For someone like Nalu living in Kauai HI, throwing good aftermarket/replacement parts at your ride is a bit more challenging than most of us have to experience. Remote access + a low population + a high cost of living requires creativity & finesse. Yeah – there’s definitely a lot of siiiiiiick Tacomas roaming the Hawaiian Islands, and lifted small-body trucks are 100% a lifestyle out there. But getting parts shipped around inter-island is kind of a pain in the ass, plus it’s another added expense. So if you want to build something truly hauss out there, you HAVE to get that much more passionate about it. At the same time, you’ve gotta learn to stay patient, flexible, and open-minded. And – it helps to have some trained mechanical/fab/paint skills. Well between Nalu & his brother Golden, they’ got the skillsets covered… they literally have their college degrees in this stuff. And it doesn’t hurt that back in the 80’s, Toyota was building trucks that could outlast the end of days lol.
High mileage ain’t the killer in Hawaii, but the elements are. That salt-air wears on ‘em hard. But Toyota struck on something so right with these 80’s/90’s pickups. Simplicity + durability… that’s the formula. These trucks can handle anything you throw at ‘em. Plus – they were built so practically, that anyone with basic tools and a fridge full of Heine could learn the entire machine in a weekend. Seeing these island-built trucks re-calibrates us to the fact that: If you slow your pace-of-life down just a little damn bit, you really don’t need all the modern beef that a new truck boasts… to get through the mud & sand in life. You don’t need it. There is comfort in simplicity.
Ok so let’s get to the build…
In 1984, Toyota Pickups were carbureted with a straight axles front & rear. In ’85, they went to fuel injection (still straight axle). And for ’86-on, they made the switch to independent front suspension. And while Independent Front Suspension (IFS) makes for better handling at higher speeds on paved roads… it’s not as capable or flexy off-road. So 1984 & 1985 are kind of the sought-after years to have if you can find one. And a lot of people with later models will just swap to a solid front axle if they get serious.
Nalu’s truck is an ’85, but it’s got the 81-84 Toyota 22R carbureted engine with an earlier 20R head for higher compression (since it’s got a smaller chamber) & hot cam.
Nalu’s got Trail Creeper dual transfer cases with 2.28/4.70 reduction. So sick! The two transfer cases give you a ton of low range for churning, climbing, & crawling. Basically – you get a 2wd-hi, 2wd-lo, 4wd-hi, 4wd-lo, and 4wd-lo-lo. We were rolling 5th gear at 6mph! Plus in the cab, you’ve got 3 shifters!
The FRONT axle has been rebuilt & trussed. And the REAR axle is from a later model 89-94 V6 Taco/4Runner. (Note: people will often call the 86-on trucks “IFS trucks” simply because they had Independent Front Suspension. But that can get a little confusing… because you might hear someone say “they put an IFS axle on the rear of their 85”. You’re scratching your head, thinking they put independent front suspension on the BACK of the truck?!?? But it has nothing to do with the actual “independent front suspension”. What it means is: The ISF trucks had a WIDER rear end, so they took that wider rear end, and put it on their older-body truck. Now you’re even more confused huh?)
Nalu upgraded front hubs from a later-model IFS truck, which allowed him to run the later-model, larger brake system.
For the FRONT suspension Nalu did the 3-pack ‘Rears Up Front’ leaf springs from an 89-94 pickup. Which is pretty much just as it sounds… where you take the leaf springs out of the rear of an 89-94 (IFS)… and stick them in the front of your ’85. Nalu mixed those OEM leafs with some All-Pro leafs, for a 7-pack total. In the REAR, he’s using Trail Gear 5in leafs, with the 3rd-to-bottom leaf pulled out. On top of that, he’s got a 2-inch body lift with a custom-made steering shaft extension… and a u-bolt flip-kit all around for that extra ground clearance (and to keep the u-bolt threads away from rocks).
Nalu & Golden triangle’d the positioning of the rear shocks… so that they move inline with the rear axle as it flares over obstacles. And they made the front & rear bumpers. Pretty neat!
The truck has happily taken everything Nalu’s thrown at it – just as Toyota intended. It’s been laid on its side, drug through the mud, wrung-out in the Pacific… and pulled many-a rental Jeeps outta Polihale. It also gets him to work everyday… 40 minutes each way… ironically at Nissan. 40 minutes on Kauai is a big-ass commute! But I guess not toooo crazy now… they’re only rolling about 35mph.
Nalu’s Pickup made its way into the family through his brother, Golden, who had been living in Idaho. When Golden came back home, he brought the Pickup with him. Shortly after, Nalu and Golden traded trucks. With a Pro Comp lift, body work, and primer already on the truck, Nalu wanted to throw more mods at it… but had to do so through a number of unorthodox ways. Using other manufacturer’s parts, like Chevy, replacing front suspension parts with rear suspension parts, or fabricating pieces in house, like the custom tube front stinger… these are all solutions and adaptations to the world Nalu lives in. He works with what’s he’s got. As far as he may be, I feel we we can all relate to that in some way.
Just like Toyota intended it, the ‘85 Toyota has taken everything Nalu’s thrown at it, and more. Nalu casually mentioned the time he flipped it on its side, trained it through a mud pit, and effortlessly crawls over rocks that would crush your daily beater. As you’re reading this, it’s still his daily that takes him to and from work 40 minutes each way. Nalu’s kept it alive for another 6 years and 350,000 miles… and counting. If you askl me, that’s about as Toyota as it gets.
1985 Toyota Pickup Reg Cab Longbed
81-84 22r block
20r head for higher compression (since smaller chamber) – w/ 22r valves and rocker assembly
Dual valve springs and titanium retainers
LCE stage-2 high lift cam
Custom Notched high dome pistons
ARP head studs
OEM Toyota head gasket
Cannon side draft intake manifold
Dual 40mm Mikuni carbs with custom throttle cable bracket & EFI throttle cable
Adjustable cam gear tuned to camshaft card
Bomb Proof motor mounts
Wongie Fab 2.5” piping (Wongie Fab is Nalu’s brother, Golden)
Flowmaster 40 series muffler
LCE flex fan
Marlin crawler 1600 ft/lb clutch kit
LCE spark plug wire kit
GM ignition module mod
LCE breather kit
Optima red top battery
LCE low pressure fuel pump/regulator and gauge
W56 transmission topshift
Trail Creeper dual transfer cases 2.28/4.70 reduction
Triple drilled flanges
Bomb Proof dual trans mounts
Trail Gear crossmember
Wongie Fab long spline front driveshaft
Single piece rear driveshaft with Double Cardan cv
IFS (89-94) rear end with v6 third member
Marlin Crawler ‘full face’ diff cover
4.88 gears in rear with Detroit locker
4.88 gears in front with Lincoln locker
Rebuilt front axle
-w/ backing plate eliminator
-Toyota upper truss
-half face diff cover
SUSPENSION / STEERING / BRAKES
Tacoma front brake swap
IFS (86-94) hubs
IFS steering box with mounting kit
Trail Gear high steer kit with FJ80 tie rod ends & drop pitman arm
Marlin Crawler high steer arms
Bilstein 5125 shocks all around – 14in front/12in rear (‘triangled’ for articulation).
Wongie Fab front shock hoops
U-bolt flip kit all around
4crawler custom 2in body lift with a custom steering shaft extension
3-pack ‘Rears Up Front’ leaf springs from 89-94 pickup, mixed with All-Pro leafs (7-pack total)
Trail Gear 5in rear leaf springs with 3rd-to-bottom leaf pulled
8in BudBuilt shackles all around
Trail Gear creeper joint shackle mount
Wongie Fab stacked front hanger
INTERIOR / EXTERIOR
Wongie Fab front & rear pipe bumpers
Soft Topper rear camper
84-88 wide mirrors
H4 headlights with diamond cut housing
Side marker mod
90’s style single-piece rear window
1.5” Spider Trax spacers all around
SR5 bucket seats with wet Okoles
POR15 complete cab and engine bay
Grant wood-finished steering wheel
LCE triple gauge cluster/iEquus gauges with LED bulbs
Kicker 6×9” and 4” speakers
8in Image Dynamics in bazooka tube
Pb5 Dodge electric blue
All A/C components installed
WHEELS / TIRES
37×13.00×15 Super Swamper boggers on 15×10 steel wheels
35×12.5×15 BFG km2’s on 15×10 Alcoas
Warn 8k winch
VIAIR on-board air kit
7/8” heim joint tie rod ends with 3/4” less drop pitman arm bead-locked steel wheels with 40” Maxxis Trepadors
Complete Sr5 center console & headliner
Marlin Crawler short-shifter
Custom rock sliders (almost complete)
3rz turbo engine swap
Chromoly 30-spline birfields & front axles
ARB front locker high pinion diff
Trail Gear twin sticks
Chevy 63” rear spring swap with double shackle
Front & Rear custom anti axle wrap bars
Text by Jesuel Rivera & Wooley Photos by Billy Grace