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1996 Toyota Tacoma - The Lex-Coma

Garret Johnson dared to be different turning his 1996 Toyota Tacoma into the truck that Lexus should have built.

Mike Alexander
Nov 1, 2009
Contributors: John Jackson
Photographers: John Jackson
Photo 2/18   |   OWNER: Garrett JohnsonRIDE: 1996 Toyota TacomaHOMETOWN: Lake Charles, LACLUB: Negative Camber
In the world of minitrucks, this kind of build can either end up as a magazine feature or an epic failure. You know you've been there before. You've walked through a show and spotted something you have never seen before and thought "Wow, why didn't I think of that?"
Of course you've also done the complete opposite and have had those other times when you had to just keep on walking, because like the saying goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say..." well, you know the rest.
Garrett Johnson is one of those guys who wanted to be different, and he took the long road to build this cutting edge Tacoma. This truck actually used to belong to his buddy "Soy Sauce" and they spent a lot of late nights getting it to where Soy could roll around in a clean, 'bagged truck.
The truck was a learning experience for Soy, Garrett, and friends to hone their skills and try building trucks of their own. On one of those late night thrash sessions, a buddy (who will remain nameless) was welding the firewall and caught the truck on fire, burning the majority of the interior and a good portion of the exterior. This determined group of friends would not be deterred, and despite this setback they soon had Soy rolling in a freshly 'bagged Taco. And in the timeless tradition of minitrucks and their owners, Soy cruised it for a couple of years, wrecked it again, and then sold it to another minitrucker.
Garrett watched the truck pass between the local minitruckers at least ten times before finally saying enough is enough. It was time to give this poor truck the chance it deserved. He found the Tacoma sitting in a local junkyard and managed to work out a deal where he would trade a Ranger front end he had lying around for the battered truck.
Garrett hauled the truck over to his father Steve Johnson's shop, Steve-O's Rods & Customs in Lake Charles, Louisiana. With some inspiration from the customs around him, he began to turn the battered truck into something you haven't seen before. What Garrett had in mind was a plan to build the truck that Lexus should have built for all the baller minitruckers out there that enjoy the comforts and nice lines of luxury cars. So Garret collected the parts necessary beginning with Lexus IS 300 headlights and grille shell, and the 4Runner bumper to match it all together in perferct Toyota union. Making such a unique modification look factory is a tough task, but that's exactly what Garrett was after all along. Just enough to set him apart from the rest, while remaining clean. After just over a year of tinkering, Garrett finally debuted the truck at Relaxin on the Bayou, where he was quickly mobbed by fellow truck enthusiasts, and yours truly, which means this truck is definitely one for these pages and the "Wow, why didn't I think of that?" category. By the response Garrett received, he definitely turned out a conversion that will raise the bar for the dare to be different crowd. For more information on the rest of the buildup specs check out the Lowdown.
Photo 9/18   |   1996 Toyota Tacoma fbi Suspensions
The Lowdown
Rolling Attire
Wheels (Front/Rear):
Staggered 19s Tenzo-R wheels with custom color-matched brake covers behind wheels
Tires (Front/Rear): Nankang 235/35/ZR19 and 245/35/ZR19
Chassis Modifications
Suspension Front:
FBI torsion bar brackets and Firestone 2,500-pound 'bags
Suspension Rear: FBI reverse four-link and Firestone 2,600-pound 'bags
Shocks: Toxic gas
Valves: 1/2-inch SMC
Compressors: Two Viair 380s
Frame mods: FBI C-notch
Body Modifications
Wiper cowl, gas door, corner and parking lights, and antenna
Body-dropped: 31/2-inch traditional
Front end: Lexus IS 300 headlights and grille shell, 4Runner bumper, upper and lower billet grilles
Back end: Hand-made combo with Dodge Caravan bumper lip
Taillights: Smoked
Misc.: 4WD fenders, handmade cowl hood, flared bedsides, Lexus tag box, tubbed firewall using stock S-10 bed tubs, sheetmetal trunk with fuel cell and battery, teardrop bed tubs, radius bed corners, color-matched bedliner
Performed by: Steve-O's Rods & Customs
City/state: Lake Charles, Louisiana
custom mixed PPG //GMONEY\\ Green
Performed by: Steve-O's Rods & Customs
Honda Civic
Material: Two-tone leather done by Larry's Upholstery
Dash: Smoothed and painted
Door panels: Wrapped in leather
Center console: Harley Davidson Sportster gas tank with matching Sportster primary chain shifter
Flooring: Bedliner
Misc.: All plastic pieces smoothed and painted, and stripped and painted stock steering wheel
Performed by: Steve-O's Rods & Customs
Photo 10/18   |   1996 Toyota Tacoma tenzo R Wheels
Head unit:
Panasonic touch screen
Mids and highs: Sony components
Performed by: Steve-O's Rods & Customs
AEM cold air
Battery: Kinetik
Performed by: Steve-O's Rods & Customs
Special Thanks by Owner
Crick Daddy for the parts, Brady B. for his eBay account, JJ for "putting the heat to it", and Larry's Upholstery. Also my girlfriend Megan, and all the guys in Negative Camber for the support. And last but definitely not least, my Dad, Steve Johnson, for all the hours spent helping me with the truck -I couldn't have done it without him.


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