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Andy Aughenbaugh’s Adventure 95′ Tacoma Off-Road Project Truck

The Toyota Tacoma’s appeal stretches across all walks of life, and in some cases it inspires even non-gearheads to wax eloquently about its finer points. This is the case with Andy Aughenbaugh, Outdoors Columnist for the Carroll County Times. Aughenbaugh, who in addition to his regular contributions to the Maryland newspaper is also an avid off-road enthusiast, recently purchased a 1995 Toyota Tacoma X-Cab 4×4 to replace a recently sold Jeep Cherokee as his rock crawler of choice. What makes Andy’s new truck notable is his decision to document its transformation from bone-stock condition into the kind of adventure vehicle he is looking for to help him hunt, fish and just generally explore the wilderness areas of Carroll County and the surrounding states.

Andy's 1995 Tacoma. Photo by A. Aughenbaugh.

Aughenbaugh’s first column about the Tacoma detailed the research he had done in order to decide what modifications he should make to his truck. A fairly long list of what Andy termed “basic build” requirements included aftermarket bumpers, a winch, a new off-road suspension and mud tires, easy-to-wash vinyl floors, better seats and a number of different mounts and racks for the gear that he wanted to take with him on the trail. He also discussed the preventative maintenance that he felt he needed to tackle, as the truck had a decent number of miles on it and was due for a fluid refresh, amongst other things.

The next couple of columns gave us a glimpse at Aughenbaugh’s first few efforts to tick off the items on his build list. First, the Tacoma was outfitted with a pair of home-fabricated mounts to hold both a shovel and a brush axe in the cargo area of the truck – one above each wheel well. Andy used Quick Fish rubber clamps provided a good balance between strength and size. A Highlift jack was also mounted in the truck bed, at the very front, using the same type of clamps.

Aughenbaugh’s second storage management goal for his project Toyota Tacoma was to install a kayak rack. Although several ladder-style designs were available, Andy was concerned that with a suspension lift a tall kayak rack would be too awkward to use. He was also interested in reducing drag and improving fuel mileage by using a rack with as low a profile as possible. Aughenbaugh found his solution through Expedition Portal, which offered a Yakama rack system that could be mounted on top of the Tacoma’s bed rails, keeping whatever he chose to haul down low behind the cabin.

Andy also decided to fabricate a set of extra brackets to give the rack mounts enough clearance so that a soft tonneau cover could be rolled into place beneath them. The brackets, unfortunately, made the Yakama rack too unstable at speed to be considered safe. Instead, the rack slats are easily removed when it’s time to put the cover in place. A potential compromise spacer system is currently under development by Aughenbaugh in order to give him the gap he needs between the rack and the tonneau cover.

We’ll be keeping an eye on Mr. Aughenbaugh’s real-world Tacoma build, and we look forward to seeing just how far he takes his project – both in terms of the modifications he makes to the truck, and the places he visits with it.

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