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