Capsule Review: 1994 Toyota Truck And The Incompetent Insurance Fraudsters

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

I’m no attorney, but I’ve read articles posted anonymously on the Internet by people who claim to be attorneys, and therefore I feel confident that my extensive research regarding the statute of limitations for insurance fraud in certain Midwestern states is correct. It’s time to tell a story of minitrucks and maxipayments, of bumbling crime and hilariously apt punishment…

Much of my youth was spent in the passenger seat of a Toyota pickup. Many of my BMX pals left the sport due to age, injuries, or plain disenchantment and became minitruckers. While there were theoretically many minis on the market, from the Chevrolet S-10 to the GMC S-15, only the Toyota trucks had any real cachet among the hardest of the hardcore.

When I think about what a Toyota truck cost back then, and what you could expect to get out of it, my eyes get a little soggy. Note, by the way, that under no God-damned circumstances will I refer to these vehicles as the “Hilux”. I leave that for people who watch Top Gear. Here in the United States of America, these vehicles were sold simply as the Toyota Truck, except for the one-ton variant, which bore the stirring name of Toyota One Ton. Plain and simple. You can Hilux that right up your you-know-what.

Back to pricing. In 1989, one of my pals, whom we shall call “Jim”, bought a three-year-old, 20,000-mile, standard-bed four-speed for… wait for it… forty-six hundred dollars. I would buy ten of them today at that price. This was a basic vehicle, mind you. It had the so-called “Japanese” bed, the tailgate of which had two latches, one on each side. They worked by squeezing the very flexible sides of the bed together. Here’s a photo of a 1979 to show you what I mean:

They were single-wall beds and could be permanently dented by leaning against them. I found this out when I dented Jim’s truck by leaning against it. Oops.

Jim “tricked out” the truck by filling it full of stereo equipment and dropping it to the ground on “lowering blocks”. The lowering block is the most terrifying piece of engineering I’ve ever seen. It’s a block you put between the axle and the leaf spring. Torsional-slash-cornering loads? Handled with a U-bolt. The front end was lowered by uncranking the torsion rods. Later on, the truck was painted yellow and a set of Fittipaldi “5-star” wheels found their way onto the thing. Among Toyota minitruckers, it was considered awesome.

Jim got a better job and traded in his used Toyota for a new one. He tricked that one out too, with ten grand in upgrades. Then he realized that he hated his new job, so he quit. When the next set of truck and credit-card payments came, he realized that was a bad idea. Enter Clevon.

Clevon lived in the projects north of downtown Columbus. How Jim met him I’ll never know, but I do know that, after hearing Jim’s tale of truck-related woe, Clevon came up with a ready solution. He would “steal” the truck out of Jim’s driveway using a spare set of keys, strip the stereo equipment for sale, then roll it down a hill into a local river.

Jim didn’t want to break the law, but he also didn’t want to have the truck repossessed, so the deal was struck. That night, the truck disappeared. The very next day, the police called Jim.

“Sir, we have found your truck.”

“Oh, really? Is it… damaged beyond repair?” Apparently, it was all Jim could do not to immediately mention water damage. He wasn’t exactly Thomas Crown, if you know what I mean.

“Well, the dashboard has been ripped out, and there isn’t a single thing of value left in it, but once you get the tree out of the suspension, it should fix up.”

“Did you say… tree?” Upon hearing of this, I rode my bicycle twenty miles to Clevon’s apartment to hear the full story. Return with me, dear reader, to a fall night in the early Nineties. Clevon has stripped-out and trashed the truck to the best of his ability. He has positioned himself and the vehicle at the top of a long grass hill. At the bottom of that hill is a river. Now, as the mother of his child waits in her Cavalier with the motor running, Clevon puts the Toyota in neutral and starts running down the hill with the door open, pushing it along, before tripping and falling out of the way. The truck bounces down the hill… and makes a ninety-degree left turn into a tree. A more intrepid fraudster would have figured out a way to get the truck out of the tree and into the water, but Clevon was not such a man. He was in the Cavalier and down the road before the radiator stopped hissing.

“Why didn’t you lock the steering?” I asked.

“Why didn’t your momma put you in a dumpster?” was the response.

“A slavish devotion to middle-class mores.”

The next day, I watched a towing company winch the truck down into Jim’s driveway. His insurance policy entitled him to eighty percent of the lowest possible bid for repairing the vehicle. His stereo equipment and upgrades were not covered. A brief interview with Clevon regarding the return of said stuff, or at least distribution of proceeds from the sale, did not go the way Jim had hoped.

Faced with this situation, our unlucky fraudster did what he had to do. He went and asked for his crummy job back. He fixed the truck himself, using the cheapest available parts. Somehow, he ended up putting the fenders, hood, and grille from a four-wheel-drive Toyota on his two-wheel-drive Toyota. It started a bit of a national trend. To this day, Toyota minitruckers still consider a “4×4 conversion” to be a must-have for any serious “whip”.

Over the course of a decade, Jim revised and rebuilt the Toyota again and again. By the time he was done, it had obtained what John Updike calls “minor fame” in the minitrucking world. The bed went up, down, and around on hydraulic arms. There were three show-quality paintjobs, all different colors, stacked on top of the crappy original collision repaint. The interior was finished to a standard that would shame a Bentley Continental. The engine bay was completely chromed and/or polished. He devoted a room in his new tract home to minitrucking trophies and framed magazine articles.

I stopped by one day to find a 1963 Chevrolet in his garage. Somebody had walked up to him at a truck show and offered serious money. He had taken the serious money and signed the title over on the spot.

“You know,” he said, “I spent ten years of my life thinking about nothing but that truck, devoting my time and effort to it, spending every weekend with it.” There was a pause.

“I’m so glad it’s gone.”

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Oct 21, 2010

    See, this is what I'm talking about. For the love of God, what was wrong with these people? I mean, not only is it a Brougham, it's a Brougham d'Elegance! Behold, gentlemen - the BROUGHAM OF ELEGANCE! But it's French, which is even more elegant! And the upholstery on the left - check that out! That's not sitting; it's spelunking! Men who sit in stunning crushed velour never return! The best part - the vinyl roof isn't just any vinyl. No - it's Elk Grain Vinyl! What kind of grain does an Elk even have? Did they examine Elk and say, "You know what? This Elk's grain just says elegance to me." It's more than elegance - it's eklegance! Brougham d'Elkegance! I think I'm starting to feel ill. If I ever want to go on a diet, I'm going to print that and and put it on the fridge. The bad part is that I remember seeing some that were far worse - some of the seat fabric made that stuff seem understated, and they had the full treatment: Plaid yellow-and-green velour, a bunch of flowers on the seat, an open door with a party on the background, a woman in a gauzy dress looking wistful, and the whole shebang photographed with a lens that had enough vaseline on it to supply fifty 14-year-old boys for a month. Jesus H. Christ.

    • Pnnyj Pnnyj on Oct 21, 2010

      Cadillac was selling the Brougham d'Elegance with those "Contoured Pillow Seats" and the Elk Grain Vinyl roof well into the 1990s. I drove one of them last week and it was fantastic. It was like driving wretched excess itself.

  • Bad Juju Bad Juju on Nov 18, 2010

    /looks at 1990 Toyota Truck moldering in side yard, coolant seeping from timing case. This? All that fuss over this POS?

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗