View Full Version : Opinions requested on 4Runner selection

01-03-2007, 02:16 PM
I've convinced my soon to be turning 16 son that a 4Runner is his best option for his first rig. I've been a '40 guy all my life so I don't know a ton about 4Runners. What I do know is we want a first gen to get the convertible top. This will be built into a capable rock crawler/DD with minimal lift to clear 35's, 'glass front fenders, trimmed rears, maybe bobbed, etc. What I can't decide on and/or don't know enough about, is what year(s) would be the best selection. Solid axle is a must, and I'd like EFI. I know 85 was the last year for solid axle, but from my understanding EFI didn't come around until 86 or 87, correct? My questions are:
1) Should we get an 85 or older and deal with carbureator and/or swap in some type of aftermarket EFI or do a motor swap?
2) Should we get an 86 or newer and do a SAS on it?
3) If 86 or newer, what engine options were there and which would be better? I know the 22RE is an awesome little engine, but it is a bit low on power, would a V6 be better? What V6('s) were available from 86 to 89?

Any suggestions for other websites with p/u or Runner info?
Thanks for the help

01-03-2007, 02:41 PM
Pirate4x4.com has a good hash out on this. Buying older versus swapping newer to tie up all the loose ends favors the newer. Not to mention the truck will have more comforts.

I drive a 95 that is swapped in both axle and engine. It is pretty straightforward to get EFI and a solid axle on a Toyota Mini/Runner.


01-03-2007, 03:45 PM
1985 is the golden year: solid front axle and EFI. Other years require more work.

01-03-2007, 03:56 PM
I have an 85 now and had one years ago that I bought new, they come with EFI from 85 and on.

You need to decide first of how much money you have right now to buy and start working on the truck. If you get a 85 you can wheel it right now with minimal work. That is not to say that an IFS won't wheel but here is what I mean. The 85 can be build up slow with out wasting money. You can swap gears in the front and add a locker right away. You can upgrade the axle right away and swap in better brakes. Then when you are ready to lift it you already have a pretty nice set up in front. If you go with IFS any work you do to the front will be wasted money unless you can sell the parts.

A nice lift with all the parts runs about $1500 to $2000 if you buy a kit.

You can do it yourself, put the lift together that is, with Chevy springs and other parts. That will save you some money but can have its problems.

A SAS lift kit runs about the same as a normal lift so that is good and you can use some of the IFS brake parts to upgrade the solid axle brakes. You will need to find a sloid axle $100-$300 and some other little things. You may be able to sell some of the IFS stuff but not for much.

A 88-89 4Runner can come with the V6 motor, giving you more power and who doesn't need more power. They also came with more options and are easier to find. They can be in better condition and there were more SR5 models made of them.

87 4runners came with a Turbo motor (not sure about 88's)

If I was going to do a slow build up I would get a 85, lock it and gear it and go from there.

If I had $5-8k burning a hole in my pocket I would get a 88-89 V6 SR5 and do the SAS kit.

So there you have it, of course we did not discuss buying a junker and swapping out the motor with a 4.3 and then lifting the sucker IFS or solid.

BTW I have acces to an 87 that is in OK shape, 22re with 5sp. No doors and the engine over heats (warped head or gaskets?) can be had for $600 interior is OK. Just a thought :D

01-04-2007, 09:14 AM
I wouldn't get the 3.0 V6. Chances are the headgasket blew and who knows what the history of the repair was. The V6 wasn't really that much more powerful, I'd stick with the old reliable 22R or 22RE. The turbos aren't too bad for power and reliability. I have a friend that has a 4Runner and a pickup with the turbo 22RE-T. I have another friend that I think has what I would want in a 4Runner. He has an 87 SR5 4Runner that he swapped a 2LT out of a 85 Hilux. It isn't the speediest rig in the world but it gets between 28-32 mpg. And it has torque right off idle which is great for off road. Eventually he plans on doing the solid axle swap. He's running 33s right now with no lift.

01-04-2007, 09:42 AM
Rock runner is right on.

If you want first gen, your options run from 1984 to 1989. Your engine options are 4cyl (any year) turbo4 (1987) V6 (88-89)

although the carbs work just fine (if you run a hose from the float vent out the air filter, lower the float level, fuel "pressure" regulator) fuel injection isn't a bad way to go by any means. Turbo parts are harder to find and cost more, plus almost every turbo 4runner I've seen was an automatic tranny.

V6 with the notorious head gaskets is a little over hyped as a problem. My v6 head gaskets have 258,000 miles on them. the 4 cly guys swear by those engines, but come on the v6 produces more torque at idle than the peak torque of the 4cly. 50 extra horsepower is worth the pain to work on and extra weight for me. I've grown weary on the "v6 head gasket sucks" thing coming from the 22re evangalists. If the worst part of my motor lasts >258,000+ miles, I don't think that is a very serious problem.

plus, the 3.4 swap will be easier and you get a slightly tougher tranny and rear diff with the V6 when compared to the regular 4 cyl stuff.

As Rockrunner stated, lifting an 85 isn't THAT much cheaper than SAS and lift. Think about it, either way, you need/want highsteer, springs, longer shocks, shock towers, brake lines. The SAS adds a couple of brackets to the pile of parts and you have to go get a solid front axle. The expensive part is the labor (I don't know about you, but I work on my own stuff.)

On the opposite side, if you go high-steer on the 85, you need the ifs steering box Add$100 to the 85 lift price. You can sell your IFS stuff for MAYBE $100 so subtract that from the cost of the SAS. Look at the numbers again. Pretty darn close!

As far as the finer things, yep, more v6 SR5s. You get a sunroof, power mirrors, power windows, A/C and stuff like that. These things don't help on the trail, but if you have to drive it every day, kinda nice. Also, you simply get a rig 4 years newer too.

The only real disadvantage to the IFS to SAS route is that the front frame rails are not as arched over the axle as the 84-85 so you have less potential up-travel. Also, the v6 oil pan is often in the way of low lift, highsteer setups so you might have to do a pickup tube and pan swap.

01-04-2007, 11:07 AM
Great info guys, just what I was looking for. We'll be doing all the work, just wanted make the right decision on what year to get. The SAS doesn't scare me as much as messing with engine swaps and the related electronics nightmares associated with them. Sounds like my best option might be an 85. I get solid axle and efi. Creature comforts are not important, in fact probably not desired, as we'll be removing doors in the summer and that's just more to deal with when doing that. I guess it's just a decision on whether the added power is worth getting a later model V6 or not. The trade off being a more involved lift process with the SAS.

01-04-2007, 11:31 AM
1985 is the golden year: solid front axle and EFI. Other years require more work.
Actually, a factory solid axle requires almost as much work, reconfiguration and expense as a SAS to build a quality rocker! It does offer more uptravel, short of modifying the IFS frame that is. By the time you swap out the push-pull steering for an IFS box and hi-steer, move the axle forward, replace the front spring hangers, install an IFS rear axle for the width... doing a SAS is not so much harder.

Which is good news, as finding a good 85 is roughly equivalent to winning the lotto. Much easier to find a good grandma-owned 86-89.

22RE strongly preferred to the 3.0. I've owned three 3.0s too. You can build a reliable 130-140HP 22RE for not so much.

01-04-2007, 11:59 AM
Stock 85, to put wheeling springs on, crossover, etc:
-Cut and move spring hanger
-Extended/possibly relocate shackles
-Buy springs
-Buy IFS steering box
-Get IFS steering box located

Swapping a newer truck:
-Cut off IFS
-Weld on front spring hanger
-Install shackle tubes
-Plate frame where IFS steering box already is

Work to work, it is about the same. You will still be buying springs, steering arms, steering links, etc.

If you just want an old beater to hammer on, get an 85 and rave about it. If you are building a rock crawler, you will monkey with everything anyway.

01-04-2007, 12:10 PM
Cool. This thread has been a real education!

01-04-2007, 02:53 PM
Yo ADRIAN!!! Comin' to the snow run?

J Kimmel
01-04-2007, 03:37 PM
like everyone already said, its about the same amount of work, same amount of parts cost. When I got my most recent 85, I figured my price range~1500 for purchase, and bought the first good one that came along. I wasn't too worried about what I got, since I knew I was going to modify it. I had a few things I wanted and I have what I got. I'm pretty happy with it, it does well on the trails.

oh and the v6 thing, I've had both, and I preferr the 4 cyl, only because parts are cheaper. The V6 was a great engine for me and I wouldn't hesitate to get another.

01-05-2007, 05:21 PM
id say look for a clean 4 banger 5 speed EFI Even a 2wd would be worth looking at! you can get a great deal on one too!