Who built the best land vehicle?

Who built the best land vehicle?

All kinds of 4x4s gathered in the Arizona desert for the 2020 Overland Adventure, and among them were two 5th generation Toyota 4Runners. Although they shared the same Super White paint code, drivetrain and wheel diameter, the two 4Runners were equipped in significantly different ways. Read on as we compare and contrast how Thomas Piccolo and Trevor Takara built their Toyota 4Runners.

Trevor Takara: 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium

In his search for his own reliable, spacious and comfortable travel vehicle, Trevor Takara was eventually drawn to the look of the Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium. After buying it new in 2018, he vowed to keep his upgrades lenient, trying to tweak things that he thought worked well from the factory. He used the 4Runner for commuting and let the rig tell him when it needed aftermarket parts. High centering on a rock gave the 4Runner sturdier skid plates, and other trail adventures led him to choose a front bumper with more protection. Trevor still prefers the standard look of his rig and has plans to take it north through Alaska to the Arctic Ocean.

Thomas Piccolo: 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Thomas Piccolo’s past off-road exploits have ranged from side-by-side racing to rock crawling big square-body Chevy trucks, but he found himself looking for a more relaxed environment—and something air-conditioned. The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro boasted agility, reliability and the cargo space for Thomas to build a well-equipped camp kitchen himself. Thomas bought the rig new in 2017 and immediately began customizing his special overlanding machine. The first round of modification was completed within six months and he wasted no time traveling across the country. Thomas continued to fine-tune the 4Runner as he saw fit, until full-scale life called him out again – he’s since switched to a heavy Ram with a motorhome.


Using the best of his previous rooftop tent, Thomas looked to the Freespirit Recreation hardshell when it came time for a replacement. He likes the low profile and the fact that he can pitch the tent without worrying about a rainfly.

Trevor uses a Prinsu rack to hold cargo on the roof, citing the peace of mind and convenience of roof-mounted tents as the reasons for his Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mount Shasta model. Like Thomas, in the days since Overland Adventure, Trevor has opted for a hardshell tent.

front bumper

After trying lower profile units, Thomas loved how the Pelfreybilt front bumper conformed to the 4Runner’s body lines, provided full protection and had room to accommodate his Traveler winch.

Trevor’s front bumper got some rash after a trip to Moab, Utah, speeding up the C4 Fabrication upgrade. He’s a fan of the low-profile design and how it gives him space for low-down LED lighting and a Warn winch. Since he often travels alone, Trevor made sure to quickly equip the 4Runner with recovery gear before hitting a trail.


Thomas’ first aftermarket light was his roof rack mounted light bar. He soon found it was bouncing off his hood, but “something was better than nothing” in the off-road lighting department.

Likewise, early on, Trevor mounted a light bar above his windshield because the roof rack had a place for it. It doesn’t experience any glare from the hood, but tends to prefer its LEDs positioned lower to the ground. Both 4Runners now have a single row light bar and amber LED pods on their front bumpers.

Wheels and tires

Trevor’s kit came from the dealer with his BFGoodrich T/A KO2 terrains, and the tires were well suited for commuting and cross-country riding. The red accent on its Stealth Custom Series F5 wheels adds a touch of extra flair to its rolling stock.

Thomas tried a few sizes and types of tires before arriving at his LT295/70R17 Yokohama Geolandar mud terrain. After adjusting its body mounts to accept an earlier set of 34-inch tires, the 4Runner has plenty of room to articulate the mudders and Black Rhino wheels.

Rear load

Thomas spent some time scooping ice into a cool box and packing plastic bins before opting for a 12V fridge/freezer and custom drawer system. He enlisted some help from local experts in building the drawers and got exactly what he wanted, with a detailed labeling system to boot.

When traveling with friends, Trevor is the cook of the group, making good use of his handcrafted drawer system, Dometic fridge with a tilting pull-out tray and portable tables.

He impresses hungry campers with what comes out of his two burner propane stove, cast iron pans and Omnia oven.


With the help of the folks at ADS Racing Shocks, Thomas designed his suspension to handle the weight of his galley setup and load while maximizing ride comfort and articulation off-road. Differential gears were swapped out for 4.88s and Thomas kept his factory rear safe.

After briefly using a spacer lift and upgraded shocks, Trevor upgraded to the Stage 7 suspension kit from ICON Vehicle Dynamics, which gave him sturdier upper wishbones, coilovers, aluminum rear links and an adjustable rear track rod. Its gear and rear locker remain unchanged from the factory.

Trevor Takara 2018 Toyota 4Runner Off-Road Premium Build Details

  • Stomping site: Lynwood, Washington
  • Construction time: 2 years
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V-6
  • Transmission: Aisin A750F five-speed automatic
  • Transfer case(s): VF2A two speed
  • Low Range Ratio(s): 2.57:1
  • Creep ratio(s): 33.7
  • Front Axle/Differential: Toyota 8.2-inch, 3.73-speed/open
  • Rear Axle/Differential: Toyota 8.2-inch, 3.73-speed/stock electrical box
  • Front: ICON Vehicle Dynamics billet aluminum UCAs, 2.5 coilovers with remote reservoir
  • Rear: ICON Vehicle Dynamics 2.5 remote reservoir shocks, 2-inch rear coil springs, billet aluminum couplers, adjustable track rod
  • Tyres: LT285/75R17 BFGoodrich T/A KO2
  • Wheels: Stealth Custom Series F5
  • Lighting: Morimoto Headlights, Rigid Industries Fog Lights, Cali Raised LED 40″ Lightbar, Extreme Single Row 30″ LED Lightbar
  • Armor: C4 Fabrication rock sliders, Lo Pro front bumper and Hatch Ladder; RCI Metalworks full skid plates
  • Cool stuff: Prinsu full-length roof rack, Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mount Shasta tent and awning, Warn Zeon 10-S winch, ARB Dual Air Compressor, sPOD Bantam 8-circuit relay block, Off-Grid Engineering Complete Dual Battery System, Dometic CFX40 refrigerator /freezer, Wilco Offroad Hitchgate spare wheel carrier, RotopaX fuel cans, Maxtrax recovery plates, Blue Ridge Overland Gear Tire Storage Bag XL

Thomas Piccolo 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Construction Details

  • Stomping Terrain: Tucson, Arizona
  • Construction time: 3 years
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V-6
  • Transmission: Aisin A750F five-speed automatic
  • Transfer case(s): VF2A two speed
  • Low Range Ratio(s): 2.57:1
  • Creep ratio(s): 44.1
  • Front Axle/Differential: Toyota 8.2-inch, 4.88-speed/open
  • Rear Axle/Differential: Toyota 8.2-inch, 4.88-speed/Stock Electric Box
  • Front: ADS Racing Shocks front coilovers with Eibach springs, Dirt King billet aluminum UCAs,
  • Rear: Old Man Emu coils, ADS Racing Shocks dampers, ICON Vehicle Dynamics links
  • Tires: LT295/70R17 Yokohama Geolandar M/T G003
  • Wheels: Black Rhino Armory
  • Lighting: Baja Designs LED pods and light bar, LED roof rack light bar, Philips LED headlights
  • Armor: Custom aluminum fenders, Southern style off-road rockers with tree kickers, Pelfreybilt bumpers
  • Cool stuff: 10,000lb capacity winch, ARB Safari snorkel, FSR tent, 200W solar panel, cell signal booster, 270 degree awning, custom roof access ladders, dual group 24 batteries, charge controller, hand built drawer system, 12V fridge/freezer with slide , fold-down tailgate table, extendable kitchen with integrated food preparation plates and stove, Viair air compressor and tank, HAM radio, iPad with Gaia GPS app, rear bumper mounted eagle head bottle opener

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