A cool overland truck doesn’t have to be expensive. Micah Weber’s 2001 Toyota Tacoma budget build is proof that you don’t need more money than sense to turn a modest off-roader into an impressive rig. Mostly, what you need is to know how to weld and use AutoCAD.
Or, as Weber explained to Expedition Portal, you could start out with a love for Legos. Those other hard skills will follow, and eventually you can buy a first-gen Toyota Tacoma and turn it into this:
Weber reportedly paid $7,500 for the truck in 2019, which is about what I’d expect to pay even for an older Tacoma. He slowly added DIY parts to the truck, like a light bar, skid plates, rocker panels and a bumper.
Weber wanted a “little hotel room” in the back of the truck, so he made one out of aluminum composite boards and plywood. Weber lists the materials that he used to make the camper as the following:
Frame: 3/4inch square tubing 1/16th wall
Pop top base and lid: 1x2 16th wall
Walls: Compbond boards 3mm thick, buy at a sign making shop $80 per sheet 4x8, $190 for the 5x10 sheet for the pop top
Insulation: Owens corning solid foam 1inch think (home depot)
Interior walls: 1/4 ply birch wood $32 per sheet 14.5 pounds per 4x8
After fabrication, the camper was fitted on a steel flatbed that Weber made, too.
Obviously, you’ll need tools (maybe a garage full of them) to build something like this, but I think tracking down the equipment is much better than paying tens of thousands of dollars for a comparable machine. And that’s not even considering that a completed project will have been built to someone else’s specifications in some way.
Also, a lack of experience isn’t really a dealbreaker, which is what I would have thought. Weber explained to Expedition Portal that he actually didn’t have the background for the build before he bought the Tacoma:
“I didn’t know how to weld, I had never used AutoCAD, and I had no experience with metal materials or composites,” Weber says. “Other than modifying my motorcycle, bicycle, and RC car, I’d never made parts for a vehicle prior to owning the truck. The only things I had made were a coffee table, bed frame, a closet organizer, and our kitchen table.” Despite this, the project was ultimately about having fun and nurturing his love for designing, creating, and building. “I grew up building Legos and just love the process of making stuff,” he admits.
Weber started with Legos, graduated to bike mods, then to basic furniture and finally to the Tacoma budget build. I mean, look at these 16-inch “spare” steel wheels:
They’re the perfect expression of Weber’s “overland under budget” idea. They are inexpensive and basic. They don’t look fancy, but they still look good! They’re just functional, which has a style all its own. The rest of this Tacoma build follows suit.