In 2003 Toyota offered its 4Runner with a 4.7L V-8, and when we tested it in our 4x4 of the Year it was trumped by only one contestant, the Lexus with the same engine. Eventually Toyota dropped the V-8 from the 4Runner and returned to the potent 4.0L V-6, but there is something about having a V-8 in your small sport/ute that really gets us going. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great example, as is the Dodge Durango.
But we digress. The reason for this diatribe is that these V-8 ’Runners are dropping in price as they emerge on the used car market. So why not turn one into a wheeling machine with 320 lb-ft under the hood?
Going hog wild on a project truck is fun, but even a 9-year-old 4x4 is still pretty new for a lot of us, so we’re taking it easy with a small Old Man Emu lift to start. Squeezing on taller tires is the plan of course and eventually bumpers, lockers, winch, cage, big lights, race fuel cell, window nets, and high-speed glory across the desert! OK, we’re dreaming, so for now we’ll show you how to make your fast, capable 4Runner fit bigger rubber in your own garage. We did the installation with basic handtools in a day.
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Rubber & Rims
Tire clearance for our new 285/70R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers required some slight trimming of the front lower inner fender well liner and removal or trimming of the front mud flaps. The Nittos are wrapped around 17-inch American Racing ATX AX-185 Crawl wheels. The wheels are available in 17, 18, and 20-inch sizes and easily clear the 4Runner’s brake calipers, a problem with some other aftermarket wheels. These cast wheels and aggressive tires offer a smooth quiet ride and make the 4Runner look a million times better. We hope to run the truck through some trails soon to see if it works off road as well as it looks.