Grant Willbank’s 2017 TRD Off Road Tacoma

Quicksand Tacoma Overland Build With Backwoods Adventure Mods HiLine Front Bumper, Dirtbox Bed Tray & Canopy, Towing Adventure Trailer

Rig Feature + Interview: Grant Willbanks From Ark Offroad

If you’ve ever had the chance to travel to the great country of Australia (or are lucky enough to live there), it doesn’t take long to realize that the Land Down Under is a haven for overlanders. In fact, many of the most popular overland brands and products originated in Australia, including snorkels, steel front bumpers, ARB, and Dobinsons. In the past couple of years, another Aussie favorite has started to make its way over to the States: the flatbed and canopy.

You would hardly be exaggerating to say that one out of every five cars you pass on an Australian road has a flatbed/canopy system. Instead of using a bed rack or camper system, many Aussies elect to chop the bed off their truck (or even the back of their SUV) and mount a flatbed to the frame, often fitted with a removable canopy. These systems allow for unparalleled storage and organization, and can even be converted into live-in systems.

While flatbeds are often used in the States for work trucks, they’re just starting to make their way into the overland industry. Today, we’ll talk to Grant Willbanks, the owner of one of the first Tacomas to run one of these flatbed/canopy systems. Grant is also the Marketing Director for Backwoods Adventure Mods and owns Arkansas Offroad, a YouTube channel with all sorts of great overlanding and DIY content. So, without further ado, I’ll pass the torch to Grant!

Stick around to the end for a video from the Express Rally event, where part of the Trail Co. team went down to Arkansas for weekend.

Vehicle Walkaround

Dirtbox Flatbed Tray And Canopy System For Toyota Tacoma With Wedge Style Rooftop Tent


Base Vehicle:

  • Year: 2017
  • Make and Model: Toyota Tacoma
  • Trim: TRD Off Road
  • Cab: Double Cab
  • Bed: 5 ft
  • Color: Quicksand
  • Mileage: 88k


  • Yokohama M/T Geolander G003 Tires, 315/75R16
  • Ultra Wheel X103 Xtreme True Bead-Lock Wheels, 16×8″-25mm
  • AllPro Off Road Long Travel Kit
  • AllPro Off Road Upper and Lower Control Arms
  • AllPro Off Road Performance Rear Bump Stop Kit
  • Archive Garage Rear Shock Relocation Kit
  • Dobinsons Long Travel 14″ Smoothie Shocks
  • Dobinsons Long Travel Front Coilovers
  • Dobinsons L59-112-R Heavy Duty Leaf Springs
  • Dobinsons Rear Polyurethane Leaf Spring Bush Kit
  • Marlin Crawler LCA Cam Tab Kit
  • SpiderTrax OffRoad 1.25″ Wheel Spacers (rear axle only)
  • Apex RPV Fast-Deflating Valve Stem
  • C4 Fabrication Oversized Tire Fitment Kit


  • Nitro Gears – 4.88 Gear Ratio
  • AWE Dual Catback Exhaust Suite
  • Overland Tailor Tuning Tune
  • K&N Air Filter


  • Backwoods Adventure Mods Hi-Lite Overland Front Bumper w/ Bull Bar (Install & Review)
  • Backwoods Adventure Mods Aluminum Skid Plates
  • Backwoods Adventure Mods Rock Sliders (still in prototype phase)
  • C4 Fabrication Rear Differential Skid Plate
  • RCI Metalworks A-Arm Skid Plates
  • SDHQ Off Road Billet ABS Guard

Lightning & Electrical:

  • ProGuide 100a Dual Purpose Lithium Battery
  • MESO Customs Red Dome Lights (front & rear)
  • Garmin PowerSwitch
  • Garmin BC50 Wireless Camera (used as front camera)
  • Lensun 90w Hood Solar Panel (Install & Review)
  • Baja Designs LP9 LED Off-Road Light Pod x2
  • Baja Designs SAE Squadron LED Off-Road Light Pod x2
  • Baja Designs S1 LED Off-Road Light Pod x4
  • Baja Designs S8 Straight 40″ LED Light Bar
  • Pathfinder Rock Lights
  • Dometic DC Hardwiring Kit
  • EcoFlow RIVER Pro Portable Power Station w/ Extra Battery

Recovery Equipment:

  • FasterFlate Multi-Tire Inflation/Deflation System V 3.0
  • Viair 400P Automatic Portable Air Compressor
  • sPOD BantamX Wireless Switch Controller
  • Warn Industries EVO 12-S Winch
  • Warn Industries Epic Snatch Block
  • Warn Industries Epic D-Ring Shackle
  • SandyCats Hitch Hero Soft Shackle
  • SandyCats Kinetic-X Recovery Rope
  • Maxtrax MKII Recovery Boards


  • Dirtbox Overland Flatbed Tray & Canopy
  • Dirtbox Overland Slide-Out Kitchenette
  • Dirtbox Overland Toolbox Drawer
  • Dirtbox Overland Wedgy Rooftop Tent
  • Dirtbox Overland Free-Standing 270 Degree Awning
  • Backwoods Adventure Mods Dual Universal Jerry Can Carrier
  • Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack
  • Zarges USA Aluminum Storage Cases w/ Mounting Brackets
  • Dometic CFX3 45 Fridge/Freezer
  • SandyCats Trailwash System (Trail Review)


  • Clazzio Leather Seat Covers
  • Expedition Essentials USB-Powered Accessory Mount
  • Several RAM Accessory Mounts
  • Garmin Tread Navigator & Group Ride Radio
  • Garmin InReach Mini
  • Scosche MagicMount Pro
  • Husky Floor Mats (Comparison & Review)
  • MESO Customs Blackout Vent Ring Kit
  • WolfBox G900 Touch Screen Rear-View Mirror w/ Dash Cam and Reverse Camera
  • Midland MXT575 GMRS Two-Way Radio
  • Midland MXMC01 ANC Microphone
  • Kicker Plug & Play 6-Speaker Bundle Upgrade (Install & Review)


  • ARK Splash Guards (Install & Review)
  • KC HiLites Universal Wire Holder
  • HiBoost Cell Booster
  • Midland MicroMobile MXTA26 6DB Gain Whip Antenna
  • ARB Safari Snorkel (Install & Review)
  • Snorkel Upgrade Sy-Klone 9001 Precleaner (Install & Review)
  • PowerStop Brakes Drilled and Slotted Performance Rotors
  • East Coast Gear Supply Clamshell Bushing
  • YotaMafia Extended Break Lines

Tell Us About Yourself. Why A Tacoma?

Dirtbox Overland Canopy System with Dometic CFX-3 45-Liter Fridge/Freezer

My name is Grant Willbanks and I work full-time as the Marketing Director for Backwoods Adventure Mods. On the side, I run a YouTube channel called Arkansas Offroad. I’m active on my channel filming my overland trips, DIY mods, documenting my build, etc. I also heavily use Instagram for shorter content.

I feel pretty lucky to work full-time in the industry, and at the same time doing it as a hobby on the side in my own way. I used to have a Jeep TJ and built that out, but I quickly found its limits in terms of space, plus I wanted to start a family. I was back and forth between the Tacoma and a 4Runner, but ultimately I figured that I had many more options as far as the build-out on a truck platform.

4Runners are excellent vehicles, but in my mind, you can really only build them one way. A truck bed, like on a Tacoma, gives you multiple different options. You can do a bed rack with RTT, a camper shell, a drop-in camper, a flatbed, etc. Looking back, I’ve built my truck probably 4 times with each style of setup. Now I’m running a full flatbed tray and canopy and I feel like I’ve got the perfect setup for my needs.

How Do You Use Your Tacoma?

Quicksand Tacoma Overland Build - Grant WillBanks From Ark Offroad & Backwoods Adventure Mods

I’ve had my Tacoma for about 3.5 years, and that whole time it’s been my daily driver up until about a month ago. Now, I have a fun little daily driver car and drive my Tacoma once or twice a week. I love these trucks because you really can daily drive them.

Over the years, I’ve built my Tacoma to be able to do hard trails while camping comfortably. I really enjoy tough, technical trails, but I’m also a gadget freak and love camping, and my build is a reflection of that.

The toughest thing for me to overcome when building my rig was finding good fabricators and fab shops. In my area, there’s not much of that. I’ve taught myself a ton building my truck and I’ve done absolutely everything myself, minus any welding. I feel confident in my truck because I know it very well. It’s super satisfying to build and know your own rig.

Tell Us About Your Build Process.

Overland Canopy Kitchen System With Dirtbox Offroad Kitchenette and Dometic CFX-3 45 Fridge

I was lucky enough to buy my Tacoma with it already regeared, lifted, and slightly modded. The regear is the biggest and most important thing on my truck. I knew I was going to build the truck up, and it had to start with a good base.

The first thing I did was go camping and figure out what I needed. Each time I did that, I learned what could be better and what I could do to increase efficiency in setting up camp, packing up, etc. It’s funny how you can quickly realize all the things you DON’T need. From there, things just evolved from stage one to two to three, and now, just crazy.

I’ve run every kind of style rooftop tent, changed my suspension out three times, changed wheels and tires four times, had different roof racks, different sliders, camper setups, two different bumpers, and the list goes on and on. Throughout the build, I continued to add strength to my suspension components, front end, and things like that.

The harder trails I did, the more I wanted to beef things up, but also do it in a way where I wasn’t adding tons of unnecessary weight to the truck. I can’t even think of the countless hours in the garage after work and on the weekends where I would just tinker with things to make them better. I was (and still am) obsessed with dialing in my truck. Never thought I was OCD, but the truck says otherwise, haha.

What Do You Like Most About Your Tacoma? Least?

Ultimate Off-Road Tacoma Setup - Full Build On 35s Pulling Large Adventure Trailer

This is super cliche, but for a reason… my favorite thing about this platform is the reliability. I’ve done some pretty sketchy stuff in my truck and it’s always gotten me home, while also being a daily driver that takes me to work Monday morning. Yes, I’ve replaced things like an alternator or something relatively small, but I’ve been so impressed with how well this truck performs all the time.

I’ve wheeled with several different kinds of rigs over the years, and I have experienced all kinds of breakages with vehicles that aren’t Toyotas, whether that’s a Land Rover, Jeep, etc. I know some may say otherwise, but I’m just speaking from experience.

What I hate, and I mean hate, is the transmission. Even with a regear and tune, it switches gears so much. I realize these trucks weren’t made to handle all the weight we throw on them, but I would think a tune and regear would eliminate that problem. Even stock, I think the dual overdrive is annoying. I much prefer the 4Runner 5-speed transmission.

Do You Regret Any Mods?

Dirtbox Overland Canopy With Propane Can, Chainsaw, Spare Tire, Backwoods Adventure Mods Carrier Jerry Can

As far as mods I regret or would change, I have a love/hate relationship with my bead locks. They are obviously outstanding offroad, but are annoying as a daily driver to deal with. Mainly, they’re heavy and just require extra maintenance. Other than that, they’re not that bad.

I would also just add, in my opinion, LCA skid plates seem like a waste of money. Even though they’re not that expensive, the factory LCA is plenty strong. I still have them on my truck (in aluminum), but I’m going to a new suspension setup soon. I’ve seen them take some nasty hits without any protection at all, plus they give you less clearance.

Other than that, I don’t regret any other mods on my truck. Each mod I’ve added has taken much consideration. I learn what I need from real experience before I add it. In the beginning, I would think I needed stuff, but would find after 6 months to a year I would never even touch it.

What’s Your Favorite Mod? Least Favorite?

Australian/Bush-Style Tacoma Off-Road Build With Complete Bed Replacement and Removable Canopy

I’m going to cheat and give three of my favorite mods because they stand out so much. My all-time favorite mod is the Dirtbox flatbed tray and canopy. There’s just an insane amount of functionality and versatility with that system.

Next would be the Archive Garage rear shock relocation. Having maximum rear articulation is so nice to keep you moving through chunky sections on the trail, plus it looks insanely good.

Lastly would be my battery system. I have a ProGuide Lithium single battery that is both my start battery and aux battery all rolled into one. It only weighs 27lbs and takes up the same amount of space as a factory battery. No need for a dual battery system. My least favorite mod would probably be my hood solar panel. I feel like it’s very hit-or-miss.

What’s Next For Your Tacoma?

Arkansas Offroad Tacoma Build With Yokohoma Geolander M/T Tires And UltraWheel Extreme Beadlock Wheels

The next mod and probably final, is the new All Pro Long Travel Kit. This is very similar to the Marlin Crawler RCLT, but with a few tweaks. This kit consists of new knuckles, uppers, lowers, an overall +2.75″ width, a new steering rack and pump, limit straps, extended axle shafts, and a few other components. Since my rear suspension is really dialed in, adding the front LT will be the cherry on top. The plan is for that to go in during the first few months of 2024.

Final Thoughts

TRD Off Road Toyota Tacoma Build with Dirtbox Overland Rear Canopy and Flatbed Tray System

The highlight of this build, at least to me, is that Dirtbox Overland Tray and Canopy System. What do you think about this approach to building your overland vehicle? Is this a product you’d like to see us review? Would you put a flatbed/canopy on your own vehicle? Let us know in the comments below!

As always, a huge thanks to Grant for sharing this incredibly built-out Taco.

Happy holidays, everyone! Join us next week for another feature and review!

Express Rally / Ark Offroad / Trail Co. – Trip Video

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