Though not as common as they once were, there’s still a lot to like about Toyota’s ’86-to-’95 4x4 IFS mini trucks. With fully boxed frame rails, excellent visibility, decent fuel economy, a stout steering box, and compact dimensions that fit well on most trails, these Toyota trucks (and corresponding 4Runners) make great all-around vehicles.
JD Fabrication introduced its long-travel IFS 4x4 kit several years ago, but has continued to refine and upgrade it ever since. Custom upper and lower control arms are 3 inches wider than stock per side. The JD long-travel kit provides 13 inches of wheel travel and uses stock T-100 IFS axleshafts to retain functional four-wheel drive.
Installing the JD long-travel Toyota system is straightforward, but requires cutting, drilling, and welding in addition to wrenching.
Once the kit’s installed, your Toyota will be a much better version of its former self. The extra wheel travel translates into bump-smoothing ability that the stocker can only dream of. The extra track width helps the truck stay stable in the corners. Fully functional four-wheel drive means you can still creep through rocky sections and claw your way up steep hills. Longer wheel travel means greater articulation; you might be surprised at how well this long-travel IFS system performs in classic ’wheeling situations.
We followed along as Jesse Nelson of JD Fabrication installed the ’86-to-’95 long-travel system on a ’95 Extra Cab 4x4. Upon completion, the front suspension far outdid the still-stock rear, hinting at the truck’s true potential. We imagine more upgrades are in this truck’s future, one step at a time. If you’ve got a Toyota you’d like to transform, this is an excellent way to kick off your build.
Step By Step
1.The lower control arms are made from boxed chromoly plate and feature internal gussets to create extra strength and durability. The upper control arms are made using chromoly tubing. While JD offers the upper control arms with fittings for the factory Toyota torsion bar system, JD Fabrication recommends converting to coilovers instead. Why? The cost of upgraded torsion bar components combined with the added cost of making more intricate upper control arms places the total cost quite close to that of converting to coilover shocks.
1a. When you consider that coilovers are more reliable (torsion bars sometimes slip in their sockets) and easier to tune, it makes converting to coilovers an easy choice. Shocks, which are not included, can be ordered through JD or purchased through your favorite local dealer. We skipped from side to side during installation, so both right- and left-hand sides are shown as the photos progress.
2 This optional shock hoop is a recent addition to the JD Fabrication product line. It’s easy to install and uses specific index points on the factory frame to assure accurate installation.
3. Side-by-side with the factory lower control arm, the extra length and extra strength of the JD control arm is plain to see. Two sets of shock tabs make the arm ready for a coilover and a bypass shock. A bumpstop strike pad and a limit strap tab further enhance the appeal and functionality.
4. These are the lower control arm bushings. Older versions of the JD kit came with the bushings and sleeve on the left. The newer ones come with the bushings and sleeve on the right. The newer hardware features a thicker-walled sleeve and spiraling internal grease grooves that retain grease better than the older versions. If you’ve got an older JD long-travel kit you can upgrade simply by ordering the newer bushings and sleeve. The lower control arms include zerk fittings to facilitate quick-and-easy maintenance.
5. To install the bushings and sleeves, slather the contact surfaces with grease and tap them into place using a rubber or brass mallet.
6. The lower control arms bolt into the stock mounting points using the stock bolts. If your original bolts are thrashed, this is the time for a fresh set.
7. The upper control arms’ factory cross shaft is re-used. The factory upper arms were destined for the dumpster anyway, so Jesse sliced them in half to easily free the cross shaft.
8a. The factory upper shock mount is in the way of the coilover, so it needs to be sliced off. Limit straps were going to be used, so the factory droop stop was deleted as well.
8b. Limit straps were going to be used, so the factory droop stop was deleted as well.
9. Installing the JD shock hoops begins with bolting this bracket on top of the upper control arm cross shaft. The shock hoops are designed for 8-inch-stroke shocks. Since shock eye-to-eye lengths sometimes differ by brand, be sure to tell JD what brand of shocks you plan to use.
10. The hoop then bolts to the center bracket.
11. The pads need to be welded to the frame’s vertical face. A hole in the forward-most mounting pad corresponds to a threaded factory hole. Clean the paint off the frame, run a bolt into the hole, and you can start welding.
12. The JD shock hoops include a laser-cut gusset plate for the rear-most down tube. Weld it in place after the main mounting pads are welded on.
13. To create an upper mount for the limit strap clevis, Jesse cut out a couple small plates and welded them to a thick-walled sleeve.
14. The upper control arm ditches the factory upper ball joint in favor of a uniball. The factory ball joint taper gets drilled out so a three-quarter-inch Grade 8 bolt can pass through. The spacer between the uniball and the steering knuckle can be welded to the knuckle, but it’s perfectly acceptable to install it sans welding.
15. Here’s a cool trick: Use aluminum foil to mask things off for painting. The foil is easy to place, inexpensive, and readily forms to varied surfaces.
16. Toyota T-100 4x4 CV shaft assemblies replace the stock shorties and span the extra distance. If you don’t want to pay the premium price for genuine Toyota CV shafts, you’ll be glad to know aftermarket versions are available at your local parts store.
17. This optional brace welds between the rear-most lower control arm brackets and strengthens a known weak spot on the Toyota frame. Jesse developed the brace during the installation and has since added it to the JD product line.
18. Another new development: the standard long-travel kit comes with steering extensions that thread onto the stock tie rods, but JD’s optional complete steering system is much, much stronger.
20. The shock reservoirs mount cleanly to the shock hoop via optional weld-on tabs. Extended brake lines are part of the long-travel system.
21. You’ll need flared fiberglass fenders to cover the newfound track width. The stock front bumper was trimmed to match the larger wheel openings. JD Fabrication recommends up to a 33-inch tire with this suspension system. This truck’s owner went with 33x10.50R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KOs. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who can write monster-sized checks, the best way to build a project vehicle is in stages. Even though the front suspension now far outperforms the rear, the truck is ready for some fun in the dirt while the owner saves up cash and makes more plans.