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1988 Toyota 4Runner: Black Magic

Toyota Axles Weak? Think Again!

Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

Decades before Jeep introduced the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, Toyota offered a small SUV that seated four, had a removable top, and boasted plenty of trail prowess. No, it didn’t have four doors, but when it was introduced in 1984 the 4Runner was an immediate hit with off-roaders who wanted to bring the entire family along. The 1984 and 1985 models are still coveted for their factory solid front axles, and the 1985 is especially prized for its stellar fuel-injected 22RE engine (compared with the carbureted 22R engine of the 1984). And although not as easy to modify for severe off-road use as the solid axle, every 1986 and newer IFS 4Runner had the injected 22RE engine (1988 brought a 3.0L 3VZ-E V-6 option) as well as a rear axle with a wider track that pushed bigger tires out away from the framerails and increased stability.

In many ways, adding a solid front axle to a first-gen IFS 4Runner of this era is the “easy” way to create the ultimate first-gen 4Runner. And that’s pretty much what Paolo Cividino started with when he began building his 1988 4Runner with IFS and a 3.0L V-6 engine. It only got wilder from there.

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While shopping for a hunting rig, Paolo was looking for a stock 4Runner that he planned to lift and lock. His good friend and longtime wheeler Daniel Keyes of Class 1 Motorsports knew that Paolo wouldn’t stop there though. As owner of Tutto Ferro, Paolo does industrial metal fabrication for a living. With a water jet at his disposal it would be too easy to make parts for the 4Runner. His time is better spent completing projects for customers though, so he bought a 4Runner that already had a solid-axle swap and custom bumpers from Addicted Off Road.

The 4Runner was put into service as a hunting and camping rig from day one without the need for a long build process. Never one to leave things alone though, Paolo still tweaked the Toyota to fit his specific tastes. The biggest change was the replacement of factory Toyota mini truck axles in favor of fabricated Diamond Axle housings that are wider and stronger. The front uses a high-pinion 80 Series third member and RCV chromoly Birfields, while the rear is a full floater with a 9.5-inch Land Cruiser third member. These might seem like expensive upgrades, but to put things in perspective Paolo still has less money into his 4Runner than a stock four-door Wrangler would have cost.

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Tech Specs

1988 Toyota 4Runner
>Drivetrain
Engine: 3.0L V-6
Transmission: R151F 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dual Toyota cases with Marlin Crawler adapter
Front Axle: Diamond Axle with high pinion 8-inch third member, full spool, 4.88 Yukon gears
Rear Axle: Diamond Axle with 9.5 Land Cruiser welded differential, 4.88 Yukon gears
>Suspension
Springs & Such: Deaver leaf springs and King remote reservoir shocks (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs on 17x9 Trail-Gear Creeper Locks
Steering: Hydraulic assist with PSC hydraulic ram, pump, and reservoir; 1 1/4-inch chromoly tie rod and drag link with 3/4-inch FK rod ends
Other Stuff: Custom rollcage by Class 1 Motorsports, Softopper top, custom half-doors, Rugged Radios intercom, MasterCraft Safety Baja RS seats, Rebco quick release, Joe’s Racing Products steering wheel, Addicted Off Road bumpers, Smittybilt XRC8 winch, Trail-Gear Duraline winch line, Factor55 Flatlink, Optima YellowTop battery