What is Overlanding? With Craig Taguchi, Mark Hawley and Josh Burns | Toyota Untold Podcast #15

What is Overlanding? With Craig Taguchi, Mark Hawley and Josh Burns | Toyota Untold Podcast #15

Kelsey Soule: Hey, everyone. So, before we get into this really cool
episode about overlanding, we just need to read you a couple disclaimers. I know, I know. But believe me, they’re for your own good. So, modifications on cars may void
warranty, impact performance and safety, and may not be street legal. Offroading is inherently dangerous. Abusive use may result in
bodily harm or vehicle damage. Wear your seatbelt at all times and do
not allow passengers in the cargo area. Okay. So, now, that we got through the
heavy stuff, let’s have some fun. Tyler Litchenberger: Hey,
everyone, it’s Tyler. Kelsey Soule: And this is Kelsey. In today’s episode, we’re going to
be talking all about overlanding. So, full disclosure, when we recorded
these episodes before, I did not know anything about overlanding. Tyler Litchenberger: Do you now? Kelsey Soule: Yes. Tyler Litchenberger: Okay. Kelsey Soule: I feel—I feel confident that
I could explain it a little bit, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to have our experts help us- Tyler Litchenberger: Thank goodness. Kelsey Soule: … explain what it is. So, I talked to our guests before they
went on this very popular overlanding event called the FJ Summit. So, later in this episode, you’re going to
get to hear some interviews straight from that event, from some
people who are there. Tyler Litchenberger: I, unfortunately, was
on vacation during these interviews, but I learned a lot just by
listening to you talk to them. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. And I never go on vacation. So, first up, I talked to Josh Burns from
Toyota’s Product Communications team and who is also an overlanding aficionado. Josh Burns: Thanks for having me. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Okay. So, I’m going to consider
you my overlanding expert. Josh Burns: Great. Kelsey Soule: What is overlanding? Josh Burns: I’m going to give you a really
bad analogy here, but do you remember- Kelsey Soule: Okay, okay. Let’s see if you can break down. Josh Burns: Do you remember when
alternative became a thing in music, and then like everything was alternative? Kelsey Soule: All right. I’m on board. Josh Burns: It’s a wide net that you cast- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … on a lot
of different music, right? Like- Kelsey Soule: Got it. Josh Burns: … in some ways, that’s
kind of what overlanding has become. I think- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … for offroading is people
just associate you’re going offroading and that’s overlanding. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: There’s kind of a
more specific definition, I guess. I think the root of a lot of it is
really kind of more from Australia. We have a lot of Australian
offroad, like influence that- Kelsey Soule: Interesting. Josh Burns: Yeah. And my understanding is it really
kind of came out of ranching. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: And the ranchers would have
to, you know, really move their animals great distances. And so, they were on this,
you know, longer trip. They’d have to be self-sufficient. They’d have to be able to, kind of, pack
everything that they needed with them. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: That’s kind of what
overlanding is for offroading. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: It’s less about
going and conquering a mountain- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … or doing this super gnarly
rock climb, and really more about kind of the journey from point A to point B. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: And then, being
self-sufficient along the way. Kelsey Soule: Okay. So, it’s—like what you’re saying is it’s
less, “Oh, there’s one mountain that I want to see if I can get from the bottom
to the top,” and more of a continuous journey doing those things along the way,
like sleeping, functioning in the vehicle. Josh Burns: Yeah. Sometimes, you do have more challenging
terrain and you kind of have to be ready for everything. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: You know, you may be with
another vehicle or two, so you need to be able to get each other out of
trouble with a recovery gear. A lot of the same things you’d
use in other forms of offroading- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … but it’s really a level
of self-sufficiency and more of that adventure spirit. And I think that’s why there’s a little
more mass appeal right now because- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … it’s more family-friendly. You’re not necessarily worried about, you
know, breaking a bunch of parts in the vehicle- Kelsey Soule: Right. Josh Burns: … because you’re not
trying to scale a mountain necessarily. Kelsey Soule: Okay. So, you kind of have to have
some sort of background, right? Josh Burns: Yeah. I think—I think offroading for a lot
of people can be kind of intimidating- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … because it—it does
require a level of preparedness. And I think overlanding, like legit
overlanding, is kind of next level Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … preparedness. Kelsey Soule: Okay. If you were just an average person that
had an offroad vehicle, you’re—and a friend, and you’re ready,
how do you find where to go? Josh Burns: It’s a good question. Yeah, there’s—I mean, there’s
a lot of resources online. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: You know, a lot of offroad
trails throughout the nation are old mining trails or, you know, they
had a—they lived a different life. And—and so, now, sometimes, this is—you
know, this is the second life of those trails. It could be remote mining, gold mining,
or something up in the mountains. Moab, Utah is one of the most famous
offroading meccas in many ways. It was a lot of uranium mining trails
that, actually, that was the basis for that whole town really. Kelsey Soule: That seems sketchy. Josh Burns: Yeah. Yeah. If—if you were to travel there, you’d
see they’re actually doing this pretty extensive and probably pretty
costly cleanup of all the- Kelsey Soule: Oh, yeah. Josh Burns: … all the tillings from when
they were like enriching their uranium, and mining, and everything. It’s pretty crazy. Kelsey Soule: So, tell us more about this
event, and then Toyota’s involvement in the event, because it’s actually the
enthusiasts who are just so jazzed about overlanding in their Toyota vehicles- Josh Burns: Yeah. Kelsey Soule: … but
they put it on, right? Josh Burns: Well, so, I think that as this
whole, like, segment has really blossomed and grown, Toyota has kind of
taken a pretty good foothold in it. I think just because of
what our products are. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: The
reliability, the durability. There’s an old Toyota phrase internally,
you know, Toyota will get you there and back. There’s a lot of truth to the product we
make, and how that relates to kind of that adventurous lifestyle, and being
able to depend on your vehicle. The event you’re talking
about is FJ Summit. It’s in Ouray, Colorado. And it really is kind of a—it began as
really a gathering of offroad enthusiasts, specifically for the FJ Cruiser. That vehicles no longer
produced, but a lot of people- Kelsey Soule: Still loved. Josh Burns: … still own them. Funny enough, I think last year, it was
the first time that there were more than 50% of the vehicles that were not FJs. Kelsey Soule: Oh okay. Josh Burns: So, Tacomas, 4Runners. So, the event itself really is just
a Toyota offroad enthusiasts’ event. You know, there’s
promoters that put it on. So, it really is just an enthusiast
event that is based around offroading. They do organized trail runs. They, you know, have group dinners. Our part in it is, really, we’ve kind of
helped provide a small level of support. But really, that—that event grew
just out of enthusiasts that love- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … our product. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, okay. So, then, when you’re at the event, and
you’ve got the 4Runners, Tacomas, then what? Josh Burns: It’s a combination of things. I think that, first of
all, Ouray is stunning. I think the event really is
people who enjoy the outdoors- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … and they
enjoy their vehicles, right? Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: So, it’s kind of a celebration
of—of those things coming together. So, every day, there’s
different trail runs. I’ll give you a little stat. Seth from FJ Summit, the gentleman who
runs it, he’s given me the play-by-play the last couple of years. They have so many people
that apply for spots on this. Kelsey Soule: Oh, I didn’t
know you had to apply. Josh Burns: You have to apply. Kelsey Soule: Oh, wow! Josh Burns: They sold out, I want
to say, in 22 seconds this year. Kelsey Soule: How is that possible? Josh Burns: There’s only
so many spaces in Ouray. It’s a smaller town. There’s only so many hotels. Kelsey Soule: Oh, right? Yeah. Josh Burns: And so—and then, when it comes
to the event itself, I mean, this kind of leads into what you’re asking, they
only have so many spots for trail runs. So, there’ll be multiple
trail runs each day. 10 or 12 vehicles will be on each one. You’ll have a trail leader. He’ll have recovery gear, safety gear,
and he’ll kind of help guide you through a particular trail. So, it—it gives people the
opportunity to hang out, socialize- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … kind of enjoy what
they like doing with their vehicle. But it also gives a little bit more
direction on, “Hey, if you want to go check out this pretty famous trail,”
they help kind of guide you through it, I guess, in a way. So, it’s just kind of a gathering of- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Josh Burns: … fun
offroading in that regard. And so- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … honestly, really- Kelsey Soule: No, that’s awesome. Josh Burns: … it’s really cool. Tyler Litchenberger: Holy cow! FJ Summit was sold out in 22 seconds. I’m going to have to set
an alert for next year. Kelsey Soule: I know. I feel like it’s sold out quicker than a
Beyonce concert, but I don’t want anyone to come for me on that. Tyler Litchenberger: All right. Are we going next year? Kelsey Soule: Yeah, of course. Tyler Litchenberger: All right. Boss’s boss’s boss, do you hear that? We’re going next year. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, that’s right. Tyler Litchenberger: All right. So, I’m thinking about it, especially
since this next guest says Lexus vehicles are great for overlanding. And I, as you know, Kelsey,
I’m a very proud GX owner. Kelsey Soule: I’m aware, yeah. So, Josh told us all about overlanding and
how Toyota has made a name for itself in this community for its reliability and
durability, but you can’t forget about the luxury vehicles. We are here with Craig Taguchi, who is the
Senior Manager of Lexis Communications and also an offroad enthusiast. Welcome to the podcast, Craig. Craig Taguchi: Thank you for having me. Kelsey Soule: Awesome. So, today, we are talking about
overlanding, offroad, all things offroad vehicles as far as Toyota and Lexus goes. And I will say I was so interested to
learn that there is an entire offroad community when it comes to Lexus because,
obviously, when people think of Lexus SUVs, they think of like
the ultimate in luxury. And, you know, you go on paved
roads, maybe interstates, but like nothing—nothing further than that. So, I’m so excited to hear about that
today and what you guys are doing in Lexus to further that community. Craig Taguchi: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you—you hit
it right on the nail. It’s just, basically, there’s not much
awareness around the offroad capability of the Lexus GX 460 and the 570, which are
the current vehicles that we offer today. You know, often—oftentimes,
you do see them at the mall- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … or
at the grocery store. And people are enjoying them. They’re incredibly comfortable. The craftsmanship is top notch. They’re ultra-luxurious. But—but when you take them into
the dirt, really, they shine. That’s where they’re—they’re
offroad-capable. And we’re just really proud of that. Kelsey Soule: So, can you tell us a little
bit more about the evolution of GX at the FJ Summit and why you guys are there? Craig Taguchi: Sure. So, FJ Summit did start off primarily
as an event for FJ Cruiser owners. But as time went on, and there were more
and more owners of 4Runners and Tacomas that started to come, one of the largest
increases that the FJ Summit organizers found was this GX community. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Craig Taguchi: And so, what started off
as maybe a handful of GX owners that were attending FJ Summit, there is, now, for
example, this year, 35 to 40 GX vehicles that will be attending this event. Kelsey Soule: Wow! Craig Taguchi: So, it just goes to show
you the popularity that GXOR really is taking off. And people have found the offroad
capability and the, sort of, secret hidden in the GX platform. So, we’re really excited to go out there,
and do a couple of trail runs with this enthusiast group, make some friends- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Josh Burns: … and let
them check out our rig. And, hopefully, we can jump in there,
and we can all have some fun together. Kelsey Soule: That’s awesome, yeah,
because with the GX, you get the offroad capability, but it’s still luxury. So, I mean, like why go out and—out in
the middle of nowhere without like a nice interior? I mean, you could have both. Like get both. Craig Taguchi: Get both. Get the best of both worlds. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: I think a lot of people
will tell you that, especially like 4Runner owners or Tacoma owners, you
know, there’s certain things about the GX- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … that are
just clutch when it comes- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … to being on a week-long
expedition through Utah or Arizona. It’s like when it gets really hot, it’s
nice to turn up those ventilated seats or, you know, when it gets cold, it’s nice
to have that heated steering wheel. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: And if you got kids, rear
seat entertainment, you know, throw it on. It’s just- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: It’s got a—it’s
just icing on the cake, really. Kelsey Soule: It’s like glamping- Craig Taguchi: It- Kelsey Soule: … in your car. Craig Taguchi: Yeah, but
doing awesome things. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s right. Okay. So, as we got to know a little bit
more about overlanding and the offroad community, obviously, after people buy
their cars, they’re—they’re doing things to them to make them more offroad-capable. So, at Lexus, you guys are doing
the same thing with the custom rig. Craig Taguchi: There is a really great
enthusiastic group out there called GXOR. It’s a Facebook page started
by a gentleman named Dan Kunz. And this community of GX 470 owners, which
is the first gen GX, they got together, and they started to realize that they can
take their vehicles anywhere, that there’s aftermarket support for suspension
components and parts, and it just got bigger and bigger, and it
gained such—so much momentum. And now, there’s almost 10,000 users- Kelsey Soule: Wow! Craig Taguchi: … on this Facebook page. And if you go on Instagram and other
social platforms, and you just do a search on #GXOR, it really starts to come to
life on what owners are doing with their vehicles. And Lexus, we got really inspired by these
owners, and what they’re doing with their vehicles, and where their vehicles are
taking them to these ultra-beautiful locations that are remote and off the grid
that we decided, “Hey, let’s do a build that’s inspired by this GXOR community.” And that’s exactly what we did. Basically, this vehicle is taking a
2019 GX 460, and we worked with icon suspension. So, we have a
two-and-a-half-inch suspension. We have upper control arms for a
little bit more ground clearance on the suspension. We have 34-inch tires that
are mounted on F-sport wheels. And then, we took it a step further,
you know, in case we get a little bit of damage on these trails. We partnered with CBI, and they created
a full front and rear bumper armor system for under the vehicle, as
well as the side skirts. It also has, like, a worn winch that’s
hidden in the front bumper in case we need to do any kind of recovery. You know, we packaged it
with some cool things. So, overlanding isn’t just about the
trail, it’s about camping and being off the grid. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: So, it’s also equipped
with, you know, a roof rack with alu-boxes for storage. It has a goose gear drawer system in
the back with a built-in national lunar refrigerator that’s powered by solar. So, when you’re off on an adventure- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … in the middle of
nowhere for a week, you can—you can survive and- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Craig Taguchi: … kind of
enjoy the nice things that a- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … Lexus owner
would like, you know, with a- Kelsey Soule: Right. Craig Taguchi: … cold beverage or, you
know, refrigerated fruits, and vegetables, and things like that. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: So, it’s got the luxury. You’re not missing out anything. You’ll be in the ultimate luxury, and
you’ll be doing adventuring to a next level. Kelsey Soule: What is the benefit to
Toyota and Lexus going out there with the enthusiasts? Does it help them to learn from the
enthusiasts what they’re looking for in the next vehicle? Craig Taguchi: Absolutely. If you take, for example, FJ Summit,
we often have chief engineers that go. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: We have some
designers from Calty that go. But really, what we’re doing is we’re
on the ground with our—our most loyal enthusiasts, our most—our biggest fans. And we get a chance to ride with them. We get a chance to talk with them. We get a chance to listen to what they’re
experiencing with their vehicles and things that they might
want to see in the future. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: And then, we
can research that, study those. Unless you get out there, and you ride and
drive with these enthusiasts, it’s hard to really get that great feedback. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: So, we really are fortunate
to have a great relationship with people like Seth and Matt at FJ Summit to allow
us to participate along with them, and to ride along with them, and to engage with
their community base, which is, you know, also our—our community base. Everyone’s having a great time. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: Everyone is all smiles. And it’s just—it’s just
a fun event for everyone. I encourage anyone who’s ever
interested just to go out and see it. Check out—check out an Overland Expo. Check out an FJ Summit. And from a stock vehicle to, you know,
however far you want to take it, just—just get out there, and—and
get your vehicle dirty. Kelsey Soule: Yeah, awesome. So, obviously, this is a passion for you. So, if you weren’t working for Lexus on
this Lexus product, what would be your personal offroad vehicle? Craig Taguchi: Wow! That’s a really good question. Well, I do own a first gen 4Runner- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Craig Taguchi: A 1998 4Runner. Kelsey Soule: 1988, wow! Craig Taguchi: Yeah, yeah. If you—if you look- Kelsey Soule: That was before I was born. Craig Taguchi: It was—wow! Thank you. Thank you, Kelsey. But you have to look it up. It’s- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … one of the most iconic
vehicles, in my opinion, that Toyota ever came out with. It was, basically, a 4Runner
with a removable top. Kelsey Soule: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Craig Taguchi: And so, I could
take the top off and there’s- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: … a
couple seats in the back. My dad actually owns the vehicle now. But I hope that if he ever wanted to sell
it, he would give me first dibs on it. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Craig Taguchi: But that would
probably be my go-to, to be honest. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Craig Taguchi: And so, that—that’s kind of
where I would probably invest my—my time and my money would be put into that first
gen 4Runner and kind of build it the way- Kelsey Soule: Awesome. Craig Taguchi: I’d want to do it. Kelsey Soule: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us today. It was awesome. Craig Taguchi: Thank you. Tyler Litchenberger: All
right, Kelsey, I’m doing it. Kelsey Soule: Well, I really support you
in this effort, but you may want to add a little something to your GX to, you
know, lift it up and protect it. Tyler Litchenberger: Totally. You’re totally right. Kelsey Soule: Lucky for you, Josh and
I talked to somebody who’s an expert on making high performance rigs
for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Mark Hawley: This is Mark. Josh: Hey, Mark. How’s it going? It’s Josh and Kelsey. Kelsey Soule: Welcome to the podcast. Mark Hawley: I appreciate it. Thank you. Appreciate you guys having me on. Kelsey Soule: Okay. So, can you quickly say your name, your
title, what you do, a little bit about your—your business? Mark Hawley: Absolutely. So, my name is Mark Hawley. I am the founding owner of Metal-tech
4-x-4 that was founded in 2000. And we design and build high-performance
offroad parts exclusively for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Kelsey Soule: I love the exclusively. Nice. Josh: So, I was telling Kelsey before we
got on the call that there weren’t a lot of Toyota aftermarket
companies in the past. What made you decide to go that route? Mark Hawley: The key thing, for
me, really, is my founding vehicle. My first car was a Toyota FJ
40, the total braking cruiser. It was built with about
12 different trucks. When I was 17 years old,
I bought this thing. And I got it because the top came off, and
I thought it would give me girls actually. You know, 17 years old,
that was motivation. And I fell in love with the FJ
40 and the Land Cruiser platform. And I quickly discovered this kind of
subculture of these crazy Land Cruiser people. And it just exploded from there for me. That was 1988, ’87. You know, joined the TLCA really early on. My TLCA number is like four digits. Josh Burns: And for those who don’t
know, that’s the Toyota Land Cruiser Association. Kelsey Soule: Oh, wow! I didn’t know there’s an association. Mark Hawley: There is, yeah, the
TLCA founded in ’76, I think. I joined in ’89-’90. Kelsey Soule: What do you have
to do to be a part of the club? Mark Hawley: You have to have a—actually
they changed the rules several years ago to where it’s any Toyota that
has a two-speed transfer case. So, it has to be a total full drive
with a two-speed transfer case. So, the definition of more
of a truck type thing- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Mark Hawley: … versus
just some all-wheel drive. Kelsey Soule: Okay. Mark Hawley: So- Kelsey Soule: Awesome. Mark Hawley: … yeah. So, it—it’s a pretty active group. They—they do events all
throughout the country. And it’s evolved over
the years, of course. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Mark Hawley: You know, more than just a
group of people that meet and do things. It’s—there’s—there’s events all over the
place, some wonderful newsletter they put out. And I got into Land
Cruisers really early on. And, you know, it just kind
of snowballed from there. And, you know, fast forward it to in order
to finish college, sell my 40 to, you know, finish school, life accelerated, and
eventually ended up getting back to where I finally was able to buy
my Land Cruiser again. And so, I bought another Land Cruiser. And by then, nobody made a roll cage
the way that I wanted one to work. And I just got to moving back to Oregon
from working in the aerospace industry in Southern California. And I’m used to just making
something if you need it. If—if you don’t have
something, design and build it. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Mark Hawley: And so, I went ahead and
invested in two bending equipment, and taught myself how to do it. And, you know, the one thing I don’t
recommend, teach yourself how to weld. Josh: Talk about putting
your life in your own hands. Mark Hawley: Exactly, exactly. But I mean, you know, it’s one
of those things that I wanted. I was so focused that I wanted to do that. I quickly recognized that there was a
missing gap there for the FJ 40s as far as a custom roll cages that would, you know,
fit the trucks really well and really do their job. And so, what I did is I did
not weld the roll cages. I bent all the tubing, and then
I shipped them unassembled. So, people had to weld them
up themselves, hopefully- Kelsey Soule: Okay. Mark Hawley: … with somebody who knew how
to weld better than me, and I ship them all over the country. And so, this kind of started back in 2000
is when I shipped my—the very first cages. And things just kind of increased. I started building more
things for my own truck. You know, learned a lot of
lessons on my own vehicle. So, something that I started with $300
in my garage with no backing, no wealthy uncle, or rich family, anything like that. It’s just all self-reinvesting
back in the company. About four and a half years in, at about
four-and-a-half-year mark is when I went to my wife and told her I was quitting
my corporate job that, you know, paid for everything, and had the 401[k], and the
health insurance, and all that good stuff doing the Land Cruiser thing in my garage
that, by then, it had already moved to its first small commercial location. And it just took off from there. It’s just simple. Kelsey Soule: Awesome. What is your best-selling product? Mark Hawley: Oh, boy. Our best-selling product is probably
our Lexus GX 470 front and rear bumpers. Kelsey Soule: How far into the process
for you were you working on Lexus vehicles versus just Toyotas? Mark Hawley: It wasn’t until
the mid-2000s, like 2006-2007. We started realizing that the Lexus
GX 470 is an extremely capable truck. And so, we started designing
parts for these trucks. And the GX 470 has a packed
suspension in the back. Meaning the rear—instead of coil springs
in the back, it’s these great big airbags. And those are great for comfort and for
light use that when we’re going to modify and lift, we typically want
to put a coil spring in. And so, Metal-tech designed the first
airbag coil conversion kit for them in the, like, 2007, 2006. And we just took off from there. Josh: For somebody who may just be getting
into all this, Mark, when you’re talking about putting sliders or putting an
aftermarket bumper, what are you really looking to accomplish with that? Mark Hawley: Biggest thing we’re trying
to do is—is allow the vehicle to maneuver through obstacles easily is
the—is the goal without damage. We don’t want to, obviously,
damage our trucks. We—you know, we want—we like our trucks. So, what we do with sliders is that they
mount to the frame, and they come out, and they protect the sides, the rockers
under the doors of the vehicles. And they’re called siders because they’re
essentially steel bars that are designed for the truck to come down on top of
obstacles like rocks, or a log, or something like that, and still have
forward—forward or rear motion, and be able to slide along, and not
sustain damage to the rockers. And as far as the front bumper goes,
when we’re doing a front bumper on the vehicles, we’re trying to improve approach
angle on the front end, so that if we approach an obstacle, we have less hanging
down in front of the vehicle, more of an approach angle that’s allowing us to climb
up onto obstacles and climb over things. And the other part of the bumper too
is that we’re giving ourselves some additional recovery points. So, it’s easier to hook on to to
be able to extract another vehicle. Typically, the non-Toyota,
it’s the one we’re pulling out. The joke there, sorry. And then, of course, we want to put
a winch in the—in the—in our trucks. And so, we have a winch for self-recovery- Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Mark Hawley: … kind
of offroad insurance. And we want to integrate that into a
package that fits the lines that the truck, protects the truck, increases the
approach angle, perhaps add some ability to put some offroad lights
built into the bumper. We want things to be lightweight, high
performance that protects the truck, that allows us to be able to get out there and
do what we want, but most importantly, get back again. Josh: Yeah, it’s something that
complements the stock vehicle more so than anything, right? Mark Hawley: Correct. Josh: All right, Mark, at this point, do
you feel like you’re selling more parts for Lexus or—or Toyota? Mark Hawley: You know, honestly, for us,
it’s still a balance between the two. I mean, the Lexus for single
platform, we keep selling parts for. I mean, the bumpers continue
to sell very, extremely well. But at the same time, though, our 4Runner
line, the front bumper, we make a no-cut, direct-bolt-on front bumper for the—for
the 4Runners, for the fifth gen 4Runners. And our sliders for the fifth gen is bolt
right on to the—to the different models of the—of the—of the trucks. And so, we—we continue to sell quite a
bit of Toyota stuff, and including FJ 40 things. That roll cage that I started the
company with, we still sell those. Kelsey Soule: Oh, wow! Josh: Mark, I got an important
but personal question for you. Mark Hawley: Yeah. Josh: So, you had to convince your
wife to leave your corporate job. And as corporate folks here
on the other side of the mic. So, are you still married? Mark Hawley: I am. Actually, we’ll be celebrating
21 years next month. Josh: Congratulations! That’s awesome. So, apparently, you’re
doing something right then. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for
joining the podcast today. That was—that was awesome. Mark Hawley: Absolutely. I’ll see you guys on the
trail one of these days. Kelsey Soule: You heard it here first. Best-selling products are front
and rear bumpers for the GX. Tyler Litchenberger: Hey-o! Of course, they are. It’s cool to hear Mark’s story and how
he’s been able to create a business around this. Kelsey Soule: Yeah. So, before we go, one of our colleagues
in corporate communications, we’re calling him our field reporter, Dan Nied
got to go to FJ Summit this July. The event has been bringing together
Toyota owners from across North America for over 10 years. And Dan got the opportunity to ride along
and speak to some of the folks there. Take a listen. Jessica Larson: I am Jessica Larson, and I am
a trail leader for FJ Summit. Dan Nied: So, what is it that you
like about overlanding and offroading? Jessica Larson: Specifically, offroading,
it—it requires a different skill set. A lot of paying attention to the trail,
how it changes, how your vehicle responds. So, it just gets you out
of your comfort zone. Like most people would never
even drive a road like this. As far as overlanding goes, I think
it—it’s something about not staying in a hotel, you know, when you go on vacation. You’re literally driving three days, you
know, through whatever terrain and finding camp along the way. So, it’s a little bit of adventure,
excitement, because you don’t know where you’re going to sleep next. Dan Nied: What kind of card do you drive? Jessica Larson: I have
an ’07 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Dan Nied: And what do you
like about the FJ Cruiser? Jessica Larson: I got it because it was a
retro remake, and I grew up riding in the back of my mom’s best friend’s FJ 40. So, it’d have like a – I don’t know –
reminiscent value to it because I am not bad mechanically inclined to own an FJ 40. So, this is the next best. Dan Nied: Yeah. Jessica Larson: And it’s made by Toyota. So, reliability. And I had a Tacoma before that. Dan Nied: How would you describe the FJ
Summit to someone who’s never been here or heard of it? Jessica Larson: It’s like you’re going for
a family reunion with people that you’ve known all your life, and you’re just
meeting them for the first time because we all have one common
interest, and that’s the FJ. And this is not an FJ. It is a 4Runner. It’s the Tacoma. It’s the Lexus GX 460s and 470s. Like, it’s every make and
model that Toyota has. And you’re friends here. Like you’ve never met this person. And all of a sudden,
you’re like best pals. It’s just an amazing community. It’s more than just about
the vehicle at that point. Dan Nied: What separates this from any
other gathering of auto enthusiasts? Jessica Larson: I don’t feel like Toyota
owners are trying to one up each other like other, the racing community, like
everybody has a Porsche, or a Corvette, or anything like that, and they’re always
competing with each other; where here, it’s—we all own Toyotas. We all know what they’re capable of. And it’s just—it’s just a good time. Seth Kovanic: My name is Seth Kovanic. And I’m the Director of the FJ Summit. Dan Nied: What is it about an event like
this that really fuels you and the people here? Seth Kovanic: So, this is
our 13th year doing this. And one of the things that strikes me is,
every single year, the vast majority of the people that come to this
event, it’s their first time. So, we have people that come multiple
times, but the—over 60% of them are always brand new. This is a Toyota-centric event. We have built our brand on Toyotas. And one of the things that we love about
it that other events who go to with other brands can do is you beat these trucks
out for three days, and then you drive it home. I’m from Pennsylvania. So, I drove 2600 miles here, drove this
truck through the mud, through the rocks, everything for three days. And then, I’m going to know and have
confidence that I can drive it 2600 miles back. Everybody here who owns a Toyota
can say the exact same thing. Dan Nied: Would you consider
yourself a Toyota superfan? Seth Kovanic: I am a Toyota super fan. This is my third Toyota vehicle. My family comes from Toyota vehicles. My brother’s got a Tacoma. My dad’s got Tacoma. My wife’s got a Tacoma. All of us have Toyota
vehicles through and through. And I will always own a Toyota vehicle. Dan Nied: How many people
here are Toyota superfans? Seth Kovanic: Every
single one of them, 873. Kelsey Soule: Once again, thank you so
much for listening to Toyota Untold. To learn more about the FJ
Summit, go to www.fjsummit.org. Our guest, Mark Hawley is
at www.metaltech4x4.com. You can check out the Lexus GX
offroad community at GXOR on Facebook. To see a picture of the custom rig Lexus
made for this summit, click the link in the episode description. And we want to hear from you. If you use your Toyota or Lexus to go
overlanding, we want to hear your stories and see your pictures. You can email us at [email protected]
or tag us in your photos on Instagram, Facebook, et cetera. Let us know where you’ve been driving. This is Kelsey. Tyler Litchenberger: And Tyler. Shout out to in-house producer
Sharon Hong and Alison Powell. Music by Wes Meixner. Edited and mixed by Crate Media. Find us on Twitter, @Toyota and @Lexus,
and on Instagram at @ToyotaUSA and @LexusUSA. See you in two weeks. Kelsey Soule: Bye.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. So Josh, basically Overlanding means TRAVEL BY LAND. Since Overlanding its associated mostly traveling to remote areas, of course you will need a four wheel drive vehicle to be able to take you to these places and back.
    off roading on the other hand, has to do more with what is the biggest rock you can climb with your 4WD and of course hopefully acquire some skills along the way if you are smart enough to do it
    Anyway, these days I find Overlanding has become more of a trend where people over spend and overbuild their vehicles unnecessarily to go around the corner.

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