Andrew, How my new beginnings came about
One day while casually reading articles on Overland Expo i came across a single photo that sparked an interest i could not contain.
This single photo put me on the hunt for a capable off road SUV with huge support in the aftermarket world. I started off looking at Land Rovers and upon reading about them and learning their reliability was less than stellar, i began looking for other similar vehicles. I then came across a plethora of information about toyota SUVs such as the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. I decided it was to be one of those two. I began a frugal hunt for a suitable vehicle. After seeing many vehicles across the state of florida, I actually came across the perfect one and it was local.
I call the gentleman selling it to inquire and was lucky enough to have first dibs on viewing and its purchase if it all checked out. It is a 1998 Toyota 4Runner Limited. Factory rear e-locker, leather seats, sunroof and power everything. It had 132xxx miles on it when i purchased it. As of the beginning of this it has 150xxx miles. I’ve only had it a year and i’ve made some amazing changes to it.
March 30th 2015 is the day i purchased it and brought it home. It is in amazing shape and i’m the third owner. First things first, try out the four wheel drive. Keep in mind it is bone stock with half worn michelin street tires on it. I hit the internet in search of places i can legally take it. I came across a small amount of National Forests in central Florida that have fire service trails for anyone to enjoy. The first trip was to Withlacoochee State forest. I got some supplies loaded up and my family packed in and set off on about an hours ride to the State Forest. Upon arrival it was amazing getting on some actual trails that required four wheel drive. We had alot of fun running the fire service trails out there and vowed to return soon.
Little did i know that on our second outing we would wind up stuck deep in the State Forest. I started walking towards a known road and finally made it after about an hour and a half long walk. I made contact with a good friend of mine that knew the area. He said he was on his way, but he was three hours away. I started walking back, i used a large stick to draw arrows on the trail especially pass turn offs that did not lead to my location. He is familiar with tracking and knows to look for things. I got back to the truck where my wife and two of our three kids were waiting and i began to try and dig it out. After an hour or so i called it quits to preserve my energy. That day taught me many valuable lessons and i make sure the truck is loaded for bear any time i head out now. I’ve done several group rides with Florida 4Runners as well as FJ Cruisers of Florida. In addition to a couple of solo runs and a couple of solo stucks again. I was prepared for those to happen and self extricated my vehicle and went on my way. I must say a winch is a blessing and a curse. I am more willing to try more questionable routes knowing that i can more than likely get myself out of a jam.
It has three and a half inches of lift in the front, five and a quarter in the rear to handle heavy loads i’m utilizing heavy duty ARB springs out back. The front is the Toyota tundra Bilstein adjustable 5100 strut and toytec 650lb springs to handle the bumper and winch. The rear bumper and hitch were swapped for a 4XInnovations plate bumper with tire carrier and single jerry can mount. I gained about four inches of clearance by just removing the factory hitch and relocating the spare tire. The heavy duty springs in the back did away with a lot of body roll, even though i still currently run both OEM front and rear sway bars as it is my daily driver too.
As far as rubber i went with Cooper Discoverer AT3 in a 265/75/R16. It is one size up from the factory tire and they have performed flawlessly. Between Anthony and i, i believe we’ve logged about 55000 miles on them collectively.
I’ve mostly left the interior alone save for the fact i’ve added window tint, Weathertech floor mats, a second hand storage box from our friends at SRQ Fabrications, a sPod switch panel and a molle pouch to the center console. I also have been slowly covering my entire headliner with patches. That’s a different story though.