Most people never get to attend the press introduction of a new model. For those that do, yes, they're fun events, but they can be “predictable.” So when Allen Vaught and Paul Czaplicki of Vehicle Marketing and Communications were planning the introduction of the 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road models, Nate Martinez and Craig Taguchi, from Toyota’s Public Relations Department, wanted to unveil this new model someplace unique. Quickly they agreed that the annual FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado would be the perfect venue.
Then they came up with an equally creative idea to ensure they got press coverage: Rather than flying the journalists directly in to the event, they decided to have everyone meet in Las Vegas and drive to Colorado. Here’s the twist: They hired Expedition Overland to plan the route – so rather than 604 miles of mostly interstate highway, the team departed from the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas and quickly left the pavement behind as the journey “expanded” to 724 miles that included a lot of dirt roads!
“We wanted to give the journalists a unique experience – an experience that included camping in pop-up tents and roughing it in the mountains for a few days,” said Nate. Craig added, “This not only gave them an awesome experience—it also let them experience what ‘let’s go places’ really means.”
The reality was that there were two expeditions: Nate accompanied the group from Vegas to Ouray… then Craig rode shotgun with a new group of journalists heading from Ouray back to Nevada following the end of the FJ Summit. But what does everyone say about best laid plans?
“Nate's leg was 724 miles… my leg back was over 820 miles! This trip was planned for months – but we didn’t plan on a storm hitting just before the return trip. We encountered Tacoma-sized holes in the trail. There was no way to get through it… so we had to take an alternate route,” said Craig. “It was late. Pitch black. Everyone was tired. So we finally decided the safe solution was to stop in the middle of nowhere and make camp. We had no clue where we were – but let me tell you, come sun up, we woke up to spectacular views that I will never forget! Everyone was blown away!”
Equally impressive was the fleet of Toyota vehicles on this expedition – a Tundra TRD Pro, 4Runner TRD Pro, Tacoma TRD Off-Road plus the Expedition Overland Toyotas (one of which was pulling a military-grade trailer with all of the water and camping gear)*. During the 1,500+ mile trip, there were zero problems – not even a flat tire! “This was a real world demonstration of the rugged durability of these Toyota trucks – it was the ultimate test and they passed with flying colors,” Craig added.*Before towing, confirm your vehicle and trailer are compatible, hooked up and loaded properly and that you have any necessary additional equipment. Do not exceed any Weight Ratings and follow all instructions in your Owner’s Manual. The maximum you can tow depends on the total weight of any cargo, occupants and available equipment. Not all models can tow 5,000 lbs. Consult your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual for towing capacity
If you've never been, and you enjoy driving off road, then attending the FJ Summit is definitely a "bucket list" kind of event. "When the tickets to the event went on sale, they were sold out in about 30 seconds – that's how popular it is," said Craig.
All in all, there were 346 vehicles and 1,019 people coming in from Alaska to Brazil. The event was created to celebrate the FJ Cruiser, but has grown to embrace all Toyota off-road vehicles: Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner and Land Cruisers. People attend with everything from straight stock to highly customized vehicles, and everyone has one focus: to have fun and be with friends.
"Within this group, the Expedition Overland team is legendary. We got stopped on the trail every hour so people could take pictures, get autographs – the passion for Toyota was amazing," added Craig.
"The most exciting part of FJ Summit was driving on Imogene Pass. It’s so tight and technical, you have to be focused because you realize one wrong move and…" said Nate. Craig agreed, "This trail takes you to Telluride, and I have to say the views are eye-opening – spectacular. And just when you think you've seen the most beautiful sights, you round a corner, and there's something even more breathtaking."
“What was cool, holding the press introduction for the 2017 4Runner TRD Off-Road at the FJ Summit was perfect as this group appreciates that Toyota's off-road DNA is alive and well with this new SUV," Craig said. "In the auto industry, the 4Runner is one of the last survivors of body-on-frame construction in this class, and that's what serious off-roaders want." Here are the highlights of the two newest additions to the Toyota TRD line of trucks – the 2017 4Runner TRD Off-Road and the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro:
The first FJ Summit was held in 2007. This year celebrated their 10th anniversary with 346 vehicles and 1,019 people attending – literally doubling the population of Ouray (and remember, it sold out in 30 seconds once passes went on sale). What makes it so popular?
For one, the FJ Cruiser has a cult-like following. But over the years, FJs have been joined by old school FJ (Land Cruiser) models, Tacoma and Tundra trucks, 4Runners, even a Lexus LX 470 has been known to show up – this is a celebration of all off-road oriented Toyota vehicles, and everyone is driving around with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.
In addition to a good time, the FJ Summit team also does good works. During the past 10 years, the FJ Summit leadership team has raised over $90,000 to provide donations to a number of deserving local organizations, including Stay The Trail, Ouray Mountain Rescue, Ouray Fire Department, and the Ouray County Sheriff’s Department. They have also endowed two “FJ Summit” college scholarships for deserving local high school students. Another plus is that the FJ Summit caters to more than just the off-road driver; it’s a vacation for the entire family. And when participants aren’t on the trails, there are catered dinners, a kid’s raffle and classes and clinics to help ensure that everyone learns and grows in this sport. Get the picture why this is a “bucket list” event?
A lot of people take their wheels for granted: they’re round and made of aluminum, so what else is there? The truth is, a lot goes into wheel design to make sure they are not only compatible with the vehicle they’re mounted on, but that they’re made to stand up to the rigors of off-road driving.
That’s what makes TRD Wheels so special. Not only do they feature off-road race-inspired styling, they utilize hot forged construction that is lighter than their cast counterparts and offer a higher strength-to-weight ratio. Among other benefits, they deliver the proper weight, offset and brake clearance to ensure proper fit, finish and reliability. So when you’re in the market for new wheels, don’t settle for anything less than TRD Wheels.