Moving to Vegas, and really interested in playing in the desert

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TheBFA

member
May 3, 2019
37
11
8
Las Vegas
Howzit? My name's Jason, I'm 38, currently in Jacksonville, FL but I've lived all around from being in the Navy and then doing contract welding, but consider myself from Hawaii when it comes to cultural background. I was in Colorado for awhile and acquired a 94 4Runner that was decked out for some crawling. I've always wanted to get into the automotive field with welding and fabricating as a hobby, and plan on getting a little extreme with the 4Runner once I get settled. But I want to keep that as a crawler.

I was looking at getting another truck for a daily driver to put down the 4Runner for an engine swap once I get to Vegas, and came across some "prerunner" built trucks on Craigslist. I thought "I want to build one of those too!"

I have quite a bit of automotive experience with bolt on/off engine/drivetrain work (headgaskets, clutches, suspension kits), but not much knowledge when it comes to customized off-road suspensions or anything specialized to desert trucks. I know OF them, but not enough to select what I want or need.

So I'm here hoping to learn some more, build something to be proud of and get out and have some fun.
 

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dsrtrcr01

Well-known member
Jan 31, 2005
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Toyotas and Rangers are the obvious choice. That is due to the aftermarket support. I run Toyotas and my first suggestion is to not bite off more then you can chew. Get a vehicle and start building. Do a little at a time and have fun. Don't buy a truck cut it in half and do a full race truck build. Those tend to not get finished and burn you out (Some do actually complete them though).

My vote- 1984-1994.5 Toyota 2wd (22re), Total chaos uniball kit or JD fab race kit. 64 inch Deaver's and Fox shocks all around (I Like Fox). 22re runs forever and does not have enough power to get into too much trouble. They are easy to work on and learn on. Parts are everywhere. The trucks are bullet proof. Those items are somewhat bolt on with a little fab work. You can learn fab by building shock mounts, cage and all that. Downtime is pretty minimal as I have done it to many trucks. You can slap a kit on during a weekend and make junk shock mounts to get you to work on Monday. Following weekend you can build real mounts and so on. I would go with an extra cab for the extra space.

If you go same yearish (1986-1994.5) but 4wd it would have the same front suspension as your current runner.

PS- Make that 4runner a solid front axle for crawling
 

TheBFA

member
May 3, 2019
37
11
8
Las Vegas
I have the 3VZE right now, and I'm pretty familiar with the 22re. I just replaced the head gaskets in mine a few months ago, and my neighbor asked me to replace his on his 22re right after that. I was hoping to go the V8 route and my initial thoughts were on a Titan. I've had an 04 that I really liked, and the 16 XD with the Cummins that I didn't like at all though. I'm just fed up with the lack of power in my Runner, which can barely get out of its own way. Granted, I have 35s which aren't helping, but I have 5.29 gears which puts it still a little over geared.

I think the biggest thing is that I'd like it also to be a daily driver and be able to throw 2 car seats in the back. But in the future, probably go with a 22re as strictly an offroad toy. I guess my biggest decision I'd like to look into is
going 4x4 or 2wd. I feel like 2wd could take a better beating in the desert with less mass bouncing around in the front, but that's just a guess.

As far as fabbing, I need to learn the engineering and design aspect of what needs to get done. I'm a specialty/code welder and certified pipe fitter, and have done lots of fab work. Just not much on projects of my choice. I'm actually going to try to take on the much talked about, rarely accomplished 2JZ swap for the 3VZE. I'm initially considering just cutting and rewelding the bell housing to account for the difference in the input shaft length, but I'm looking into some internals swapping with an R154 tranny I've heard about.
 

TheBFA

member
May 3, 2019
37
11
8
Las Vegas
Yeah don’t build a big dumb full size like I’m doing.... full size full price.
Haha, that makes sense. I would really like a full sized truck for multi use though. Im hoping to shave a lot of cost with my own fabrication. I'm planning on doing my own molding for the body work, and fabbing any structural components myself if I can get dimensions off existing applications. I won't be able to do much about cutting the cost of suspension components, other than buying used, so I'm already prepared for that sticker shock. I'm not looking to get anything fancy to build off of. Like I mentioned, I'm considering an older Titan crew cab. I've had one before and really liked it, and they have been the same forever, with a couple common issues that are an easy fix like cracked radiator and leaking power steering line. I like the way they look too. I do love Toyotas, but the old Tundras that I'd want in my price range are pretty ugly to me, especially the interiors.

And I don't know how feasible it would be with suspension adjustment, but I'd like to be able to tow my 4Runner with this particular build if I can swing it that way
 
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TheBFA

member
May 3, 2019
37
11
8
Las Vegas
I was going to say the same thing about the runner.
I'll get to that eventually. Possibly the same time I swap the engine. When I did the head gasket, it had been sitting for about 2 years. I wasn't planning on even doing the work because I just wanted to swap it out, but got into a bind with life and needed to make it my daily driver for a little while. I already sold the 35x10 tires I had on it and just had some regular stock tires to push it around, but needed/wanted to go back to 35s to match my gearing because I was going to have to do some cross country driving and I'm already cruising at 70 at 3000rpms, so it would have been worse with little tires. In the process, in my great wisdom or lack thereof, I figured I could throw some 35x12.5 on there, but with the offset on my rims, they rubbed the upper control arms. So I got spacers. Then after bending my fender back to the original shape, trimming it, and hammering in the wheel well after discovering that spacers introduced their own problems, I ordered a 4" ProComp lift to give me even more clearance. So going SAS will remove my months old new lift, which kind of makes me cringe a little. But I'm sure I'll still eventually make it there.
 

TheBFA

member
May 3, 2019
37
11
8
Las Vegas
And I don't know if it makes that much of a difference, but I'm 6'3" 275, and I already feel shoe-horned in my 4Runner, and I don't think any amount of harnessing is going to keep me from bouncing between the dash, door, and ceiling in this thing. The door already hits me wherever I close it getting in. I can handle some slow crawling tossing me around, but I'm picturing getting rocked pretty good trying to get some air in it.
 

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