Sly Lumpkin’s 1986 Toyota 4Runner: BFGoodrich's WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING FOR? Contest Winner for August

AKA The Truck of the Rising Sun

There’s a decision that all would-be wheelers have to make come their 16th birthday: what to drive. And in northwest Georgia, there are three acceptable answers: Ford, Chevrolet, or Jeep. So Sly Lumpkin chose a Toyota.

“My dad’s die-hard Chevy,” Sly reveals (in fact his dad would’ve named him Chevy if Sly’s mom hadn’t put the kibosh on it, he says, laughing). “He gives me hell about my Toyota all the time until he sees it pull something out. He’ll tell me, “I used to have problems here with my K5.” So I’ll say, “Oh I’ll unlock the hubs and do it in two-wheel drive!”

Sly’s journey began as most passions do: with an older friend’s rig. “I was 15 and he was 16,” he remembers. “We beat his through everything. Pulled out 1-tons with it. Rolled it on its top and pushed it over and drove it home. We beat the snot out of it and couldn’t break it. I figured if we couldn’t break his then I’m gonna get one.” And he did just that when he turned 16. “It was my first truck, the first thing I ever bought. It started out as my daily driver.”

But after a couple years of light wheeling, Sly says he started getting a little antsy. He ported and polished the head, zero-decked the block, and swapped in an LC Engineering Pro Turbo camshaft when he rebuilt the engine. And each modification begat more extreme changes. “Since then I’ve solid-axle-swapped it, done dual-transfer cases, an ARB Air Locker up front, and a Powertrax Lock Right locker in the rear,” he says. He mounted the ’84/’85 front axle ahead of stock on five-leaf rear springs, trussed the housing top and bottom, and gusseted the knuckles. A machinist by training, he milled a set of IFS hubs to widen the front track so it matches the rear. For brakes he uses a combination of Tacoma slip-on rotors and V-6 calipers mounted outboard of the brackets.

The rear axle mounts on a set of 63-inch Chevy springs a little back of center (the wheelbase is 4 inches longer than stock). “It’s stock right now but I’m about to convert it to discs,” he adds. “Right now it has a set of cheap Pro Comps but I have a set of 7100-series Bilsteins that are getting valved for the truck. I have only 2 1/2 inches of uptravel in front to keep the truck low so at one point I’ll swap out the rubber bumpstops for air-bumps.”

For the time being he rolls a set of 35x12.50R17s on 17x9 American Eagle wheels. “I’d like to machine off the fake beadlocks and weld a real set on,” he admits, hinting that the 37x12.50s he aspires to will likely inspire that job. And judging by his progress so far, that’ll happen soon; he’s only 21 now, so the math shows that he’s done the lion’s share of work over just three years (remember, he drove it two years as a stocker). To put a fine point on his determination, consider that he did the straight-axle swap over the course of a weekend. “I drove into the shop and put it on the lift on Friday night and I drove it to town that Sunday afternoon to get paint to paint everything,” he says, proudly. But he’s the first to admit that those were long days, “Like until two in the morning on Friday and I worked up to five in the afternoon on Monday. When I decide to do something I’m gonna do it. I don’t need to sleep until I get it done.”

He’s also quick to admit that he hasn’t worked entirely alone. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and Sly’s benefitted from others, specifically his father, Randy, friends Chris Lane (who helped drop the engine) and Gavin Miller (for the heavy lifting through the build), and his girlfriend Ashley Showler for all the lonely nights while Sly toiled. He also credits the forums for a good part of his success. “I just started at Pirate (4x4) and Yotatech,” he says. “I just read and read and read what other people did. I tried it and if it didn’t work I’d cut it out and try it again.”

But for Sly Lumpkin, modifications aren’t the goals themselves as much as a means to even bigger ends. “My goal is to do Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Ultimate Adventure this coming year (and) drive it from Georgia to King of the Hammers,” he says. “Then do the Everyman Challenge after that.” And if past performance is any guarantee of future results, we can see that happening. After all, you don’t wheel a Toyota in northwest Georgia unless you have a point to prove.

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