Jerry and Carol Schroeder are not new to four-wheeling. The Placerville, California, residents have crossed the nearby Rubicon Trail countless times in their Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota pickup. The Schroeders are Toyota people, and these vehicles were very capable, but they lacked creature comforts. The solution? Sell the Land Cruiser and build a third-gen 4Runner for double duty.
Jerry bought a bone-stock 4Runner and took it directly to Stoffregen Motorsports, where owner Matt Stoffregen brought Jerry’s vision to life. Stoffregen added a solid front axle, dual transfer cases, and a coilover front suspension with enough space to clear 35-inch tires without being overly tall. This is not a trivial issue on late-model Toyotas, since the front framerails are essentially flat to package the stock independent front suspension.
Adding a live axle and steering components under the framerails so there is enough space for adequate uptravel without an overly tall ride height has become Stoffregen Motorsports’ calling card. As a result, nearly all of the “off-the-shelf” parts used on the 4Runner were tweaked to ensure proper steering and suspension geometry with adequate clearances and a low ride height. “Most people are not willing to cut up their oil pan in order to lower the ride height of their off-road vehicle,” Stoffregen concedes. “But Jerry gave me free reign, so I looked at each component from the shock tower height to the steering box location to determine how to stuff 35s under the 4Runner without it being overly tall.”
The “no compromises” theme came through time and time again during our photo shoot. This is a grown up’s vehicle, if that makes sense. It has refinement that we rarely see in dedicated rockcrawling vehicles, and details abound. Take, for instance, the spare tire carrier, which was modified with a lip that holds the weight of the tire as you align the lug studs to the wheel. Or the vehicle speed sensor that was moved from the removed ABS system to the transfer case tailshaft by adding an OEM Toyota speed sensor and integrated it into the existing wiring harness by re-pinning the factory harness. A Dakota Digital SGI-5 Universal Signal Interface Unit is used to calibrate the signal so the speedometer reads the correct speed and the automatic transmission shifts correctly.
As a result, there are no dash lights or engine codes, and every effort was made to ensure that the braking, steering, and electronics are matched to the suspension travel, gearing, and tire size. The end product meets all of Jerry’s goals. It drives down the road like a stock 4Runner, can travel across the Rubicon Trail with ease, and is quiet and comfortable the whole time. Jerry has no regrets, including the sale of his FJ40.
At a Glance
Vehicle: 2001 Toyota 4Runner
Owner: Jerry Schroeder
Stomping grounds: Placerville, California
Built time: Six weeks
Engine: 3.4L V-6
Transmission: A340F four-speed automatic
Transfer case(s): Dual cases with Trail-Gear adapter and Marlin Crawler 4.7:1 gears
Low range ratio: 6:1
Crawl ratio: 88.5:1
Front axle/differential: Diamond housing with high-pinion third member, ARB Air Locker, 5.29 Sierra gears, Longfield Birfields, and Dutchman chromoly axleshafts
Rear axle/differential: Factory Toyota 8.4-inch axle with ARB Air Locker and 5.29 Sierra gears
Front: All-Pro Off Road three-link kit with Walker Evans coilovers
Rear: All-Pro Expedition leaf springs and shackles with Bilstein 5100 shocks
Steering: IFS steering box, Trail-Gear pump and reservoir, All-Pro Off Road steering arms modified to accept GM tie rod ends from Parts Mike
Tires: 35x12.5R17 Toyo Open Country M/T
Wheels: 17x8.5 Walker Evans beadlock rims
Armor: Addicted Offroad front bumper, All-Pro Off Road rock sliders, Trail-Gear transfer case skidplate, Lil’ Skip’s Offroad gas tank skidplate, CBI Offroad rear bumper and tire carrier