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1979-1995 Toyota 4x4 Builder's Guide - How To Trail Your Toyota

Front Passenger Angle
Christian Lee | Writer
Posted March 1, 2008

'79-'95 Toyota Pickup/4Runner Builder's Guide

An early-model Toyota pickup tackles the trail. The vehicle is equipped with a Warn hub conversion, a set of rock sliders, and a winch bumper. All of the Toyota models from '79-'85 make great trail rigs and many upgrade parts are available.

Over the past 29 years, Toyota trucks and 4Runners have become some of the most popular trail rigs around. Though entirely capable in stock form, the Toyota aftermarket has developed scads of upgrade parts for these long-lasting 4x4s. The Toyota 4x4s covered in this article were produced from 1979-1995 and include first- and second-generation 4Runners and fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation pickups. Each generation represents a different body style. The year 1985 marked the last year of the solid front axle and the first year of EFI. This makes '85 EFI-equipped Pickups and 4Runners a key year for those looking to purchase a fixer-upper trail rig. Expect to pay a little more for this much sought-after year but consider that you'll get more versatility and power in as-purchased form.

With five different engines under its belt from '79-'95, Toyota trucks and 4Runners definitely improved with age. The early 20R and 22R engines made less than 100 hp, but the later-model 22RE EFI engine made about 115 hp. The 22RTE Turbo produced about 135 hp and the V6 made 150 hp, making it a massive improvement to this historically under-powered vehicle. The 20R and 22R engines are carbureted. The carburetor-equipped 20R was only used for the first couple years until replaced by the carb-fed 22R, which earned a spot under the hood until 1988. Some truck and 4Runner models received the 22RE starting in 1985, and the 22RTE Turbo engine was also included in the lineup in '86 and '87. The 22RE was used through 1995 as the base-model engine alongside the optional 3VZE V6.

A solid-axle swap second-generation 4Runner ('90-'95) makes its way down the trail on a set of 34-inch Dick Cepek Radial F-C tires. This model year 4Runner was originally equipped with IFS front suspension and coil-spring four-link rear.

If you're seeking V8 power from a four-cylinder, then upgrading performance on the 20R and 22R engines can be an expensive process. However, if you simply want increased reliability and a slight hop-up in horsepower and torque, you may be able to build your Toyota engine to perform to your expectations. Ensuring that the engine is in good running condition should be your first step, and it can be followed by installing a high-flowing air filter. Many will go with a set of headers, a high-flow catalytic converter, and a higher-flowing, larger diameter exhaust (the stock exhaust is small and constrictive) after this. A new cam will further benefit the open exhaust and headers and all told can offer an additional 20 horsepower. Cam changes in duration and lift vary to how each vehicle is set up in regards to gearing, tire size, and what engine enhancements are already in place. A new cap and rotor and plug wires can also re-awaken a tired stock engine, and a heavy-duty aluminum radiator will greatly aid cooling. You can also elect to invest your money in transfer case and axle gearing, which will allow the little four-cylinder to idle its way over obstacles.

If big horsepower is your goal, then you'll likely want to consider swapping out your 20R or 22R for a V6 or V8 powerplant. A lot of parts - actually everything you need - can be purchased to complete an engine swap; including motor mounts, modified oil pan (for front diff clearance), headers, and drivetrain adapters. The 3.4L V6 engine used in Toyota Tacoma pickups makes a great swap, and Off Road Solutions has a kit to swap this engine into '79-'95 models. For those who want to stay away from a complex conversion, companies such as LC Engineering and DOA Racing Engines offer high-performance 22R and 22RE engines custom-built to each application.


Poly Performance
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
All-Pro Off-Road
Hemet, CA 92543
Inchworm Rock Walkin' Gear
Shingle Springs, CA 95682
Marlin Crawler
Fresno, CA 93703
Downey Off-Road Mfg.
Santa Fe Springs , CA 90670
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