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1985 Toyota SR5 4x4 Pickup - A Purist Approach

Posted in Features on June 23, 2014 Comment (0)
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Being a purist for the sole sake of purity doesn’t always make sense. Why stay true through and through if it means suffering along with poor performance or suspect reliability? Trail enthusiasts often mix and match parts from several different brands to achieve their desired results. No doubt, you’ve seen a CJ-7 with a small-block Chevy under the hood and a Ford 9-inch rear axle. The best parts create the best results no matter whose company emblem adorns them.

The 1985 Toyota pickup on these pages was built sans marque mixing. It’s all Toyota from end to end. Originally built by Daniel Cox, the Toy is owned and ’wheeled by his brother Michael. Daniel passed away in 2008, but his hard work building the truck is exhibited and appreciated with Michael behind the wheel. As you’ll see, there was no reason to go brand hopping. Smart selection of factory Toyota parts took this truck from competent to exceptional one step at a time.

The 1985 Toyota pickup is a sought-after year for 4x4 Toyota because it’s the last year of the factory solid front axle and the first year the fuel-injected 22R-E was offered by the factory. With proper gearing, the 22R-E can creep and crawl with aplomb, but once you’re out of low range, the lack of ponies can’t be ignored. Unvarnished truth: The 22R-E is a slug. Daniel knew this, but rather than reach for a 4.3-liter Chevy V-6, he opted for a 7M-GTE Toyota turbo inline six. The factory turbocharged 7M-GTE engine originally powered a 1987 Toyota Supra and can be adapted to the Toyota pickup’s five-speed manual transmission using a factory Supra bellhousing, and the right mix of factory clutch components.

Out is the original, and much slower, 22R-E four-cylinder engine. In its place sits a turbocharged 7M-GTE engine from a ’87 Toyota Supra.

Aft of the five-speed, you’ll find a doubled-up Toyota transfer case. Daniel integrated the dual cases into his original build, and Michael installed the finishing touch, a 4.7:1 low-range gearset in the rear T-case. From the transfer case output flanges, power feeds into a Detroit-locked factory Toyota rear axle. The original Toyota front axle was modified to accept a late-model Toyota Tacoma third member, which was equipped with a factory Toyota E-locker.

Why stay with all Toyota parts? The truck was built on a tight budget, bit by bit. Factory Toyota parts can be found in wrecking yards at bargain prices if you know what to look for. The aftermarket provides generous support for Toyota trucks, stepping in with upgrades for known weaknesses. For this build and budget, factory Toyota parts made the most sense.

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We caught sight of the 1985 Toy at Big Bear Forest Fest awhile back. It’s trail-tested, yet not thrashed. This truck can go nearly anywhere, and it does. Cox lists Big Bear, Johnson Valley, and the San Diego area as his favorite places to ’wheel. Thanks to the 7M-GTE under the hood, the fast lane is a viable option on the SoCal freeway system.

Whether you’re a purist or someone who mixes and matches, each part you choose needs to earn its keep. Pick the right parts and you’ll end up with something that performs well and performs reliably. Cox’s 1985 is all Toyota for all the right reasons.

The rear hitch holds one of the biggest D-ring shackles we’ve seen to date. Crawling the rocks or ripping the pavement, this turbocharged Yota does a little of everything.


1985 Toyota SR5 4x4 Pickup
Owner: Michael Cox
Engine: 1987 Supra turbocharged I-6
Transmission: W-56 five-speed
Transfer Case/Ratio: Dual Toyota RF1A/ 2.28:1, 4.7:1, 10.7:1
Front Axle: Toyota housing, late-model Tacoma E-locker third member, 5.29 gears
Rear Axle: Toyota housing, Detroit Locker, 5.29 gears
Suspension (front and rear): Custom leaf springs, Bilstein 5150 shocks, Custom leaf springs, Bilstein 5150 shocks
Steering: Crossover steering with ’86-to-’95 IFS steering box
Tires: 37x12.50R15 Super Swamper SSR
Wheels: 15x8 alloy
Armor: Custom bumpers and rock sliders, weld-on front and rear differential guards, Inchworm E-locker guard
Cool Extras: Oasis air compressor plumbed into Viair storage tank, custom half doors, full doors used when needed

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