Exploring the unknown in a 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Story by Kelly Nomura | Photos by Evan Gage
We often hear how a vehicle is purpose-built, and this 2013 FJ Cruiser is no different. It certainly was a well-thought-out purchase and evolved over time into the rig you see today. It’s capable, fun, dependable and stands out in a crowd. In fact, the same could be said about its owner, Frank Martinez.
One half of the podcast, “Rigged For Dirt” (“RFD”), Frank demonstrates a breadth of knowledge most would envy. He’s an entertaining storyteller, capturing your attention in a way that makes you eager to pull up a chair around the campfire to hear his stories. Laughter often accompanies those stories, and conversations with Frank are no different. Time in his company is always well spent and enjoyable.
Much like Frank, his 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser, affectionately named “Trucky McTruckface,” is no different. It demonstrates a breadth of capabilities that make you want to spend some time with it, either checking it out or hopping in for a ride.
It might be its red-and-gray color scheme or its strong stance, but Trucky McTruckface captures the attention of everyone, whether they’re nearby or far away. The red Fuel Offroad Zephyr beadlocks wrapped in Falken Wildpeak MT01s have him keeping up with Jeeps on the trail and looking good on the highway. With a matching, full-sized spare in the rear, Frank and Trucky are ready to tackle challenging terrain.
It’s not just a truck with pretty wheels. This FJ Cruiser is plenty capable to hit more-difficult trails and get Frank to the far-off, remote destinations he seeks. And, with the help of Rebel Offroad and Demello Offroad, the FJ Cruiser got dialed in for Frank’s explorations and camping needs.
Laying a Foundation for Vehicle Adventure
Frank’s journey into overlanding was a way to get in touch with his younger self—who found passion in exploring, camping, building and facing challenges. After spending time to build his career, he found himself craving the experiences of his teenaged years.
“Enjoying his morning ritual anywhere he wants brings the most satisfaction to Frank. It is the moment when all feels right.”
Always a “car guy,” Frank flexed his muscle car admiration with a 1979 TransAm in black and gold with a 403 when he was just 16 years old. It wasn’t the wisest choice from his parents’ point of view: Three months later, his parents wised up, Frank was forced to sell the TransAm, and he ended up with a 1975 Corvette Stingray.
While that sounds like a sweet trade-off, its beauty didn’t hide its lackluster power.
As Frank puts it, “The 350 was gutless, thanks to new emissions regulations.” (Still, we think that’s a pretty cool ride for a teenager.)
The passion to work on cars and learn about them continued through high school but soon died down as growing up and life took over.
An Overland Journey Begins
When Frank hit his 30s and his career was established, he ventured into overlanding. He bought a 2016 Ford F150 and began tinkering with it in order to go camping to figure out exactly in which direction he wanted this new hobby to go. At first, he’d go off on his own to the desert, make lunch and dinner and watch the sunset. Eventually, he wanted to see more and learn more. Enter the overland community.
After six trips with others who pushed him to go farther, he realized the F150 wasn’t the vehicle for him.
Frank explained, “It needed extensive work to get clearance, and the trails were getting tighter as I ventured farther into the deserts and mountains.”
Downsizing to Go Farther
Like many people, when the Toyota FJ Cruiser came out in 2007, Frank wasn’t impressed. Thinking it looked like a Playskool “My First SUV,” he never thought the day would come when he would own one.
Flash forward a decade or so, and a desire to own a reliable and capable vehicle took him to his first SUV.
“Understanding the trade-offs of cargo capacity and fuel, I opted to downsize, and my search for a Jeep or Toyota began,” Frank said.
Frank made a deliberate choice—opting for the FJ Cruiser over a Jeep Wrangler—because reliability was paramount.
Reliability Meets Capability
Choosing an IFS over a solid axle, Frank modified the suspension to keep the Toyota’s reliability and increase its capability. His suspension adds to the look and brings a more comfortable ride.
“Frank made a deliberate choice—opting for the FJ Cruiser over a Jeep Wrangler—because reliability was paramount.”
In front, Trucky McTruckface sports a King-and-Camburg Engineering combo. The King extended-travel shocks with adjusters are paired with Camburg Kinetic 1-inch uniball upper control arms and 1-inch uniball lower control arms, along with Total Chaos spindle gussets, 1-inch diff drop and sway bar relocation kit. To make it all fit and not get any rub, a body mount chop was performed as well.
In the rear, Frank chose a King-and-Icon setup. The King extended-travel with adjusters are paired with Icon hydraulic air bump stops, +3 overland coil springs and an adjustable rear track bar.
Exploring the U.S.A.
Trucky McTruckface must be reliable, because it’s also Frank’s daily driver. When it isn’t driving around Southern California, it’s finding dirt once or twice a month or going the distance on longer trips. The farthest it’s traveled was a 4,000-mile trip through seven states in August 2021.
However, the most memorable trip was a recent, nine-day trip through Colorado with Rebel Offroad. Frank drove through some of the largest passes in the country and explored the Continental Divide. He saw abandoned motels with artistic murals and added to his journey with camaraderie, laughter and shared memories. Frank perfectly explained the feeling of wonder that took over and what overlanding is all about.
“You feel small. You realize it’s a big world—more than you can see in a lifetime. What little bits we manage to see in our short time here are still more than a lot of people will ever see.”
Hunting for the Moment
Because camping is what led Frank to the off-road world, it makes perfect sense that his favorite part of the build consists of his refrigerator and camp kitchen.
“Frank drove through some of the largest passes in the country and explored the Continental Divide. He saw abandoned motels with artistic murals and added to his journey with camaraderie, laughter and shared memories.”
Trucky McTruckface looks right at home in the red-hued landscape. Frank turned to Goose Gear to provide functionality and organization to his camp kitchen setup. The Goose Gear platform supports the Goose Gear fridge slide and drawer system with a Kovea two-burner stove. A Dometic CFX3 55 fridge holds items to make a tasty camp meal paired with a refreshing beverage. It also houses Frank’s most favorite item—iced coffee. Enjoying his morning ritual anywhere he wants brings the most satisfaction to Frank. It is the moment when all feels right.
Giving Back to the Community
An active member of Overland Bound, Frank also brings the overland community together. When not roaming his favorite spots in the deserts of Southern California, Frank and Trucky McTruckface can be found hosting weekend meetups in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego with Rigged For Dirt. The podcast with the same name also acts as a great tool to connect members in the community with people in the industry or interesting characters with whom he or his RFD partner, Ali, crosses paths.
Stop By; Say ‘Hi’
If you have the chance to make it to a meet, you won’t be disappointed. Frank and Ali will greet you with smiles. And you’ll get the chance to view a wide variety of vehicles. In addition, if you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to hear one of Frank’s great stories.
To follow along on Frank Martinez and Trucky McTruckface’s adventures, find them on Instagram @trucky_mctruckface. The “Rigged for Dirt” podcast can be found on Apple Music, Spotify or any podcast app and can also be followed on Instagram @riggedfordirt.
2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Engine: 4.0L V6
Wheels & Tires: Fuel Zephyr in red, 17×9 with -15 offset and 4.410 backspacing; Falken Tire Wildpeak MT01 315/70/R17
Suspension: King adjustable extended-travel shocks; Camburg Engineering UCAs and LCAs; Total Chaos spindle gussets, diff drop, sway bar relocation kit (front); King adjustable extended-travel shocks; ICON upper and lower billet trailing arms, hydraulic bump stops, +3 coil springs and adjustable rear track bar
Interior Accessories: Gaia GPS/Apple iPad Mini w/cellular; Goose Gear platform and drawer system, fridge slide; Rago Fabrication MOLLE panels; RIDGID storage boxes/spare parts bin; Rugged Radio GMRS; Yeasu HAM radio; Wagan Tech 1200 Lithium Cube; BigBlue foldable 100W solar panel; Factor 55 Ultrahook Red; Dometic CFX3 55; Powertank 10-gallon tank
Exterior Accessories: Demello Off Road Aluminum Baja Bumper (front), Aluminum bumper (rear); Dominator Rock Sliders; Freedom Retrofits Turbine; KC Hilites 50” Gravity Pro 6, multifunction chase bar; G4 Fog Lights (40), Gravity Pro 6; Smittybuilt X20 winch; Rotopax; Front Runner Outfitter Slimline II Roof Rack, Monsoon bag, 10-Gallon Water Tank, Camp Table; Revolution Gear and Axle 4.56 regear; Eaton air locker (front); Odyssey Extreme 34R deep-cycle AGM battery; Hood-mounted Cascadia 4×4 100W solar panel; overland vehicle systems 270 awning