Just as “jump the shark” and “nuke the fridge” have special meanings in pop culture, to “Buy the 4Runner” has a special meaning for me and my family. To find out why, let’s rewind to spring of 2002: I had three summers of “professional” tire/oil change experience under my belt and was just wrapping up my sophomore year of college at UC San Diego.
With ubiquitous internet access and lots of time between classes, I was spending countless hours on 4×4 forums, pirate4x4 in particular. Funny thing about spending 100X as many hours debating something online as actually doing it: You can lose track of what matters.
I’d become convinced that my ’91 Wranger, with its 35″ tires, a 5″ coil conversion lift and front/rear air lockers was underbuilt. The factory Dana 30 and 35 axles would snap at the slightest hint of a hill climb and the transfer case was woefully under-spec’ed. What I really needed to do was sell my Wrangler for the high price it could bring, then build up a solid-axle Toyota 4Runner from scratch to be the hardcore wheeling machine I really wanted. After all, you could get a great used specimen for like $4,000, and that 22RE motor would run forever.
Of course, none of this was true…
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