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4Runners Make Great Wheeling Rigs, but No One Puts Much Effort Into the Bodywork—Until Now

Posted in Features on October 18, 2018
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Toyota 4Runners are fairly common on the trail, in particular the 1984-1989 first-generation body style. They feature reliable 22R or 22RE engines and sturdy axles, and are relatively inexpensive. As a result they tend to be built more or less the same way. Alex Migdalski’s 4Runner is the exception to the rule. Not only is this 4Runner fitted with such unconventional components as a Cummins QSB engine and FJ60 axles (unlike most of the dinged and dented 4Runners we see on the trail), but this one is beautiful too.

Take for instance the fact that those retro graphics aren’t vinyl—they were actually painted on by Bob Anderson and Jeremiah Proffitt. This is level of detail we are accustomed to seeing applied to Land Cruisers, not Toyota 4Runners or pickups. So it’s not surprising to learn that Alex works as a fabricator at Proffitt’s Resurrection Land Cruisers, where they turn out collector-quality FJ40s and FJ60s on a regular basis. Alex fabs for a living, there were plenty of spare parts lying around for him to use, and he has a full body shop at his disposal. Does this mean we might see pickups and 4Runners rolling out of Proffitt’s in the future? If so, sign us up!

Power comes from a Cummins QSB engine out of a mining truck. The four-cylinder engine displaces a whopping 4.5 liters and makes a stump-pulling 459 lb-ft of torque. The engine is backed by a built TH400 automatic and an FJ60 Land Cruiser transfer case with an offset rear output to match the 60 Series axles.
This thing sure is nice inside! The dash of most 4Runners and pickups in sunny Western states have turned to dust by now, but Alex Migdalski’s is still in great condition. A Winters gated shifter controls the TH400. The carpet was removed and the floor coated in Vortex liner.
Rolling stock consists of 40-inch Pro Comp Xtreme Terrain MT2s mounted on 17x9 steel wheels. Sure, beadlocks would be nice, but there weren’t any lying around the shop to choose from.
Alex bobbed 14 inches off the rear of the 4Runner and opened up the wheelwells 4 inches on top and 6 inches front and rear to accommodate the 40s. This required tubbing the interior with new sheetmetal to make up the difference. The hard top was removed and replaced with 1.5x0.120-wall tubing that goes around the outside of the cab. Alex is 6- foot 4, so headroom was at a premium.
The front axle is a Toyota model out of an FJ60 that has a larger ring gear than a traditional 4Runner axle has. The outers (Birfields and knuckles) are interchangeable though. Alex built the axle with IFS Toyota hubs that add 3 inches of width, 2010 Tundra brake rotors and calipers for improved stopping power, and Longfield gun drilled chromoly Birfields and axleshafts. The third member is fitted with 4.88 gears and an ARB Air Locker.
The front suspension is a three-link design with a Panhard bar. The links are built from 1 3/4-inch tubing (0.375-wall lower and 0.250-wall upper) and are fitted with RuffStuff Specialties rod ends. The 14-inch-travel Bilstein 8125 coilovers are fitted with 200-over-250 lb/in Eibach coil springs and work in conjunction with Bilstein hydraulic bumpstops to smooth out the last few inches of uptravel.
Like the front axle and transfer case, the rear axle is out of a Land Cruiser. In this case it’s an 80 Series that comes with full floating axleshafts and disc brakes from the factory. The offset differential is filled with 4.88 gears and an ARB Air Locker. Alex built a truss across the top of the housing to keep it from bending and provide a convenient place to mount the suspension links. The rear suspension uses a triangulated four-link with 14-inch-travel Bilstein 8125 coilover shocks and Bilstein hydraulic bumpstops.
Alex built a subframe from 1/4-inch steel to protect the transfer case and act as a sturdy mounting point for the suspension links. Mounting the links under the transfer case outputs helps to ensure that the drivelines move in the same arc as the suspension and prevents any binding.

Tech Specs

1988 Toyota 4Runner
Engine: Cummins QSB 4.5L turbodiesel
Transmission: TH400 3-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Land Cruiser split case
Front Axle: FJ60 with 4.88 gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: FJ80 with 4.88 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: 14-inch-travel Bilstein 8125 coilovers and Bilstein air bumps (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2s on 17x9 Pro Comp black steel wheels
Steering: Hydraulic assist with Toyota steering box and Trail-Gear ram, 1.25x0.375-wall tie rod with rod ends
Lighting: Rigid Industries LED headlights
Other Stuff: Grille narrowed 14 inches and fenders lengthened to match, custom front bumper, custom rollcage, Winters shifter, Vortex liner, custom paint by Proffitt’s Resurrection Land Cruisers, Optima RedTop battery, custom fan shroud

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