Building a desert race truck is, in the grand scheme of things, not very common. I’m talking about an actual race truck. Not a daily driver prerunner that you enjoy building and bombing, but a legitimate approved for taking off from the starting line race truck.
In some regions, it is a bit more common than others. The southwest United States, for example, is the Mecca of desert racing within our borders and it isn’t unheard of to know someone, or someone who is helping someone, build a desert race vehicle. But in smack dab in the middle of Oregon, you might be the lone-racer.
That is exactly one of the things that Todd Walter loves about his truck. When asked what his fondest memory related to his truck was, Todd answered “Seeing the expression on people’s face when I give friends or family a ride. Desert trucks are very few and far between up here in central Oregon.”
Over the last few years, Todd has placed highly in the Best In The Desert (BITD) 7100 class. Second place at the BITD Bluewater Desert Challenge and First place at the Pahrump Nugget 250 in 2016. He also reigned in first place at both 2018 and 2019 Vegas To Reno, then took top honors at 2019’s Mint 400. Most recently he was crowned 7100 Class Champion at the 2019 BITD Mini Truck Challenge.
The high marks are thanks to a consistent drive and dedication. Todd’s path there evolved over time. By day, Todd is a UPS Driver. By night and weekend, however, he runs his business Adrenaline Motorsports Racing LLC (AMR).
“I’ve always been a fabricator/mechanic/carpenter since I was young,” Todd explained. “I’ve always enjoyed the adrenaline rush of going fast and jumping anything with wheels. Did the wheeling thing for years in my Toyota pick-up. It was fun but too slow-paced. I rode and raced dirt bikes for many years but wrecking on a bike is harder the older you get so I decided it would be nice to have a cage around me while racing. I’ve dreamed of racing trucks since about 1996 when I attended my first desert race, the Parker 400. I remember seeing Ivan Stewart go by and was immediately hooked on building a Toyota someday.”
From driving the farm truck as a kid to have his eyes widened by the great Ivan Stewart, Todd didn’t stand a chance.
Now let’s get to the bits you’re really here for, the truck. Dubbed “Tank”, the truck is a 2007 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner Access Cab. “I spent several years looking for a Gen 2 Tacoma Prerunner, “Todd shared. “I wanted one with the 1GR V6, six-speed manual transmission and access cab. I found this one at a dealer in Sacramento CA and borrowed a trailer to go down and get it.”
With a roughly $13,000 initial investment, the game was on. Over the course of the next year and a half and untold man-hours and parts later, he had himself a race truck. Though he does realize that it will never really end. “I don’t think it will ever be finished. There are always new ideas with changes and new technology to make it better and faster.”
“The truck is still running the 2007 stock Toyota 1GR-FE Aluminum block motor that came in it. It had around 125k [miles] when I started. Just running Royal Purple XPR race oil and change every few races. Class rules mandate a stock motor.” The power plant breathes in through a custom-built air intake that moved the filter inside the cab, under the dash. The engine exhales flow through Underdog Racing Development headers to a custom-built 2.25-inch X-pipe exhaust with Borla mufflers.
Bolted to the back of the motor is a GM TH400 Manual Reverse Pattern automatic transmission. The case was custom machined for a bolt-on adapter that allows a Toyota bell housing to be bolted on. Todd designed the adapter himself through AMR. The transmission was also loaded with a custom-designed torque converter by TCS Performance Products and the gears are shifted via a Winters Performance Gate Shifter.
Under the hood, rounding out the various goodies needed for a competitive race vehicle is a Howe Performance Power Steering T/C 1500 Pump with reservoir and cooler. Dual Optima Batteries keep the truck charged and a Ron Davis radiator keeps the engine cool.
Todd’s primary focus on building the suspension was clearance, not height. He wanted to make sure the 35-inch tall BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM3s on 17-inch KMC Enduro Beadlock wheels would have plenty of room to move around. Through his company, AMR, Todd custom-designed the go-fast suspension.
Over the last ten years, Todd has spent the time teaching himself Solidworks, a 3D Computer Aided Drafting software. With this software, he was able to model the pieces for the custom-built control arms, all the bracketry. To make sure everything was tuned properly for zero bump steer and maximum travel, he imported the designs into Adobe Animate, an animation software. In that system, he could lock certain points, like the control arm to frame mount, and move the components around. With all the wins he’s had with the truck, it is easy to see the truck works beautifully.
Both upper and lower control arms and the knuckles are fully custom fabricated pieces. All pivots are done with high-quality heim joints and pivot balls. Handling bump absorption are King Shocks 2.5 Coilovers, 3.0 3-tube Bypasses and 2.0 by 2-inch hydraulic bump stops. Stopping power is provided by 13-inch Wilwood rotors with Wilwood 4-piston calipers.
Overall, the truck sits about 4-inches higher than stock.
Rear Suspension and Differential
The back of the truck rides on Deaver Suspension leaf springs using a Camburg Rear Spring Hanger Kit. To control the quick-moving suspension travel, Todd added a pair of King Shocks 3.5 5-tube Bypass Shocks.
Resting in a spring under design for better axle wrap control is a Camburg Full Floating 9-inch rear end. The custom differential is loaded with 5.67 to 1 ratio gear set from Yukon Gear and Axle and spool that spin 40-spline Currie Enterprises axle shafts through Camburg 2.50 Hubs.
The rear end gets power through a custom 2-piece driveshaft built by Drivelines Incorporated. Todd thought ahead on the driveshaft and designed the system to have a bolted flange at the carrier bearing in the middle of the shaft so that if, more importantly, when because racing is racing, the rear section of the driveshaft was damaged, it could easily be removed and swapped. Also allowing for the truck to only need to carry the more susceptible rear half, saving space and time.
Body and Cage
For necessary tire clearance, Fiberwerx 1-piece front clip and bedsides were custom mounted. The grille shell was modified to fit a GGLighting 30-inch G4 LED Light Bar with green lenses for cutting through dust as night. Headlights and taillights were swapped for LED units and along the roofline, ten GGLighting G3XL LED Light Pods were mounted to a custom-built light bar bracket system.
The main cage was custom built by Todd and his friend Chris Maupin using 2-inch .120 wall DOM tubing. Some 1.75-inch DOM was used for crossbars and triangulation and a few key points utilize 4130 Chromoly steel. Front and rear bumpers were also custom built by Todd and Chris to provide strength and durability.
The interior of the truck was completely stripped of all factory components. Todd set up Sparco Evo 2 seats with Crow Enterprizes 3-inch wide 5-point harnesses. A Fiberwerx dash was used but modified. The dash was cut into three sections, allowing for easy removal of either side as needed for quick access.
Autometer Ultra-Lite gauges provide critical info while a 1.5 to 1 ratio steering quickener joins a Momo steering wheel to the stock Toyota steering shaft. A Rugged Radios 50-watt radio and 660 Intercom provide communications.
When asked what the most stressful part of the 1.5 year build process was, Todd explained it was the wiring. “I’d say the wiring was very time consuming and stressful. I wondered if it would ever start back up after I weeded out all the extra wiring from the stock wire loom. I spent over a month just wiring the truck and making my own wiring harness. I also got rid of all the stock fuse boxes and used circuit breakers for everything.”
Todd’s favorite part of the whole truck is the suspension. “The front suspension turned out really sweet.” Said Todd “The truck drives very nice and handles awesome.” Though, he does have plans over the next few years to step up to class 7200. At that point, he will rework both the front and rear suspensions to have a center mount A-arm system and fully linked rear suspension.
“I would like to give special thanks to my wife Melisa for sticking around while I was pretty much absent for a year and a half and letting me chase my dream.” Said Todd. He continued with more. “My buddy Chris Maupin for all the hours in the shop building the truck. Camburg Racing has been a huge help. I’ve been buying through them for my AMR business for many years and they really are a great company with quality parts and good people to work with. My brother Chad at Rage Graphix for all the decals. Carlos at Perez Collision for throwing down the paint on it. Also to my crew for always helping me improve the truck and maintain it. Larry Hardie, J.D. Richman, Bill Belser, Jon Keyser, Dan Myers, and Josh Fullenwider.”