Clifford – The Big Red Truck

We all know that overlanding is not about the vehicles.  It’s about getting out, seeing, doing, and exploring.  BUT, to get out, see, do, and explore we need a reliable ride, so let’s get to it!  Welcome to my truck build!  I’m a few years into it, so I’ll try to catch you up.

For some history:  My previous incarnation was a 2007 2nd Gen Toyota Tundra bought hardly used in 2007.  I added a truck cover, and a supercharger.  I tell you the supercharger was fun, but a lot like driving a rocket.  50,000lbs of thrust and no brakes.  Had very little issue until the very end, but now I understand why Toyota stopped selling them in Canada/Northern US (As I understand but haven’t confirmed in a few years).  Not sure if you can buy one now, but this one ended at about 80,000km after 7 years.


After some wheeling and dealing enter “Clifford the big red truck” as my kids have dubbed him.  2013 Tundra TRD-Offroad package.  Can’t say the red struck me as my favourite (Sorry Tappen), but it was discounted as the 2014’s were coming out, and it was on the lot, so what the heck.

Clifford stock

The goal with Clifford is a stable, family friendly (5 and a darn dog), long distance, reliable, off road capable overlander.  I want this thing to be able to haul when I want, and keep hauling when I run out of road.

Mods done thus far:

Custom leather and heated seats

Line-x spray in box liner

Diamond back truck cover – coated

Tekonsha brake controller

Arb deluxe winch bumper

Warn XRC-10k synth rope winch

2x Arb intensity 9.5″ lights.  One spot and one flood light

Old man emu suspension and 2.5″ lift kit (coil springs, leaf springs, shocks)

Method race wheels 17″ double standard machine street loc

Goodrich285/70r17 gr ko2 33″ (Ugh, now Toyo Open Country ATII Extreme)

Odyssey battery

Bushwacker fender flares (Removed)

Transfer flow fuel tank 174 L Outpost RTT

Volant snorkel
Arb air locker and HO compressor

Winter tires – Toyo WLT1 275 70R18 on stock rims

Cruisin Off road – Sliders

Hiding in the back – Xtreme lift all, Shovel, recovery gear bags, tire chains

Weathertech Floor mats

Ram Phone/ipad mount

First, leather and heated seats.  The TRD Off-road was my trim of choice, but I also wanted the leather & heated seats, so adding the seats was cheaper than going up a trim level.

Clifford seats  – coated.  LOVE this cover.  This is my second cover, the first was aluminum checker plate and eventually tarnished.  The coated is so far a little nicer.  Water resistant-ish, dust proof sort of.  Best of all I can park bikes/ quads / the RTT on top of it.

Clifford and bikes

After a year or so I decided on some more “minor” mods.  First the ARB deluxe bumper and Warn XRC 10k synthetic rope winch.  I travel a lot alone, or with 2 boys with me and needed self recovery.  I went with ARB because I liked the looks, and durability.  Warn XRC because it fit with the bumper.  I decided to slowly change things.  Just to see what the impact each mod had on handling etc.

Arb Bumper no lift

This is with the ARB bumper, stock tires and stock suspension.  Definitely a heavy bumper.  Still a smooth ride, but hanging 400lbs or so out front like that makes the front end wallow fairly significantly.  Hit some rough roads for giggles, and didn’t quite bottom the front end out, but close.  Felt awful heavy.

Next was an old man Emu (OME) suspension.  Moderate 2.5“ lift.

I found the ride much more stiff and truck like.  The stock Tundra rides so smoothly that it’s almost like a car.  The OME setup is stiffer in the back, and front.  All in all I like it better.  Hit the same rough roads for comparison and the most interesting thing is when hitting a drop off like rail road track, or holes.  The front suspension is much quicker to react so I hit the top of the suspension more than the stock set up.

Lift, stock tires

A bumper like this definitely needed some lights.  Added 9.5” ARB Intensity.  One spot light and one flood light.  Spot on the drivers side, flood on the passenger.

Wow.  I think from my house I can blind people across town.  Even in daylight, if I hit the switch I can see the reflection in traffic signs.  I can guarantee that these are the brightest lights in the world!

Heh heh, gotcha there.  I can hear the neck hair on the every guy with a light bar standing up as we speak, and the debate between HID, halogen, LED getting kicked into full gear.  So let me recant.  They are NOT the brightest lights in the world, but I think they’re pretty funky, and definitely the brightest lights on the front of my truck so I’ll keep them.

Tires and wheels next.  I didn’t really want much more than a 33”.  Went with a slightly smaller rim than stock, but an overall larger tire.  Stock was 275/65/r18, and I went with Goodrich 285/70r17 ko2.  In hind sight I went from a 32” to a 33”… I would Like a little bigger, but then I need a different spare, and I don’t think I can fit anything bigger than a 33” in the stock spare location…  Creative spare re-location ideas come to mind, and a bumper with swingout spare is ideal BUT…  It is unlikely that I’ll fit it in my garage after that. A roof rack might be fun, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Wheels are a Method race wheels double standard street Loc.  Not a true bead lock, but I like them.

Until I broke a center cap.  Now I’m thinking to drop them, and paint the center hub.  Personally I like it better this way.

Front method

front method no cap

174L Transfer flow fuel tank, and Odyssey Battery.

Yes.  I replaced a perfectly good fuel tank and Battery for no good reason.  My farmer father is rolling over in his…  Couch.  But the stock battery in Clifford AND the last Tundra was crap.  Pardon my French.  The battery in the old Tundy got so freaking green and fuzzy from leaking that I’d clean it with baking soda 2 or 3 times a year.  It was nasty and drove me batty trying to sort it out.  Within 6 months this one started to do the same.  Screw it.  I went new.  If it’s any consolation I put the old battery in my brothers hovercraft.  Let it leak on his stuff for a while.

And the fuel tank…  I LOVE driving for almost 800km on one tank of fuel where before I would get 400Km if I was lucky.  Awesome upgrade.  I have a connection too.  Turns out my wife’s uncle manages “DEL equipment” in the city.  Of course being family I probably paid 10% more, but I still love it.  The only scary thing is that the tank now hangs about a half an inch or so below the frame…  Makes me nervous in the rocks…  But I believe it’s worth it.

The Roof top Tent.  Kijiji find.  New in box “outpost” model from  All I had to do is pick it up in Calgary.

It’s pretty big for an RTT.  With a sleeping area of 1.9m x 2.4m, plus the annex of 2.1m x 2.1m it fits the 5 of us, and poochy reasonably well.


RTT down

RTT with Annex


I love being off the ground.  I’ve had animals sniff, wander past, and even trip over my tent before.  Not a lot of sleep happens after an animal trips over you at 5am.  In this one the risk of that is diminished greatly.  Setup is a breeze and it’s handy as hell.  Only one drawback.  Getting the darn tent on and off the truck.  At about 150lbs it’s not exactly a throw on and go.

My wife says I have a tent fetish, but I really got a kick out of setting this up.  I mounted the tent to the rails that I use for the truck cover extension, and then built this:


A quick $100 at Princess auto for a hand winch, rope pulley, eye bolts, carabiners, some rope, and some creative configuring and voila.  Roof top tent lift.

RTT Lift

RTT Lifted

ARB air locker installed, and functional. Volant Snorkel in and ready to go for a swim!

2017-04-22 08.12.24

4 Wheel Auto did the heavy lifting for me. Thank goodness. What they expected to be a 2 day job turned into a 4.5 day ordeal. I think I have some tweaking to do on the finishing touches but they did a good job.

ARB HO compressor on board for airing up & down as well.

Switches on the dash in the blank locations

First thing I did was melt an air hose. After they carefully ran it all along the interior of the frame, I still melted a hose. Tsk Tsk. Splice, re-route, shield, and away I go again. Since then it’s been good.

Blacked out badges…  Chrome and I do not get a long.  It tends to tarnish in rough service, like…  Being outside.  Ever.  How annoying.  I think in slightly better climes it’s easier to keep clean, but up here it’s annoyingly smudged any time I turn my back.  From what I’ve heard you can clean it up with elbow grease.  Whatever that is.  😉

So let’s get Plasti-dipping!  First every foray into dipping, in a mad rush before a trip to Moab, UT.  I dipped the rear bumper, the badges, the grill, and a little outline on the hood.

The cosmetic pieces (Badges and hood) did just fine.  The rear bumper did not, so I re-did that with Line-ex box liner after Moab.

2016-05-04 22.26.51

The hood…  I did a bad job of initially.

2016-05-14 17.19.02

So I enlisted some high spirited minion help to peel it off and tried again.

2016-05-14 19.44.59

Second attempt worked much better and has held up very well 2 winters now.

2016-05-15 16.14.37

Sliders, again were a mad rush before heading out to Moab.  I ordered months ahead of time, but custom ain’t fast, and not a lot of people make sliders for a Tundy.  I sourced them from Cruisin Off road out of the Fraser Valley, BC.  LOVE his stuff, and he did an awesome job.

It was so close, that I had to load a child up and drive to Nelson, BC to pick them up.  I had about 4 days leeway and if anything had gone sideways and shipping, I would have hit Moab sliderless.  Minor Drama, but we made it.

2016-05-06 18.38.08

A few modifications since then.  Weathertech floor mats, winter tires, but nothing too crazy.  Moved the rear diff breather and tinkered here & there, but for now what I want to put on Clifford is…  A TON of miles…  And I have been.  🙂

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