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2008 Toyota Tundra TRD Off-Road Staff Project Vehicle Introduction

Editor’s note: To learn more about preparing the first, second, and third generation Tundra for overland travel, please enjoy the Overland Journal Podcast Episode 94: Principles of Overlanding :: The Toyota Tundra for Overlanding.

I just spent the last six weeks and 3,000 kilometers exploring the Baja California Peninsula with Ashley (my wonderful wife and Overland International senior editor) in our 1990 Toyota Pickup. Driving north on Mex 1 with the windows down (for lack of air-conditioning), dust coating the airbag-free dashboard, sweat on our unwashed foreheads, and a buffeting blast furnace of wind in our ears, Ash and I looked at each other and asked yelled, “Should we consider a more modern truck?”

Our 1990 Toyota Pickup, affectionately named Little Red, has been our go-to adventure mobile since 2013. It has seen a couple of continents and a few revisions along the way but remains a tiny 30-year-old minitruck. The sentimental value is strong, and it does a wonderful job of scooting through moderately-sized whoops, narrow trails, or soft sand. The Go Fast Camper V1 wedge camper keeps the truck light while providing a taste of inside living space. The 22RE lives at wide-open throttle and has never complained, but it deafens us with its high-RPM four-cylinder rasp as it releases a whopping 116 horsepower.

Over the past nine years, our lifestyle has changed. Now we work from the road (requiring a proper workspace) and don’t always have the option to chase summer (meaning that a four-season camper would be a huge benefit). We’re almost a decade older and have gone a little soft. It’s sad but true. A bit of air-conditioning during the summer and heated seats during the winter wouldn’t hurt us one bit. As we age, our mortality becomes more and more evident: safety items such as airbags become a consideration, if not a priority.

The decision to step out of Little Red and into something else is difficult enough, but the real question was, “What would we choose next?”

We wanted a hard-sided (or at least a composite pop-up) camper of some flavor to shelter us from wind gusts and sub-zero temperatures, allowing travel in any season. We also knew we’d like to drive the vehicle internationally, so parts availability overseas was also important. Land Cruiser Troop Carriers with pop-tops have become super popular in the North American market, but we’d be looking at high-kilometer Land Cruisers with a living space not so different from what we already have. Our friends, the Tucks, have an Iveco Daily 4×4 built with the stuff dreams are made of (capable on-road and off-pavement with a large cabin when parked), but they’re hard to find and a touch out of the budget. Maltec or Urocamper conversions kept rising to the top of our wish list, but extremely long lead times and (again) budget concerns made them out of reach.

In the end, we decided to go with a truck that was already parked in the driveway—although we needed some convincing for the full go-ahead. Our 2008 Toyota Tundra only has 191,350 kilometers on the clock, but we originally told ourselves that it was too large for international travel. Eventually, I came across old photos of Gary and Monica Wescott and Turtle V (their 1999 Ford F-550) traveling through Central Asia or their Turtle IV (a 1992 Ford F-350) in Siberia. Well, I thought, if they can do that in a full-size Ford, surely we can do something similar in our Tundra! The Tundra is as narrow and shorter than a 144 Sprinter, and those are found around the world. To confirm, we played a game in Baja: “Could the Tundra do this?” Whether driving on soft sand, meandering through tight trails, or navigating small towns, the answer was almost always “Yes.” On a recent trip through Saudi Arabia, we saw 200-Series Land Cruisers, Tundras, and Sequoias everywhere, proving that parts availability wouldn’t be a problem. Our decision was made.


All we had to do was convince ourselves that the size could work, and the rest of the benefits fell into place. First of all, our truck is a perfect baseline that has been well-maintained throughout its life. Second, it’s paid for and waiting for an adventure. Plus, the Tundra shares a plethora of parts with an internationally sold 200-Series Land Cruiser and Sequoia. Brakes, hubs, steering components, and drivetrain are mostly interchangeable. Although the payload isn’t substantial (1,563 pounds), it’s a number that we can work within as long as we select a camper and other components that are light and necessary. We can also remove a few items currently installed to free up some precious payload capacity.

Our Tundra started life as a TRD Off-Road. Over the years, we did our best to keep it subtle on the outside but a performer underneath. Total Chaos Fabrication stock-length upper and lower control arms allow for additional wheel travel, and the Factory Race Series Fox 2.5 shocks showed us what performance shocks are capable of. The CBI Off-Road Fabrication full-length skid plates provide the drivetrain armor required on a long/wide truck that can easily become high-centered on technical terrain. A hidden Baja Designs 40-inch light bar and factory fog pocket amber Squadron Sport lights provide all the lumens we need on a long dirt road or in a blinding snowstorm. We’ve been rolling on bronze Method Trail Series 702 wheels wrapped in 35-inch Toyo Open Country MT tires.

The Tundra is 14 years old, so there are no USB ports, no backup camera, and no infotainment system, but there are EIGHT cupholders—and two of them hold a 1-liter Nalgene bottle perfectly. Although basic, the one thing that can’t be denied is the condition of the interior. After 14 years and 190,00 kilometers, it still looks new, if not dated. An Apple CarPlay touchscreen stereo, complete with a backup camera, will go a long way to modernizing the interior.


Although the truck works great for a daily driver and weekend warrior, there are quite a few changes that need to be made before we can ship the truck overseas and travel full-time out of it. We’ll be addressing the suspension to handle the additional weight of an aluminum flatbed and composite pop-up camper, including changing to shocks that require minimal maintenance on the road while still providing the performance we want. A larger fuel tank will get installed to effectively double the range.

We’ll be decreasing weight where possible to keep the vehicle close to the GVWR. This means a different wheel and tire combination will be used, and we’ll look at what armor and recovery equipment is actually required for long-term travel. Removing unnecessary weight, or selecting new items that are as light as possible, will allow us to use this truck we already own instead of needing to purchase an expensive 2500 or 3500 chassis.

To be honest, the truck is almost perfect as is. Fairly capable, really comfortable, and subtle-ish. We originally wanted to keep the build simple with few modifications, but now the Tundra’s purpose has changed. This is our baseline for our new Overland Journal Staff Vehicle Build. We are excited to introduce our 2008 Toyota Tundra, the latest Overland Journal Staff Vehicle Build.


Vehicle Specifications

2008 Toyota Tundra TRD Off-road double-cab 6.5-foot box
Purchase Price: $18,000 CAD (2018)
Current Mileage: 192,900 kilometers


5.7L 3UR-FE
6-speed automatic transmission
Stock 4.30:1 gearing and open differentials

Wheels and Tires

Toyo Tires Open Country MT 35×12.50/R17
Method Race Wheels 702 Trail Series, Bronze 17×8.5ET0


Fox Factory Race Series 2.5 DSC coil-over reservoir shock (front)
Fox Factory Race Series 2.5 DSC reservoir shock (rear)
Total Chaos Fabrication upper control arms
Total Chaos Fabrication boxed lower control arms
Total Chaos Fabrication cam tab gussets
Timbren Active Off-road bump stops (front and rear)
Old Man Emu Dakar medium-duty leaf springs
Old Man Emu greaseable shackles


CBI Off-Road Fabrication full skid plate set

Accessories and Upgrades

Baja Designs 40-inch On6+
Baja Designs Tundra Fog Pocket Kit with Squadron Sport amber lights
Full Throttle Battery Group 27 AGM battery

Our No Compromise Clause: We carefully screen all contributors to ensure they are independent and impartial. We never have and never will accept advertorial, and we do not allow advertising to influence our product or destination reviews.

Two years ago Richard Giordano completed a 48,800km overland journey from Vancouver, Canada to Buenos Aires, Argentina with his wife Ashley in their well-loved, but antiquated, 1990 Toyota Pickup. On the zig-zag route south they hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled their tummies with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Richard behind a camera, behind the wheel, or behind his iPhone updating Instagram. Next up, you’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent and sharing their trip every step of the way.