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Up Close and Personal With Tacozilla, the Delightful Toyota Truck Camper Conversion

Our resident camper-conversion/ leisure vehicle extraordinaire at autoevolution is the incomparable Elena Gorgan. When I read her first look into Tacozilla, a Tacoma-based camper conversion SEMA project, I was nothing but blown away with what I saw.
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So when I saw the very same truck in the flesh at the 2022 New York Auto Show, the hype was palpable. I'm not even half the master wordsmith that Elena is, but I'll sure as heck give it the old college try. Firstly, it's important to remember that this is just a concept vehicle.

So you better believe I was going to soak it all in while I could before this truck is sent off to a garage to be neglected for several years, only to be pulled out of a shed somewhere and wind up right back on our website as a barn find.

Cynical outlook on the future aside, there's so much wow-factor permeating every crease in Tacozilla's bodywork. The older or more estate among you no doubt remember the iconic Toyota Chinook pickup camper conversions of the late 60s through the mid-80s. These campers are icons of their time, but it's not like people with modern sensibilities can't take advantage of a vehicle of its type.

The DNA of the old Chinook is plain to see in Tacozilla. But it's the heart and soul of a modern Tacoma TRD behind this one-of-a-kind concept whose only sin in this world is not being cost-effective enough to send into production.

With just the Tacoma TRD's 60-inch space behind the Tacoma's rear bed to work with, Tacozilla's design team, led by chief engineer Marty Schwerer and fabricators Brad Vetter and Rich Garver, needed to take every square inch of space into account in order to make a livable camper space feasible.

Powering this one-off Tacoma camper concept is the 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque to work with. It's joined to, surprisingly, a six-speed manual transmission as its gearbox.

Whoever manages to maneuver this truck around a tight parking lot without a torque converter deserves some sort of medal. One can only assume torque converters are just crutches for us lesser car enthusiasts to use on off-road trails without getting stuck.

If you're one of the big-brained stick-shift enthusiasts, you'll be happy to find an extra two inches of ground clearance and General Tire-Grabber X3 all-terrain tires at all four corners. The delicate balancing act between feathering the clutch and throttle after a long day of Overlanding is rewarded by relaxing in what amounts to a studio apartment on four wheels.

Comfortable sleeping accommodations for two people are complemented by a two-burner stove, one per person, and a mini-fridge that has major vibes from the last hotel you stayed in. Safe to say, this fridge won't have moldy nachos in them.

Toyota's design team swears that you can fit as many as four people inside the rear cabin if need be. Although we only hope those four people are really, really good friends. If not, they'll leave the camper your enemy, surely.

We can only assume the twin couches in this camper's "living room" would have to pull double duties as sleeping quarters if this is the case. Still, it beats a roach-infested motor lodge that costs $70 per night and doesn't even include a free breakfast. Plumbing comes in the form of an onboard water reservoir supplying all the fluids needed for the working wet bathroom and sink.

Here in the flesh, lots of the details about the nitty-gritty of this truck, like the TRD exhaust pipe sticking out of the side of the bodywork, come into view in a way it doesn't in photos. Not for nothing, but the diamond design in the custom stitched leather front seats looks like a supremely comfortable place to have a road trip. After seeing what's on offer with this SEMA special, it's all the sadder it's not a production model.

Overall, Toyota trucks were out in force at 2022's New York International Auto Show this year. With so many cool trucks on offer this year, we could only think an in-depth analysis of as many as we can would be a fitting way to show it. So check back soon for more from our coverage of Toyota trucks and so much more from the 2022 NYIAS right here on autoevolution.

 Download attachment: Tacozilla 2022 NYIAS (PDF)

 
 
 
 
 

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