Technically speaking, the sport utility vehicle has been around since the 1930s. Over the years, vehicle manufacturers put their own touch on the vehicle class. Names like Blazer, Bronco, Cherokee, and Scout were sported by these vehicles. They boasted two doors and minus body style, sported many of the same components that their pickup counterparts did. There was some room for cargo, but they were made to haul more passengers than the traditional pickups could. These steel and iron beasts were also pretty capable off-road.
A New Breed Of Sport Utility Is Born
The gas crunch of the ’70s led to vehicles being downsized. The automakers, though, were not deterred, as they continued sending full-size sport-utes off the assembly lines. A changing of the guard took place in 1984, though. A new breed of sport utility vehicle was unleashed on the public.
Just like cars, two sport utilities came out in ’84 that were smaller and lighter than the others. Jeep downsized the Cherokee, while Toyota released the 4Runner to the public.
Even though the 4Runner was a new vehicle in 1984, it did have a predecessor. Between 1981 and 1983, Toyota collaborated with Winnebago and created the Trekker. The Trekker was a partially built Toyota pickup that was sent to Winnebago, which fitted a fiberglass body to the frame. On the outside, the Trekker looked like every other Toyota pickup of the day, with a camper shell from the sides and front. The back end, though, was different, and once the doors were open, the Trekker was open from front to back.
In keeping with most of the other automakers, Toyota based the 4Runner off the pickups they were putting out. The same drivetrains and power plants were housed under the sheet metal. From the front bumper to the rear of the passenger doors, the 4Runner resembled the pickups. It was the interiors of the pickups and 4Runners that differed in appearance.
The Rise Of The 4Runner
Throughout the decades, Toyota has kept the 4Runner in its lineup of offerings. The first-gen 4Runner was built from 1984 to 1989 and had two doors. The second-gen was introduced in 1989 and this is when the four-door 4Runner first appeared. Most vehicles built during this time sported the four doors, but there were a few that still had two doors.
Even though Toyota moved towards making the 4Runner a more luxury-based vehicle to appeal to a larger market base, the sport utility has continued to own a place in the hearts of off-roaders everywhere. The current fifth-gen 4Runner was introduced in 2009. In keeping with the wide market appeal, Toyota has several different trim levels to appeal to that crowd. On one end is the Limited that fits the grocery-getting, soccer practice crowd, while on the other end is the Toyota TRD Pro 4Runner. The latter model comes from the factory sporting Bilstein shocks, tuned suspension, and a TRD skid plate.
The 4Runner has also become a prime vehicle for the overland crowd. Go on Instagram and you can find numerous overlanders using the 4Runner as their base vehicle. Expedition Overland, based in Montana, integrated the 4Runner into their fleet of vehicles that travel the world.
The 4Runner has garnered solid support from the aftermarket community. Companies like CBI Offroad and SRQ Fabrication produce numerous products for the 4Runner market. The world-famous Marlin Crawler used Steel City Racing’s 4Runner as a testbed for new suspension components they have been working on.
With the popularity of the 4Runner due to its capabilities, flexibility and famous Toyota reliability, used 4Runners enjoy a high resale value. New 4Runners on the lot reflect the demand in pricing as well.
Based In The Central Valley
One of the hubs of the 4×4 community is the Central Valley of California. The city of Fresno is located just a stone’s throw from some of the best hardcore trails in the country. A few of the aforementioned companies also call Fresno home as they do not have to travel far to test their products. Trails like Dinkey Creek, the Rubicon, and Dusy-Ershim all call the Sierra Nevada mountain range home. Due to the short drive, the 4×4 community in the Valley is strong; many 4Runners can be counted in the ranks.
Dy Hin of Clovis is the proud owner of one of these 4Runners. Dy is the proud owner of a 2018 TRD PRO 4Runner wrapped in Toyota’s stand-out Cavalry Blue paint. To say that is the best feature of this great-looking 4Runner would be wrong, though.
The front starts off with a Proline 4×4 R1 front bumper. Mounted on the bumper of this very impressive 4Runner is an LED light bar from Baja Designs. There are also two LED driving lights from Baja Designs equipped with amber filters. This light setup is more than capable of complementing the stock lighting when Dy is on the trail at night.
Along the sides are mounted C4 Fabrication rock sliders. A Warn VR 12.5 winch with synthetic winch line is mounted in the bumper for recovery purposes. A custom onboard VIAIR 444c dual compressor air system and 2.5-gallon air tank are mounted in the bumper. This allows Dy to air up the tires after a day on the trail (or clean off layers of dust right before our photoshoot at Wishon Reservoir).
Advanced Fiberglass Concepts’ fiberglass fenders are bolted in place of the stock front fenders. The glass has been painted to match the Cavalry Blue. The fenders have a three-inch flare and two-inch rise. This setup allows for a more aggressive off-road look, but also allows for a shorter lift to be used with bigger tires. RCI aluminum skid plates are mounted to protect vital components from the Sierra Nevada rocks.
Tires, Wheels, And Electrical
Speaking of tires, the 4Runner rides on 35×12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers. The Nitto offering has made itself a legend in the off-road world for reliability and capability. It only makes sense to take a tire with those characteristics and partner it with a vehicle like Dy’s. The Nittos are mounted on 17×9-inch Venomrex VR-602 wheels in Tungsten Graphite. On the roof, an Ecotechne roof rack is mounted. Behind that, an Ecotechne rear hatch ladder is mounted on the rear.
The front and rear differentials were stuffed with 4.56:1 ring and pinions to spin the 35-inch Nittos down the highway. In addition, the rear differential retained the electronic locker from the factory. Rounding everything out is the CTEK 140-amp dual battery controller, an Odyssey PC1800-FT marine battery setup, and a 3,000-watt inverter.
Great Made Better
Dy’s TRD Pro 4Runner left the lot with a nicely set up suspension, but he had it improved. Dy replaced the stock suspension with a two-inch suspension kit from Total Chaos for the front. Total Chaos has a great reputation for producing suspensions for the Toyota market that works well. In the rear, Dobinson C59-675V rear variable rate coil springs have been mounted. A Currie Anti-Rock sway bar is mounted in the rear to control sway. The Bilsteins have been replaced at the four corners with King reservoir shocks.
The text and images do not do Dy Hin’s 2018 TRD Pro 4Runner justice. Above all, this vehicle is a work of art. Dy took a vehicle that already had some of the best out of the box ability and made it better. An hour east of Clovis lays the Sierra Nevada Mountains with some of the most scenic off-road trails in America. After a hard day exploring in the tall trees, Dy can hit the campfire.
If you are wondering about the license plate, it refers to Dy’s main sponsor, Clovis Donuts. This is because Dy is the owner of the establishment. If you are ever around the Fresno area, stop by for a couple of old-fashioned glazes and check out this great example of on-road and off-road comfort and capability.