There’s got to be a Toyota Hilux Hall of Fame. Remember the one from Top Gear? The one they drowned in the ocean and crushed under a demolished building—that still ran? Or what about Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s PPI #001, the granddaddy of all TRD off-road dreams? And we can’t forget Marty McFly’s dream machine—a 1985 Hilux Xtracab 4X4. Every gearhead knows these machines—even if they don’t know they do.
Speaking of 1985 Toyota Hiluxes, I think we can add another to the Hall of Fame. I’m talking about a Toyota called Amelia. If you’re not already familiar with Amelia, you’ve no doubt already found yourself drawn in by her charms. In a world filled with high-dollar hype, Amelia is a reminder of the simpler things—pure, unadulterated automotive freedom and the great outdoors.
She’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves; who you are, where you are, what you do for a living, etc. When it comes to the amazing machine in question—Amelia—I have so many questions, but perhaps you have a preferred way of introducing her? Anything else you’d like to add, introductions-wise?
[you] Howdy! My name is Tyler, and I am currently based out of Chino, CA. I am starting work with the California Conservation Corps early next month, with a career in land management as the goal.
As for that Toyota named Amelia, I’m not even sure where to begin. She is a 1985 Toyota Pickup 4×4. Short bed, single cab with a wood & aluminum camper. She was basically a barn find with 64,000 original miles and a dead motor. I have since brought her back to life and now travel/camp out of her as often as I can.
[tgp] Why do you want to work in land management? Do you have a background in this or just decided you wanted to do it? We’ve all seen the “closure isn’t management” memes—but how many people are willing to go so far as making management their jobs?
[tg] I have actually always wanted to work in land management, since I was a kid. Growing up camping in the Sierras and local SoCal mountains, I was always infatuated with the mint green single cab, short bed Forest Service pickups.
Now being a (somewhat) adult, the thought of being able to make a living out of taking care of and informing people about the forests of the west is the absolute dream. I worked a season as a Park Aid with Nevada State Parks in Lake Tahoe. It was then that I was actually full time living in Amelia, acting as a park host on top of my regular duties.
It was the dream. Camping full time, having to split rounds of wood to keep warm and have a fire to cook over was the pinnacle of living for me.Tyler Geertsma
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a Hilux owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? Toyotas are known for their reliability, and thanks to an episode of Top Gear, the Hilux is considered nigh indestructible. What do you love about Amerlia? What do you maybe not love about her?
[you] I can absolutely vouch for the bulletproof-ness of these trucks. When I first bought the truck, I had absolutely zero idea that the motor was running on about 1.5/4 cylinders. Thing ran fine. A buddy of mine and I drove it to Utah, over 1,000 miles, on 1.5 cylinders without even knowing it. We only discovered it because of a funky idle upon returning home.
The thing with these little trucks is that even when they’re broken, they will always get you home. I love Amelia for all of this, and so much more. She has never once let me down entirely, while always being a project in some way. It’s a never ending battle but I would have it no other way. Only thing I am not a particular fan of is how spine-shattering the ride of a solid axle Yota is, but airing down solves that one.
[tgp] How did Amelia come to be the way she is? Can you share a bit of the backstory with us?
[you] As I mentioned before, I bought her as a barn-find from the original family. It was their ranch truck for about the first 30 years of its life, until I bought her. I have since rebuilt the motor twice, and replaced just about everything around it in the process. I had a new camper built to resemble her original shell from ’85, and built a sleeping platform that stays in the camper full time. I have since put about 70K miles on her over the span of about 3 years.
[tgp] Tell us about your approach to building Amelia. How do you balance the desire to invest in shiny new equipment versus maintaining, shall we say the aesthetic of Amelia? Overlanding is expensive! Amelia suggests it doesn’t have to be. Does that make sense?
[you] My entire goal with building Amelia is to make the truck as functional as possible, while retaining her originality and aesthetic. The most obvious modern “overland-y” modification would be the awning on the camper, which has proved its worth multiple times. I am letting the patina on the hood and fenders do its thing, and also NEVER parting with her factory white steelies.
At the end of the day, the build will always look how it currently does, just perhaps a bit taller on 33’s. Amelia is proof you don’t need a $800 monthly car payment, or even power steering, to get out and enjoy the most remote parts of America (and one day beyond).
The Amelia Community
[tgp] Ordinarily, I ask about platform-related communities. Given how strong the ‘Yota community is these days, I’m more interested in Amelia’s community. She’s got her charms and I’m sure you’ve got stories to tell about the community growing around this humble little truck. What’s it like?
[you] The amount of people I have met and friends I have made through this little type-writer of a truck (that’s a 22R joke) astounds me. The fact that I have been able to inspire even just one person to go outside and explore means I have done my job. I am always trying to be kind, encourage, and give the best advice I can to anybody willing to listen. I’ve camped with folks I’ve never met in person before, in the absolute middle of nowhere without really thinking twice about it. That, to me, is a beautiful thing.
This Gearhead Life
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[you] Automotive culture is an odd one to say the least. I may drive a 90HP carbureted Toyota pickup truck, but I can absolutely appreciate that 1-of-200 ’69 Hemi Charger Daytona all the same. I am definitely of the belief that car culture, while already being pretty inclusive of all things with wheels, should always be striving to move forward in that mentality.
In a nutshell, it simply comes down to not being an asshole. That’s that.Tyler Geertsma
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[you] The person who has always had the biggest impact on my life as a car guy will always and forever be my brother, Josh. He’s taught me just about everything I know about engines and cars in general, and for that I’m thankful beyond words. Always ready to help, and call me out on my shit.
Past that I need to give a massive shoutout to every one of my buddies that have helped with this build. Austin, Robert, Donald, and Phillip with the initial engine swap, this would not be what it is without every one of ya! Bryan & Kimo with the super home-brewed Reno rebuild, those are some of my favorite memories through all this. Kyle Lint with the absolute abundance of knowledge and support once the truck and I found ourselves back in SoCal, and a never-ending thank you to everyone who has reached out through social media to support and help when we’ve needed it. THANK YOU!
Oh, what a feeling!
Every vehicle has a story and character. Amelia is no different in that regard, but where so many machines out there are polished and promoted within an inch of their lives, Amelia speaks in soft whispers. The mountains are calling. The woods. The lakes. The great outdoors. And what a way to experience them in a such a simple, honest machine.
Tyler and Jaz are living the dream. There’s a work-life harmony story in here, too, but we’ll have to see if we can sweet talk these two into being on the podcast one of these days. (Yes, the podcast is coming back.)
Would you like to know more?
- You’re already following @atoyotacalledamelia
- California Conservation Corps
- US Forest Service
- Nevada State Parks
Hilux Hall of Fame