I feel that there are two types of truly cool four-wheel drives out there. The first category encompasses all of the dream vehicles: EarthRoamers, Unimogs, restored Defenders, Land Cruisers, 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, is 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 countless weekends on the trail, have dents, scratches, and unique modifications that capture our imaginations like no brand-new car ever could. That’s why today we’re taking a fresh look at a rig that never fails to make us smile. It’s a 1994 Pickup owned by a man named David Gonzalez, and its history spans way back to his early days in school. It has been a lifelong passion for David, as much a part of his family as any vehicle could be, which is exactly why we’re switching up our featured vehicle formula to let David tell you all about this build himself. We hope you enjoy his story as much as we did and find a little inspiration in his Toyota pickup camper.
This 1994 Toyota Pickup, equipped with a V6 3.0 and 4 wheel drive, was owned by one of my father’s coworkers. 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.
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 five 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.
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-inch 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.
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 usability. I soon became entranced by North American expeditions and adventure travel, and eventually discovered overlanding. That’s when I realized where I wanted to go with the pickup project, and the path became clear.
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 regeared them to G2 5.29s for the correct performance out of the beefy 35s, before turning my attention to camping systems.
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. 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 1,400-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 fulfilled what I was looking for in terms of camping and future travels. At least, for a while.
Two years ago, I was browsing the Texas Overland pages when a rather rare and promising camper popped up, a 1981 Four-Wheel Camper designed specifically for the Ford Bronco. Obviously, my Toyota Pickup wasn’t a Bronco, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with it, so I pulled the trigger. The modifications to make it fit the bed of the pickup began shortly after and included adding C-channel bars on the sides and front to make up for the height difference. I had to close up the wall that would have led to the Bronco’s cabin by adding plywood and a white aluminum wall on the outside, as well as perform a myriad of other small changes. In the end, though, it was exactly what I had hoped for, and was perfect for my many trips around Texas.
- 1994 Toyota pickup/Hilux DLX
- 3.0 V6 3VZE
- Manual 5-speed
- 5.29s, front and rear
- Wildernest Adventure Camper
- 1981 Four-Wheel Camper – Bronco
- 35s BFG mud-terrain KM2s 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, 12,000 pounds
- Plano storage box for cooking equipment
- Coleman Classic propane stove
- 6.5-gallon water container
- Sleeping bag, blankets, and pillow
To follow David’s adventures and watch his build progress, check out his Instagram page @OverlandNomad