YotaTech Forum Member Body-swaps First Gen 4Runner

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From a rusty project to body-swapping a cleaner ’88 cab and bed onto the frame, one YotaTech member sticks with his dream rig.

We’ve gotten a few lemons, like a Datsun 510 that had floorpans held in with roofing tar and pop rivets. One YotaTech forum member, Toy(Yota), said he always wanted a first-generation 4Runner and got one. Problem was, it had worse rust than our 510. But, unlike that Datsun, Toy(Yota) had the skills, time, and drive to stick with his dream and build something to go wheeling in. He even nicknamed it “Orange Sapphire” when he got married because he figured he’d have to sell his project to buy a ring. He notes, “I didn’t have to, but we did get married.” That’s a keeper right there.

So, he picked up a 1985 Toyota 4Runner in his native Ontario (Canada) with 560,000 km on the clock. He said he was expecting rust, but nothing as bad as what he found. It’s pretty rough.

Anticipate lots of cutting, welding, and a little painting if you want to rehab an old truck. Toy(Yota) used a bed liner material to coat the new metal he added behind the rear seats. For a rig that spends most of its time off-road, that’s just about perfect in our book. Then, he did what everyone in his position should do: he enjoyed it. For him, that meant lots of wheeling and camping.

After some mishaps, and a desire to have something he could daily drive from time to time, he came to the same place many do and decided it was time to sell the 4Runner. He writes, “It was super rusty all over and I decided that I wanted to sell or part out and build something cleaner that I could daily drive every now again.”
Many a project has succumbed to such logic, but not Orange Sapphire!

He continues, “Then I realized that every time somebody inquired about my truck I would turn them away, or make excuses because I really didn’t want to sell it and I knew because the body was so bad that I would never get the money I wanted.” The logical thing to do is buy another one with a good body and blown engine. So, he got a silver ’88.

It got some body work, and rust repairs too, but made an excellent replacement for the much-loved orange body. While he had the body off he freshened up the 22re inline-four cylinder engine and painted the frame up nicely. Now, he’s chasing a list of issues to get it totally road worthy. What else is winter for? We just hope he has a heated shop.

500k First Gen 4Runner body donor

If you’re thinking, or dreaming about, fixing up an old rig that you can get for a steal, take a look at this build thread. While not for the faint of heart, doing the work yourself means it’s done right. Check out the thread in the forums, and join us if you haven’t already.

Austin Lott is a longtime professional automotive journalist who learned the ropes after landing a stint writing for the iconic magazine MotorTrend after earning a bachelor's degree in English from Vanguard University in Southern California.

Lott is a regular contributor to popular Internet Brands Auto Group websites, including Rennlist and Ford Truck Enthusiasts. Austin is published regularly in Super Street and is a frequent contributor to Honda-Tech and 6SpeedOnline. Although he's partial to Japanese imports, he'll give anything cool a shot.

Austin can be reached at [email protected].

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