You probably didn’t know it, but I’m a junkie. No, not a drug addict…a performance junkie. Though most of you know me as an angler, I’m an all around outdoorsman and I demand a very high level of performance from anything I drive, especially in my pursuit of fish and game. Doesn’t matter if it’s a boat, truck, or anything else; if I’m going to own it, I’ll take whatever steps I can to help it perform specifically for my needs. That last part is important…
Enter my beloved Toyota Tundra…or should I say Tundras. Been driving Toyotas almost my whole adult life and Tundras exclusively since 2003. The 2018 version we’re currently building is our 7th. Having just returned from her maiden road trip adventure, I’d say we’ve learned a few things along the way.
Pedersen Toyota handles all my vehicle purchases, and once again we ordered a 5.7L Double Cab Limited. I prefer the 6.5’ bed of the DC model and the Limited’s in-dash navigation. It’s got the TRD Off Road package mostly for the limited slip differential, A-Trac system and array of skid plates. Tow features include the oversized transmission cooler and electronic brake controller. As soon as the Tundra arrived from its birthplace in Texas, the Pedersen Toyota body shop painted my existing topper to match and installed it. Then, as with all my Tundras, off to Bullhide 4x4 to begin equipping for my specific needs from the ground up.
Wait…what are my specific needs? First, the truck must be a very competent tow vehicle for my 21 foot bass boat, including everything from highway, to mountain passes, to dirt roads…in any weather. It must also be a great performer handling-wise (and I do mean great, not good…) when driven sans trailer or lightly loaded, on any road surface, in any condition. I need my cargo to stay dry, clean and protected, to be able to see waayyy out ahead while running back roads fraught with wildlife and other dangers, and also to be able to work in and around the truck in the dark. This is not meant to be a rock crawler, mudder, or high lift “pavement princess” show truck…it’s an outdoorsmen’s versatile, real world work truck. So, here’s what Bullhide 4x4 did so far…
Performance starts with traction and traction starts with tires. I once again chose BF Goodrich Radial All Terrain KO2’s, 305/55’s wrapped around 20” wheels that widen the stance slightly. I chose the wheels based on their weight; lighter wheels decrease unsprung weight thus increasing all areas of performance. To protect the body from the wider tires’ spray, fender flares were color matched and installed.
Suspension is critical in my world and we needed a little bit of height to clear the beefier tires. Tundras handle best set up slightly nose low so squatting under a load is not something I’ll tolerate. This truck always has a topper, usually some additional load, and often a boat in tow; more spring rate takes care of this. We went to Toytec for the parts, including a somewhat stiffer leaf pack plus an extra “overload” leaf in the rear and their Boss shock to control the new springs. We used a Toytec spacer up front to achieve the desired height. Total lift is about 2” up front, 3″ in the rear.
To protect the rocker panels and facilitate easy cab access, Bullhide 4x4 installed side bars with steps. They hug the body to keep some rogue bushes, tire debris, etc off and also keep wear and tear of the seats from sliding out of the truck to a minimum.
Lighting is very useful and we installed a full compliment of Rigid lighting, inside and out. The topper has better lighting than most kitchens with its four A Series lights, hot switched just inside the tailgate for easy on/off. Diffused lights are cut into the rear bumper, also hot switched for use anytime. They can also be set to come on in reverse. Bullhide installed Rigid’s A Series under the wheel wells for general work lighting all the way around as well. Lastly, the faux hood vent was stuffed with a 40” Rigid light bar that looks completely stock but will light up the eyeballs of suicidal deer 1/4 mile ahead of the truck. Running backroads in the dark is a lot more fun when you can see way out there.
The inside of the bed was lined with a Bedrug, sides and all, to protect our gear from sliding around. It can be removed quickly for super dirty loads like firewood, but otherwise is a very civilized addition. Plus, it matches the topper liner. Lastly, all-weather mats were sourced to protect from muddy boots/waders.
As I said, the truck now has 2000 miles on it and we just got home from a 700 mile scouting and shooting trip, including 250+ miles of dirt roads, two tracks, and ranch roads. Mud, snow, sand washes, gravel, wind and dark of night were all part of it, and I even got to pull a rancher buddy out of a snow drift with the 30,000 pound tow strap I keep in the truck at all times. The handling exceeded even my lofty expectations; extremely stable and planted over various surfaces at any speed, and generally fun to drive hard. The lighting all worked as intended and the Bedrug makes for plush gear. We’re still finalizing a beefier front bumper to protect from various shrubbery and light impact while housing more Rigid lighting, but other than that and the new graphics, we’re done and I’m in love with it. Having a disciplined idea of intended use and choosing modifications and add-ons accordingly has lead to my favorite Tundra yet. CL #grateful