Armor Craft's Tacoma Skid Plate: the Squirrel Guard
Small Tacos Rejoice! Bolt-on low-frontal skid plates, 1995 through 2004, plus 4Runners.
We’re a big fan of functional here at Off-Road.com. Bolt-on goodness is right up there with killer trails, mud and the smell of race gas. No one is leaping out to say that these slick little skid plates from Armor Craft are the next great thing, but they have proven popular with the Toyota Tacoma set. That demand should be some indication of their worth, right?
Big Shop Builds Small Parts
|Indicated by Brian’s hand, these are the dimple-died ports for street and low-Tacos. Off-road and crawling units can be ordered thicker, bead rolled for strength.|
Armor Craft (armor-craft.com, 760.908.5521) has been something of an off-road enigma, building custom Class 7 and other desert trucks, truggies, custom pre-runners and several sorts of hand-fabbed wonders for its SoCal-based customers. Owner & lead brain Rich Clarke also manufactured a pre-fabricated Class 7 chassis built to the limits of the rules for SCORE and BITD and whatever other desert-race sanctioning body had a rule book for him.
It paid well, but Rich is a man of many interests and he couldn’t give the program enough attention to keep up with orders, so he shrank the race shop into a fab shop, and Armor Craft began producing lots of neat-o items and one-of-a-kind chassis work.
What brought us to Armor Craft this weekend was a scrumptious little bite of welded tube and sheet stock that Rich has been calling the Squirrel Guard. He and his lead Toyota nutter Brian have focused on the small Tacoma as an easy target for singular items like this low-frontal skid and deflector plate.
The five-lug 1995.5 – 2000 Toyota Tacoma is as rock-common as it gets, they’re readily modified for about every application you can require, including off-road, low-Taco, drag racing, work-site and even drifting – ask the guys at customtacos.com.
Although the name is odd, Rich explained it for us: “One of our early customers had the thing on and it kept a squirrel he ran over from going through his radiator. Seemed like as good a name as any.”
Squirrel Guard Skid Plate Specs
|OEM bolts are used to secure the Squirrel Guard throughout.|
By the time this story sees the world, Armor Craft will also have completed a Squirrel Guard for the 2001 – 2004 Tacoma, in two-wheel drive and the six-lug four-by Prerunner. They’re already set to build these for the 4Runner too.
To be picky, this skid plate isn’t just for squirrels, and the application you see here is just the one that was parked on Rich’s lift that day (Brian’s low-Taco daily driver). Set up for the street or off-road use, the guard is welded up of 1.25-inch .120-wall mild steel, and bolts in using preexisting OEM fasteners.
Customers can demand specs they need – chromoly tubing can be used for the high-test guys, and if you’re looking for the Squirrel Guard to aid your bumper-dragging trail crawling, bead-rolled 3/16-inch 6061 aluminum sheet with countersunk Allen-head fasteners is hung between the tubing instead of the dimple-died 5052 aluminum witnessed here. We’re also told the name of the off-road version is the Armored Squirrel Guard.
Given the streamlined mass of the newly reduced Armor Craft, Rich and company have found themselves busier than the proverbial one-legged man - trying to keep up with the small batches of production that come with targeted parts like the Squirrel Guard.
“I didn’t have the time to keep up with production running my big shop, but we’d always made a lot of money building batches of this and a couple of that for our customers," Rich said. "When I trimmed Armor Craft down, I kept taking the requests for the small stuff and customers have responded. So much for my free time.”
Niche Bits for Market Demand
|More OEM bolt use means you can count on OEM-strength attachment.|
Beyond the aforementioned fun bits like Squirrel Guards for the Tacoma, Rich is prototyping more late-model Tacoma parts, as well as late-model Tundra hardware and a line of short-production pieces that niche users beg for but often can’t find a high-end fabricator like Armor Craft to build.
One example of the trick bits includes skid plates for Off-Road.com’s gen-one Rav4 Crawler, the indomitable trucklet. We’ve had the hardest time outfitting it short of trying to buy things on the phone from builders in Australia and South America, and then we bumped into Rich at a local grub and grog establishment in Solana Beach – heard of the Pizza Port? Anyway, we got to talking with Rich, and then he brought up all the small-market hardware being built at Armor Craft nowadays, Tacomas and Tundras and what else? Rav4s, oh my. The trucklet came up, and it turned out Rich was a closet crawling junkie who had always wanted to take a torch to a Rav4.
Squirrel Guards for Everyone
You know the joke? We forgot to ask Rich what Armor Craft’s Toyota Tacoma Squirrel Guard cost. Considering Armor Craft will build these to suit the user, and that there’s at least four ways you can order the Squirrel Guard for your Tacoma, and two different generations of Tacoma that Armor Craft’s already manufacturing this low-frontal skid plate for, so it’s probably more important you figure out what you want and let them do the math. Rich said you can choose the color too.
Free of this Taco’s lower bumper valance, you get a perfect idea of installation simplicity – an honest bolt-on.