3, 4, 5. The number of vehicles in my stable always seems to be 3 or more. I don’t have a reason for it… some people say I’m addicted to the hunt. Maybe I just enjoy the unique experience and character that each vehicle gives. Probably a bit of both. But, regardless, it does seem to be counterproductive as my wife and I start to seriously look at escaping the city in favor of full-time mountain time. I sold my old house a few years ago when I moved to Calgary and we have been renting since. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, I had the itch to liquidate.

My 03’ Passat Variant (1.8T, 5spd – LOVE this car) and Ally’s 09’ Matrix XRS were up for sale in a matter of days while in the background I acquired a 99’ 4Runner for my wife. (She wanted a 4x4 for winter driving and room for the pups). The plan was to drop the two cars and drive just 2 vehicles that both met our needs at this crazy time in our lives. The plan was sound, but what I didn’t expect was for both cars to sell within 2 days of listing. And for the 99’ 4Runner to turn out to be MUCH more of a fixer-upper than I had anticipated. I went from 4 working vehicles to 1 in span of 2 days. The cars were gone and the 99’ suddenly wouldn’t run. On top of it needing a new steering rack, some brake work, new LBJ’s, the fuel pump was shot. A fire was lit and it was time to get in the garage and get RickRunner built up and ready for the summer – in a hurry!

I have been collecting parts since I picked the 4Runner up in October. Lots of big projects on the horizon with this 4Runner and Tamarack, as well as Chase’s Tacoma (Bruce) for that matter. I acquired a sponsorship from Odyssey Batteries, Baja Designs, and COMEUP winch over the cold months. Working hard on proposals instead of turning bolts. Additionally some continuing work with the always awesome Stealth Custom Series and ARB 4x4 USA. Stoked to be working with both new and old partners. Chase and I even landed two projects with Cooper Tire and the Element Metal Fabrication – stay tuned for these video projects over the summer! On top of that RickRunner needs to be in top form for the big Colossal 2017 trip this fall. Needless to say, the 4Runner needed some love to get it up to spec.

Once the factory air suspension was yarded, the new parts started going in. The disassembly was quick and painless - no corrosion whatsoever so all the bolts were out with ease, even the front LCA bolts! The truck sat on jack stands for a couple weeks while I painted the brake calipers, installed the stainless lines, and did Total Chaos spindle gussets and Cam Tab gussets. Once all the hard stuff was done it was time to start bolting up the new parts.

-       Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2.5” Ext. Travel Front Coilovers with Resi’s
-       Total Chaos UCA’s
-       Crown extended stainless brake lines (F&R and axle to caliper)
-       Wheelers SuperBumps (F&R)
-       MetalTech Long Travel rear coils
-       MetalTech bumpstop spacers
-       Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2.0” Rear Shocks
-       MetalTech adjustable upper and lower rear control arms (beef!)

Getting the rear LT coils in place took a bit of work and I ended up pulling two of the wires out of the ABS harness that run from the frame to the rear axle. Something that later rendered my speedo dead and all traction control lights on – the dreaded “Christmas Tree”. Other than that little hiccup it was quite painless. I used Coppercoat on nearly all the bolts to help against future corrosion, and coated the front alignment hardware as well before it all went back in. I was very happy with the reservoir mounts on the Icon’s, something that was clearly thought out better than on the Fox 2.5’s on my previous Tundra

-       Gunmetal SCS Ray10’s with OMF true beadlock conversion.
-       295/70/17 Cooper STT Pro Tires
-       BORA 0.75” Wheel Spacers

Beadlocks have been on the radar for a while. Knowing this would likely be the last build before I buy another house and/or have kids was the little justification needed to tip the scales. I like wheels like my wife likes shoes… and the ability to choose the color scheme along with accents are, IMO, a large detail that ties the whole look of the vehicle together. Vin at SCS was a pleasure to deal with as always and he didn’t even bat an eye when I enquired about what is now my 6th set of SCS wheels J. OMF came through with some amazing weld work on the conversion. The beadlock ring design is quite impressive, having the beadlock hardware holes milled at a slight angle so that as the ring bolts down and clamps the tire, the bolts sit flat against the face they are mounting to. With the upcoming video project for Cooper Tire, I was throwing around both the STT Pro and the ST Maxx. I have run the ST Maxx before on my Tundra (a great all-around tire) so I thought I’d try out the more aggressive STT Pro. Mounting the tires was time consuming to say the least (#beadlockproblems), but I am happy to report that I have been driving around for 2 weeks now and I have yet to balance the wheels and tires. A very slight wobble at speed but pretty damn good considering they are not yet in true equilibrium. Super impressed with the combo so far. Will see how they do in the snow/dirt!

-       Rear bumper opening widened
-       Body mount chop
-       Front fenders trimmed
-       Pinchweld folded back
-       Custom fender liners
-       Alignment dialed in at +3.3 degrees of caster

How big of tires can I fit on a 4th gen? The story (or forum thread title) that never ends. As repetitive as these threads are, with enough research you can basically identify which areas of the vehicle need to be modified for larger tires without actually even having to look at the vehicle. Something that I used effectively over the winter. When the spring warmth started to show, I knew exactly where my pain points would be. My impression from the forums was that the 4th Gen’s don’t like bigger tires due to the abnormal wheel wells. After the trimming (cutting?) I did to make 35’s fit with 1.5” of lift on the Tundra, this seemed like a breeze. I trimmed the rearward portion of the rear bumper to accommodate the meaty 295’s at full compression but it was very minimal. The front was a little more work but certainly no tubbing required. I folded the pinch welds down as cleanly as possible wheel trying to retain the seam and avoid splitting the layers of sheet metal apart. Once folded I gave the firewall a few extra sledge hammer whacks for good measure. I created a set of custom fender liners that will allow easy template and cut replacements out of some rubber floor matting that I sourced at Princess Auto. Still need to at some Rally Armor flaps to the project but I’m pretty happy with the non-intrusive approach I have taken this time around. No factory sheet metal (aside from the little slits cut into the pinch welds) was harmed during this procedure.

-       PrinSu Design full length rack
-       ARB 2500 Awning w/enclosed room

I got tired of working on the ground and needed a break so I went up for a couple days to install  the PrinSu Design roofrack and ARB 2500mm awning using the PrinSu mounts. I modified the mounts by lowering the mounting points and cutting the height down by a couple inches. I see why the mounts are designed to bring the awning up a little higher but I wanted a sleeker look to flow better with the overall design concept I’m after. I think I nailed it aesthetically but also functionally – it fits inside my 7 foot garage door opening with less than 1/8” to spare. Win. The awning has yet to be deployed but after running the smaller version on my Tundra, it was a no brainer. It has saved me from inclement weather many many times and with the addition of the awning room, I should be able to post-pone the rooftop tent purchase for a little while longer.

-       Pelfreybilt Aluminum bumper (color matched)
-       Baja Designs Squadron Sport with amber “wide-cornering” beam
-       COMEUP winch SEAL GEN2 9.5rs (future post to come on this guy!)

After browsing the available options for the 4th Gen front bumpers, I was ultimately down to 2 choices: CBI and Pelfreybilt. Both had aluminum options. In the end the Pelfreybilt was selected largely due to its simple and sleek design. Again, trying to tie the design cues for the entire truck together. I felt hoops wouldn’t suit the build either although I certainly do appreciate their function. One thing I will mention is the simple-but-genius internal winch hookup. This allows the winch line to come out the fairlead and wrap back inside the bumper where the hook or thimble can be secured. A COMEUP SEAL GEN2 9.5 rs winch was added inside the Pelfreybilt housing for recovery duty. (a very great product that I am excited to get some review time with)

My initial plan was to install my old Baja Design XL Pro’s (x3) along the top edge of the bumper. After a mock-up I realized I did not like the look and am now holding out for a 20” bar to utilize the opening above the fairlead. The BD Squadron Sport lights were selected for their low amperage draw and dedicated function as a “fog light”. I often travel on the highway in the winter searching for powder and these units will be a God send. More lighting details in a future post though, once I wrap up all the deliverables.

-       Odyssey 31M-PC2150

With a lot of plans for additional accessories – winch, fridge, lights, etc. there was a prudent requirement for an excellent battery. This massive 80lb Odyssey fits in the factory location (definitely snug) but mitigates the need to run duals. With 1150 cold cranking amps I should also have no problem bringing RickRunner to live on those cold winter days. I ordered the “Marine” variant of the PC2150 to gain the additional posts to wire in accessories.

-       Wiring
-       Light setup
-       Skids & Sliders
-       Camp mods

And with a few long days and the odd sleepless night RickRunner went from your average grocery getter to your well-appointed adventure mobile. Lots more details to come but I am very happy to have it on the road. Time to hit the trails!