"The Border Runner" build thread: '87 4runner built for epic PanAm journey

tanglefoot

ExPoseur
That really is incredible use of space and the custom pieces are great! It looks like a really nice traveling home.

I too think a plant helps a place feel like home but I can imagine it'd be tough to keep a plant alive on the road. I made a fake plant arrangement for the camper out of a plastic plant I found blowing down the street, some of that green solid foam to stick the plant pieces in, a clear plastic chocolate container bottom and some wood mulch glued around the foam. It makes the camper look a little more like those staged photos in the brochures and adds to the homey feel.

Alright, I need to learn more about this ZUK coil mod. So they're regular 3rd-gen rear coils just stuck over the bump stops and top bump stop contacts? Mine is missing the bump stops so I guess I'd need to add those, but that looks like a great way to get some extra support in the back. Are there any known problems with the strategy or have you run into any downsides? **Ah, I found the write-up on your site. Thanks for putting it on there. Hmm...I'm definitely going to have to think about doing that***

Thanks!
 
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defrag4

Road Warrior
holy crap! Impressive use of space my friend, You got more crap in there than I had in my last apartment! and yess... The ARB suspension for a 1st gen 4Runner is a BAD design. ARB didnt seem to give much a crap when I emailed them though... I have since notched out/welded the gas tank to clear the lip.
 

defrag4

Road Warrior
good call on the backup system for the swing-out, ask me about the time my swingout pin popped out and the swingout flew into oncoming traffic at 60mph :Wow1:
 

Ronnierider

New member
Unbelievable use of space. You should be very proud of what you've done. I use my red runner for work and play and thought I had pretty efficient use of space. I'm wasting a ton of room. Very nice.
 

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
very cool! You can reach both rear tires with it mounted under there?
Sure can. That flexible hose can really stretch, but it kinda struggles to reach that rear left tire.

good call on the backup system for the swing-out, ask me about the time my swingout pin popped out and the swingout flew into oncoming traffic at 60mph :Wow1:
We haven't needed it yet, but I kept imagining that exact scenario in my head (Final Destination style). After threading the security cable through the waffleboard to lock down the jerry cans, it sorta just dawned on me "Hey, why not just run the D-shackle thru there!"

That really is incredible use of space and the custom pieces are great! It looks like a really nice traveling home.

I too think a plant helps a place feel like home but I can imagine it'd be tough to keep a plant alive on the road. I made a fake plant arrangement for the camper out of a plastic plant I found blowing down the street, some of that green solid foam to stick the plant pieces in, a clear plastic chocolate container bottom and some wood mulch glued around the foam. It makes the camper look a little more like those staged photos in the brochures and adds to the homey feel.

Alright, I need to learn more about this ZUK coil mod. So they're regular 3rd-gen rear coils just stuck over the bump stops and top bump stop contacts? Mine is missing the bump stops so I guess I'd need to add those, but that looks like a great way to get some extra support in the back. Are there any known problems with the strategy or have you run into any downsides? **Ah, I found the write-up on your site. Thanks for putting it on there. Hmm...I'm definitely going to have to think about doing that***

Thanks!
Thanks Tanglefoot! I'd love to have the amount of space that you've got in that pop-up camper, but this will do for now. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for a fake plant, that way we won't have another casualty.

The Zuk mod that we did is actually using a front coil spring from a '97-06 Jeep Wrangler/TJ. Those coil springs work great because one end is wide enough to fit over the upper bump stop and the other end is tapered so it sits snug around the lower bump stop. I had to cut the springs with an angle grinder to make them 14" long, giving me the exact ride height I wanted...other than that, no welding or fabrication necessary! I wrote a little about the Zuk mod before I installed the Old Man Emu suspension. There's several different versions of the Zuk mod out there, you can find several on Yotatech. If you go to Zuk's website, you can see several examples at the bottom of the page. The only thing you have to be cautious about is your wheel/tire combo...with my Toyota steelies and 245/75r16 tires I only have about an 1.5" of clearance between the inner sidewalls and the Zuk coils. Haven't had any issues with rubbing, but YMMV.

UPDATE: I can honestly say that the Zuk mod has been great! I would recommend trying them for anyone with a 1st gen. 4Runner or 2nd gen. pickup with saggy bottom blues or the need for a stiffer rear suspension. These coils have been installed this entire time and we've had no issues related to the rear suspension. Who needs a $1000 suspension when you can just do this cheap trick? I've often wondered how our original leaf springs would have held up (with the Zuk mod installed) if we had never replaced the suspension before our PanAm journey...
 
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hrt4me

Adventurer
nice build, and good luck on your trip!

makes me miss my Gen1 '85 4Runner which was lifted and locked and similar to yours, and my wife and I even camped in the rear cargo area a few times in north Texas and southeast Oklahoma
 

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
nice build, and good luck on your trip!

makes me miss my Gen1 '85 4Runner which was lifted and locked and similar to yours, and my wife and I even camped in the rear cargo area a few times in north Texas and southeast Oklahoma
Camping in TX and OK...I'll bet you could've used the roof vent-fan while sleeping inside!
 

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Wow, much has changed in our 4Runner and I never really updated the progress. Since we're now back in the states for six months and our vehicle is waiting for us in Uruguay until October, I figured I might as well update. I've edited the first post of the build thread so it now mentions most of what we've done so far, quick-links to steps of the build, along with things that have failed or been replaced along the way.

Thoughts on performance:
This little vehicle has been great for us. It can be slow going up steep hills in Guatemala or the high passes of the Andes, but I'm overall pleased. We don't need a hotrod and I feel like I can still pass on inclines with a little skill and planning. The fact that we're running 10-ply oversized tires with factory gearing wasn't the best plan in regards to performance, but at least we haven't suffered a single tire issue and it this point we're just working with what we've got on there.

Thoughts on reliability:
One thing I wish I would have done before we left was replace the timing chain and the plastic guides. It felt unnecessary at the time because the engine had been rebuilt within 60,000 miles but I chipped the plastic timing chain guides in Guatemala and had to redo it. I also totally regret getting an alarm installed. The installation was botched and started a short which left us somewhat stuck in Antigua (not a bad place to be stuck). Guatemala was where the bulk of our repairs were done, as I also had to replace an idler arm after the treacherous road to Semuc Champey. The continuous duty solenoid that isolated our batteries fried in Costa Rica and we replaced it with a manual Guest 2111A switch, it's been great ever since. All that said, the 4Runner truly has been reliable and the problems have mostly been simple. I probably could have ignored any of these issues (except a dead fuel pump) and kept trucking all the way to Tierra del Fuego. It's amazing how far this thing will limp its way to where we need to go.

Thoughts on comfort:
We've got the storage pretty dialed down at this point. In the beginning, with the chuckbox inside and above our feet, it sometimes felt a little cramped and more difficult to get in or out. Eventually we ditched the chuckbox and it's been great since. Every month or two we go thru and purge things we haven't used in a while and now we're mostly thinned down to a definitive kit. We now sleep so comfortably inside (thanks again to the Fantastic Fan!) that we actually prefer to sleep inside our rig versus getting a room somewhere. We've actually paid for dorms just to use their bathrooms, then slept in the parking lot even though we weren't supposed to!

Below is an updated image of our current interior setup. The two blue bins on the bed house are kitchen items and food (when we go to bed, this goes on the front seat). The navy blue bag is our backpacks (this goes on the floorboard when we go to bed). The green bag is our laundry.



More recent photos of the 4Runner here and on Facebook

Plans after the trip:
Our setup has been working so well for us that we have decided we will ship the 4Runner back to the states when our time in South America is over. We've already put a small amount of money into this vehicle...add the memories we've had with it, and you realize there's too much invested to let her go. We may as well just continue to use it because it's an "unplug and play" vehicle for exploring.

Thoughts for the future:
The first plan of business is to build our cabinets up more. The plan is to build the entire length of the driver's side storage up to the ceiling. For the passenger side, I'd just like to build the section that would cover the rearmost window all the way to the ceiling, leaving the middle sliding window free of obstructions. I feel like this won't mess with driver visibility and it would eliminate the need for storing the two small bins on the bed. I'd like to start the storage cabinets from scratch again, using "flight case" construction to save weight. I'm also looking for the right sized surplus aluminum waterproof box to store on the cab roof, just to keep the backpacks locked up and out of the way until we need them.

I have other big plans, but they'll take serious time and some extra coin so I'll keep my mouth shut until those two items are available.
 
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mapper

Explorer
Been following along on your journey here and there. Good work and hope you can get back to traveling, and the runner, soon. I recognize removing the roll bar was a necessity for an extended trip in this vehicle but often wonder if you notice any decrease in structural integrity?

I've been looking at early 4runners, like the low weight aspect of it. If I went with one, the roll bar would probably need to go but I haven't found a definitive answer as to whether or not removing it has any clear ill effects in day to day driving. Thanks!
 

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Been following along on your journey here and there. Good work and hope you can get back to traveling, and the runner, soon. I recognize removing the roll bar was a necessity for an extended trip in this vehicle but often wonder if you notice any decrease in structural integrity?

I've been looking at early 4runners, like the low weight aspect of it. If I went with one, the roll bar would probably need to go but I haven't found a definitive answer as to whether or not removing it has any clear ill effects in day to day driving. Thanks!
Thanks mapper! We'll be back with the 4Runner in no time (October), but for now we're just enjoying family time.

Haven't noticed any difference in structural integrity with the roll bar removed. The only reason I would ever think twice about removing it is if I had a youngster riding in the back. Even with the roll bar, these 1st Gen 4Runners have pretty bad scores when it comes to crash test safety. I once saw someone reference a study that showed just how badly they scored. These factors probably have a strong correlation with that low weight aspect you mention. Just keep all four wheels on the ground and you'll be ok! ;)
 

JasonRedwood

Explorer
The new picture of the rear of the 4runner looks great. Good use of space! Looks well lived in. :)

@mapper- the roll bar removed doesn't affect the day to day driving characteristics.
 

sctracker

Observer
Been following along on your journey here and there. Good work and hope you can get back to traveling, and the runner, soon. I recognize removing the roll bar was a necessity for an extended trip in this vehicle but often wonder if you notice any decrease in structural integrity?

I've been looking at early 4runners, like the low weight aspect of it. If I went with one, the roll bar would probably need to go but I haven't found a definitive answer as to whether or not removing it has any clear ill effects in day to day driving. Thanks!

I rolled my first gen about 5 times at 65MPH last year. Including one full landing on the roof of the cab and the B-pillar didn't budge and inch. Granted the only thing holding the campershell together and saving my dog was that roll bar. I can see where the crash test went poorly in other areas though. My front tire came about 10 inches into the floorboard. So in my opinion if you aren't going to have anybody in the back then feel free to remove the roll bar.
 

Anarchy Joe

Observer
WOW:Wow1: that is one nice 1st gen, great build.

Hope mine will be at that level someday.thanks for the pics

Regards
Anarchy joe
 

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
I rolled my first gen about 5 times at 65MPH last year. Including one full landing on the roof of the cab and the B-pillar didn't budge and inch. Granted the only thing holding the campershell together and saving my dog was that roll bar. I can see where the crash test went poorly in other areas though. My front tire came about 10 inches into the floorboard. So in my opinion if you aren't going to have anybody in the back then feel free to remove the roll bar.
Holy smokes! Glad to hear you and your dog walked away from that one... :Wow1:

WOW:Wow1: that is one nice 1st gen, great build.

Hope mine will be at that level someday.thanks for the pics

Regards
Anarchy joe
Thanks Anarchy Joe. It looks slightly less nice after the winds in Northern Peru blew off a piece of the bumper, but she cleans up ok :coffeedrink:
 
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