Camping Companion: Bryce Anderson’s 1994 Toyota 4Runner

Whatever path you take to getting an off-road project vehicle, the end result should always be something that can take what’s thrown at it. For Bryce Anderson, that vehicle was a 1994 Toyota 4Runner.

We met Bryce out at King of the Hammers last month. We got to see his grizzled, green Yota spend some time in the rocks and spit dirt out the back as it clambered up over hills. Knowing how these SUVs looked from the factory and the visual distinctions this 4Runner bore, we knew we had a certified off-roader on our hands.

We hailed Bryce down and got to interviewing him as the winter sun and dusty sands of Johnson Valley set the scene. As it turned out, Bryce not only liked his 4×4, but he also liked to tinker on other 4x4s for a living, too.

Build Background

Bryce discovered his 4Runner’s capabilities when it was bone stock. He took it through the Dusy-Ershim Trail in central California, a 33-mile trail that goes between two wilderness areas. It’s rated as a hard/severe trail, and can take as many as five days to complete.

Bryce started off-roading many years ago. His friends got him interested in the hobby. “They would come out to places like this and have fun,” he said, gesturing to Johnson Valley. “They took me out a few times. Eventually, I liked it so much, I started driving around on my own.”

Bryce became self-taught in the ways of fabrication and parts installation over the years. Pretty soon, word got around that Bryce was the guy to see for off-road truck, Jeep, and SUV modifications. “A lot of my buddies asked me about working on their rigs,” Bryce commented. “I finally decided to get my own shop, Timberline Off-Road, one year ago. That’s how I started doing it on my own, professionally.”

Bryce's works on Toyotas for a living, and the rig he brought to the 2021 King of the Hammers was a 4Runner. As you can see, he has a knack for working on these Japanese machines!

The work has kept Bryce busy. “It’s been slam-packed,” he said. “Between the regular modifications I do, plus body and paint which I also do, it’s been super-busy. Most of the time, it’s Toyotas that come in for work.”

So whether it’s work or play, Bryce has Toyotas on his mind. The one he brought to KOH proved itself while bone-stock out on the Dusy-Ershim Trail in central California. “I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this thing’s amazing!'” said Bryce. “After I got back, I spent several days on the internet looking up 4Runner builds. I found Marlin Crawler’s website, checked out their forums, and found out I could swap in a straight axle up front, do dual transfer cases, and really build it up. From there, it was pretty much a done deal.”

Build Highlights

Bryce began building the 4Runner in 2011. He targeted the front end right away to get better performance out on the trail. “On the front, I did a solid axle swap to a high-pinion Land Cruiser eight-inch,” he said. “It got a Yukon Grizzly locker to give me more traction. The steering got upgraded to use hydro assist, so I have better control while I’m climbing over rocks.”

The drivetrain mods carried over to the rear as well. “Out back, I’m running a 9.5-inch Land Cruiser differential,” said Bryce. “I made some special modifications to it, cutting and centering the axle housing.”

Bryce did a solid axle swap on the front and upgraded the rear, effectively making his 4Runner run off of Land Cruiser differentials with 5.29:1 gearing. He also has twin transfer cases to get the most out of rock-crawling sessions.

Bolstering his changes to the axles are twin transfer cases that offer extremely low gearing. “I use a Marlin Crawler MC07 dual case adapter, with Marlin Crawler 4.7:1 gears in the rear case,” said Bryce. “It’ll go anywhere I point it once I kick it into low gear.”

For the 4Runner’s suspension, Bryce’s upgrades featured leaf springs all the way around using Trail-Gear four-inch leaf packs. He saved money on the shock absorbers, going with Belltech smoothies on all four corners.

The tires are 37-inch Pro Comp M/T IIs. The wheels are 17-inch beadlocks from Trail-Gear.

Protecting the 4Runner was a priority, as evidenced by its exterior tubing. “When I first got it, I started building armor for it in stages,” explained Bryce. “There was a lot of trial and error, seeing a need and then filling it.”

The back half of the vehicle showed tubing that arched over the wheel wells and covered most of the fenders. The tubing acts as the first line of defense against damage, and also acts as a bumper and carrier for the spare tire. “It holds a 37-inch spare,” said Bryce. Speaking of tires, Bryce runs Pro Comp M/T IIs, wrapping around Trail-Gear Creeper Lock beadlock wheels.

The back half of the 4Runner showcases a tube bumper with a spare tire carrier and protection for the rear fenders. This setup gives him peace of mind and easy access to the spare tire in case things go south.

The 4Runner For All Seasons

Bryce’s adventures in the 4Runner have taken him all over California in search of the next great thrill. “I did Fordyce Trail in it, Dusy-Ershim Trail, Coyote Lake, and more,” he said. ”

Through the years, Bryce’s 4Runner has given him a lot to love. His most favorite aspect is the space and seating for five people. “I can stuff it full of people, and still have enough room for camping gear,” he said. “It’ll go anywhere, whether it’s the top of a mountain or just around town.”

Bryce said he’s all done working on the 4Runner, but he still has plans for other builds. “I think my next build will be a 1985 Toyota pickup,” he said. Whatever he winds up working on, we know Bryce’s build will be in good hands.

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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