Toyota's Tacoma Truck Concept: The Truck Toyota Should Bring Back To The Future

Toyota's Tacoma Truck Concept

Of all the custom vehicles that Toyota took to SEMA last year, the one that seemed to resonate most was a low-key beige Tacoma with a graphics package straight off an 80’s era Toyota Truck. It had simple wheels and tires and yellow smiley shrouded KC running lights mounted on a tubular rollover bar. What it lacked in technology and tricks, it more than made up for in character.

Toyota officially calls it the Tacoma Truck Concept but it’s more often referred to as the BTTF Truck, short for “Back to the Future,” because it recalls the classic 1985 Toyota pickup that Marty McFly drove away at the end of that movie.

Of course, the small trucks that Toyota sold in the 1980s are legendary. That was when small really meant small -- not midsize -- and onboard electronics were the Mattel handheld football game you left on the passenger seat.

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept

Toyota still lives off the goodwill its Reagan-era compact pickups generated. The 1984-88 Toyota Truck and its famed 2.4-liter four-cylinder 22R and 22RE engines have virtually untarnished reputations for reliability and durability, at an inexpensive price.

And it didn’t take much to turn Toyota Trucks into lookers. By adding aftermarket wheels and a light bar, it was quickly turned into something distinctly American. Many young guys who saw “Back to the Future” walked out wanting exactly that for themselves.

Which brings us back to the BTTF Truck. While today’s Tacoma may be almost as big as a first-generation Tundra, it’s the direct descendant of Marty McFly’s pickup. In tribute, Toyota created this one-of-a-kind 4x4x4: four-wheel drive with a four-speed automatic transmission and four-cylinder engine. The closest you can come to this configuration from the factory now is a two-wheel drive PreRunner.

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept

We spent some time with the BTTF at Southern California’s Johnson Valley OHV park, where the ultra extreme King of the Hammers cross-country/rock crawl race is held. It’s a near-perfect place to bring Toyota’s retro truck but, for now, the BTTF remains a very light-duty pickup. Its fabrication came together so quickly last year that Toyota didn’t have time to finish up the last few tweaks required to complete the bullet-proof capabilities it needs to match its looks. It’ll run, but only on dirt trails and flat fire roads.

The ultimate nod back to the Toyota Truck is the BTTF’s solid front axle that replaces the Tacoma’s stock independent front suspension. Hardcore rock crawlers and trail junkies instantly recognize the credibility of an SFA because it provides better wheel travel off-road over obstacles than IFS does. It’s simple, functional and practical, like the rear live-axle setup and leaf springs that continue today on almost every pickup sold in the U.S.

The project team responsible for building the BTTF truck cribbed the front axle from a 1990-97 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80, along with much of the rest of the front running gear plus the rear axle (though it uses leaf springs, not the FJ80's multilink setup). This widened its track a bit too.

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept Interior

Exterior components -- in addition to the paint, wheels and lights -- include a custom grille and strictly business tubular front and rear bumpers.

The BTTF’s inside is retro too. The brown and tan interior features seats with genuine 20-year-old Recaro cloth inserts. The surplus patterns were found in the corner of a Toyota warehouse. There’s also a floor-mounted manual transfer case (also drawn from a Land Cruiser) lever next to the transmission shifter to switch the truck from two-wheel drive to 4-high or 4-low, instead of a modern dash-mounted electric t-case knob.

As much as we want to put the Tacoma Truck Concept through its paces off-road, we wonder: would Toyota actually produce such a truck?

Ford’s gained a lot of recognition lately for creating the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor high-speed desert runner. It features a special purpose-built long-travel suspension that was developed by Fox Racing Shocks. With Toyota’s Tundra struggling to compete in full-size trucks, why not focus the product spotlight on the Tacoma, which dominates sales in the U.S. midsize segment, and create their own off-road halo truck?

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept

Toyota has plans to continue developing the Tacoma but for now they don’t include building a production BTTF.

As cool as it is, there are a couple of things that make building a SFA Tacoma more daunting than the Raptor. Swapping out the IFS for a SFA would almost surely drive weight up while degrading on-road ride and handling. A big reason IFS has taken over the market in most pickups is because it drives better and the setup reduces weight and helps contribute towards better gas mileage – something that’s much more on the minds of truck shoppers than pure off-road capability. We also think the Tacoma’s 159 horsepower 2.7-liter 2TRFE four-cylinder engine is also a little outmatched by the truck’s 3,700 pound curb weight.

Perhaps Toyota could realize the BTTF truck in a future iteration of the Tacoma, by creating an architecture that’s modular enough to accommodate either an IFS or SFA setup. Maybe we’d also see the creation of a more powerful and efficient direct injection four cylinder motor to propel the truck, and maybe its footprint might finally start to shrink a bit instead of growing from generation to generation.

In the meantime, we’ll dream -- not just about Marty McFly’s truck, but also about the Tacoma concept we can’t have either. Back to the future, indeed.

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept

Toyota Tacoma Truck Concept Features:
- Cream Pearl Exterior with retro stripes by Focus on Cars
- Brown interior with Recaro fabric by Fast Ed’s Interiors
- Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 drivetrain conversion: solid front axle, transfer case, rear axle
- Custom tubular bumpers, roll bar
- Custom front grill by Focus on Cars
- Grant’s Kustoms Rear Roll Pan
- KC Daylighter 6” Off Road lights
- Bushwacker Fender Pocket Style Fender Flares
- American Racing AR-23 wheels
- BF Goodrich All Terrain KO tires


AWESOME truck. Too bad they'll probably never build it.

Great concept! Toyota should seriously consider the styling cues of their 80's era trucks. You know, back when Toyotas were good looking. The latest Tundra is hedious, and the Tacoma is not much better. Who styles these things, Hello Kitty?

SWEET!!! Toyota should build this truck! Or add the solid front axle as an option! Im sure it would sell like hot cakes.

Well I am in a BTTF mood, I just got home from seeing the Huey Lewis concert :-). The truck needs to be black. Replace the black grille, mirrors, door handles and rear sports bar with chrome.

Instead of all these gyrations and then shutting down the production line at Fremont, CA, why not just import the Hi-Lux Toyota pick ups sold all over the rest of the Earth?

They can import the diesel model and the gas fuel-injected model parts and make them at the Texas Tundra plant.

What's the BFD?
Here are pictures of the European Spec Toyota Hi Lux.

YES!!! Solid front axle! Please bring that back!!!

And a turbo-diesel engine too! Retain the Tacoma look, as it's much better than the Hilux.

The Ranger and Taco should do this battle. It is a huge UNTAPPED market. Look at the aftermarket. Many buyers don't have the time or background to get into this - much less the extra cash to undo and redo what the manufacturers refuse to do. What fun that would be.

Wow. Look at that 4x4.

It looks pretty nice for a Toyota.

Cool get all the opportunities. So jealous...

"The closest you can come to this configuration from the factory now is a two-wheel drive PreRunner."

Actually, I'm pretty sure the closest you could get is an access cab 4wd four cylinder manual.

Unless they started offering Tacoma PreRunners with automatics?

Similar modified Hiluxes with Petrol and diesel engines are already running around Australia. The vehicles have a reputation for longevity.

@Luigiian: You can't get the 4-cyl with the 4-speed automatic and 4WD, which is one of the features of this truck - it's a 4x4x4.


I know, but you can get closer to a 4 x 4 x 4 than just a manual PreRunner, can't you?

I thought you could get a 4 x 4 manual at least.

With Prerunner, I count one 4. Prerunner is two, and manual is five.

With 4 x 4, I count three fours, four cylinder and 4 x 4.

Isn't four cyl/auto/4wd technically a 4 x 4 x 4 x 4?

@Luigiian: Depends on who you ask! :-)

put a diesel and a 5 speed in that truck right there, and it would be absolutely PERFECT!!!!!!!!!

POS, the back seats look like a 90 very uncomfortable, toyota should give up on trucks. and even cars.

Toyota needs to make a regular cab long bed again , there is a guy dismantling a mobile home across the street from me and he has an very early 80s Toyota pickup with a regular cab long bed ussualy loaded to the gills with debris , you cant do stuff like that with Toyota's anymore .

From my previous post , just stick a regular cab on that extra cab frame and fill in the space with bed and I would be all over that Toyota irrespective of IFS or SFA , Mike Levine should ask why they dont do that .

This is NOT a concept. The new concept is Ford Transit Connect Minivan.

It has as much volumetric cargo capacity as full size pickup.
All over Europe/Asia, such vans and box trucks are used.

Only in US, this type of pickup is used which has very limited volumetric capacity.

Just like SUV's were replaced by CUV's, this type of pickups may soon be replaced by vans/box trucks.

"POS, the back seats look like a 90 very uncomfortable, toyota should give up on trucks. and even cars"

How's about you do a little reading up on the market before making such a ridiculous statement?

Love that truck! I really wish the M's would get back to making good, "small" trucks.

Thanks for sharing this post. 2010 Toyota Tundra is a worlds best heavy duty vehicles. Toughest and reliable material produced on this planet. Tundra and the Hilux are very much similarities. Headlight are very upgraded and five manually adjustable settings. In terms of feature Smaller 4.6 liter V8 engine compared to the older 4.7 liter engine. Toyota Tundra have capacity is around 1424 pounds, maximum capacity of 8300 pounds. The interiors are very simple with comfortable furniture. Good amount of power with high mileage. For more details refer

Your right on. I have been driving the Compact Toys since 83
every year bigger but not much more technology inside.
My 83 was solid my 88 xtr cab was a dream. My 98 drove like a dream but actually had a rattle and wind noise. My 03 has been dependable and has held its value, but has needed much more maint.
It's time for me to buy again and the new Taco is too big. It won't fit on the trails that I hunt and go ATVing on. Now I can leave all the Z71's behind because I can squeeze through the woods and they cant. I dont think the new size will go. I am forced to look at Nissan.
Toyota better not loose sight of what got them here today or they will be the next GM.

Scrap this. Give the people what they really want, and sell the Toyota Hilux featured in the movie District 9 - as is. Nobody will ever talk about that lame BTTF truck again. If you haven't seen the movie - do it today, man. Do it. Do it, and bring it. Amazing truck - great movie.

I love the look and feel of the 84 to 88 Toyota pickup. This new truck like all Toyota trucks is ghey. I own a 2005 Tundra 4wd Double cab. Its looks ghey. The 84 to 88 were manly looking small trucks. I would love to see the same truck made today except it would have todays more powerful I-4 and V6. The bed and frame would have rust proofing so they would last more than 5 years in NY, NJ and other states that salt their roads.
Push button 4wd is ghey. Give me a manual shift. I loved the old hand pull parking brake. The sound it made was soooo cool. Also give me a vinyl interior. Carpeting in a truck sucks. It gets filthy real fast and is hard to clean. Toyota designs their trucks for gheys, metros, and women. The Titan is a great looking truck but it a POS.

I agree,long awaited f0r retro look,either deisel or gas,solid front axle a must !!!,gear driven transfer case,a decent power to weight/ratio,heck they can even trow in an incline meter,how about this build a truck that truely cater to those who want nothing but simplicity/reliability by means of getting rid off those xtrass unnessary electronics gismo n gadget hook ups,just plain o Toyota 4x4 just like the 80s.Just plane n simple,black steel bumper F&R,mannual window,ac/heat,in radio,choise of auto/manual ,keep the cost down,Toyota engineers hear us,listen to us die hard toyota fans,bring back what works during the 80s,I will bet you you will have more Toyota trucks followers to come,the young generations all they ever talk about are 79-85 trucks and how great they are,bring it back Toyota and give something to love allover again,BRING IT BACK!!! OH WHAT A FELLING TOYOTA.

it's about time we should have a diesel tacoma with solid front axle..back in my native country ,coz we're so close to japan,you can see down the roads all sorts of toyota models mostly's new diesels are far advance from yesteryears diesels!
i will never buy a pick-up truck again unless it's a toyota..they are reliable,tough hard working beast!..what we're getting here in canada is all junk!..

Beautiful truck, 4cyl diesel 5speed will pull any trailer uphill, all-day. I am opening my checkbook.... Are you listening Toyota??

Look at the 5th pic down, it is a solid axle, Oh I want that truck!!!!


TOYOTA , you want to hear a giant HURRAH across the world ?.
Build us a TACOMA HYBRID PLUG-ING . Regular cab ,ACSESS CAB and double cab . I buy one as soon it is on my dealer lot .
I owned A T 100, a THUNDRA and now I drive a TACOMA ACSESS CAB 2006 . All three ( excellent ) TRUCKS.
TOYOTA keep up the good work and listen what your customers say.

any real toyota person would buy this truck i like this design a lot its new with a old toyota feel and if its as tough as the old 80's model toyota's then toyota would sell more than they think

I have a mint condition rust free 1985 Toyota Hilux 4x4 with a 22re engine in it and now has 355k miles ! running strong and i wonder when it will die? probably in another 100k miles?

This concept is a great start, but like many have noted the new rigs are getting big. I had an 87' xTra cab for 10 yrs then stripped it and bought an 85 Sr5 4Runner which has been the perfect rig for DD and wheeling. This is a solid axle, 22RE, 5spd, AC, tach, sun roof, and the tilt gauge which is great fun. The interior size is comfortable but allows a sporting/intimate feel for the driver. I have driven in this platform for 300k miles on all types of terrain and find it enjoyable every time I drive. A modern version with 103" wheel base, 80 series hi-pinion front diff with e-locker, fuel efficient desiel or gas (note my 85 window sticker noted 21-24mpg!), manual transmission, and a 4:1 transfer case tucked for improved break over angle, rear e-locker and you have a great rig. If a modern day interpretation of the 4Runner removable top could be married to a pickup bed that would be very sellable. You could pull many of the 4 dr Jeep Rubicon buyers back. Toyota are you hiring? I think you need to re-think the Pro line up and get back to letting the form follow the function of a small, stout, fuel efficient do everything DD/weekend warrior rig for the masses that doesn't cost $30k. You did it once and I still own it!

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