For an expedition of this nature, there are only a few auto manufactures who produce vehicles that are not only reliable enough for such a task, but also have a widespread parts distribution network in case something does need to be replaced. After narrowing our choices down to a few manufacturers, we made the decision that Toyota would be the best fit for The World by Road. We initially approached Toyota with the plan of driving the new FJ Cruiser, but as the needs of the expedition evolved, we realized we would need a pickup in addition to an SUV-type 4x4 based upon the amount of gear and the size of the TWBR crew.
Luckily for us, Denver based Stevinson Toyota saw value in what our expedition and through a partnership with Stevinson, we were set up to have a 2004-2005 Sequoia and a similar year Tundra. Many people ask, "Why the Sequoia as opposed to the much more popular Land Cruiser?" This common question has a very simple answer...the Sequoia and Tundra have the same engine and many of the same parts. With two similar vehicles we only need to bring one set of spare parts for emergency. Since we knew that we needed a truck for increased storage capacity and the security of a fully enclosed metal topper, it only made sense to try to find an SUV that is a similar make and model.
Not long after starting our partnership with Stevinson we were set and ready to go in December 2006, when all of a sudden, the regional Toyota Truck representatives heard about what we were doing. It just so happens that Toyota was in the process of releasing a new, re-designed Tundra for 2007 and although the actual release date was somewhat of a secret, they wanted us to postpone our departure date so that they could outfit us with their new truck. We could not pass up this extraordinary opportunity to test out a new truck in some of the most diverse environments in the world, so we pushed our departure date back a couple of months. We ended up being some of the first people not directly affiliated with Toyota to drive the 2007 Tundra in the U.S. and are definitely the first to drive it anywhere else in the world.
Below are some of the specs and modifications we have made to the trucks, along with some links to photo galleries.
The great part about both of these trucks is that they come stock fairly well equipped for a journey like ours. We did make a few necessary modifications to ensure our success.
Seat Covers Stevinson Toyota Provided us with cloth seat covers for the leather in the Sequoia. Beyond protecting the leather, this makes an easy way to clean the interior of the vehicles that so easily gets dirty while we are on the road.
-Custom Welded Roof Rack by Remuda Manufacturing in Denver, CO
Remuda welded and installed out safari rack on top of the Tundra. It has a steel mesh base so we have plenty of room to get up there and film, sleep, store our gear and more. This is a must for a journey like this. When we have wet gear we strap it here to dry, when we are bored we can sunbathe up here, basically it is one of the sweetest multipurpose mods you can get.
-Warn Hitch Mount Winch This winch can be easily transferred to either vehicle depending on which one needs to be towed when problems arise.
-Four 20L Jerry Cans Sometimes gas is hard to find in other countries so we have to bring extra. Right now we carry four cans. For some of the rest of the journey we will carry as many as eight.
-Snatch Straps These devices are used to tow and yank vehicles out of mud or simply tow a disabled vehicle down the road. They are slightly elastic to give a little extra boost for sticky mud.
-2x 35L Water Jugs Water is also a limited commodity in the desert and many of our routes will take us through some of the harshest driest places. Extra water is a must.
Storage - Outfitted by Thule USA/Australia Thule did their best to get us setup with everything we needed in the last minute crunch after we got our hands on our vehicles. We received most of the pieces and parts that we needed in the USA, but a few things were just not available in our limited time frame. When we picked up the trucks in Australia, Adrian Van Bellen of Thule Australia took over and made sure that we had everything else we could possibly need for the journey.
. Tires/Wheels- Outfitted by Performance Wheel and Tire Generously at the last minute Scott at Performance Tire helped us by outfitting both of the vehicles with new wheels and/or tires. The Tundra was so new that there were no rims available for the new bolt pattern toyota came up with. Even the size of the wheels was a problem, but Scott managed to get us setup and we have had no problems with the tires and wheels he chose for us. Performance is the largest independent wheel and tire retailer in the US and ship nationwide, so if you need wheels or tires check out their website and you will find by far the best deals and best service anywhere in the country, and for that matter, the world.
Winch - Outfitted by Warn After calling Warn only two weeks before our departure, it only half of the day for them to give the okay for a donation of a winch to the project. They shipped the winch to LA for us and generously paid to ship this heavy winch overnight.
Truck Bed Topper - Outfitted by ARE We ordered our topper before even taking possession of the Tundra. At that point the truck had not been released yet. We contacted ARE to make sure that they could get us a topper in time for our departure. Not only did they speed up production, give us the first Tundra DCU they had built, and expedite the shipping, they even sponsored the cost of the DCU for the expedition. This was a huge help as this topper has been such an integral part of the expedition and is a fairly expensive unit. Suburban Toppers in Denver, CO helped us with the install. Between the two of these companies, there is no better way to find the right topper for your truck.