Body Protection & Cargo Capacity
Welcome to part three of our ’94 Toyota 4Runner build. From the beginning our goal has been to build a family-friendly wheeler that would retain most of its factory components, including the not-so-beloved IFS front end. In part one we fitted the V-6 SUV with an off-the-shelf 5-inch Rough Country Suspension and 33-inch Goodyear Dura-Trac tires (Oct. ’10). In part two we put more pep in its step with a set of G2 5.29 gears and a Detroit Locker for the rear diff (Mar. ’11).
Fast-forward roughly six months and the 4Runner is still working great but has progressed to more challenging terrain. Since the goal of the 4Runner build is to see what IFS can do, we needed to upgrade the body with trail protection and find a new home for the spare. These seemingly basic upgrades will allow the old Toyota to continue to pick new and more challenging line choices as well as free up a little cargo room.
To help us beef up the 4Runner, we went to the IFS and fabrication pros at SMP Fabworks in Sun Valley, California. SMP specializes in tube work and has a full line of bolt-on roof racks, bed cages, and bumpers. While there, we had the metal bending experts craft us a custom set of rock sliders and install one of their bolt-on roof rack systems.
Overall we are extremely pleased with the new upgrades and have been impressed with how well the 4Runner runs and drives both on the road and off. For now it’s back to the trail for more R&D as we continue to push the limits of the Independent Runner.
To free up some needed space for cargo, we installed one of SMP’s bolt-on roof racks. After drilling the necessary holes we dropped in the provided anchor hardware and tightened the brackets in place.
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The SMP rack is comprised of 11⁄8-inch mild tubular steel with a 0.090-inch wall thickness. Each rack comes powdercoated satin black and can be installed in about an hour depending on the vehicle.
The deck of the rack has a plenty of area to secure and mount your extra gear. We generally prefer to have our lightweight gear on the roof for safety and loading reasons, but the rack is plenty durable to hold our 33-inch fullsize spare as well.
Since we’re pushing the limits of our IFS 4Runner even further off-road, we needed to protect the body so the SUV could keep up appearances and still serve as a daily driver. To get started on the body protection, we measured out the lengths needed for the custom DOM bars that will serve as steps and provide serious rocker protection.
For sheer strength and durability we used 13⁄4x0.120-wall DOM primarily on the custom sliders. Once the tubing was all bent we fired up the MIG welder and burned it all in on the bench.
After a little frame prep we welded the sliders on and added additional gussets to ensure that the sliders would stay solidly in place. You may also notice that we set back the sliders a little from the fenders. This is to allow room to trim the stock sheetmetal rather liberally for when we want to try and shoehorn on some bigger cleats.