The tale of the Stormtrooper 4Runner starts back when I was a young kid, back with memories of riding in a booster seat in my dad’s lifted YJ Wrangler on weekend off-roading trips. My impressionable mind would suck these memories up like a sponge, imprinting upon me a never-fading love for all things four-wheel-drive, off-road, and trail runs. Twenty-ish years later the story has now come full circle, the off-road hobby manifesting itself in my top-priority 2017 New Year’s Resolution: explore more.
With self-inflicted pressure to make the most of life and to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors, and by extension to journey to my bucket-list spots, working towards these goals took a mandatory first step of acquiring the appropriate vehicle. One-thousand round-trip miles worth of road trip to Canada later, the story truly begins.
Welcome to Project Stormtrooper 4Runner.
I was a smile-ridden single-digit-aged passenger during my first off-pavement adventure, enamored by the vastness of the woods and the endless expanse of nature. Yet what really grabbed me was watching four-wheel-drive rigs tackle seemingly impassable obstacles, the perfect teamwork of man and machine. Last year I bought a VehiCROSS, hoping to use it to re-enter the world of wheeling street-legal 4x4s, but ultimately I swapped both it and my Challenger for one “do-it-all” car, swearing off the two-car juggle and its inherent complications. Then as 2016 came to a close I regularly found myself thinking about how little progress I made toward accomplishing my automotive dreams, so by the middle of December the decision to remedy that had been made.
Peruse an automotive forum long enough with at least passing interest and you’re bound to find a vehicle for sale that catches your eye. It wasn’t long before a fairly well-modified 4th-gen 4Runner, a truck built so that it would need little-to-no additional hardware to go just about anywhere I would want it to, listed in the classifieds of Expedition Portal did just that. The modifications were extensive, the price almost too good to be true. Yet the truck was in Canada, so I scrolled on. Needless to say, my interest couldn’t be quelled. More on the Canada aspect later in the coming weeks, but let’s just leave it a this: buying and importing the 4Runner was likely the biggest undertaking of my life.
About a month and a half after first finding the sale ad and cautiously messaging the seller, my best friend and I finally hopped into my dad’s Silverado 2500HD that he’d let us borrow for the weekend, pointing north to go on a retrieval mission. Ahead of us lay five-hundred miles of driving each way, a new country for both of us to visit, and one Toyota 4Runner.
Our trip to Ottawa went smoothly aside from the rigorous questioning during both border crossings, and made for a genuinely enjoyable weekend away. Canada itself is a fantastic place to visit, so much so that we’re already planning to return. But the icing on the cake was the 4Runner itself. The truck is a 2005 with the four-liter V6 and selectable 2WD/4HI/4LO, odometer proudly displaying right around 228,000 kilometers (roughly 142,000 miles), trail rash already installed. Nicknamed Stormtrooper by the previous owner, he explained it being called so because, aside from the obvious Star Wars fandom and that the truck is white and black just like the characters bearing the same name, the truck “is a trooper…it gets through everything.” It’s a name that works, and one that isn’t going anywhere.
I’m in good company in the land of 4Runner ownership here on Hooniverse, joining Kamil and his 5th-gen while marking my first time dipping my toes into the segment. For my intentions the 4Runner is perfect: it can do everything off-road well, and is both a safe and comfortable way of getting to and traversing the trail. The 4Runner as a model checks all the boxes for my “requirements” with an industrial grade permanent marker; this specific example checks them with a machine gun. The defining modifications that make the Stormtrooper what it is are roughly 3-4” of lift, a custom front bumper, custom rock sliders, snorkel, skid plate, sleeping platform, BFG KM2s on Tacoma steel wheels, custom roof rack, and so on.
Most crucially, the Stormtrooper is absolutely ideal for the bucket-list trips I so desperately want to do: Moab, Rubicon Trail, Black Bear and Imogene Pass (those being at the top of a very long list). I’ve been fantasizing over the prospect of running these trails for fifteen years now, and finally have the appropriate tool for the job.
New Year’s Resolutions can be, and usually are, fairly cheesy, but in many cases they’re a desperate means of helping kick one’s ass into gear. This year I’m taking my Resolution seriously, more though because in actuality it’s a list of lifetime goals rather than a set simply designated by the turn of the calendar. Setting out to explore more isn’t an easy mountain to tackle, especially when many of your desired locations are life-long fantasies that happen to be thousands of miles away, but with the purchase of the Stormtrooper 4Runner, I’m off to a promising start.