Trucks are much more than carefully assembled kinetic sculptures. They're pieces of puzzles that make up their respective owners' lives. One truck might be its owner's rolling business card. For another, especially a racer, it might be its owner's livelihood. For most of us, our trucks represent freedom, escape, and fun.

Ricky and Cassandra Gallade of Fallbrook, California, own the 2000 Toyota Tacoma on these pages, and it fits firmly into the “freedom, escape, and fun” category. Ricky purchased the Taco from a friend who was in a financial bind and needed some fast cash. The low purchase price left some room for upgrades. Little by little, the Tacoma has taken shape, reaching its current form after four years of incremental upgrades.

Color-matched fiberglass fenders, bedsides, and hood slightly camouflage the serious transformation that's taken place. Jesse Nelson and Dave Dinsmore of JD Fabrication were entrusted with the major metallic surgery. The suspension took shape first, with a JD long-travel kit leading the way and a revamped leaf-sprung rear suspension out back. A bumper-to-bumper rollcage connects all the structural dots, transforming the truck into a single cohesive unit. Care was taken to keep the street-legal status, and all the smog equipment is present, functional, and accounted for. Under the four-pin hood, there's a supercharged 3.4L Toyota V-6. All told, this is a truck that excels in a variety of off-road terrains, and can string dirt sections together by legally driving on the pavement.

Since when is a proud-to-own-it, fun-to-drive-it truck not everything? Despite the impression you might get from reading truck magazines like this one, trucks come and go. They break down, need overhauls, and they'll rust if they sit too long. What trumps a truck? Family.

When we met Ricky and Cassandra, they were very close to the birth of their first child. The smooth ride and rollcage kept Cassandra safe, and Ricky did an admirable job of keeping his right foot in check. A few days after the photo shoot, the Gallade household welcomed a son into their world.

If you're expecting to see a "For Sale" sign on this Tacoma, don't hold your breath. The truck might gather a little dust during the first few months of the young Gallade's life, but rest assured the trio will be in the dirt before long. Both Ricky and Cassandra have spent a lot of time off road and have a big list of trails to show their son as soon as he's ready. Our photo shoot was the last hurrah … for now.


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