This afternoon I took the Death Star to the Toyota dealer for some attention. As usual I checked in at the Service Department, and walked through the shop to the customer waiting area. The engineer in me always scans the shop for the population of Cadillacs, and Toyotas being serviced. This time a Tacoma pick up truck caught my eye. It was in the air on the rack, but did not have the bed. A closer look revealed that it didn’t have wheels, suspension, engine, transmission, drive train or anything else either. All of it lay on the floor in neat piles around the body. Nothing looked damaged and I wrote it off as a project to build a hotrod. That didn’t make sense either so I crossed the yellow line and asked a technician about what he was doing on this vehicle.
Here is what he told me: The truck was recalled by Toyota for a rusted frame, and this truck was in the process of having it’s frame replaced. Owners were offered a replacement frame, or a buy back at 150% of the truck’s value. “What was the problem,” I asked?
The frame manufacturer, a US company, skipped a cleaning step after forming the frame, and the primer did not stick to the metal. That allowed moisture to get at the steel, and caused it to rust. Recalls do not happen unless people die from the defect, so these trucks must have been crashing because of frame failures.
I am totally impressed with Toyota’s analysis of the problem and getting to the root cause. I have written about my early experiences with Toyota when they first arrived in America. I was a young man firmly convinced that small cars were more gas efficient and therefore polluted the atmosphere less. I bought a 1969 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon. It was the worst car I ever owned and also the shortest lived car I drove. I Owned it for two very long years out of which it spent twelve weeks in the shop waiting for parts to repair a defective crank shaft. When it was all done I got a new crankshaft with the same problem as it had. I know, because I met the new owner about a year after I sold it, and he asked me If I had crankshaft problems with it. That caused me to boycott all Japanese made cars for thirty-seven years.
My experience with the Death Star has changed my mind and I will probably never buy a UAW made car again.
Here are the photos of a very disassembled well used Toyota Tacoma being fitted with a brand new frame.