Backlash: Joel Crookshank’s Hi Life with a 1992 Toyota Hilux

Living the Hi Life

Folks who warn against turning your hobby into a career may have never discovered the perfect balance of work and play. The adage that says if you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life holds some weight, but does your favorite pastime lose some of its magic once you try to make a buck off it? Is it better to not mix business and pleasure? These are ponderings that a high percentage of automotive enthusiasts constantly wrangle with. While there is no definitive answer out there, the bottom line comes down to personal experience and preference. 

One key to successfully do what you love for a living is having an unwavering lust for your favorite hobby. If your favorite thing to do develops into a legitimately healthy lifestyle and is a true reflection of your personality, the chances of surviving a full work week doing it professionally exponentially increases.

One key to successfully do what you love for a living is having an unwavering lust for your favorite hobby.  

While not every day in the office is filled with fun and games, Joel Crookshank of New Port Richey, Florida, can report that he generally finds working in the automotive aftermarket much more enjoyable due to his genuine interest in the field.

“Mini-trucks have been in my blood since I was a kid,” he says. “I’m always trying to outdo my previous builds, and I think I have with my most current project.”

Joel started his ’92 Hilux build alongside his friend Kevin Mead. Together, the two utilized the factory front clip by outfitting it with tubular upper and lower control arms and Belltech drop spindles. Next, a custom 2×3 square tube frame from the firewall back was fabricated, along with a custom 5-link setup. To give the Toyota a fully adjustable suspension system, Joel and Kevin upgraded the chassis with Slam Specialties ‘bags at each corner, Viair 444 compressors, a seamless air tank, and an Air Lift 3P management system to control it all. The fresh back-half required the fabrication of a one-off fuel cell that Josh Moneypenny of Bespoke Metalworks was happy to create. The cell was built to accept the OE fuel pump housing and fuel level sender, which saved the guys a headache or two along with way.

When the time came to select a fresh set of wheels and tires, Joel went with modestly sized 18×8 Bonspeed Sweep billets covered with 215/35 Nitto Neo Gen rubber. A new frame and wheels call for updated braking components, and a Little Shop brake package for the front and a PowerStop kit for the rear were ideal solutions. Drilled and slotted rotors, a Wilwood proportioning valve, and Redhorse Performance stainless braided hoses add to the Toyota’s reliable stopping power.

Even though the factory 2.4L four-banger won’t be breaking any land speed records anytime soon, Joel took his time to bless it with LC Engineering Street Performer heads, headers, a Big Bore throttle body, fuel rail, and a double-row timing conversion. A new aluminum radiator with electric fan will help keep the engine cool during summertime cruises, and dressup parts and strategically painted components ensure it stays looking even cooler all show-season long.

The next order of business was to prep the Toyota’s exterior surfaces, and to help do so, Dave Heyveld agreed to join the project by applying his talents in the realm of body and paintwork. To start, the cowl, hood squirters, antenna, rear cab line, door handles, and stone guards were shaved clean. Bolt-on additions to the Hilux soon followed in the form of an OEM 4Runner grille, headlights, bumpers, and 4WD fenders that have had the inner fender wells removed. Dave had the remainder of his work cut out for him, as he was soon mixing and spraying the Land Rover Velocity Metallic Blue base color. Once it cured, he handed the truck over to Aspire Autosports where the classic mini-style graphics were laid down to complete the look.

Joel knew the engine bay had to be just as detailed as the rest of the truck to stand out in the crowd.

The painted graphics came out too good to not include them on the air tank and inner door panels. The interior was also treated to a smoothed and painted dash, not to mention a custom center console that houses two Rockford Fosgate subwoofers, which serve up additional visual appeal as well as plenty of thump. A pair of 4Runner bucket seats were then re-covered in black leather upholstery with plaid inserts to make for a comfortable and stylish cruising environment. A matching plaid headliner was also put into position for uniformity’s sake—and don’t forget the matching Bonspeed Sweep steering wheel that also accomplishes the same feat.

While Joel invested the better part of four years and buried just north of $20-grand into his Hilux, there is not a single minute or dollar that he regrets spending on it. Mini-trucks are what he loves. Joel eats, sleeps, and works the custom life every day, and it shows. This ’92 Toyota is the direct product of its environment. While it sits as a timeless example of what defines a well-balanced mini, this truck is not the last build we will see with Joel’s name attached, that’s for sure.



Joel Crookshank 

  • 1992 Toyota Hilux
  • New Port Richey, FL
  • Negative Camber


  • 1992 Toyota 2.4L
  • LC Engineering Street Performer cylinder head, Big Bore throttle body, fuel rail, and double row timing conversion
  • Polished OE intake
  • Stainless 2.25-inch exhaust tubing
  • Vibrant Performance muffler
  • Aluminum radiator w/ electric fan
  • Rerouted and tucked engine wiring
  • 1992 Toyota transmission
  • Two-piece driveshaft conversion
  • 1996 Ford Explorer 8.8 rear axle


  • 1992 original front clip
  • 2×3 square tubing from fire wall back, mandrel-bent rear rails
  • Tubular upper and lower control arms
  • Belltech drop spindles
  • Custom 5-link rear
  • Slam Specialties ‘bags
  • QA1 adjustable rear shocks
  • Air Lift 3P air management system
  • Viair 444 compressors
  • Seamless air tank
  • One-off fuel cell by Josh Moneypenny of Bespoke Metalworks, Clearwater, FL
  • Battery mounted under bed
  • All electrical run through frame rails


  • 18×8 Bonspeed Sweep wheels
  • 215/35/18 Nitto Neo Gen tires
  • Little Shop front brakes, PowerStop rear brakes
  • Drilled and slotted rotors
  • Wilwood proportioning valve
  • Redhorse Performance stainless braided hoses


  • Land Rover Velocity Metallic Blue paint by Dave Heyveld, Largo, FL
  • Minitruck style graphics by Aspire Autosports, Clearwater, FL
  • Shaved cowl, hood squirters, antenna, rear cab line, door handles, and stone guards
  • 4WD fenders, removed inner fender wells
  • OE Toyota 4Runner grille, headlights and bumpers
  • Anzo LED taillights


  • Toyota 4Runner bucket seats, shaved headrests
  • Leather and plaid upholstery
  • Smoothed and painted dash
  • Bonspeed Sweep steering wheel
  • Custom center console housing two Rockford Fosgate 8-inch subs
  • Rockford Fosgate 6.5-inch component door speakers
  • Pioneer head unit
  • Ring Brothers rocker switches, door pulls, window cranks, shifter boot and trim ring


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