Style is great. It grabs your attention and pulls you in. You inch ever closer, wondering what's in store. Once you're there, it's time to ogle the substance. We expect mechanical and functional trickery. If it's missing, we make a quick U-turn and walk away, repeating the phrase "good from afar, but far from good."
Our first glance of Ryan Shimp's '01 Toyota Tundra SR5 Access Cab commanded a second glance. We strode over, coin flipping in the air, wondering if there was more to this truck than met the eye at 20 yards. Heads, we had a solid truck with assorted graphics and a get-you-noticed wheel and tire package. Tails, the truck's beauty started at the skin and went to the core. We dropped to a knee and checked out the Tundra's underpinnings. Tails it was.
"Project Long-Travel Tundra was born when I wanted to create a very usable off-road truck," stated Shimp. "This is something that the average off-road enthusiast can build." Ryan's canvas happens to be a Toyota, but we can see the same type of truck transformation applying equally to any number of late-model trucks, whether fullsize or mini, domestic or imported.
To make room for the 33x17-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KMs, Ryan looked to Glassworks Unlimited for a set of fenders. The 'glass sports bigger wheel openings, letting oversized rubber cycle up and down unopposed by constrictive stock sheetmetal. Going for the 'glass does away with the need for large lifts in the name of tire clearance. The truck's center of gravity is low for stable turns and twists.
Nothing screams "under construction" quite like a pair of snow-white fenders, so Ryan took the Tundra to Doug Nelson of Doug's Customs for paint. Nelson sprayed the white 'glass with the black OEM hue to match the rest of the truck, then applied the candy cobalt-blue ghost flames that capture the essence of this truck's style-and-substance balancing act.
Toyota's 4.7L iForce V-8 was left stock internally, but received key bolt-on upgrades that woke up the performance potential of the iForce. A set of Bassani headers feed into a Bassani stainless-steel after-cat system and "really bring the V-8 to life." Filtered air enters the 4.7L through a K&N intake, and an Optima Yellow Top battery helps provide the spark.
This truck's biggest headline? That would be the suspension. Camburg Engineering, Deaver Spring, and Sway-A-Way combine to produce bump control that's desert-worthy, without invading the truck's bed and engine bay. The Camburg frontend boasts beefy boxed lower control arms and tubular upper control arms with an integrated uniball pivot. The Camburg arms are Sway-A-Way shocked and 'bumped for 13 inches of controlled off-road travel. Ryan's Tundra is two-wheel drive, but 4x4 Tundra's can use the Camburg long-travel kit and retain 4x4 using custom axleshafts. In the truck's aft section, a 10-leaf Deaver spring pack bolts into the stock Tundra mounting points. Ryan's rear suspension package is almost bolt-on. The "almost" comes from custom rear shock mounts fabricated by 4XFlyin' Off-Road Solutions of Chatsworth, California. A pair of 10-inch-stroke, 2-1/2-inch-diameter Sway-A-Way Racerunners spans the custom upper rear shock mounts and relocated stock mounts on the axlehousing. Shimp could easily have bolted a pair of SAWs to the stock Tundra mounts, but the Deaver spring pack is capable of more travel than the stock shock mounts will allow.
Is the truck done? We'll just categorically say no. Any true off-roader has a big checklist of upgrades just waiting for the right time or the right funds. As it sits now, Ryan's Tundra strikes harmonious chords between style, utility, and go-fast substance. This truck looks good from afar, but it's that much better up close.
Before companies such as Camburg Engineering introduced suspension systems capable of bringing IFS systems to new levels of bump-absorbing performance, the best a truck owner could do was install a stackety-bracket drop-down lift that retained the stock control arms and used OEM-configuration shocks. The center of gravity was raised and tire clearance was achieved, but not much more could be said for real off-road performance. Bracket lift suspension systems are useful in gaining clearance for bigger tires, but can actually structurally weaken a truck's chassis by placing more leverage on the OEM mounting points. It must also be noted that bracket lift systems are considerably less expensive than real off-road performance systems such as Camburg's long-travel Tundra system. Camburg's control arms are considerably stronger than stock and widen the Tundra's stance by about 7 inches. The added suspension travel and track width increase off-road prowess through better bump control and increased cornering stability. Sway-A-Way bumpstops and Beard limit straps round out the Camburg long-travel system.