Overlanding appeals to that adventurous side within all of us. Who doesn’t want a vehicle that’s prepped and ready for adventure at the drop of a hat? Dimitri Justice certainly does. His Tacoma caught our eyes as we were browsing Instagram one day.
Done up in satin pearl white wrap and stanced wide and high, this midsize is showing the world what Tacomas can do with the right gear. We reached out to Dimitri to get the inside scoop on his build and what it took to get finished.
After discovering that he lived in Southern California, we arranged to meet in the ultimate wilderness of Ocotillo Wells SVRA. The near limitless desert out there provides some choice areas to go driving and see what a truck is really made of. Dimitri and his Tacoma were up to the task!
Born in Russia and raised in California, Dimitri is currently a full-time student at CSU Fullerton. When he’s not double-majoring in accounting and finance, he’s either playing computer games or taking his Tacoma out for a spin.
Trucks weren’t how he got his start in the automotive world, however. “Originally, I was into muscle cars and tuner cars,” he explained. “I was big into those scenes in high school. Over time, though, I started to hate the culture. It got too toxic and I didn’t want to be around grown adults that acted like children.”
Thankfully, Dimitri found a new home in off-roading. “Some friends of mine took me out to the desert and on trails,” he said. “It was just plain fun. It made me want to sell my Mustang and get a truck.”
And get a truck he did. At the time, Dimitri felt uneasy about getting a full-size truck like an F-150 or Tundra. “The Tacoma was just a good fit for me,” he said. “I liked that it could fit in a standard garage.”
Dimitri splurged to get the TRD Pro package, but that was before he took it out on the trail for some fun. “I realized it wasn’t quite good enough,” he admitted. “And so began my build on the Tacoma!”
Initially, Dimitri set out to build his Tacoma for better trail rides. “Since I lived in Orange County, I was more focused on trail upgrades rather than desert prerunning,” he said. “The trails I knew of were moderate level and required good rock-crawling capability.”
To that end, Dimitri installed rock sliders and a mid-travel suspension kit, along with new wheels and tires. His goal was to go over various obstacles without causing significant damage. Yet as Dimitri’s off-road confidence rose, so too did the demand for better equipment.
To better protect his Tacoma, Dimitri bought skid plates for the truck’s underside. “I covered the engine, transfer case, and transmission,” he said. “Then I noticed my rear bumper took some hits, so I got a high-clearance rear bumper. The same went for the front bumper.”
As with all project vehicles, Dimitri got into the cycle of ever-upgrading and equipping his Tacoma. And it all ground to a halt after Dimitri discovered desert racing. The big thing then became getting a long-travel kit for the truck.
As Dimitri put it, the Tacoma became a jack of all trades but master of none. “It can do anything, just not great,” he joked.
Dimitri walked us around the truck to go through all of its modifications. We started at the front. “Up here, I have a C4 Fabrication hybrid bumper with a mid hoop. I have some Desert Armor lights up front and rock lights from Diode Dynamics.”
“On the suspension side, I have Total Chaos‘ long-travel kit with King shocks and triple bypasses,” he continued. “I wanted to have better travel in the desert, but the long-travel kit didn’t really do as much as I was expecting. 13 inches isn’t a lot, but I suppose it is for a Tacoma. It does allow me to go 60 miles an hour in the desert, and it does well in the whoop sections. But at the same time, it’s sketchy because I don’t have a roll cage installed.”
The sides of the Tacoma featured rock sliders from Bay Area Metal Fab. For added protection underneath, Dimitri installed RCI skid plates. These protect the engine, transmission, and transfer case whenever going over rocky terrain.
Resting atop the Tacoma’s roof was a Prinsu Design rack. This lets Dimitri store gear and essentials for longer adventures into the unknown. There were also several SpartanXCustoms pod lights to see better at night. “The lights are from a guy who does everything online,” Dimitri commented. “He takes things and reworks them to be a little bit better.”
For communication, Dimitri uses a Rugged Radio unit and, naturally, a large antenna for better reception. “It’s nice to have communication with other drivers out in the dirt,” he said. “They’ll let you know of any tricky obstacles or emergency situations.”
The rear of the truck retains the stock Toyota axle. It comes with an electronic locker from the factory, but Dimitri said the locker can only engage in 4-Low. For suspension, the axle is supported by triple bypass King shocks and the stock leaf springs. Out back, the bumper is a custom unit from a local fabrication shop called Outgear Solutions.
Up on the bed, Dimitri went with a Desert Armor tent. It’s contained inside its own hard plastic shell to keep it protected from the elements when not in use. Deploying the tent is fairly simple, using some bows to extend the flaps and a collapsing aluminum ladder to make it accessible.
Under the hood, Dimitri installed a cold air intake from aFe Power for the better sound it offered. He also installed a set of Ripp performance ignition coils, offering an additional 20 horsepower and better throttle response. “With how heavy it’s gotten from the upgrades, every bit of added power makes the driving experience more enjoyable,” he said.
The Tacoma’s interior has, by Dimitri’s assessment, a “beginner competition build for sound.” It uses an 11-inch subwoofer in the rear of the cabin and Audiofrog speakers. Elsewhere, LED lights bolster the already supple TRD Pro look and feel on the inside.
Have Truck, Will Travel
Taken altogether, the Tacoma is a real piece of work. Dimitri said he did most of the bolt-on upgrades on his own. He even did the immaculate vinyl wrap that covers all of the bodywork. “It’s a satin pearl white wrap,” he said. “It took me about two weeks to wrap everything – fenders, hood, doors, etc. It was my first time wrapping any vehicle. Each panel took me about a day to complete.”
“The only things I contracted out were gears and welding,” he continued. “So on stuff like the spindles or the brackets for the shocks, I had Outgear Solutions take care of it.”
Dimitri had only enjoyed his finished Tacoma for a few weeks before we reached out to him. In that time, his outdoor adventures took him to Ocotillo Wells, the very place we went to do the feature shoot on his truck. “The first place I brought it out was out here,” he said. “It was a test run and I think the tent was super comfy. It definitely beats sleeping on the ground.”
So what’s on Dimitri’s checklist for future modifications? He admits it’s never-ending. “It’s never actually done,” he said. “There’s always something new or different coming out. I eventually want to replace the tailgate with a swing-out spare tire carrier. Give it a prerunner look. Engine mods would be good, too. Probably a supercharger kit.”
Whether Dimitri stays with the overlanding theme, changes it into a prerunner, or finds a happy medium, the Tacoma is sure to keep performing and catching eyes. Be sure to check out more of his Taco build on his Instagram page, and let us know what trucks, SUVs, Jeeps, or UTVs you’d like us to feature next. Drop down to the comments below and deposit your two cents.