THE LITTLE RED PICKUP THAT COULD
Street Trucks|Yota Winter 2021
This Backyard-Bound 1990 Toyota Pickup as Been on an Adventure of a Lifetime
ASHLEY GIORDANO

The first time we saw Little Red, our 1990 Toyota Pickup, the exhaust system grasped for life, and the fenders were transparent from corrosion. The rear bumper, defaced by copper-colored rust, sported a host of stickers affixed by a paddling enthusiast (“Canadian paddlers kick-ass,” read one). The cracked windshield welcomed the incessant rains of the Pacific Northwest inward, where the seats, carpet, and dashboard looked (and smelled) of mildew and mold.

My husband Richard popped open the hood and was intrigued by the 22RE—these engines were highly regarded but were becoming a rarity, even back in 2013. He turned the key in the ignition. The truck fired up immediately. The air reeked of unburned hydrocarbons, but the Pickup’s solid frame and body offered a glimmer of hope. It was apparent that this vehicle had good bones.

As for the ride, Richard tells me that as he toured his hometown of Powell River, British Columbia, the bench-seat springs imprinted into his backside, the speedometer cable squeaked, and the wheel bearing was so loose that it creaked over every bump in the road. Prior to our possession of the truck, a local plumbing company used it for hauling equipment, including 300-pound heat pumps, copper pipe, and scrap metal. By the time we laid eyes on it, the truck’s odometer read 321,251 kilometers and every single vital engine sensor had failed. This was the truck we decided to drive to South America.

Our introduction to Overlanding occurred by way of a Dragoman Overland sticker affixed to the wall of an Istanbul hostel in 2012. Next, we familiarized ourselves with travel blogs such as Ruined Adventures, Home on the Highway, and Lost World Expedition. These folks traveled along the Pan-American Highway, from Alaska to Argentina, in old Toyotas, including 1987 4Runners and a 60-series Land Cruiser. Richard’s fond memories of his reliable 1988 4Runner instilled confidence in trucks of that vintage, and our research indicated that parts availability was decent around the globe. So, we sold our 2000 Chevy Silverado and used the funds to build Little Red.

Liberated from a life of weeds and neglect, our Pickup underwent a rapid transformation. Richard replaced Little Red’s stock suspension with an Old Man Emu system, its signature yellow shocks peeking from beneath the rig. He changed the brakes, freshened up the steering components, including tie-rod ends, ball joints, and idler arm. These updates, along with the installation of a fresh 22RE motor built by Disturbed Industries, took place over several weekends. Richard also built a custom Unistrut roof rack in our apartment building’s underground parking area in Vancouver. We topped the rack with an Mt. Bachelor CVT rooftop tent, which we slept in for the first time on the night of our departure south.

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