2004 Lexus GX470 - Project TraiLex, Part 1
We told you so.
OK, we've heard you. And we've read all the hate mail and heard all the jokes. The Lexus GX470 has won our Four Wheeler of the Year award two years in a row. We know all you readers out there think we've gone soft and can't tell a capable trail-mobile from a Lazy Boy recliner any more. Well, we're here to prove we still know potential when we drive it. So here is the plan: We're going to take our brand-new '04 Lexus GX470 over California's infamous Rubicon Trail, in front of our Four Wheeler TV cameras, for the whole world to see. We'll also be following our TraiLex's adventures in the pages of Four Wheeler, starting with this article.
First off, let's get one issue out in the open and be done with it. There are damn few, if any, new SUVs on the market today that are capable of traversing a trail the caliber of the Rubicon in bone-stock condition without considerable body and/or mechanical damage. The Lexus is no exception. So, like most 'wheelers, we plan some mods to help it out. No, we're not jacking it up and rolling a '70s-era live-axle truck chassis under it. It will remain a Lexus through and through.
We are doing the same modifications to TraiLex that most any 'wheeling enthusiast would perform to his or her new rig before subjecting it to tough trails. Our mechanical modifications will be limited to the usual stuff: a mild lift, which we fabricated ourselves, bigger wheels and tires (33s from Pro Comp wrapped around Trailready beadlock aluminum wheels), an axle-ratio change from 3.73s to 4.88s (for the tire size and crawlablilty) and ARB Air Lockers front and rear.
The biggest changes will come through body protection. Again, we're fabricating our own, as there isn't much demand for Lexus armor at the local 4x4 emporium. We're the first to admit the Lexus has more than its share of useless, low-hanging body parts that may fend off bumps at the mall, but have no business on a 4x4. We don't design 'em, but we do look under them. We can tell a capable chassis when we see one, even if it's hidden behind plastic. The Lexus is stout underneath, and we plan to expose it and let the world know it can 'wheel.
Check out the photos and captions of what we've done so far. By the time you read this, some of you may have seen TraiLex running around Moab during Easter Jeep Safari. The Rubicon trip will take place sometime this summer and will air on Four Wheeler TV sometime after that.
The guys at Trailready made us these good-looking wheels. They started with 17x8-inch Alcoa aluminum wheels with a 41/2-inch backspacing. To these, they added their special lipped beadlocks. The lip, shown in the photo, centers the tire bead on the wheel and allows for a very true-running tire that can be balanced. Trailready powdercoated our wheels in satin black, which sets off its signature brushed-aluminum locking rings beautifully. The wheels weigh 30 pounds each, complete with hardware. With 33-inch Pro Comps wrapped around them they tip the scales at 85 pounds. The Lexus' suspension and chassis don't notice the tire/wheel change.