For $250 Josh Mazerolle bought a 1977 Hilux out of its 15-year slumber in the Arizona desert. At least, that’s what he thought he did. What began as a plan to revive an old work truck straight home ended up creating one of the wildest mini trucks the world has ever seen and kicked off Mazerolle’s personal mission to make the world a little sweeter with every mile and every new place he goes.
Mazerolle’s love of everything Toyota trucks started at age 9, restoring and upgrading an old 4×4 with his dad. A few years and welds later, Mazerolle found himself the owner and operator of his own shop, Vague Industries, building mega trucks up in New Hampshire.
Determined to build a show truck out of nothing but his skills and shop scraps, Mazerolle thought this $250 desert truck was the perfect base to start with. After a week of fighting to get it running, Mazerolle pointed the truck toward home with no tools and no backup plan.
To nobody’s surprise, what Mazerolle believed was a healthy 4 cylinder started knocking like it was handing out church pamphlets a few miles into New Mexico.
Determined to make it, Mazerolle started idling the 120 miles down the unknown dirt roads to every regular person’s nightmare, a Craigslist stranger promising the exact motor he needed far beyond any cell phone coverage, main roads, barns, houses, or hope of getting a tow back to safety.
With white knuckles and clenched teeth, he rolled into a perfect stranger’s driveway to another neglected Hilux. Mazerolle’s journey could’ve ended right there, but it didn’t.
Not only was the donor motor an exact match and easily revived, but the seller also stayed up until 4 o’clock in the morning helping swap it with his own tools, just to keep the adventure going.
Down on sleep and feeling lucky, Mazerolle made another 600 miles of progress into Texas before his second motor developed the all-too-familiar death rattle.
The truck had beaten him again, but this isn’t your average builder. Struck with “Might As Well Syndrome”, Mazerolle yard-saled the cab, frame, and box across a friend’s barn to swap in a Crown Vic front and rear suspension, chop the frame, and swap in a junkyard fresh 5.3 LS.
Already past his 2-week timeline to get home and living next to livestock in a barn he was about done putting time and money into a truck that was costing him sleep and funding, but the truck wasn’t quite done.
Before it could be fired and hustled out, one of Mazerolle’s buddies showed up with a used Chinese turbo and a deal to make- “if you install it, you can have it.”
It was settled. Once a knocking, smoking mess of a mini truck, the Hilux was transformed into a rowdy turbo V8 hooning machine. With tires hung a mile outside the stock body like an automotive middle finger and a China-charged LS threatening to hurl the truck out of every curve, it was finally completed and worthy of a name: Deathwish.
Mazerolle once again set his sights on New Hampshire with little more than a screwdriver and 3 zip ties, stopping 35 times in the first 200 miles to repair and diagnose his monstrosity.
Without AAA or a toolset to save him, Mazerolle was saved by dozens of kind strangers who put him and his truck back to their adventure and signed the cab for good measure.
“If you look at the world through the eyes of the media, it’s a dangerous and scary place,” he remarks “but if you get out and experience it on a person to person level, it’s full of love, kindness, and regular people who want to help.”
Something changed about him and the truck, just then.
A build that started as a fun adventure and middle finger to the doubters ended up not being about the truck at all. Mazerolle realized every breakdown and issue had led him to meet kind people and new friends in the most unlikely of places. Strangers from every walk of life saw a need and met it, even when it was a cowboy in a sketchy looking truck that was asking.
Without knowing who he was, where he was from, or what he believed, they just treated him like a neighbor. With every failure and hard-earned mile, he got a little stronger and the truck took on a story all its own.
“The quality of build is secondary to the quality of people involved,” Mazerolle says.
The Hilux started Mazerolle’s journey to become a millionaire of memories, the type of person who positively impacts a million lives.
Three months, a few dozen breakdowns, and a laundry list of new signatures later, Deathwish rolled into a New Hampshire driveway. It could’ve ended there, but that wouldn’t make this the rowdiest mini truck on earth.
Mazerolle jumped to designing and cutting his own body kit for the truck, hammering his first-ever attempt at over-fenders out on a log.
Before the welds had even cooled Mazerolle turned the truck back toward Arizona where he first started 2500 miles away to try for a spot to compete in the $3k Hooptie Challenge at Roadkill Zip Tie Drags.
Not convinced the order was tall enough, Mazerolle and his co-driver for the trip, Cassidy Rottino, drove off their route into the South Carolina for an overnight nitrous install.
Having reduced reliability and the remaining time to get there, the insane duo cannonballed their way across the country just in time to run the event.
Mazerolle’s collection of parts was selected to run the Frankenstein class and took home the win in its class, going all the way to the final round before turning its 4-speed automatic transmission into putty mid-track.
Mazerolle and Rottino spent the following days battling one junkyard trans after another on their backs in parking lots, choosing to pilot the car even farther from home to Long Beach.
All told they raised the trip count to 10,0000 miles for an appearance to tear it up with the Hoonigans before arriving back in New Hampshire.
Twin Turbo LS Hilux Widebody ~ Terminal Apex
Hoonigan Daily Transmission
Since leaving Arizona for the first time, Josh Mazerolle and his Deathwish Hilux have crossed the country 9 times, destroyed 11 engines, nuked 12 transmissions, ruined countless tires, and totaled a camera car.
He and his build appeared on the $3k Hooptie Challenge, Flying Sparks Garage, Busted Knuckle Video, Heavy Metal Concepts, twice on the Hoonigans, and season 2 of Netflix’s Fastest Car.
Most importantly, Mazerolle and his truck have traveled over 34,000 miles of America’s highways, making lifelong friends, meeting kind strangers, and collecting countless signatures from people helping out in every corner of the map.
“It’s about people. I didn’t even want this truck, but after I saw how many people have been inspired by the story, that’s what it became about.”
The next time you see somebody stranded chasing the sunset in an old hooptie, help them out. You might just get someone, or yourself, a little closer to a millionaire of memories.
Article by Jon Bunger of Mad Scientist Garage