Adventurous: Weston Miller’s 2000 Toyota 4Runner

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The 4Runner is one of those vehicles that has established itself as something of an automotive icon – you know, the type of car that people just seem to flock to and adore forever and always, like the Volkswagen Beetle or Subaru Outback. Toyota has kept the 4Runner going for the past 30 years, going through five generations, but the third generation (1996-2002) has been a fan favorite for many years.

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Weston’s 4Runner took us almost to the top of Mount Palomar, where we could see for miles and miles around.

One guy who knows this is Weston Miller. A Southern California native and off-roading enthusiast, Weston has gone far and done much while behind the wheel of his 2000 4Runner. He started and grew his own lifestyle blog, Outworld Overland, all while keeping a day job as a marketing director, and even managed to get recognition in Reddit’s /r/4×4 subreddit.

With the help of aftermarket upgrades and his own two hands, Weston is making his mark on the off-road world, and the 4Runner has been there through it all. And what better way to get to know the man than by taking an afternoon off to go crawling in Aguanga Canyon, just a one-hour drive from his hometown of San Diego?

The Journey To The Top (Almost)

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Gassed up and ready to roll, we left civilization behind and headed east toward the start of the Palomar Mountain trail.

4Runner Highlights

  • Magnuson/TRD supercharger
  • ARB front bumper
  • CBI rear bumper with tire carrier
  • CBI rock sliders
  • CBI skidplates
  • ToyTec three-inch BOSS lift
  • 16-inch TRD wheels
  • 35-inch General Grabber X3 tires
  • Gobi roof rack
Along the way, we chatted about what it was that got Weston into 4Runners in the first place. “I lucked into getting a 4Runner as a college vehicle, and from there I got into off-roading,” he said. “I was going to school at Georgia Southern – go Eagles, baby – and let me tell you, I do not miss driving through that Georgia red clay.”

In July 2014, Weston bought his current 4Runner, but it wasn’t long before the vehicle got into an accident. “Somebody cut me off on the freeway and I crunched the front bumper,” explained Weston. “I got the insurance check and instead of getting an OEM replacement, I went with an ARB one instead. That was kind of what kicked off the whole build, truth be told.”

We couldn’t help but notice the world around us as we headed further and further up the mountain. “This is, by most standards, an easy-to-moderate course,” commented Weston. “The transmission takes more of a beating than the four-wheel-drive system or tires. It’s a really nice grade that has some nice climbs, little straightaways to kick up dust, and just some awesome vistas too.”

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Much of the trail is very safe and well-maintained, making it a pleasant drive coming up and going down.

“Coming from San Diego, you might not realize that these kinds of views are so close to home,” continued Weston. “Nearby is Mount Laguna, and there you get leaves changing colors. We took people out there, people who had been living in SD for five years, and they had no idea the kind of beauty out here.”

Building Up Outworld Overland

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Going to places like Mount Palomar is what Weston loves to do as part of his self-founded blog, Outworld Overland. He and his small team like to take adventures both near and far, with beautiful backgrounds and vistas to savor.

To hear Weston explain it, Outworld Overland is “What I and my friend Matt Adams have been doing since college.” More to the point, Outworld Overland is a blog that explores the outdoors lifestyle through the lens of Toyota and Lexus SUVs.

The third-gen 4Runner is my favorite SUV of all time.

“It started as just a vehicle build aimed at off-roading, and then we realized that we’d been doing action sports our whole lives,” Weston elaborated. “We would go somewhere incredible and not shoot photos or videos, and we were missing out on giving people the full story. So that’s what we wanted to change by doing Outworld Overland.”

Being less than six hours from so many different off-road area types certainly has contributed to Outworld Overland’s growth – from the frozen peaks of Big Bear Mountain to the dunes of Glamis to the rocky, dusty obstacles of Ocotillo Wells, there’s hardly a shortage of varied places to explore and document. And for being so fresh to the scene (Outworld Overland was created in August 2016), the blog is finding sure footing thanks to social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram.

The 4Runner, purchased in 2014, has been central to Weston's ability to make Outworld Overland a burgeoning success.

Top: A Magnuson-made supercharger gives the 4Runner additional horsepower and torque to draw from when things get tough. Bottom: ToyTec's BOSS lift kit raised the 4Runner by three inches for more clearance off-road.

Finding natural locations and shooting beautiful pictures is an art, and it’s complemented by having the right mode of transportation. Weston knew that with his 4Runner, he had the right foundation – it was just a matter of building it up, and to do that, he had to work on his phone call kung-fu.

The ultimate goal for my 4Runner is to be able to comfortably watch Sunday football games on top of a mountain.

“The bumper started the deadly game of catch-up, because when you get a heavy-duty bumper, you have to get a lift kit to accommodate it,” said Weston. “I had been working back in the day with ToyTec when they were a relatively new company. Being in marketing, I was already pretty motivated to apply what I had learned from my college major.”

Over time, Weston’s persistence paid off. He was able to work out deals with each of the companies that donated parts to his 4Runner, and made contacts in the industry that paved the way for more in the future. From General Tire to Gobi to CBI, Weston has built up quite the contact book, and he is thankful to each and every company that has kept his SUV rolling. “I’m behind them with my heart and soul,” he said.

For the longest time, Weston's 4Runner sported the popular "Red Letter" General Grabbers (left). "I was hesitant to get away from that style," he said. But after talking with General about the X3 (right), Weston decided it was time for a change; judging from his thoughts on the switch, it seems Weston is happy with the results. "These tires have taken me places in two-wheel-drive where the Grabbers required four-wheel-drive," he said.

Looking Ahead

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As evidenced by his passion for the outdoors, Weston is not the type to just sit still. Naturally, he plans to modify the 4Runner some more in the near future, but will refrain from doing anything to the exterior and instead focus on the interior.

“If I think about the outside much more, I’ll just start adding useless stuff,” he joked. “I want to put some race seats in the front, reupholster the door inserts with saddle brown leather, sound-deaden the floor, and install 3G/4G wi-fi. The ultimate goal for my 4Runner is to be able to comfortably watch Sunday football games on top of a mountain.”

CBI's rear bumper with tire carrier has several mounting locations for the spare tire to affix to, making it versatile and well-suited for the 4Runner and its Gobi roof rack with ladder.

Now if that isn’t a noble goal for any off-roader, we don’t know what is. We wish the best of luck to Weston, Matt, and the rest of the Outworld Overland team, and encourage you to see more off-road greatness on reddit.com/r/4×4.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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