2012 Toyota Tacoma. Built for long term travel


2012 Toyota Tacoma DCLB build for Central American adventures (New titles!!)

Greetings all,

I am starting a build thread on a truck I currently own but will have no access to until late November or early December. I am living and working in Nicaragau and El Salvador (and other places not accessible by truck) and will be returning to British Columbia in late November or early December to collect my Taco, modify it in a super quick timeline and then drive back down to Nicaragua over the Christmas holidays to have my truck with me for work. Its a 2012 Toyota Tacoma DCLB TRD in Silver. It is currently stock, as I purchased it in 2012 except for the addition of a high roof Leer cap on the back with some Thule bars for carrying kayaks and other toys. I have paraplegia and therefore use handcontrols to drive so thats the other...essential...modification that has been done to the truck. Unfortuantely I don't have photos of the truck to post right now, but I will document the build process when I get home. I also have some but limited experience in modifying vehicles and almost no mechanical ability, so welcome any and all feedback and advice.

Needs for the truck:
- comfortable to carry and sleep two people (I am lucky enough to have a lovely lass who wishes to accompany me on this long commute)
- Hotels will be required in the north (it will be December) but camping and cooking from the vehicle are the planned approach once temperature allow
- Need to carry 1 surf kayak, 1 whitewater kayak, 1 sea kayak (see a trend here??) and I expect the above mentioned lovely lass will bring a surf board or two...perhaps a SUP...oh yeah and I will have 1 wheelchair.
- Ideally I will bring my handcycle (and stationary trainer...as riding the streets of Managua is tantamount to suicide...) to counteract my love of fried platanos and other yummy local dishes
- Good...LOUD music. Palm trees, white sand beaches, blue skies and tropical temperatues demand windows down, music blasting, singing at the top of your lungs type sound systems.
- Long sections of gravel roads, broken up bricked streets and frequent beach access
- Security is a concern both while traveling and while living and working between Nicaragua and El Salvador. Nicaragua is home base but my job will require me to drive between Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador regularly, as well as into Costa Rica for 3 month visa runs.
- Light and fast set up and tear down of camping set up.
- I really wanted a 4x4 teardrop for this trip...some day...

So here is what I am thinking now. Again...please point out any blatant stupidity or room for improvement you might identify.

Tires and Wheels
- Toyo 33" Open Country Musterrains or BF Goodrich All Terrains KO2s...not decided yet...opinions?
- Toyota factory steel 17" rims in black

- Going with OME 3" suspension change with dakar heavy springs in the back.
- would I be smart to change the UCAs at the same time?

- ARB deluxe winch bumper with Warn VR8000 winch
- Considering aluminum bask plates. I won't be rock crawling, but think they might be smart still.
- Metal work is GOOD and cheap in Nicaragau. A rear bumper with dual swing outs will get fabricated when I return.

Security/ Safety
- The Club...stealing trucks is not unheard of down here...
- Film on windscreen to prevent penetration. Maximum allowable tinting applied to side windows and all cap windows as soon as I enter Mexico to prevent window shopping.
- going to have bars attached to the inside of the window in the cap that will allow operation of the sliding window but prevent reaching in or pulling items out. The rear window of the cap will get similar bars fabricated.
- Researching methods to lock the cap of the truck to prevent entry. Puck locks? How to lock the bed of the truck when the tailgate itself doesn't lock? This is a question I have.
- Cable locks around all the boats, boards, bikes...heck anything that will accept a cable lock!

Sleeping/ cooking
- going to build a sleeping/ storage platform in the bed. Going to be pretty simple to start as time will be tight.
- no fancy drawers or water tanks at this time. Staying true to my dirtbag youth (if I recall correctly) and using action packers and plastic water containers, coleman stoves etc.
- Might really splash out on some new plastic plates.
- I have removed the rear seat behind the driver side to store my wheelchair while driving, but I think the passenger side will come out as well and I will build a platform across the back. Here I will store an ARB fridge I have waiting for this project.
- Foxwing awning ordered for 270 degree coverage. It is still the rainy season down here...though you wouldn't really know it.
- Old fold up table with plywood top thrown in for kitchen set up beside the truck.
- A couple folding camp chairs
- one well traveled, much loved hammock

- Putting a Baja basket rack over the cab of the truck.
- Thule racks currently on the cap with uprights for kayak stacking. I know the load carrying capacity is low as is the weight capacity of the cap, so I will have a custom over cap ladder rack fabricated with ladders, a roof top platform, etc etc when I get back down to Nicaragua.

Thats about where I have gotten to in my planning.

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this guy is making a lock for the tailgate

You may want to think about additional lights. I worked in Panama for awhile and I know once you get out of the city it is pretty dark. I have seen some mounted behind the grill which will make it a little more difficult to steal ut as you know if there is a will there is a way. If you have a rack mounted above the cab you can mount the lights there also. You can look at the slim light bars from Rigid, Baja or one of the other 100 companies that make LED light bars, or you can go stealthy with the lights and put them in the spot where your fog lights will go in the ARB


Thanks so much for the ling Clymber. I will look into this.
You are absolutely right in that the roads are incredibly dark and poorly marked (if at all) when you get out of the major cities. Lights are on my "would be nice, if budgets allow" list. I like the look of the Rigid LED bars but not the cost as much. I will upgrade the bulbs in the headlights at a minimum and see where money leaves me.
Here is the truck, sitting patiently on Vancouver Island wait for my return and its evolution into something much more capable.

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Looks awesome and sounds like a great adventure. Looking forward to seeing your build evolve.


Thanks Mike. I am anxious to get it going. I have had a Old Man Emu heavy suspension system sent to my home town, plus an ARB bumper and Warn 8000 winch. Those will all get installed in December as soon as I arrive home. I have ordered a Baja basket rack for over the cab and will pick that up from the head office as I pass through/ by San Diego. The plans are coming along great, and I am excited to get home and start building my dream truck.


It all starts today! I am back on Vancouver Island (where its cold and raining sideways...kinda makes me miss Nicaragua...haha) and dropped my truck in this morning to the folks who are modifying it for me. I would love to do the work myself, but I have no garage, no tools and almost no skill. So, in situations like this I adopt the attitude of paying people for what they are good at!
It will be getting an ARB bumper installed, a Warn 8000 winch, an OME Heavy suspension upgrade and Rigid Industries driving lights installed, wired and switched separately as opposed to tied to the stock high beams. There was a big sign as I entered the showroom that Rigid lights were on sale for Christmas! I recalled the sage advice I received from a helpful member (can't remember who right now, my apologies) about more lighting for Central American roads...so couldn't say no! It will also be getting new rims (Pro Comp series 79) steelies wrapped in Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain 33" tires. I am super excited about all this. It will be with these highly capable lads for almost two days. Then the adventure starts!

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Behind this rig I will be towing an Off Grid teardrop trailer so it will go in to get the electronic brake controller on Tuesday! This is the almost completed trailer that will follow my Tacoma and be my home for the next year or more.

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The trailer will have matching Pro Comp and Toyo wheel combos. There is a swing away tire carrier on the back of the trailer so I can carry one spare for the truck and trailer. I like that..


I got my truck back last night and couldn't be happier with the outcome! There was a little playing around to get the right rims to enable me to run the 33" Toyo Mudterrains. I ended up at a great shop in Campbell River, British Columbia that really knew their stuff and sorted me out. They all stayed late to do it as well, so a huge thanks to the lads at Associated Tire and Auto.

Now all I need is the trailer I have being built and the road trip can start! Well, there is a fair bit of organizing and packing, unpacking and repacking to happen still but its getting close. Official departure date from Vancouver is December 15th. Wish us luck!!

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So the combination is complete! I picked up my trailer in Red Deer, Alberta on Saturday morning. A 14+ hr marathon drive got me back to the BC coast where I am currently finishing the pack for the adventures ahead. Tomorrow I leave for LA and then on the 19th will cross into Mexico! I am super excited for the adventures ahead!

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Are you on TW? That looks like a great project you have going on there.

There is a guy on TW that is making a trip out to the north pole.

Sounds exciting.


Well the transformation is complete! I made a quick (sort of...) trip to San Diego to pick up a Baja rack for the cab of my truck. It was great to meet Sergio today and he personally installed my rack for me. Great guy and I really appreciated the help. I love how it completes the look I was hoping for on the truck and it will hugely useful on the road trip starting tomorrow!
I think the kayaks look particularly good! haha...a day spent floating is a good day indeed. I forget who said that originally but I completely agree!


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New member
Subscribed for the follow! This is something I wish I had done when I lived in San Diego. I had such a blast riding my 450 to San Felipe and back and going to the 250 and 500 down there.


This trip and journal are going to get rekindled. I ran into serious warranty issue with the trailer the days after I had the roof rack installed. So many issues in fact, I turned around in Los Mochis, Mexico and drove back to Alberta to drop the trailer off and receive a refund. Really disappointing, but life alwways seems to have a way of keeping things interesting!

I didn't get to take my truck south as I ran out of time over Christmas holidays. So in my driveway it sits as I type this from a hotel room in San Salvador, El Salvador. I am in the planning stages for "long commute" version 2.0! Hopefully with more success, beaches, surfing and margaritas!! Plans for this trip are extremely different. I am going back to my dirtbag roots and will be camping out of the back of the truck.

Today I ordered one of these: A double swing away tire carrier from All-Pro in Montana. I need to get the spare tire out from the back of the truck to give me space for a bed and some storage. The tire doesn't fit in the traditional spare location, I don't believe, so this was a needed...okay and wanted...purchase.


In thinking about dirtbag truck sleeping, I realize I could make my truck more comfortable and appropriate for this type of trip. I am seriously considering swapping out my Leer 180 mid rise canopy for an ARE DCU aluminium canopy with double barn doors and a roof rack. It would look something like this:


I think this canopy will be better for living out of with its higher roof, better use of space, higher weight carrying capacity, double doors on the back, increased security and lock-ability (I think) and hopefully better dust and water sealing capabilities! I rent a house in Managua now so this cap will be for weekends surfing in Nicaragua, exploring rivers and beaches in surrounding countries (Costa Rica here I come!) and housing me on the drive down. I think it makes perfect sense, though it is a bit of financial outlay. I am hoping people with more experience of these canopies might be able to give me a more informed opinion please?

I am looking forward to getting my truck back (its been 3 months + now) and starting on the road trip again. I am also excited about the lighter footprint, more nimble travel rig I will have without dragging a trailer. I hope to be in a trailer again in the future, I really like the looks of the Lead Dog Motorsports off road teardrop, but timing just couldn't work out for this trip.

When I fly back to BC from South Africa in mid June the plans for revising and improving the truck include:

1) put on newly order All-Pro rear bumper
2) Likely put on yet to be purchased ARE DCU aluminium canopy with roof rack
3) build a bed and storage unit in truck bed
4) put in a dual battery system
5) install an ARB fridge (in canopy or truck cab TBD...I am leaning toward the truck cab for many reasons, including cold drinks during the day)
6) Install LED lights in canopy
7) Install Fantastic fan and auxiliary fans in canopy (hard cutting a hole in a brand new, very expensive canopy...but its gotta be done!)
8) Figure out awning and tarping set ups...driving down through Mexico and Central America in June/ July = the rainy season!
9) Install kill switch in the truck
10) There has got to be more things....will fill in more as I figure it all out.

I would very much like any advice, information or guidance you all could offer me.

Here is the truck as it currently sits (sans trailer) waiting for my return....soon my friend...very soon!