DECKED is all about gettin' after it, and Alex Abbott (@livinfulltilt) knows a thing or two about going full tilt. An electrician by day, he built his Tacoma to be a capable and reliable backcountry escape vehicle and long-term travel camper. Read on for stories from the trails and why a manual transmission (❗) is his favorite part of the vehicle.
First of all, do you use the vehicle for work, for play, or both?
I definitely use the vehicle for both. I’m an electrician, and on-the-fly jobs come up where you have to go help a buddy out or wire a vehicle or wire someone’s new shop/garage/house. I daily drive it for my full-time job, but mainly it was built for play. Weekend warrior.
What were your goals when building out your vehicle?
Long distance travel. I wanted to be able to take the truck anywhere, anytime, and drive across Canada, up and down the East Coast and then also I want to do up and down the West Coast. The idea was to try to reach all the oceans that touch North America. The kind of vehicle I could live out of without staying in hotels, and also travel to mountain peaks...That’s how we got to where we are today!
“ I think anybody that goes into building a vehicle for the first time builds it more than once."
Was the build done over time, or all at once?
I’ve actually built the truck…three times now. Build it up a certain way, find something that I don’t love, tear it back down, rebuild it. Slowly I’ve worked out the kinks I don’t like. Right now it’s got a bedrack and tent on it, kind of the temporary winter camping setup. It definitely takes time, you can’t do it all at once unless money’s not an object or you know exactly what you’re looking for. I think anybody that goes into building a vehicle for the first time builds it more than once.
What were some of the things that weren’t working out?
When I first built the truck, I had a lower-end suspension on it. I stepped up to a 2.5” coilover, but with the amount of driving and the amount of abuse it was taking, we decided to pull those off and put on a full adjustable reservoir kit. I found out I kinda needed some gears to pull around the extra weight, so the stock gearing wasn’t doing it for me. I want to be inside the bed of the truck in my camper when it’s cold or hot or rainy. I travel with two dogs and a fiancee so it’s nice to have a little more privacy that’s not just "outside" all the time. Being able to climb through and go with a full-on camper like AluCab or GoFast or Super Pacific is the end goal of the build.
What was the first mod?
Lights? Lights before lockers they say, it’s definitely a running joke. I wanted the fancy lights, I thought it was cool. I put ditch lights on the truck. Someone stole them off the vehicle and did more damage than the lights were worth. Kinda learned my lesson there! From there I started building it the right way, doing a front bumper, rock sliders, full skids, rear bumper, full suspension, wheels, lockers, and all that stuff.
What’s your approach to cargo management and how do you use the DECKED Drawer System?
I found that when you throw everything in the bed of the truck, it’s hard to get at. Especially when you add things like toppers and campers. You can’t reach all the way in the back. So it’s nice to just pull a drawer out and get all that access to the bed. My fiancee’s also 5’1”, so she can’t reach into the bed of the truck. [With drawers,] she can still access everything from our recovery gear to the camping gear to the dry food. Having the dry, warm storage that's not gonna be full of snow or water makes a big difference. You can put valuables in there that you need all the time.
Are there are any mods done specifically for its job?
The two most important mods that I’ve done:
1. Onboard air. I have an ARB compressor underneath the hood through a custom bracket built by Krave Automotive, it’s sweet. That’s a must-have because you blow a tire, get a flat, I have the ability to change that, blow out air filters.
2. My custom battery setup. Run lights at night, be able to winch heavier, run a fridge full-time. Boy, I can leave my vehicle for a week at a time, fridge running, and it never dies. Those are the must-haves, for me.
Do you have a favorite mod?
I’d say one of my favorite “mods,” which actually came factory from Toyota, is a manual transmission. I think it’s really cool to still drive something in 2023 with a manual trans, they’re kind of a dying breed. Nothing is more fun than sending it down a backroad, getting sideways, and being able to actually control your shift points. Drive the vehicle instead of having the vehicle drive you!
Are there any goal upgrades on the horizon?
The goal for 2024 is gonna be doing some sort of camper, whether it’s a GoFast Camper out of Montana, Super Pacific, or an AluCab. After that I am gonna find a way to build out the interior. Utilize the DECKED system as a flat platform, it raises us a little higher so we can get out of the bed easier, but build it into some type of living space that’s usable full-time. I’d like to be able to drive down to Baja Mexico, do a two-month trip and live strictly out of the vehicle. I’ve got some friends who are actually leaving today to do that. That’s my goal, and keep everything super simple at the same time.
Is there a story from when the vehicle saved the day?
The vehicle has a purpose and always does its job. It gets us out of sticky situations when you have vehicles with trailers sliding off hillsides—and you’ve gotta use a winch to help straighten them—to just being able to get back home safely every trip. When you push it to some of the places we go in Alberta, without the vehicle you wouldn’t be able to get there and home safely. You kinda need every little piece. From the wheels to the tires to the suspension, everything has a purpose.
One time my friend found himself in the woods, one of the trucks broke down. He was probably 2km back down a quad trail, and we actually took 5 of us to go get the other vehicle back. It took 3 trucks, 3 winches, and a bunch of extensions to winch this truck up the icy hill it got caught at the bottom of. Without us it probably wouldn’t have been capable of getting up on its own…or waiting until spring, I guess.
Have there been any mods you regretted afterwards? How did you resolve it?
Sometimes if you cheap out in the wrong areas, you can end up regretting that. Things that save your life, things that hold the vehicle together, you don’t really want to cheap out on. It’s OK to cheap out on lighting, interior mods. You don’t want to cheap out on suspension when wheeling hard, you don’t want a wheel to fall off, you don’t want to cheap out on the maintenance side of things. There’s places to cheap out and other aspects of the build that are more important.
Elka 2.5 DC resi's
Dobinsons 112R leaf springs
Timbren bump stops with U-bolt flip kit
Accutune adjustable upper control arms
Custom fender liners & cab mount chop by Krave Automotive
ARB safari snorkel
3D printed dash mount for controller
C4 Fabrication Hybrid bumper & rock sliders
Smittybilt 10k winch
Factor 55 shackle rope guard & fairlead
Outgear Solutions HC rear bumper
OK eXpedition Full aluminum skids
RCI diff skid
C4 Fabrication Bed Rack
Treeline Outdoors rooftop tent
DECKED Drawer System
Yokohama G003s 295/70/17 tires
SCS Gen5 -38 Wheels
Custom dual battery system behind rear seats
Baja Designs lighting: white LP6 Pros, Amber 30" S8, Amber Squadron Pros, Amber S2 Sports
Dometic 45L fridge
Custom seat delete
Upgraded sound system