Life has a funny way of throwing you curve balls when you least expect it, but even the worst situations can have a silver lining. Take Jon Burtt for example, a new business owner building an Airstream food truck in Denver. After planning out every detail of his new Crepeful trailer, Jon purchased a 2015 Tacoma to function as the tow vehicle. Little did he know that rising weights would soon put it out of his truck’s towing capacity, leaving him with a hard choice of selling to buy something else, or biting the bullet to create his overland dream vehicle. Well you can probably guess how that turned out, as it wasn’t long before this stock Toyota turned into the built up camper you see here.
It all started with a brand new suspension from Slee Offroad. After discussing his mix of towing and back-country needs, they settled on a set of Slee Off-Road Coilovers and SPC upper control arms in the front, with Slee external reservoir shocks and an 8 leaf Old Man Emu Dakar Expedition Spring pack in the back. Of course a wheel and tire upgrade was in order if they were to enjoy Colorado’s remote treasures, so Jon opted for a set of 285/75/16’s on Toyota FJ Cruiser wheels, along with Slee Off-Road sliders.
“That’s when the bug bit hard and the overland vehicle was now the goal of the Tacoma.I lost plenty of nights dreaming up the best parts to build something that could be used and slightly abused while handling the roads we travel and the extended stays we wanted to do more of. That’s when search for the Flippac from FRP started”
Jon’s first contact was to AT Overland, but with their new Tacoma Habitat under development and an unknown release date, he turned to FRP in the hopes of getting on the road a little sooner. Eight weeks after his first phone call he was on his way to Riverside to pick up a new Flippac camper.
“Of course we made a long road trip of it. After it was installed though the wind noise drove me nuts, and we headed straight up to Front Runner Outfitters and had Brian and the team install their Tacoma Cab mount with Slimline Rack, custom length to fit snugly even if the Flippac is deployed. We Grabbed some other items from Front Runner as well, like camp chairs, a couple of wolf packs, and the Kitchen Utensil roll up.”
Upon their return Jon quickly realized that his new home on wheels was in need of some additional protection if he wanted to run Colorado’s tougher trails. For this he turned to Pelfreybilt’s Steel winch bumper and a full set of skid plates to cover the vitals. “The bumper had my favorite look and was much slimmer than the rest of the options out there. Angles were right, and it’s just a good fit for the Tacoma.”
For recoveries he installed a Warn 8000 lb winch with synthetic line, and a Slee Off-Road fairlead with a Factor55 Flat Link as the finishing touch. Lighting was the final step, and Jon decided to pick up some Rigid Duallys for the fog lights, and a 20″ Rigid light bar for driving.
Next he returned to Slee where they installed a Safari Snorkel to reduce dust ingestion and improve safety on deep water crossings. They also added a new Pelfreybilt high clearance swing out for a better departure angle and impact protection. This particular model includes five gallon fuel cans, as well as Jon’s camp table for quick access during lunch stops.
“Slee did an amazing job getting all of these parts to fit like a glove, and at this time I ditched the Cargo Glide and we installed an Engel 45 Fridge and Blue Sea fuse panel in the rear of the Flippac. It was mounted to a Front Runner Fridge Slide mounted on top of the Truck Vault drawers.”
With all this equipment piling up it was time to get organized, so Goose Gear was his next call. The goal was to take everything floating around the back and secure it inside two custom storage boxes that doubled as benches. The resulting solution nailed what Jon wanted, and in the first box they were able to fit 2 Front Runner Camp Chairs a fold-able MSR camp table, Partner steel stove, Tembo Tusk Skottle and an extra misc recovery gear bag. The other holds wool blankets, pillows, camera gear, and the Flippac Rain Fly. He even had cushions made for the cabinet tops so they could comfortably hang out at night or play cards during a storm. Although he loves the current setup, he did mention a possible upgrade to version two of the Tembo Tusk and Goose Gear package.
“At this time my Partner Stove is usually buried and never accessible for a quick meal on the road. Generally it’s a lot of contorting and cursing while I try to unload the Goose Gear Cabinet with the Flippac still closed. It frustrates me so this is a perfect OCD solution for the build and brings it all together. We can still access the fridge from the inside when we are closed up for the night, which is a requirement for me. Kudos to Jerry at Tembo Tusk and the Brian and Matt at Goose Gear for the perfect storage solution of Fridge and Stove. Well done.”
Clearly this whole setup isn’t light, so Jon had the truck weighed and realized that his Tacoma was 2000 lbs over the factory rating. This explained the sag he was beginning to feel in the OME Dakars. To solve this he needed to go custom, so he reached out to Alcan springs for a new leaf pack rated at a daily carrying load 1200 lbs with 4″ of lift. “They did a great job and now I have my desired ride height back.”
The final piece of the puzzle was equipping the electronics system for handling extended stays in the back country. For this Jon once again turned to his trusted team at Slee Off-Road. They started by replacing the stock battery with a Group 31 and added a Switch Pro system to control the lighting and auxiliary power to the fridge and 12V outlets. “I wanted a cleaner setup for the lights that allowed me to control each one independently as well as control everything while in the Flippac, so I had Slee install a switch pro in the cab. This allows me to control all the LEDs from inside via a bluetooth app. Pretty cool feature.”
Slee also made a few finishing touches to existing systems. The ARB portable compressor was hard mounted in the engine bay so that the hood didn’t need to be opened and the compressor hauled out at each time it was used, and quick connects were added at the rear of the Flippac to make pressurizing water cans a breeze. They also installed an AGM75DT in the rear of the engine as an isolated starting battery, and mounted it in a custom Slee Off-Road tray.
At the end of the day Jon ended up with one of the most built Tacoma campers around, a true home on wheels with every creature comfort he could need. Like most of our builds though, he feels it will constantly be improving and evolving over time, so be sure to follow his progress and ask him questions on the link below!
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.