Toyota's newest Tacoma is a very nice truck. Not only does it have enough power to roast the tires without breaking a sweat, the fit and finish is top-notch. I personally have had a lot of seat time in one of these trucks and was very impressed. The problem with well-built trucks is once the word hits the streets they start flying off the dealer's lot and show up everywhere. One way to stand out from the proverbial crowd is to customize your ride. Sometimes with custom modifications you have to give up something like a smooth ride, and nobody wants to mess up a truck they just dropped a huge amount of coin on. Then there are times when customizing a truck improves what the factory just can't do.
We have an '07 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner in our stable of trucks, and though it is very nice it's still stock and that didn't sit well with us. We decided to lift the truck a bit and chuck on a nice set of wheels and tires. We didn't want to go huge on the lift, but at the same time we didn't want to mess up the nice ride the truck has. Luckily for us, Bilstein makes a replacement front shock that has the ability to lift the truck up to 2.5 inches. The shock from the 5100 line features a few grooves machined in the body that hold a snap ring. Moving the snap ring up on the shock body adds more preload on the factory spring and in turn lifts the front. Not only will we get a lift out of these shocks, we'll also get a smoother ride. Bilstein spent untold hours tweaking and adjusting the valving of these shocks to produce a unit that can handle the rigors of wheeling while still producing a sweet ride.
We could have just installed the shocks and been happy with the ride but it would still look pretty much like every other Taco' out there, so larger and more aggressive wheels and tires will complement the new height. For these, we went with a 17x9.5 Classic II from Mickey Thompson because the wheel not only looks simple and tough, but M/T did a few little things to make putting them on a Tacoma much easier. Tacomas have a pretty thick front caliper, which poses a clearance issue with some aftermarket rims. M/T thickened up the mounting pad of the rim to add the needed clearance. Also, some of the Toyota trucks are equipped with a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS). The system includes special valve stems in the wheels that feature a sensor attached to the back. So if you order wheels that aren't designed to handle these, you'll end up with an annoying idiot light flashing away on your dash, and nobody likes that.
With the wheel selection out of the way, we chose the Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ radial because it's an aggressive-looking tire that will work well on- and off-road. We decided to pick up the LT265/70R17, which is only an inch larger than the stock 265/70R16, because even though we can squeeze in a 33-inch tire with the lift, we'd have to trim some of the fenderwell and we don't want to cut up our truck just yet.
The last thing we'll install is a set of stainless steel tube steps from Smittybilt not only to help us get in, but also to add a little more flash to the truck. Because of the TPMS issue and the spring compressor needed to swap out the front shock, we went to Streetshock in Redondo Beach, California, to have the work done. Ryan and the crew had the job done in a couple of hours and didn't kill us on the labor costs. Check out the following images and see how it all happened.
Our Guinea Pig
Here is the '07 Toyota Tacoma before we touched it. The truck features factory 16-inch alloy wheels with 265/70 BFG tires. The front end sits just shy of 2 inches lower than the rear, giving it that "stinkbug" look. We'll be changing this truck's attitude by installing just a few key components.