerpts are written by David Gonzalez

It’s hard to know where to start. This pickup and I have so much history. From high school, to driving my, then, wife, to having all my friends in the back on the Island, and even now having my son ride with me.

This 1994 Toyota Pickup, equipped with a V6 3.0 and 4 wheel drive, was owned by one of my father’s co-workers. They worked at a school, so when she would get picked up by her husband, she would hop in this bone stock pickup and drive right by me. I was in 6th grade at the time, and I can still remember just how it looked, so clean.

Processed with VSCOcam with c9 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c7 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with 5 preset

Senior year in high school she was still working at my dad’s school and I would beg her to sell me the Pickup. I had always wanted a 90’s Toyota 4X4, and this one was the one. Her husband would of course say, “No way, this truck is not going anywhere. Believe me I have gotten many offers for it.” But I didn’t care, I would still bother him. In fact I bothered him for 5 whole months, and by that time his wife had convinced him. With the money I had saved up plus a bit of help from my dad, I bought it, and the rest is history.

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset

The Toyota went from being bone stock to getting a full “restoration”. We did everything ourselves, spending countless hours at my buddy’s one garage shop. From the front bumper to the paint job, it was all done there. We took the V6 3.0 3VZE out and rebuilt it, replaced all the hoses, installed a lift, and even added 35″ BFG Mud Terrains. Next we found a $70 LEER camper shell, which we restored with new windows and paint. In the end the truck was torn apart in the shop for a full year, but the final result was just the way I had imagined it. Well how my 19 year old self had imagined it.

Processed with VSCOcam with a7 preset

As the years went by my views on the Pickup changed. I had embraced so much of nature and camping again that I  started thinking of different ways to improve its useability. I soon became thrilled with North American expeditions and adventure travels, and eventually discovered Overlanding. That’s when I realized where I wanted to go with the Pickup project, and the path became clear.

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset

I soon started doing more Texas explorations on back roads, and tied in some more moderate four wheeling. I took the front and rear axles and re-geared them to G2 5.29’s for the correct performance out of the beefy 35’s, before turning my attention to camping systems.

Processed with VSCO with a8 preset

I had been searching for a different camper shell for some time, as I wanted more room for sleeping in the bed. I  soon came across the Wildernest Adventure Camper on Instagram, and knew it would be perfect for the Pickup. I was able to contact someone online that was selling one, and I pulled the trigger and drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma in my Xterra,  a 1400 mile round trip with only one stop at a Whataburger parking lot to take a quick nap. It was definitely a smart acquisition though, and it fulfilled what I was looking for in terms of camping and future travels.

Processed with VSCO with a8 preset Processed with VSCO with a7 preset

When arriving to setup camp, it takes about 5 minutes to deploy the Wildernest by myself, and 8 minutes to put it away. I have a roof top tent on my Xterra, and I can tell you that the Wildernest is much easier to handle and more fun to use.


I keep most things in a Plano Storage box and in my back seat. Just the essentials like a two burner propane stove, water container, Yeti Roadie, and pots and pans. Mattress, pillow, and sleeping bag are kept away within the Wildernest. Just open up the Wildernest and the sleeping gear is all set.

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset

So far this Toyota Pickup has been very dependable and performed well throughout my travels, but it’s not quite done. I hope to turn this rig into a homemade expedition vehicle, one that can handle some heavy weather and terrain. Nothing fancy, but definitely trust-worthy. At the end of the day I’d say this Pickup has some character, and it shows in the expressions of everyone who sees it. This is just the beginning of my travels with my Pickup, and we have many more miles ahead.

Processed with VSCOcam with a7 preset

The Spec’s

  • 1994 Toyota Pickup / Hilux DLX
  • 3.0 V6 3VZE
  • Manual 5 Speed
  • 4WD
  • 5.29’s front and rear
  • Wildernest Adventure Camper
  • 35’s BFG Mud Terrains KM2 on steel rims
  • Rough Country 5 inch lift / 2 inch body lift
  • Custom Front Bumper
  • Hella Halogen Lights
  • Rigid Industries Dually Spot LED Lights
  • XRC Winch 12,000lbs
  • CB Radio
  • Security box
  • Plano Storage Box for Cooking Equipment
  • Coleman Classic Propane Stove
  • 6.5 gallon water container
  • Yeti Roadie
  • Petzl Tacktikka Headlamp
  • Sleeping bag, blankets, and pillow


 To follow David’s adventures and watch his build progress, check out his instagram page @OverlandNomad

Featured Vehicle: Overland Nomad’s Toyota Pickup

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

About the Author: Chris Cordes

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, for college in 2009. While working on his business degree in the Embry-Riddle undergraduate program, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. He fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, which led him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. Chris was immediately hooked by the concept of overlanding, which combines the excitement and adventure of flying with his affection for cars and trucks. After receiving his degree, Chris did a summer internship with Overland International before accepting a full-time position on our team.