1998 Toyota Tacoma- Mixed Emotions

When a Build Goes to the Right Home

Phil Gordon
Mar 19, 2018
Photographers: Phil Gordon
While Japan is the birthplace of drifting, a driving technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers while maintaining control, the motorsport arrived in the United States in the mid-’90s and gained tremendous momentum. Fueled by a drag-racing/hot-rod–influenced childhood, from his grandfather to his father and uncles, and even his mother, who has spent time under the hood and on the track, Mitch Varisco was overtaken by the wave of Japanese car culture.
Over the course of his teenage years and into his twenties, Mitch built close to six different drift vehicles and learned the lower the vehicle, the better it performed. At 27 years old, he switched gears, so to speak. After attending a truck show, Mitch decided to drop into the mini-truck scene to once and for all satisfy the urges to be as low as possible. He decided he loved the body-dropped look so much that he began looking for a truck. He was on the hunt for something to lay frame with when he found his first truck: a fullsize Chevy that was quickly traded for a much more suitable Tacoma, which he soon began to customize.
Photo 2/14   |   1998 Toyota Tacoma Mixed Emotions Rear
Mitch balked at the thought of body-dropping the Taco. “The truck was just too clean to start cutting up,” he tells Truckin. “I needed something that was already bodied.” Because he was invested in the Toyota Tacoma look, Mitch began searching for a different one. While looking through social media, he found Thomas Townsend, a custom builder out of Joliet, Illinois, who owns and operates The Paint Asylum, a very reputable paint shop. Thomas was the owner of a ’98 Tacoma that he had poured his heart and soul into. But had family medical issues and needed money. Mitch came along at the right time, offered a generous amount, and took possession of the custom truck.
Photo 3/14   |   1998 Toyota Tacoma Mixed Emotions Engine
Thomas went above and beyond while building his Taco. It was already traditionally body-dropped, everything was shaved, and the doors were given the suicide treatment. The suspension was crafted and installed by Thomas, Brian Brubaker, John Yoakum, Kevin Riffy, and DJ Roberts inside his shop. The rear end was swapped to a pre-Tacoma version to give clearance to tuck the 20-inch wheels when it laid out on the ground. The front end was removed and swapped for a newer ’04 version. The billet grille was customized to sit further back than other Toyotas, and the lower grille was mounted behind the valance instead of the front. A sunroof was removed from a Cavalier and added to the Toyota to give an open feel to the cabin. When it came time to customize the interior, Saturn seats were used to replace the stock Toyota seats.
Photo 4/14   |   1998 Toyota Tacoma Mixed Emotions Interior
Mitch knew the build was flawless and he was very fortunate to be able to come along at the right time to purchase an exceptional build. “He misses the truck quite a bit,” he says in reference to Thomas. “He often says he has mixed emotions about letting it go.” As a professional tattoo artist, Mitch doesn’t have much time to enjoy the Tacoma but shows it when he can with full pride. He wishes to thank all the people involved, starting with Thomas, for building such a perfect mini. A special thanks goes to his girlfriend, Christina, his father, James, and grandmother, Cheryl, for all their support and understanding. It seems there’s only one time when there are zero mixed emotions about the Toyota: award time!
Photo 5/14   |   1998 Toyota Tacoma Mixed Emotions Bed

Inside the Build

Year/Make/Model: ’98 Toyota Tacoma
Owner and City/State: Mitchel Varisco; Lafayette, Louisiana
Club Affiliation: Sunset
Chassis:
Front Suspension: Tubular upper and lower control arms, 2500 Air Lift bags
Rear Suspension: Reverse four-link bag over axle, 2600 Air Lift bags, Viair 480 compressor, Accuair VU4 and Switch Speed all done by Brian Brubaker, Dakota Digital air gauges
Drivetrain:
Engine: 2.4L, K&N cold-air intake, larger injectors, MSD wires
Transmission: Five-speed Toyota
Rearend: Narrowed 1.5 inches
Body/Paint: Traditional body drop; shaved door handles; gas door; antenna; third brake light; Grant Kustoms Cali Combo; frenched-in license plate box; full functional electric sunroof from a Cavalier; suicide doors; 01-04 full front end conversion; custom-made wood drop-in bed by Thomas Townsend, Eric Arrington, Matt Long, and Brian Brubaker; custom-mix Root Beer Pearl Ultra 7000 Sherwin Williams paint; RM Glamour clear; black spray-in bedliner done at The Paint Asylum
Interior: Race Red–painted and smoothed plastic panels, Saturn bucket seats, custom center console, headliner and door panels wrapped in matching red leather, red carpet and custom-matched floor mats, steering wheel, door handles, Accuair control mounts, shift knob and cupholders powdercoated Yankee Gold all done by Kustom Stitch in Knoxville, TN and Advanced Powder Coating
Stereo: Alpine flip-out DVD head unit, Memphis Audio components done by DJ Roberts
Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: 18x8, 20x9; Dropstars 644M, powdercoated Yankee Gold
Tires: 215/35R18, 245/35R20; Dunlop Digi-Tyre
Special Thanks From Owner: Christina Hammen, James Varisco, Cheryl Varisco, Nathan Fielders, Weston McBride, James Soileau, Nick John and Amanda, Jaret JJ Guidry, all of my Sunset Lake Charles family, and especially Thomas Townsend.

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