A Testament Of Toyota's Strength
Mike Caskey is a soft-spoken guy, usually found with some faded blue jeans and a cowboy hat on. Once he gets behind the wheel though, his entire demeanor changes. Gone is the sheepish grin, replaced with a steely look of determination that is all business. This dual personality helps explain why he is such an accomplished wheeler and fabricator. When we last caught up with Caskey, it was on Colorado's Independence Trail. At that time, his '93 Toyota 4Runner was a... diamond in the rough, to put it nicely. Like the cobbler's son who had no shoes, Caskey's 4Runner had long sat in the corner of the shop while he worked on customers' vehicles. The only attention it normally received was hard use on the most extreme of trails. The engineering and fabrication were impressive, even if the sheetmetal was not.
Since we last saw him, Caskey has polished his diamond up to a high shine. He recently had Oleg Kazantsev in Aurora, Colorado, perform extensive paint and bodywork to turn his 4Runner into a rolling billboard. He did this tocoincide with the launch of 4x4Lifestyles, which he recently started in addition to Off Road Solutions(ORS), his existing shop. 4x4 Lifestyles, as the name implies, sells anything and everything for the rabid rockcrawler, from apparel to posters, trail guides to DVDs.
When you run a rockcrawling shop that caters to Toyotas, it makes a lot of sense to run what you sell, and this rig has been a testbed for a variety of ORS products. The engine is a 3.4L Toyota Tacoma mill that has been swapped in place of the anemic 3.0L using, you guessed it, an Off Road Solutions engine conversion kit and wiring harness. From the engine, power is transferred through an Aisin R151F transmission and dual 23-spline Toyota transfer cases mated with a Marlin Crawler adapter and 4.7:1 Marlin Crawler gearset. The transfer cases are secured with a Front Range Off-Road Fabrication high-clearance crossmember and are protected by Front Range's transfer case skidplate, which also acts as a girdle and solidly ties the dual cases and adapter together.
From the long-travel driveshafts, the torque is transferred to Toyota axles front and rear. The front unit was sourced from an FZJ80 Land Cruiser and outfitted with Newfields from CV Unlimited, chrome-moly axleshafts from Poly Performance, and an ARB Air Locker and 5.29 Yukon gears in the high-pinion, 8-inch third member. Gusseting was also added to the front housing for strength.
The rear axle was sourced from a T100 and contains a Front Range Off-Road Fabrication full-floater kit with disc brakes, 5.29 Yukon gears, an ARB Air Locker, and extensive gusseting. All these modifications were deemed necessary to make the axles survive the 42-inch Super Swamper TSLs and undercut ledges they frequently encounter. The giant Swampers are mounted to 15x10-inch steel wheels fitted with aluminum ORS beadlock rings. Factory Toyota parts provide the steering as well, although Caskey admits that hydraulic steering would be more effective and will be added in the future. The stock steering arms on the FZJ80 front axle place the tie rod behind the axle, limiting its vulnerability; however, a custom DOM drag link and tie rod were still used to keep them from pretzeling when the tires are wedged up in the rocks.