1991 Toyota Pickup – An Ode to an Awesome Old Truck

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Some people might think it’s a bit crazy to go driving all over the world in an old 1991 Toyota Pickup truck… I mean the thing is now 27 years old. She’s old enough to vote, go out drinking in bars, or even old enough to rent a car herself.

But I can’t think of a better, more capable vehicle than the one I got.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

Griselda is her name. If you speak Spanish, you might know that gris means gray, and she’s a gray pickup, so the name seemed like a great fit, especially as we drove across the heart of Mexico.

I’ve had Griselda, my 1991 Toyota Pickup ever since high school. She’s been my one and only vehicle ever since the beginning, and we’ve been through a lot together, I mean she’s been around for fully half my life.

1991 Toyota Pickup - An Ode to an Awesome Old Truck truck-camping, travel, road-trip

These old Toyota trucks are ideal because they are known for being tough old trucks that just keep going and going. There’s a reason that they are among the most popular trucks for guerrillas and revolutionary fighters all over the world. They work in some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth and they are easy to fix when things go wrong.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

My truck had about 140,000 miles when I left my Washington, D.C. desk job at the end of 2012, and since then I’ve put on another 50,000 miles road tripping (a few times) across the American West and then driving in Central America and then driving the Pan American Highway to South America.

Before setting out I searched for a suitable 1991 Toyota pickup camper shell and settled on the Leer 122 canopy and converted the back into a truck bed camper where I can live (and haul all my gear for living in a truck and for life on the road).

Besides the canopy, the big knobby BF Goodrich tires, and getting it jacked up for clearance, the truck is basically a totally stock 1991 Toyota Pickup.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

I haven’t done any major Toyota Pickup modifications like many other overlanders do, besides adding a dual battery and isolator setup (so great), tinting the windows for security, and getting HID headlights installed.

More About the 1991 Toyota Pickup

It is a fifth-generation Hilux, although they weren’t sold under that name in the USA, but rather the simple Toyota Pickup name.

Mine is a regular cab, and features a 5-speed manual transmission, a four-cylinder, 2.4L 22RE engine, and has four-wheel drive.

In 1991, Toyota began producing some of these trucks in the USA, but many during this period (1991-1995) were still manufactured in Japan — if so, the VIN starts with a JT (like mine!), but it starts with a 4T if it was made in the USA.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

These trucks may not have many bells and whistles — I don’t have A/C, power windows, power locks, and none of those fancy modern-day contraptions — and they may not be the most powerful trucks out there, but they definitely get the job done. Sadly though, you don’t see too many of these old Toyota trucks for sale anymore.

91 Toyota Pickup Conquering Extremes

I’ve driven all over the USA and Canada, in conditions well below freezing in the Canadian Rockies in winter, or the scorching heat of Death Valley in summer.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

But let’s face it, there isn’t too much crazy terrain in the Continental USA…

Since crossing the border and heading south into Mexico, Griselda, my 1991 Toyota Pickup, has conquered even crazier situations.

We’ve navigated thousands of miles of crazily potholed roads and hit some unexpected speed bumps going a little too fast — while still remaining intact.

We’ve suffered through the intense heat and humidity of the Mexican summer, or along with the mosquito-infested Caribbean coast.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

She’s been loaded up onto dingy little barges to cruise up remote, tropical rivers.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

She’s forded 100 foot wide, knee-deep rivers chock full of boulders and fast-moving water.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

She’s plowed through thick jungle mud…

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

Driven through sands of every color and consistency…

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

She’s even been loaded into a cargo container and shipped across to a new continent…

1991 toyota pickup truck hilux-16

In South America, we encountered even more incredible extremes!

She’s plugged along (albeit slowly at times) as we climbed roads with elevations in excess of 15,000 feet above sea level — roads higher than any mountain that exists in the Continental USA.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

Time after time again…

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

Keep in mind, she’s got bigger tires, a big truck canopy for camping, and is carrying the two of us plus a few hundred pounds of gear for life on the road, including cooking gear, food, clothes, water, camping equipment, chairs, a cooler, etc., (here’s what I travel with for truck camping).

Even so, this 1991 Toyota Pickup gets about 17 MPG (miles per gallon) in its current state and operating in some pretty extreme places.

1991 Toyota Pickup - An Ode to an Awesome Old Truck truck-camping, travel, road-trip

She’s taken us down the length of the Andes and provided an excellent home on wheels, until we arrived, ultimately, to the end of the road… Ushuaia, Argentina!

1991 Toyota Pickup - An Ode to an Awesome Old Truck truck-camping, travel, road-trip

My 1991 Toyota Pickup

The truck is also great because any small town mechanic has the tools and parts to be able to work on this truck, and Toyota trucks like this were sold all over the world, not like other vehicles you might find.

Griselda has been an awesome adventure mobile and road trip companion over the years and continues to hold up well despite her 27 years and 190,000 miles. I truly think the 1991 Toyota Pickup is one of the best and most capable overland vehicles you might find.

1991 Toyota Pickup Truck Hilux

So hey, Griselda, I just wanted to say thanks for a great 50,000 miles of adventures together since we started this blog, and here’s to another 50,000 more… Let’s go to where the roads end and then back again.

Read Next: Road Trip Planning

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The Most Common Truck Bed Camping Mistakes

Pickup Truck Camping Guide

Turn your pickup truck into the ultimate adventure mobile. This printable truck camping guide will help you through the process.


  1. Get a truck if you don't have one! 🙂 I've traveled all over the world in my 1991 Toyota Pickup. The bigger the truck bed the better. Short beds have workarounds but they are not ideal unless you are quite small.
  2. Find a new or used canopy for your truck. Read this guide on what to look for when buying a canopy. My top recommendation is to find an elevated canopy like the Leer 122 (what I use).
  3. Decide on what sort of truck bed sleeping platform you want to build. The two most common are an elevated sleeping platform or the backshelf (and side-shelf) approaches. I did a transformer setup for the best of both worlds, here is my step-by-step guide building the transformer style setup.
  4. Purchase essential gear to start truck camping which includes a sleeping pad or mattress, sleeping bag, two-burner stove, cooler, storage boxes, etc.
  5. Go on a test truck camping run at a free boondocking campsite without amenities to test your setup. Read more about finding free camping in the USA.
  6. Consider your electronics system and how you will charge devices while on the road. You could get an outside system like the GoalZero Yeti but I recommend using a dual battery and isolator under the hood.
  7. Join the Pickup Truck Camping group on Facebook for an amazing, like-minded community where you can ask questions and get answers from experienced truck campers. Be sure to pick up your #PTC stickers, shirts, and swag!
  8. Review the detailed truck camping gear and accessories (plus a packing list) and start planning your epic truck camping adventures. Might I suggest this national park road trip, the most scenic drives in the USA, or this west coast USA road trip? Here is more info on road trip planning for you, based on 10s of thousands of miles of adventures.
  9. Sign up for more truck camping tips, tricks, and info delivered straight to your email inbox from yours truly.


I hope this helped you get started with truck camping! I know it can be confusing when you are just getting started, which is why I started writing so extensively about it.

If you have any questions about truck camping, road trips, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at ryan@desktodirtbag.com.

(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)

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1991 Toyota Pickup - An Ode to an Awesome Old Truck truck-camping, travel, road-trip


Head Writer and Adventurer at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West, and then across all of Central America and South America. When he isn't on the move, you can find him living as an expat in Colombia. He is also the author of the best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget that will help you travel more for less. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

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Comments 14

  1. Hey mate,

    Glad I ran across your page after a few years.

    I was looking to beef up my $100 Craigslist Snug Top camper that has locks that are very easy to pop open and steal whats inside..
    I am leaning towards a beefy stainless chain loop bolted to the midle of the rear window frame and a coated cable-kryptonie lock setup running through it and around the bumber mounts so the window can;t be opened even if the side locks are busted off.

    I’m modding a 1990 extended cab v-6 that’s got a few battle scars but still runs good as ever..
    I might try doing your bed mods if the price of plywood ever comes down again!!

    This is my 3rd toyota 4×4 and I;ve modded all of them to one extent or another..
    I love em!!. Not the most powerful or biggest, but big enough to be ok on the highway, small enough to make narrow trails and spaces, inherently reliable, mechanically simple and pretty easy to fix, with as you say, so many of them made, many small towns and mechanics can still find parts for them when needed..

    One thing that helps them in bad road conditions is a rear locker if you;re actually travelling with your truck and doing jungle/mud/ruts and rocks conditions.

    I;d get another locker for my truck before a winch even..
    Hi-Lift jacks, come-alongs, straps and chains have always worked to get me unstuck in tight spots.

    Keep on exploring!!

    PS: Love the BFG AT’s!!…. I just put a new set of them on my truck, 31’s like it came with.
    Every toyota I had i put BFG’s on, including 35 mud terrains on my 1980 truck that was a beast offroad… a real billy goat, but without the refinement inside that toyota’s would have 10 years later 89-94..

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips. I have my father’s ’90 SR5 Pickup with 250,000 miles and love it. Its been in the family since new and has the 3.0 motor. Great trucks!

  3. My ‘circum North America’ trip (Seattle -> Fairbanks -> Maine -> Guatemala – > Seattle; 40k miles) was in a tiny Ford Escort wagon many years ago, so it’s true that any vehicle will get the job done, one way or another. -)
    At any rate, thanks for the idea about the Leer 122. I also love my own Toyota truck, a ’99 2WD Tacoma. 317k miles on it but uber reliable and the engine (4cyl, 2.4L) is still going strong. I’ve done lots of camping in it with a slightly tall canopy but the Leer one would be a big lifestyle upgrade, I can see now. (I assume our mpg difference – I get about 10 mpg better – is more about 2WD vs 4WD, than canopy height?)
    Question: Have you figured out a way to keep rain leaks to a minimum? My shell isn’t very good about that.

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      Wow, that’s definitely an epic road trip, love it. And yeah, any vehicle works, the most important thing is just getting out there and not obsessing on perfection.

      Yeah, the mileage difference must be between the 2wd v 4wd, because I didn’t notice any major fuel efficiency losses when I installed the canopy.

      I honestly haven’t had any problems with leaks in the past 5 years, but mine was new and professionally installed, so that could be the difference?

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      1. OK I feel a bit better about my 6′ 9″ bed then. Just got the cap, so I’m still in the planning stages for the build, but I like your approach.

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          If you’re looking for second hand, your best bet is to just keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace for anything that pops up. If you do some searching you can figure out how to get alerts for keyword matches on CL. Good luck!

  4. I own a 1990 Toyota extended cab 4×4. I’ve had her almost three years so I don’t have the long relationship you do but I love it. Mine only has 111k on it. I’ve only done one night of camping in her and that was before I got my $200 truck canopy. Honestly I also own a 2005 Honda CRV that I think will become my main camping car. I just feel safer being able to lock the doors and I already figured out a sleep system with no build, but I’m my mind I know I can use my Toyota as well. Can’t believe we have almost the same truck. I just started following you so I’ll have to catch up on your travels. I am very curious about how it is driving in different countries and what about car insurance and health insurance? I’m definitely older than you so health insurance is very important to me. Also being a woman I have more personal safety issues to consider. Looking forward to reading more fellow 90’s Toyota owner!

    1. Post

      Hey Lisa, that’s so cool! I’d love the extended cab version of my truck, that’d be perfect! If you want to stick with the CRV, you can sell me your Toyota 4×4 😀 It’s got so few miles on it, it’d be ripe for a big adventure.

      As for car insurance, that’s pretty easy, just handled in each individual country (you can let your normal insurance lapse if you plan to be gone for a long time, because it won’t apply). Health insurance is a little trickier and depends on each person, ie if you will be traveling long-term you don’t want insurance in the USA and don’t need it. You might get traveler’s insurance instead. Check out my FAQ for more details about this stuff.

  5. I bought a basic Hilux 2×4 brand new many years ago, had it for 7 years, and didn’t have a single problem with it. It was under-powered and a rough ride, but otherwise did everything I asked of it.

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