Yes, roaches will survive the apocalypse. But so will Toyota trucks, especially rigs like Papa Smurf, born circa 1994, and owned by photographer Devon Barker and his wife Kaydee. We caught up with them to learn more.
Year, Make, Model?
1994 Toyota Pickup
Does the vehicle have a name?
We call him Papa Smurf. Not sure why, as he was named by our buddy whose rig we named “Chewie” – for the Wookie-like noises it makes when you hit the brakes. Apparently our friend wanted to stick with fictional characters, and Papa Smurf is the blue leader when we go wheeling with friends so it stuck.
Just under 11 years. Papa Smurf joined the family as Devon’s first vehicle.
How did you get it?
Despite what they think, 16 year olds aren’t made of money so a new truck was out of the question. Devon searched high and low for a pickup in the right price range and had all but given up when a friend of a friend with a “farm truck” for sale called. Farm truck was pretty accurate. When we got Papa Smurf he was sitting in a field with half the interior missing, full of hay, spare parts and two flat tires.
How did you modify it?
The truck was mostly stock when we got it and 120,000 miles later it was time for an overhaul and some upgrades. We rolled up our sleeves and started with building a new engine, rebuilding the transmission and pulling the stock transfer case in favor of a crawl box. Next came axle rebuilds all the way around and a locker in the rear.
Mechanicals out of the way we turned our attention to livability. Water was priority, so we added 15 gallons of water storage that is purified thanks to an inline UV sterilizer, giving us potable water from any source. We didn’t want to see a whole lot of civilization on our trip so we added a heat exchanger for the occasional shower, ARB fridge to keep the beverages cold, and ran everything using a 300w Kyocera solar panel.
Last but not least came custom armor and bumpers all the way around with extra fuel, high-pressure air, and propane mounted to the rear swing arm. Custom crossmember and skidplates keep us off the rocks and a Wildernest topper gives us some living space to call home.
How many states it visited?
There’s states east of the divide!? ; ) So far, 11 – all the Western states. We’ll be taking him east this summer, though.
If it’s outside, count us in. We try to just go play as often as we can-biking, hiking, climbing, canyoneering, slacklining, fishing, and what we probably get the most strange looks for-aerial dancing. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for our water toys, but we’ve got the gear packed in for the rest of it.
Yes…we said aerial dancing. We use our rigging knowledge from our rope sports to rig Kaydee’s aerial wherever we can. It’s a sort-of side project that has become a huge part of our travels.
Unlike other “quit life and go” rigs, our truck can go anywhere. We considered Sprinter vans and trailers, but the truck won out for its mobility and legendary Toyota reliability. We have literally driven our home to the highest points in states and through some of the gnarliest trails out west.
We also consider our small amount of space a pro for two reasons. First, you really have to downsize and simplify your life to fit, which is one of the reasons that we wanted to take off anyhow. Second, we don’t have trouble parking or fitting where we want to go, whether it’s up to Top of the World in Moab, or downtown Portland. Lastly all our gear fits (barely) and since it’s an old beat-up farm truck, it doesn’t scream “rob us!”
The Wildernest topper was made in 1995, like our truck. When we got the Wildernest it was tired…really tired. It would flex and move on the rougher trails to point we were worried it might crack. We solved this with a total rebuild of the interior supports. However even with our modifications, patches and re-waterproofing, it leaves a bit to be desired when the weather turns nasty. Having a tent up high, there’s nowhere to hide from the wind or rain! Just means that we chase summer, which so far suits us just fine.
Overlandia is the art, science, and romance of driving in the dirt. To see more, visit the Overlandia channel page.