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Nuts & Bolts: Buying a Shortened-Wheelbase Toyota 4x4

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on April 15, 2016
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road archives

First 4x4
I'm looking at a 1987 Toyota 4x4 pickup truck with the 22R engine in it for my first rig. It has a five-speed manual and a shortened wheelbase, 86 inches! I just watched the video on Clampy and I was wondering if you thought it would make a good first rig. I'm only 16 and can't afford a Jeep that's ready to go, and I don't want a four-door, so cheap Cherokees are out of the picture. It doesn't have a lift but does have 31-inch Swampers and no bed. He wants $1,000 for it. He said any lower and he's taking the driveline out. If you could give me some tips on what to do with it, or what essentials you think there are to making a Toyota truck a nice cheap rig, then please let me know. Thanks!
Alex D.

It’s hard to go wrong with a Toyota truck as a first 4x4, and late-1980s Toyotas are pretty bulletproof. There’s also a lot of aftermarket support. Assuming the truck runs, our biggest concern would be why and how someone would have shortened the wheelbase nearly 18 inches. We would suggest finding someone you trust who has some welding or fabrication knowledge and have him look at the truck to make sure the modifications were done safely. Also consider what you will need to do to make the truck street legal, because in most states the tires have to be covered by fenders. The wheelbase change probably makes the truck look a little goofy, but hey, there are worst first cars.

Assuming the modifications were done properly, the rest of the truck should be pretty solid. They can be susceptible to rust, so inspect the rest of the frame and body if the tin worm is known to lurk in the area where you live. The 22RE engines are reliable and don’t really make enough power to get you into serious trouble, while the rest of the drivetrain is equally bulletproof. Be wary of any odd rattling noises coming from the front of the engine, as the timing chain guides like to break, which causes the timing chain to slap against the timing cover. If this goes on long enough, the chain eats a hole in the timing cover and allows coolant into the engine oil. Also make sure there’s coolant in the radiator rather than straight water, because straight water will cause electrolysis between the iron block and aluminum head, which eats up the head. Make sure the engine doesn’t overheat, as the head can also warp and cause blown head gaskets.

Beyond these specifics, just give the truck a good once-over. Take a close look at the front suspension and see if there’s anything obviously wrong, such as torn CV boots or failed bushings. Make sure it steers and stops properly. If the truck seems solid, it’s a great foundation for a first 4x4.

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