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  • Andy and Nicole's 2017 Quicksand Toyota Tacoma

    by Ryan Horton August 28, 2023 14 min read


    The Truck Brigade Team was fortunate enough to catch up with our friends Andy and Nicole aka @taco_nobodys. Their 3rd Gen Tacoma is one of the best in the game and features a ton of great products from awesome brands. We dig deeper into that build as well as what got them started and where they see themselves going. Enjoy!

    Who Are Andy And Nicole?

    We are Andy & Nicole aka Mr. & Mrs. Nobody of @taco_nobodys. We were both born and raised in San Diego, CA and met in high school. We were best friends for 2 years before finally dating for 13 years and this year we celebrated 8 years of marriage for a total of 21 years together!! After high school we were looking for a change of pace and moved to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Andy worked Ski Patrol in the winter and as a Wildland Firefighter for the Forest Service during the summer. Nicole worked in Finance for the ski area. We lived in Mammoth for 7 years until Andy was offered his dream job as a Firefighter for the city of San Diego, so in 2013 we packed up and moved back home.

    We both grew up camping with our families and tried to continue growing our enjoyment of the outdoors together while we were dating. We took several small trips to our local mountains or up the coast of California. It wasn’t until Andy’s work with the Forest Service that he got a taste for dispersed camping in remote places and it didn’t take too much convincing to get Nicole on board to leave the “comforts” of developed campgrounds behind. Now vehicle based travel, trip planning, and even building the truck for our adventures has become something we both love doing together.

    What Sparked Your Interest In The Industry?

    Before we bought our Tacoma, we had a Volkswagen Golf TDI. It was under the “dieselgate” recall, and we had to get rid of it. Trying to figure out what kind of car to purchase after having just purchased the Golf less than 2 years prior was a task Andy did not want to take on at the time. Having come from a background of water-cooled Volkswagens he figured why not go big and get something that he had always wanted. At that point in time the new MK7 Golf R had come out and was the latest and greatest in the Golf lineup. Andy has had 7 Volkswagens in the past so it was a pretty natural progression to go to an R. We had a deal lined up and the paperwork was all but signed. He had called and talked to the dealer multiple times throughout the day, going back and forth to the bank, then back to the dealer. On one of those calls the dealer told him that another sales rep had sold the R right out from underneath us, even though we had been told the car was pulled off the lot and on hold while we finalized the deal. We had the deal basically set in stone, verbal agreement, paperwork being finalized, and the financing was in the works, but it didn't matter. The car was gone, and we were left high and dry with no clue what to do. Oddly enough we were coordinating this deal while in our Golf traveling on a road trip. One last ride before turning in the car traveling all over the Southwest with the trip highlight being Moab, Utah. When we arrived in Moab with the R deal having already fallen through we decided to just forget it and enjoy the rest of our trip. We would deal with the new car search later when we returned home. We found ourselves bombing around the Utah red dirt roads, blasting the suspension of our poor little Golf before turning it back into VW and having a phenomenal time doing it. Andy specifically remembers standing at Dead Horse Point State Park looking down into Canyonlands National Park, seeing little trucks going around the edge of the next level plateau above the Colorado River. They were all four-wheel drive trucks, primarily Jeeps, but they looked like little matchbox cars and it looked like a blast. Andy said to Nicole, “man I really want to get down there,” but I knew there was no way our little Golf could make it on those roads, but then again neither could a Golf R. When we got home and did some research we both thought “you know what, maybe we should go with a Tacoma.”

    Do You Have Any Notable Previous Builds.

    We’ve had several Volkswagens in the past and made plenty of modifications to them, but nothing to the extent that we’ve done with the Tacoma. Also we’ve never really built anything in the offroad realm prior to the Tacoma. Andy also has a 1972 Porsche 914 that was given to him by his grandfather. He had bought it new off the lot and it was the purchase his grandfather made when he had finally made it. He’s had it since, and it is his pride and joy. Ever since Andy can remember the car has been in his life. Cruising topless with the sun on your face and wind in your hair was amazing when he was a kid. Many fond memories playing in the car, racing, chasing robbers, and flying spaceships even. Other cars leading up to the Tacoma were mainly in the watercooled VW realm with the long list going back with a blue 2012 Golf TDI, blue lagoon 2004.5 Jetta GLI, black 2007 Audi A4 Avant 2.0t, reflex silver 2004 Golf R32, tornado red 2004.5 GLI, black 1997 Gti VR6, and a 1976 stripped and caged Golf race car with a carb’d 1.6l and a 4 speed transmission.

    Tell Us About This Awesome 3rd Gen Tacoma

    We purchased the truck new as a 2017 TRD Off Road 4x4 AT Double Cab Long Bed in Quicksand with the Premium, Tech, and Tow packages, TRD skid & TRD exhaust (both removed).

    The truck was purchased in early 2017 with 1 mile on it. We fully bought it with the intention to build it as an overlander/getaway vehicle. We don't really do or plan to do crazy rock crawling or high speed desert stuff (but have haha), but we seem to be doing more challenging exploration with each new trip. The plan is, and always has been to make the truck more capable then we'll need to ensure it can go just about anywhere in comfort so we can explore cool stuff safely. We were getting tired of traveling and camping out of smaller VW and Audis. Due to the “dieselgate” settlement, we made out pretty well and decided to invest in something more suitable to our travel and daily needs.

    Stage 1

    Our first major purchase for the truck was the Leer 100XR Shell so Andy could have a secure place to haul all of his work gear to and from the fire station. Next was a wheel and tire upgrade, we opted for 5 TRD 4Runner Pro 17” wheels with 265/70/17 all terrains which eventually saved our butts after a little off-road adventure through a burned out section of the Sierra National Forest where we wound up with a good sized gash in rear driver’s side tire. 

    After a rough night sleeping on the ground during a trip to Anza Borrego with some friends who were sporting their brand new roof top tent, we vowed never to sleep like savages again and immediately ordered a CVT Roof Top Tent with all the bells and whistles and a PrinSu 6’ Top Rack to mount it on.

    Also on that trip, even though no rocks or running boards were harmed it made us realize the importance of protecting our new investment and sliders quickly moved to the top of our list. We opted for Fab Zone Armor (@fabZonearmor - find them on IG) sliders and full steel skid plates and have been nothing but pleased with the bombproof build quality. Plus, the sliders make an excellent platform to access the truck's roof storage including Storm IM3200 cases from Pelican filled with recovery gear from Deadman Offroad.


    On our next trip and a bone jarring drive down the washboard road to the RaceTrack Playa in Death Valley National Park we knew it was time to upgrade our suspension. We decided on the ARB/Old Man Emu BP-51 Coilovers and Shocks and the Old Man Emu Dakar Heavy Duty Leaf Pack. They served us well, but we’ve had a bearing failure on the front shock three times now, and the Dakar springs just don’t support the weight of the new camper on the rear end like we had hoped they would, so upgrades are in the works.

    Stage 2

    We kept this platform for about two years until the limitations of the set up became apparent and we decided to upgrade. We lovingly dubbed our original setup “Stage 1” andit was good, really good, but if we were going to be taking long trips regularly in the future we knew we would need to continue to refine the truck.Now we’re on to “Stage 2” (or maybe even 3) with the first and probably most drastic change being a better camper from Vagabond Outdoors.  The Drifter is a wedge style camper that makes setup and take down an absolute breeze and increases the truck's versatility as we can now use the bed as a living room when weather is bad or the temperatures drop.

    We’ve also upgraded lighting from Baja Designs including their Squadron Sports, and Pros, S2 Pros, and an RTL chase light hidden away out back. No longer is it a problem for us to see, or be seen. Future additions hopefully include a 30” bar up front, some reverse and rock lighting. All of our electronics are controlled through a Switch-Pro SP-9100.

    Wheels have now been to fifteen52 Turbomac HD Classics in Carbon Grey wrapped in Toyo Tires Open Country ATIII’s in 285/70/17. The slightly larger ATIII tire gives us more clearance and comfort on trails while not sacrificing MPG and comfort while on the long haul getting there and the motorsport designed and influenced Turbomacs get us there in style.

    We’ve also added armor from C4 Fabrication including their Hybrid Front Bumper with center hoop, and a fully loaded rear single swing High Clearance Bumper.

    Other suspension improvements come from Dirt King Fabrication in the way of their Tubular Upper Control Arms (UCA’s) and their Performance Lower Control Arms (LCA’s), both of which have serviceable ball joints for long life and easy maintenance. We recently replaced the sagging Dakar HD springs with Dobinson Heavy Duty leaf springs and added Archive Garage Hammer Hangers for added support and stability in the rear. Dobinson also provides a bit of fresh air through a snorkelmounted up front.

    All these add-ons really pack on the pounds so we opted to upgrade the front brakes to Remmen Rockies Series rotors and pads. The combination of the aggressive heat resistant pad compound along with the cross drilled and slotted rotors make for an effective fade resistant stopping solution. Plus the Geomet coating ensures that the rotors continue to look good even after thousands of miles.

    To help support the weight of the camper on top of the bed sides we added bed stiffeners from Rago Fabrication, who also supplied our ditch light mount brackets.

    Other notable goodies on the truck include the Mountain Hatch Tailgate Insert,Tactilian Flag magnets mounted on the sides for flare, and Spotter Mirror convex side mirrors for enhanced visibility to the sides of the truck.

    What Were Your Favorite Trips/Memories?

    Our favorite trip thus far was a 26 day adventure through the Pacific Northwest that we took back in September/October of 2018. In the end we drove 4443 miles (I know, we should have driven around the block) through 4 states and explored 19 national forests, 9 national parks, 2 national monuments, and several state parks. Needless to say it was an amazing trip. We met a lot of wonderful people and saw a lot of cool places and things. 

    It was on this trip that it dawned on us - what if we could turn our love of travel and exploring the outdoors into something more? We had been volunteering and fundraising for theSan Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb hosted byFirefighterAid (a non-profit dedicated to supporting first responders and their families in times of crisis) for a number of years prior. After meeting and talking to a countless number of people on our trips, we realized that the truck was a great conversation starter. By combining the two, our truck build and fundraising we hoped to create a new way to support a charity near and dear to our hearts. As a firefighter myself, I have seen first hand the impact our job can have on the health and wellbeing of my fellow firefighters and even their families. 

    What evolved from that initial epiphany was the drive to partner with fellow firefighter/overlanding friends to directly support FirefighterAid. Once ready, we began reaching out to the offroad and overlanding community and received an amazing response. The community was enthusiastic and incredibly supportive of our efforts and in our first year of starting our “Firefighter Fund” we raised over $8,800 for FirefighterAid and their Cancer Awareness Prevention Program (CAPP).

    What Future Upgrades/Trips Do You Have Planned?

    We are always planning upgrades and have a running list of maintenance and wish list items organized by vehicle subgroups and upkeep needs. Our newest mod is the Vagabond Outdoors Drifter wedge camper which has altered the entire way we camp and organize the truck. A lot of our upcoming modifications are based around reconfiguring our gear to suit this new setup, including the addition of a full interior build out in the bed of the truck. Nicole would also love a better way to store and use our water for those much needed showers out on the trail. On-board water tank and pump system perhaps?

    We have tons of trips planned, it’s just a matter of scheduling them into dates. We definitely wanted to get another month long road trip under our belts this year and had been considering either doing a loop through Wyoming, Montana, Canada, and Idaho or out towards New Mexico and Texas when Covid hit. One big trip in the works revolves around our fundraising efforts for FirefighterAid. The idea is to drive across the country, stopping at various firefighter related organizations and National Parks along the way and eventually be present at the 20th anniversary of 9/11/01 at Ground Zero in New York City.

    Closing Remarks

    What we enjoy about the industry are the people. Being part of a community full of like minded and outdoorsy individuals, sharing experiences, knowledge, and new things together. Over the last three years we’ve met many people from all over who are just like us in the sense that they just want to see and experience the outdoors more than modern life usually allows.  With Covid directly affecting all of us, the outdoors and the solace it can provide is more important than ever before.  As fortunate as we have been we now find ourselves wanting to not only continue our support of charitable organization, but now also reach out to all those who find themselves looking outdoors to our national lands by being responsible advocates and sharing the lessons we have learned about sustainable use practices and camping/offroad etiquette.  This way we can be a part of ensuring open and safe access to these amazing lands for generations to come.

    Having a rig that is capable of taking us anywhere we want safely has been amazing. It has allowed us to travel to some beautiful, serene places where we can find solitude and unwind from the stresses of everyday life. It has allowed us the freedom to travel without reservations and the ability to maintain a very loose schedule while on the road. If we want to spend an extra day somewhere, explore something unplanned, or bypass a section of the trip we can, because we predominantly have no prior arrangements to be anywhere at any particular time.

    We are by no means experts, but our experiences have taught us lessons and because of that knowledge and our willingness to share it, Andy was asked to become a moderator on, a website for third generation Tacoma enthusiasts. T3G has become very supportive of our adventures as it is a place where we can gather information and discuss truck build ideas, trip plans, and travel tips. Learning from the successes and stumbles of others is very helpful when overlanding and we invite you to come join us over at

    If we could change one thing it would be to have the ability to travel full time. Fortunately Andy has a great job that he enjoys, but that also means we have obligations to attend to. If we could, we would travel year round with the pup in our truck.

    Overview and Parts List for Andy & Nicole's Build (as of August 2020)

    Platform: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad Double Cab Long Bed






    • Differential Breather Relocation
    • 4 Degree Axle Shims
    • Nitro 5.29 Front & Rear Gears




    • Dashtop multi mount with 2 x 1" Ram ball to short Ram arm - 1 to Hondo Garage Perfect Squeeze phone mount, and 1 to Hondo tablet mount to hold a 10.1" Samsung Galaxy Tablet running Gaia GPS Software
    • Me-So Customs Interior Chrome Delete Kit
    • Me-So Customs Vent Ring Kit
    • TRD Shift Knob
    • Solex Organizers in center console
    • Urpower Pet Seat Cover for rear seats
    • VW mat stays added to passenger factory mat







    Vagabond Outdoors Drifter

    • Driver & Passenger Side Front Runner Gullwing Doors
    • Lower Level Lighting
    • Interior Ceiling Light
    • 12v Power Port & Double USB
    • Prewire for Solar
    • Fan-Tastic Fan
    • L-Track Roof Rails
    • Side Insulation with Paneling
    • Bed Extension x2
    • Strawfoot Handmade Rear Hatch Bug Screen
    • Alu-Cab 270 Shadow Awning




    • Fab Zone Armor DCLB Sliders 90” Tapered, Kickout, Bolt On, with Filler Plates (skateboard griptape across the top)
    • Fab Zone Armor Front, Mid and Rear Skid Plates
    • C4 Fabrication Hybrid Front Bumper
      • Full Height Bullbar
      • Side Tube Gussets
      • Center LED Bar Cutout
    • C4 Fabrication Overland Series High Clearance Rear Bumper System
      • Single Full Length Swing Arm (Driver Side Pivot)
        • Spare Tire Carrier
        • Hi-Lift Horizontal Mount
        • Dual Jerry Can Holder
        • Dropdown Camp Table
        • CB Antenna Mount
      • Side Tubing
      • Factory Rear Camera Relocation Mount
      • Reverse Light Cutouts
      • Parking Sensor Hole Cutouts
      • License Plate Mount


    Suspension/Wheels & Tires

    • ARB Old Man Emu BP-51 Bypass Coilovers and Shocks
    • Dobinsons Rear Leaf Springs (5 + 2 leaves), Polyurethane Leaf Spring Bush Kit
    • Archive Garage Hammer Hangers & greasable Shackle Hangers
    • Wheelers U-Bolt Flip Kit
    • Dirt King Fabrication Ball Joint Upper Control Arms
    • Dirt King Fabrication Ball Joint Performance Lower Control Arms
    • Fab Zone Armor Cab Mount Chop
    • Fab Zone Armor Spindle Gussets
    • Superbumps Front & Rear Bump Stops
    • Fifteen52 Turbomac HD Classics in Carbon Gray 17x8.5" 4.5" backspacing
    • Toyo Tires 285/70/17 Open Country A/T III
    • Remmen Brakes crossed-drilled and slotted rotors with Rockies series pads




    • Baofeng BF-F8 VHF/UHF Radio
    • Cobra SW-75 Handheld CB Radio and Firestik 3' Tunable Tip Antenna
    • TRDMod Rear & Front View Camera Anytime Mod
    • TRDMod Navigation In Motion Override
    • Switch-Pros SP9100 8-Switch Panel Power System on a Pelfreybilt mounting plate with a 10 circuit buss block and fuse panel
      • SDHQ Switch-Pros Power Panel Mount in cab
      • 12v Power to a mounting plate in bed with a dual USB charger, cigarette outlet charger, and LED battery monitor gauge



    • Xenon Depot LED Low and High Beam Headlight Kits
    • Baja Designs Squadron-R Sport LED Pair with Amber, Wide Cornering Lenses as fog lights
    • Baja Designs Squadron Pro LED Pair with Amber, Driving/Combo Lenses and rock covers mounted to Rago Fabrication Ditch Light Brackets
    • Baja Designs S2 Pro, Pair Work/Scene LED
    • Baja Designs RTL
    • Me-So Customs Ultimate Turn Signals




    • Pelican iM3100 Storm Long Case mounted to Prinsu cab rack
      • Smittybilt Receiver Hitch D-Ring with ¾-in Shackle
      • Smittybilt Recovery Strap (30,000 lb)
      • Deadman Offroad Kit - Earth Anchor, 2x (soft) Shackles, & Bodybag
      • ARB Tire Deflator
      • Jaco Flowpro Tire Inflator Gauge
      • Wynnsky Tire Repair Kit
    • X-Bull Recovery Traction Boards
    • Hi-Lift Jack with slider adapter, base, and handle keeper
    • Smittybilt X20 Winch (10,000 lb) with synthetic line and Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead, Rope Guard & FlatLink E Shackle
    • DIY Tire Inflation Kit
    • Shovel, axe, & handsaw
    • First Aid kit complete with trauma and medical gear



    • ARB 50 Quart Fridge with Transit Canvas Bag
    • Partner Steel 22” 2 Burner Cook Partner Propane Stove
    • So-Cal Teardrops Fridge/Stove Combo Slide
    • So-Cal Teardrops Propane Tank Mount
    • 2 Roam Adventure Co.105L Rugged Cases in sand


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