Taking A ’91 Toyota Pickup On An Off-Road Adventure
Just Do It

I promise you, all you need to have fun off-road is a stock 30-year-old Toyota fitted with some good tires.

I appreciate that this is a very un-Speedhunters approach for me to take, but allow me to explain…


First, we have to address the elephant in the room: speed. My 22R-E-powered 1991 Toyota Pickup Extended Cab certainly is not the epitome of speed. In fact, I don’t think speed was ever a remote consideration for Toyota when designing the four-cylinder version of my truck. Or the V6, for that matter. Zero to 60mph was not timed; it was more of a pass-fail situation.


Then there’s that dirty word I opened this story up with: stock.

To be clear, if you’re just dipping your toes into the off-road hobby, a fully-built truck is not at all necessary. However, if you have an over-landing build kitted out to the nines, more power to you. I’m sure you’ll run circles around my truck and can get out of many sketchy scenarios I wouldn’t even bother getting myself into. I certainly have respect for that, and I do think a well-sorted truck is very cool and allows you more freedom off-road.


Off-roading isn’t a niche we explore much on Speedhunters, but it’s definitely an awesome avenue for automotive bliss. There’s something intrinsically satisfying about rolling through the wilderness, into the mountains, across creek beds, and over rocks. Especially when you’re doing it in a vehicle you can also drive to work on weekdays.

The best part is, you really don’t need much to get started with it.


Several months back, a few friends and ex-colleagues of mine got together for a weekend off the grid.

Our vehicles of choice were simple and not impressive at all, although Cameron’s Lexus GX 470 on Dobinsons suspension might not fit quite so well into that ‘boring’ mold. My other pal Jasper brought his stock third-generation 4Runner, and my buddy Vince’s ‘91 Pickup is nearly identical to mine being a white 4×4 5-speed with air conditioning, except his is a Single Cab model (with a lot less miles on the clock).

Toyotas Forever

We met up in the mountains with another group, who had a much wider variety of trucks spread around the campsite some 100-ish miles north of Lake Tahoe in California. Of course, still no shortage of Toyotas.


One of my favorites was this new diesel-powered Chevrolet Colorado. My American ancestors might call me weird, but I just love smaller trucks.

I was stoked to see a child’s car seat in one of the trucks, too. There’s no doubt that formative memories were made during this particular weekend.


Out on the trails you want something fairly compact and nimble, though. And although speed wasn’t in the design equation for my old truck, reliability certainly was. As is well known, the Hilux-era trucks are relatively indestructible and shockingly capable out of the box, even all of these years later.


If you’re shopping for a truck with horsepower and torque, you aren’t looking at Toyotas from this era. But, if you want to haul a couch to a friend’s place, go snowboarding, get through mud and snow, take a camping trip and do some off-roading, the Hilux has you covered for 400,000 miles of said activities. Probably more if you’re a good owner.


My ‘91 rolled over 200,000 miles (I think that translates to 322 million kilometers) late last year, and I recently bought another daily driver to replace it. Not because the truck had any issues, but just because I wanted something more comfortable and fun for daily use.

An unintended but quite pleasant side effect of this is that every time I fire up the truck now it’s a bit of a special experience. I actually find its shortcomings — namely its painful lack of pep — charming when experienced in smaller doses.

Again, I appreciate that experiencing vehicles as they came from the factory is not a super Speedhunters thing to be talking about, but sometimes the manufacturer simply gets things right. It seems like the ‘90s had a really great hit-rate when it comes to this, and the Toyota trucks from around that era are just so good.


With its dual-range transfer case, the gearing in 2WD works fine on the street and mind-blowingly good when you clunk the other stick over to crawl down a steep, rocky grade off-road. You can pretty much just put it in 4-low, pick a gear and take your hands off all of the controls. The truck will safely make its own way down riding in those short gears. To get up the rough stuff, all my truck required was some decent rubber.


The only thing I did before this trip was have my friends at Trackspec Autosports mount 31×10.50R15 Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires, and I replaced the shocks myself with cheap-ish KYB components. My pickup truck is completely stock, too, down to the 15-inch alloy wheels it was delivered with to its first owner over three decades ago.

If we’re getting nit-picky though, the old SnugTop shell is obviously aftermarket, and I think my pop-up tinted sunroof might be as well. I also cut a memory foam pad to fit in the bed, added some more cushioning under that, and brought a ton of drinking water along with food and other basic supplies. But that’s it.


We aired down our tires just to be more comfortable on the bumpy trails, and I spent hour after hour roaming the fire roads and narrow offshoots that led me deep into the woods. While more ground clearance would have been great in some areas, there was usually a way out or around the worst and tightest spots. If you’re cautious and choose an appropriate campsite and trails, you can easily and safely discover the shortcomings of your truck, if there are any.


I don’t have any photos of the sketchier paths we took — not that anything we did in our stock trucks was really that impressive anyway — as there was nowhere for me to safely stop my truck and get out. Also, I wasn’t about to sacrifice any of my precious 4×4 time behind the wheel to ride shotgun with someone else just so I could snag a few extra shots.


Couple this basic, (very) slow, simple motoring experience with warm sunshine, clear night skies, crisp mornings, good company, fire-cooked meals, no phones and no emails, and it was the perfect recipe for a great respite from the rat race. This trip was a fair bit off the pace of the track days and adrenaline-pumping backroad runs that I’m more accustomed to — in a good way — and is something I need to do a lot more of.


This is exactly what I intend to do, too: use my truck as a means to explore more. I kept telling myself I’ll sell the pickup since picking up that wagon as a daily driver, but I definitely need more weekends like this one before that day comes.

After looking over these photos again, it’s safe to say that ‘for sale’ day is not yet on the horizon anyway.

Trevor Ryan
Instagram: trevornotryan

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200000 miles = 321thousend Km (not 321 Million)


Are you sure it's not 321 billion?


It could be Zillion...


Around 20 years ago, a friend invited some of us to go snow mobiling during late spring, on the glaciers overlooking Whistler. The catch was, we needed to tow a trailer with one snow mobile all the way to where we'd find snow at the top; some 3 hours drive along logging roads, and occasional dry river beds. We did this in a Forester (With a Ford 4WD pickup following behind), and I couldn't help be amazed at how capable the Subaru was on these routes.

Those roads look like the sort of logging roads we explore here in Japan on 4-stroke dirt bikes.
Would be an idea to firmly strap a bike or a few on some of those pickup beds. Huge fun!


That's awesome! A few dirt bikes ripped by our campsite which looked incredibly fun


I've never been super into the whole off roading thing, but on a whim i recently bought a manual 4wd convertible Suzuki Vitara (Geo Tracker, for the Yanks), and i cant wait to do the essential budget mods it needs and start taking it way out back


Thanks for the off-road feature. You should point out that although it does provide some extra bit of comfort on a rocky trail, the primary reason off-roaders air down their tires is for increased traction. On rocks, it allows the tires to conform better to the rocks and get more rubber in place for gripping. And on snow and sand, the wider footprint provides more flotation to keep you on top of the terrain and moving.

The slight compromise in ground clearance is almost always worth the other benefits (including the increaed comfort).


Yep for sure! Our trails were pretty basic though and didn't really require airing down, so it was just a comfort thing in this case. Not all of us bothered.


What a great Story! I really like this old Offroad Cars and the square Design. I own a Wrangler JK and would like to go on more Offroad-trips but here in Germany there are really strict Rules about driving in a Forest with your Car. Its usually forbidden to do this.


Loved this story. Sometimes getting out of the city is just what the doctor ordered. Love the pics of the doggies too.

I just took out my Nomad for some fresh air last week.

Eliezer Messias

A minha 1993 direto do Brasil...


In this day and age where our childhood cars are becoming a collectors item and garage queens, it's so refreshing to see an old Toyota pickup being used as intended
I guess it is inevitable that it is going to be a classic for how stupid simple and back to basics this truck is however that is what we love about Toyota trucks in general I never cared for the value anyways I just want to enjoy them till I die


"But, if you want to haul a couch to a friend’s place, go snowboarding, get through mud and snow, take a camping trip and do some off-roading, the Hilux has you covered for 400,000 miles of said activities. Probably more if you’re a good owner."

That´s the spirit! Man, this article is amazing. Thank you so much, it ticks all of my boxes. For the past 20 years, I was in love with Toyota sportscars and I still am....well, until my friends bought 90s Hilux Surfs from Japan. For over a year now, I also own a ´97 Hilux Surf (3rd Gen 4Runner in the US) and man, I´m absolutely in love with it. It caught my heart in the storm. I drive it on a daily basis at the moment and I never ever had a daily driver, which I enjoyed that much after 1 year. I still want to drive the extra route, every time I get into the drivers seat. It´s just slightly lifted with better tires and somehow, this car manages to do everything I want, from hauling stuff to go offroading or to the beach. This car will stay with me as long as possible, that´s for sure. :)


Epic shots, Trevor!!



"My American ancestors might call me weird, but I just love smaller trucks."

I agree 100%. I have never liked big trucks unless it was something that wasn't meant to be used on the street(Monster Trucks). Other than that I have never seen the point of owning the big full size trucks they sell, especially now. You can't park them anywhere. They waste more fuel than they are worth driving. They aren't as good off road as a smaller truck and they don't look as good as a smaller truck.

Even short course off road racing and desert racing the smaller trucks always look better and tougher. Of course most of those trucks also don't have 4 doors which is the other thing I hate about the truck market. You can't find a good 2 door or cab.5 small truck anymore! I think this is why some people buy Crosstreks and smaller CUV's. Either way, Small capable trucks are the best. Toyota made some of the best versions of those. I think the only thing I would take over a small truck for off roading and exploring/camping is the new Jimny. But we don't get to have cool stuff like that in the States.

Great story by the way!


I’ve always gravitated to smaller trucks myself as well. Older rangers, OLDER older F150s, and even Mavericks. Miata trucks, if you will


Awesome article, awesome pictures.
I'd rather have articles like this on SH, than showcar/stancecar ones. All day long.


Makes me want to consider getting a Suzuki Jimny instead of a GTI as my next car, lol. Looks super cozy man


I’m in this boat too. Love speedhunters but my family of 3 kids and wife needed something bigger for the safari, camping and hiking trips in South Africa. I got a 03 Prado 120. Petrol guzzler but lvoely for what it offers us. Also I don’t ever get issues for my impractical project cars anymore cos this can always be used.


We need more road trips on Speedhunters, this is also car culture.