Without a doubt, project vehicles are interesting pieces of work. As anyone who has ever built a project vehicle can attest, the buildup basically starts with a rough plan, moves into the refinement stage, a list of modifications and parts decided upon, vendors and suppliers are contacted, and the project truck is slowly pieced together. For a magazine project vehicle, the process is more dramatic -- and complicated. The vehicle is basically built as an act of promotion for the magazine, the OEM supplier of the vehicle, and the aftermarket parts' manufacturers that supply the upgrades. Care must be taken to provide everyone involved with a positive presentation of product and image, and the project must be built in a timely manner -- all taking place while putting out each issue of Truckin's SUV and meeting magazine and project deadlines.

Our last project vehicle -- the bright-yellow and lifted Chevy Avalanche that graced these pages more than a year ago -- succeeded admirably in meeting all of the above-mentioned requirements. In building up our present project -- a Toyota Sequoia -- we had hoped to also meet with success. We'll let our readers be the judge of how well we succeeded.

The Beginning
We received our '01 SR5 Sequoia from Toyota in December, 2002. The vehicle was given to us on a two-year loan basis to modify the big SUV and promote it as we saw fit. This particular Sequoia is actually a pre-production vehicle, and one of the first 10 Sequoias ever built. At the time we took possession of the vehicle, it had been used as a general workhorse around Toyota's Torrance, California, headquarters, and was a bit rough around the edges after two years of rugged use. We were soon to change all that.

Our stock Sequoia, like all Sequoias, is built on the Toyota Tundra platform, and powered by a modified version of the Tundra's 4.7L, i-Force V-8 engine. This powerplant puts out 240 hp and a respectable 315 lb-ft of torque. Our Project Sequoia came to us with an Imperial Jade Metallic stock paintjob with gray trim.

In the majority of project vehicle buildups, the first area of modification is wheels and tires -- we chose the same route with the Sequoia. With this in mind, the first modification to the Sequoia was a set of 17-inch American Racing Diamond Back wheels wrapped by Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo rubber of the P265/70R17 variety. The rolling stock was precisely mounted on the Sequoia by the Anaheim Wheel Center in Anaheim, California. This wheel and tire combination resulted in a 32-inch-tall tire, which was more than 2 inches taller than stock.

One of our initial plans with the Sequoia was to give it a bit more of an aggressive off-road attitude and stance, and firm up the Toyota's ride somewhat. The wheels and tires were able to achieve some of this, but to really get what we wanted, we visited Sway-A-Way in Chatsworth, California, for some upgraded suspension components. Although Sway-A-Way had a suspension lift kit for a Tundra application, it had not yet developed one for the Sequoia. Our Project Sequoia was to be the first. The suspension lift consisted of a pair of the company's RaceRunner coilover shocks, a pair of Big Bore shocks, a set of rear coil spacers and bolts, and a pair of side bumper blocks. Once installed, the kit gave the Sequoia's front and rear a 3-inch lift, served to even up the Toyota's stance, and made the ride much more competitive, especially in the turns.

Exterior Refinement
Some of the real eye-catching mods of the Sequoia and real beauty of the truck lie in its exterior modification. There's no ignoring that flashy paintjob, and pieces have been subtly shaved and added on for a tight-and-right look. The most dramatic modification you can perform to an SUV is probably to cover the body with an eye-grabbing paintjob, and the Sequoia's is indeed dramatic. That paint was professionally sprayed by L&G Enterprises in San Dimas, California, and the overall scheme was conceived by L&G's resident artist, Theresa Contreras. The paintjob is actually composed of several House of Kolor hues with a vivid special blend of Bittersweet Pearl and Goldmine Pearl, which Theresa has dubbed Bitter Gold, on top of the Sequoia, and a rich Knox Gold Pearl chocolate-brown color on the bottom. Separating the two is a mountain range theme made up of Ultra Orange, the Bitter Gold combo, Tangerine, and Root Beer Kandy. The overall effect is stunning, and reminds us of a western theme with golden mountains receding into the background.

While at L&G, most of the Sequoia's emblems were also shaved, adding to the clean and custom look. A real highlight of the overall paintjob is an airbrushed Toyota logo on the rear of the big Sequoia -- a real work of art, and an almost 3-D final effect. Rounding out the exterior style is several body pieces from ATS Design, including upper and lower grilles, a rear spoiler, and a set of the company's Edge Series running boards. All of these pieces were also painted to match the Sequoia's vivid colors. For a bit more seeing power, and to spruce up the Sequoia's foglight recesses, a pair of Catz XSL driving lights was installed. The final candle on the cake is a Truckin's SUV logo, supplied by Mike's Tint Shop in Anaheim, California.

Performance Cues
Performance upgrades were kept to a minimum on our Project Sequoia (the near future may bring more mods), however, we were anxious to install an AEM air intake system, since we had heard such good things about the product. Our Sequoia was the first of its kind to receive the AEM Brute Force intake, and we can honestly say it is the most impressive intake we've tested to date. When the throttle is punched -- especially while cruising the freeways at legal speed -- the added power can definitely be felt, and the sound of additional air being sucked into the intake is sweet indeed. During dyno-testing of the Brute Force unit, a gain of 15.1 hp was measured, which is phenomenal for an intake system alone.

With a little extra go-power, stopping power should always be increased, and to that end we outfitted the Sequoia with a set of Power Slot rotors and pads to bring the Sequoia to a quick stop when called upon. Power Slot's slotted rotors are specifically designed to run cooler and promote improved wet and dry brake performance.

Interior Refinement
Naturally, with any show vehicle and promotional project vehicle, interior upgrades are just as important as wheels and tires, suspension, performance, and exterior modifications. One of the keys to a successful interior is the addition of custom leather seating, and we went directly to the experts -- Katzkin Leather Interiors -- to do the job right. Katzkin expertly covered our front and rear seats, headrests, and door panels with some quality cow hide that perfectly matched our exterior paintjob. In addition, the company supplied us with enough suede headliner material to replace the drab stock headliner, and we had enough material left over to also cover the sunvisors and the Sequoia's rear-inside hatch. Our friends at 714 Motorsports in Huntington Beach, California, expertly installed the suede material. What a difference leather and suede can do to make the interior a success.

Custom floormats are another feature that can be spruced up in a project vehicle, and in our case, we wanted the best. Artexture, of Los Angeles, really came through with custom front and rear mats that were conceived and created with the exterior paintjob in mind. Artexture even went the extra mile to create a perfect-fitting carpet that lies behind the second row of seats and sports a large Truckin's SUV logo in its midst.

For a finishing touch, Audiovox stepped in and installed an electric mix of the company's mobile electronics gear. For the full story on this, see the "Inside Moves" sidebar that runs on the last page of this feature.

There it is, Truckin's SUV's Project Sequoia. When we first received the Sequoia in stock format, our ultimate goal was to create one of the most impressive Sequoias on the planet, and we think we came pretty close to the mark. Over the last year, the vehicle has served as the catalyst for numerous articles within these pages, was prominently featured in the Audiovox booth at the SEMA Show, has taken part in three Truckin' State 2 State Cruises and Truckin' Nationals, and is highlighted here as this issue's cover vehicle. As you see it here, the vehicle is just about complete, however, a TRD supercharger package may be the last key to the project puzzle.

When Toyota first handed over this vehicle, we were a bit vague about its final outcome, but as you can see, we've turned it into a golden opportunity.

Inside Moves:
Audio/Video Entertainment

Truckin's SUV's last two project vehicles have both taken advantage of a wide variety of Audiovox components, and the vehicles were prominently featured in the Audiovox booth at major shows. Project Sequoia features seven LCD screens, a DVD/CD changer, an upgraded head unit, a navigation system, and an XM radio -- all from Audiovox.

Orchestrating the entire system is Audiovox's PAV-9 head unit that features a motorized 7-inch in-dash LCD color monitor and AM/FM stereo. The system is easy to operate with a few control elements and a clearly structured menu. There are a total of seven LCD TV screens in the Sequoia, including the 7-inch screen on the head unit, four 7-inch screens in the front- and second-seat headrests, a 9-inch flip-down unit with a DVD player, and a massive 15.1-inch flip-down unit in the back of the big Toyota.

Mounted below the head unit is Audiovox's new Nav 5000 navigation system, a DVD-based system that displays its information on the PAV-9's screen. It provides the user with driving information in the form of acoustic and visual signals. The system is easy to operate with a few control elements and a clearly structured menu.

Flip open the center console between the driver and passenger seats, and you'll find the six-disc DVD/CD/MP3 changer that can be used to play movies and music. For XM radio, an Audiovox Satellite Digital Audio Control and Receiver System was also installed to pick up the approximately 140 channels of XM Radio.