Breakfast was served at 7:30. I groggily put french toast and cantaloupe on my plate at the buffet and found a seat at a relatively open table. Chris Collard, executive editor at Overland Journal (incredible adventure travel quarterly mag) and Jeff Halsey from University of Toyota were discussing Chris’ beloved 1982 Land Cruiser. I was clearly sitting at a table of passionate gentlemen.
I was amazed by Jeff’s connection with the product. His role with Toyota is on the training side where he works with dealers and their employees, but his passion is clearly all things automotive. He spoke about his adventures of building cars with his dad and his high school project vehicles. After chatting with a few members of the Toyota team, I found that this was a common theme. All titles and salaries, experience and desk jobs aside, these were car guys. They built things with their hands. They talk motors. They know how to rebuild transmissions or wire motorcycles or connect a trailer to a hitch. These aren’t guys that show up at the office and sign checks and then go home. Cars and trucks and vehicles of any variety is their passion.
You can feel this passion in their work. One thing I took away from the Tundra Preview event in Farmington, PA last week is that the Tundra is a product of car guys. They take the time to do things right. The gears in the transfer case of a Tundra are machined out of solid blocks because that’s the right way to do it. Most trucks use left over scrap metal that is then cast into a gear. Machining these parts out of a solid block takes more time and effort, but that’s how you build things that last. And much to my surprise, I learned that the Toyota Tundra is actually the most American truck on the market. It is designed in Newport Beach, California, engineered in Ann Arbor, Michigan and assembled in San Antonio, Texas. This particular Japanese automaker puts more American parts in it’s trucks than the American companies do.
And then off we went. Through ponds. Through the woods. Through trenches. The Tundra raped and pillaged like Blackbeard on the seven seas. I was captaining a 2014 Tundra SR5 with the TRD package. We got into some pretty obscene side-slope angles where I would have normally turned back, but the stock TRD Tundra ate it up. We had water halfway up the doors and it kept pushing. I towed a 30-foot motor home down a plane runway at 80 miles an hour and barely felt the extra weight. This is what happens when car guys build a truck. I was extremely impressed with the approach angle on the front bumper. It had clearance for all the obstacles we threw at it.
I left with a new appreciation of the most American truck on the market. The wilderness of southwest Pennsylvania was a perfect place to experience the Tundra. I found that I missed the green countryside when I landed at LAX. I love sunsets and palm trees but the backcountry evergreen is pretty nice too.