’84-’85 Toyota Pickup/4runner
If there is one vehicle out there that is nearly as prevalent on the trail as Jeeps are, it has to be the ubiquitous Toyota pickup. These trucks, known for their rugged dependability and economical engines have earned a huge following and benefit from strong aftermarket support.
Toyota’s 4x4 pickups, born out of the fuel crisis and introduced in 1979, were the first solid-axled mini trucks. They enjoyed impressive ground clearance and approach angles, as well as strong axles that left plenty of room for increased tire size, which made them and instant darling to those who were looking to modify.
In 1984, the second generation of these trucks was introduced with a few notable upgrades, including the Xtra Cab option that paired a nearly 10-inch-longer cab and shortbed on the standard cab, longbed’s 112-inch wheelbase. The standard cab shortbed’s 103-inch wheelbase was still available and was the basis for the new removable-top 4Runner SUV.
A carbureted 22R backed by a stronger G-series manual transmission was standard fare in the ’84, while ’85 brought fuel injection to the legendary 22R, making it the 22RE, which increased power from 100hp and 130 lb-ft of torque to 116hp and 140 lb-ft of torque. It was backed by the tough W56 five-speed manual or A340F four-speed automatic transmission. Manuals came with 4.10 gears, while autos were equipped with 4.30s. Even with small tires and low gearing, the 22R-equipped models, and even to some extent, the 22RE models were underpowered. Fortunately, they were also miserly with fuel use, earning fuel economy ratings of over 20 mpg. In 1984 a 2.2L diesel engine was an option on 4x4 longbeds, while this engine added a turbo in 1985. The diesels are a rare find today.
- Strong frames
- Available gear driven T-case
- Aftermarket support
- Push-pull steering limits articulation
- Timing chain uses plastic guides
- Factory Birfields axles are weak
Be on the lookout for:
’85 Xtra Cab or 4Runner SR5 manual to get more space, locking hubs, solid axles, leaves rear, gear-driven case and fuel injection. This is Holy Grail of Toyota pickups
’97-’06 Jeep Wrangler TJ
The TJ was revolutionary when it was introduced in 1996 as ’97 model. Out were the hard-riding and reluctant-to-articulate leaf springs of the YJ Wrangler, in were links and coils at all four corners, similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee of the day. This new suspension instantly transformed the Wrangler into a more comfortable, more capable vehicle with much wider appeal. Jeep purists also welcomed the return to Jeep’s signature round headlights. Because of the improvements in capability and comfort, the TJ proved to be an instant success. It was embraced in the aftermarket like no vehicle before it, and even spun off a long wheelbase variant, officially named the Unlimited, and unofficially and incorrectly referred to as the LJ.
The TJ could be optioned with either an anemic AMC-derived 2.5L four-cylinder (and later a 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder) or the more powerful and highly desirable 4.0L. Many transmission options were offered during the TJ’s run. From ’97-’02, the four-cylinder was mated to the three-speed TF999 automatic. In ’03, the four-speed 42RLE automatic was used behind both the four-cylinder and I-6.
Manual transmission options included the five-speed AX-5 from ’97-’02 behind the four-cylinder, the five-speed AX-15 from ’97-’99 behind the I-6, the five-speed NV3550 from ’00-’04 behind the I-6, the five-speed NV1500 from ’03-’04 behind the four-cylinder, and finally the six-speed NSG370 behind both engines in ’05 and ’06.
The biggest milestone of the TJ’s 10 years on the market was the introduction of the Rubicon model in 2003. This model is still considered one of the best factory-built 4x4s ever produced. Out of the box, it included such mechanical upgrades as front and rear Dana 44 axles, pneumatic locking differentials with 4.10 gears, and an NV241OR transfer case that featured a 4.0:1 low range gearset. Other improvements included 245/75R16 Goodyear MT/R tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels, diamond-plate rocker protection, and other cosmetic changes. All non-Rubicon models used the proven NV231 transfer case with a 2.72:1 low range gearset.
TJs, while amazingly capable from the showroom floor, do have issues with axletubes that are subject to bending when anything bigger than a 35 is fitted and they tend to keep their value, meaning they are expensive in the used car market.
- Arguably the best 4x4 platform in the world
- Enormous aftermarket support
- Hard to find unmolested examples
- Bendable front axle tubes
- Leaky exhaust manifolds
- Driveline vibrations
Be on the lookout for:
Any ’03-’06 Rubicon model, especially Unlimiteds