Automotive

Toyota presents the Tacoma 4x4 camper the world needs immediately

Toyota presents the Tacoma 4x4...
Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
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Toyota taps into its heritage to present something new and awesome, the Tacozilla all-terrain camper truck
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Toyota taps into its heritage to present something new and awesome, the Tacozilla all-terrain camper truck
Toyota angles the sides of the camper to give the vehicle better clearance from rocks, tree branches and other obstacles without squeezing out too much interior space
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Toyota angles the sides of the camper to give the vehicle better clearance from rocks, tree branches and other obstacles without squeezing out too much interior space
A TRD snorkel helps the Tacozilla breathe through the water (or look cool on the floor of SEMA)
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A TRD snorkel helps the Tacozilla breathe through the water (or look cool on the floor of SEMA)
Toyota pairs the automotive and leisure batteries below the hood, saving space in the compact camper for equipment and storage
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Toyota pairs the automotive and leisure batteries below the hood, saving space in the compact camper for equipment and storage
Upgraded TRD suspension and 2-in lift
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Upgraded TRD suspension and 2-in lift
A large Lexan skylight offers natural light and views above
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A large Lexan skylight offers natural light and views above
Toyota goes with General Grabber X3 tires on TRD Pro wheels for grippy off-road capability
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Toyota goes with General Grabber X3 tires on TRD Pro wheels for grippy off-road capability
The angle of the door might look simple enough, but it cost the Tacozilla team over 100 hours of labor to get it to look and work just right – oftentimes, camper manufacturers go with a pairing of lift-up and drop-down doors, and we guess that's why
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The angle of the door might look simple enough, but it cost the Tacozilla team over 100 hours of labor to get it to look and work just right – oftentimes, camper manufacturers go with a pairing of lift-up and drop-down doors, and we guess that's why
The Tacozilla is just a one-off SEMA build, but we're sure we aren't the only ones wishing and hoping for a production model
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The Tacozilla is just a one-off SEMA build, but we're sure we aren't the only ones wishing and hoping for a production model
The re-routed side exhaust tips are another fun element
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The re-routed side exhaust tips are another fun element
A rear ladder provides quick roof access
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A rear ladder provides quick roof access
The driver's cab includes a pass-through to the motorhome
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The driver's cab includes a pass-through to the motorhome
Tacozilla dinette with 3D-printed table
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Tacozilla dinette with 3D-printed table
The Tacozilla only has two cab seats, anyway, so instead of dropping down as part of a second bed, the table doubles as backlit wall art
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The Tacozilla only has two cab seats, anyway, so instead of dropping down as part of a second bed, the table doubles as backlit wall art
Corner kitchen block ready for mealtime
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Corner kitchen block ready for mealtime
Wet bathroom with shower
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Wet bathroom with shower
Under-bench storage — Columbia helped pick out the wall and floor treatments while lending some outdoor gear
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Under-bench storage – Columbia helped pick out the wall and floor treatments while lending some outdoor gear to the project
The Tacozilla includes marine-style teak flooring
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The Tacozilla includes marine-style teak flooring
The main bed is up over the driver cab
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The main bed is up over the driver cab
A small fridge/freezer under the counter keeps food fresh and drinks cold
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A small fridge/freezer under the counter keeps food fresh and drinks cold
Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
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Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
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Toyota reveals the Tacozilla at SEMA 2021
View gallery - 22 images

Digging into its illustrious history, Toyota introduces a spiritual successor to the Toyota camper trucks of the 1970s and 80s. The brand-new Tacozilla marries a rugged Tacoma TRD Sport pickup chassis and a custom-built "micro-house" into an amazing, little 4x4 micro-RV that's precise and nimble on the trail and roomy and livable overnight. It may be but a SEMA one-off, but if there was ever a time the world needed a Toyota-badged camper capable of going "anywhere on this planet," while looking good doing it, that time is now.

Just a few months ago, overland startup TruckHouse introduced its take on a Toyota Sunrader revival, a state-of-the-art Tacoma camper truck with a gorgeous interior. As much as we admire the company's work, a US$325K fully loaded, carbon fiber masterpiece doesn't quite fit the mold of a simple, nostalgic off-road truck camper.

The Tacozilla fits the mold quite nicely, helped right along by its beautifully retro golden-tan/orange/bronze striped paint job and, of course, the fact that Toyota doesn't actually have to create a viable price point for the SEMA one-off, leaving us to imagine strolling into the local Toyota dealership and picking a spartan base model up for little more than a nicely equipped Tacoma pickup.

The Tacozilla isn't inspired so much by the Sunrader but another much-loved Toyota micro-RV from decades' past, the Chinook. According to Tin Can Tourists, Toyota and Chinook partnered on their first small, efficient Hilux pickup-based fiberglass mini-motorhomes in 1973, against the backdrop of a looming US oil crisis. A very far cry from TruckHouse's $325K, the first Toyota-Chinook models retailed for under $5,000, which falls below $31,000 in 2021 money. In fact, advertisements at the time encouraged buyers to "buy an economy car; get a camper free."

Toyota angles the sides of the camper to give the vehicle better clearance from rocks, tree branches and other obstacles without squeezing out too much interior space
Toyota angles the sides of the camper to give the vehicle better clearance from rocks, tree branches and other obstacles without squeezing out too much interior space

Toyota's high, hard-roofed Tacozilla appears to be most closely influenced by the Chinook Newport/Omega that followed the earlier pop-top models. In addition to a similar roof, the Tacozilla shares an angled-sidewall design with the Newport and Omega campers.

Toyota's Tacozilla team started off with a Tacoma TRD Sport Access Cab. The idea was never to simply slide a camper into the bed or bolt one to the bare chassis but to create an off-road mini-RV capable of handling the same type of trails the Tacoma TRD Sport handles. It also had to be cool and flashy enough to spark its own buzz at a show dedicated to outrageous automotive artistry.

Toyota taps into its heritage to present something new and awesome, the Tacozilla all-terrain camper truck
Toyota taps into its heritage to present something new and awesome, the Tacozilla all-terrain camper truck

"Our goal was to build a vehicle that is engineered correctly but also made to look really cool," explains project manager Marty Schwerter, director of operations at Toyota's Motorsports Technical Center. "Being around race cars my whole life, race cars are cool-looking. I want campers to be cool-looking, too.”

After sketching out a design and removing the Tacoma's bed, Schwerter and team began to frame out the camper with square tubing. Life would have been easier without the "cool-looking" ambition, but the team developed a design with rounded edges and multi-planar sidewalls that angle out to a crease visually connected to the lower window edge on the truck cab, just like the Newport.

This angled-wall design proved a particular challenge at the rear-end, where the team put more than 100 hours of labor into creating a single-piece door that fits precisely inside the frame and opens and closes with ease (Chinook sidestepped this problem with a dual-piece split side door).

The angle of the door might look simple enough, but it cost the Tacozilla team over 100 hours of labor to get it to look and work just right – oftentimes, camper manufacturers go with a pairing of lift-up and drop-down doors, and we guess that's why
The angle of the door might look simple enough, but it cost the Tacozilla team over 100 hours of labor to get it to look and work just right – oftentimes, camper manufacturers go with a pairing of lift-up and drop-down doors, and we guess that's why

When it came time to finish the aluminum body, Toyota reached out to Texas-based Complete Customs, which splashed on the magnificent multicolor retro sheen and also helped assemble and appoint the interior. Here, Toyota squeezed in a compact but highly functional floor plan that begins just inside the doorway with a kitchen block and fully enclosed wet bathroom across from each other. The bathroom has a toilet and hot/cold shower, while the kitchen has the familiar combination of stove, sink and fridge/freezer.

Stepping farther inside, the Tacozilla camper invites R&R on a dual-bench dining lounge with a gorgeous 3D-printed table that doubles as backlit wall art. That's a cool, little feature, but it reminds us of the sad reality that this is just a one-off show camper – if it were a product, the table would double as a sleeping surface, not artwork, ensuring a Double Cab Tacozilla could be used as a family camper. Instead, the Tacozilla is a dedicated two-sleeper with multifunctional table art.

The main bed is up over the driver cab
The main bed is up over the driver cab

The Tacozilla bed is up in the alcove, where campers can maintain a view of the wall-mounted TV they were watching in the lounge. If it's a clear night, though, they'll want to flip the TV off and turn their attention to the star show playing out within the 4 x 4-foot (1.2 x 1.2-m) skylight centered on the ceiling.

The Tacozilla team didn't expend too much extra energy overhauling the Tacoma itself, adding a modest list of upgrades like a TRD snorkel, front winch, 2-in suspension lift and TRD billet upper control arms, General Grabber X3 285/70/17 tires, and Rigid auxiliary lighting. Drive power comes from the Tacoma's 278-hp 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed manual, and a dual-battery setup under the hood ensures there's enough power for the vehicle, camper equipment and add-on lighting.

A large Lexan skylight offers natural light and views above
A large Lexan skylight offers natural light and views above

Needless to say, this SEMA one-off won't be following the historical footsteps of the original Toyota Chinooks to Toyota dealers, but we're certain many SEMA show goers and followers are wishing it would. RVing and overlanding were already popular before the pandemic and now that that popularity has risen to feverish heights, RVs of all styles and sizes are coveted commodities. Put an attractive price on a neatly integrated 4x4 camper built on America's favorite overlanding truck and badged with Toyota reliability and watch it backorder for years to come.

For a closer look at the build process and some of the decisions that went into it, check out the four-part Tacozilla series on Toyota USA's YouTube channel. Part 1 is below.

"TacoZilla": SEMA Tacoma Truck Camper Episode 1 | Toyota

Source: Toyota

View gallery - 22 images
7 comments
7 comments
guzmanchinky
This is like a 4x4 van, but way more reliable.
Username
The 70's called, they want their colour scheme back!
FB36
IMHO, these are the ultimate motorhome/RV conditions/properties/features (really/actually/desperately needed by the whole world/humanity!):

1: Electric AWD All-Terrain (mini)bus (w/ hub motors)!
2: A (replaceable/swappable) battery unit (w/ max possible power/capacity/duration) provides power to the vehicle & everything inside!
3: Covered w/ solar panels (on roof & 4 sides) which continuously auto-recharge the battery unit!
4: Flex-fuel/(bio)diesel gas turbine (or Wankel engine) electric generator which continuously auto-recharge the battery unit (as long as kept turned-on)!
5: Fully self-contained micro-home w/ shower & toilet & kitchen & bed & table(s) & chair(s)!
6: The vehicle & everything inside are made of max durable materials: stainless steel, aluminum, carbon-fiber, plastic etc!
7: A water generator (which generates water from moisture of outside air) continuously auto-refills the water tank of the vehicle!
8: Satellite-based internet service!
vince
It uses gas instead of electrons so its an ICE dinosaur and obsolete already.
Jay
T.C. finally replaces his Island Hoppers vanagon. (from Magnum P.I. for the chronologically challenged)
TomLeeM
I think that is really neat. Perhaps for some really off road camping? Perhaps tow a camper or 'toy hauler' for even more fun?
Sandra Giron
I love the colors and as far as gas instead of electric, the studies that have been done about not being able to recycle the batteries and what gets done to the earth to mine cobalt, lithium and nickel in order to produce EV batteries seems far more frightening. I love the idea here but Tacozilla has one flaw for me. Most people who camp or off-road take their pets. Where would my dogs ride safely? Does the table lower so that they could sit more up towards the cab?