An Ode to ‘Jane’: 4Runner Is Transformed into an Off-road Animal
For many of us, our vehicles are more of a trusted companion than a machine. Such is the case of ‘Jane,’ which lit up our forums.
The story of “Jane” starts in Forest Grove, Oregon, where she was bought by a couple looking for a daily driven, grocery-hauling SUV. The original intention behind the purchase of a Toyota 4Runner wasn’t for off-road purposes, despite the vehicle coincidentally having the Trail Premium package. YotaTech forum member CreeperSleeper, the man behind the story, says that it worked fine as a daily for a while. After all, CreeperSleeper already had a 4Runner as a designated off-roader. A wedding and a chat about mutual hobbies led to the decision to make “Jane” a machine that can assimilate to their lifestyle.
So, the modifications began. The rite of passage into the world of off-road often starts with a roof rack. The top two choices for a majority of enthusiasts happen to be either a basket or a cargo box. But CreeperSleeper went with a LabRak roof rack. These are popular for off-roaders in Oregon, as they’re made to reduce drag and wind noise without sacrificing versatility or gas mileage. Naturally, the following purchase was a Free Spirit rooftop tent. Both companies are located in Bend, Oregon, which isn’t far from the couples’ home.
“We decided to go with LabRak for the build quality and lack of noise,” says CreeperSleeper. “I swear it’s quieter than the stock roof rack! LabRak gets a lot of bad publicity because of the cost, but I honestly believe it is worth every cent!”
What would camping be without provisions? The couple was thinking ahead, and installed an auxiliary fuse block to bypass the stock inverter to allow the presence of a fridge. Very clever. Additionally, CreeperSleeper installed a power port for the fridge and a volt meter.
With those three important modifications, the couple dubbed the 4Runner “Jane” and took her out into the real-world for some real-world testing. After all, it’s kind of difficult to pinpoint the necessary modifications until put in a situation where they’re needed. After a year of test trips, where a lot of Jane’s factory capabilities proved worthy, the couple decided it was time to give the vehicle a few more inches from the ground.
“To be honest, I didn’t mind the ride height, but the super soft stock springs and shock valving sucked!” explains CreeperSleeper. “After weighing the options, I decided that the suspension was not a thing I wanted to skimp on. I decided on Icon Vehicle Dynamics stage 2 system and was lucky enough to find a lightly used version for a good deal. I pulled ‘Jane’ in the garage and learned the frustration of lifting a KDSS [Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System] equipped rig first hand.”
With extra room in the wells thanks to a lift, the following modification for Jane was tires. With his experience lifting and modifying vehicles in the past, he went the familiar and fitted Jane with E-rated Duratac tires for added sidewall strength. And Jane came from the experience looking tall, proud, and ready for the next adventure CreeperSleeper and his wife could throw at her.
What happened to “Jane” was nothing short of divine intervention. After these mighty modifications, CreeperSleeper and his wife’s bank accounts desperately needed some R&R. However, CreeperSleeper just so happened to know a man who owned a fabrication shop, who just so happened to need a test vehicle for product testing and marketing. Killing two birds with one stone, “Jane” was fitted with fancy one-of-a-kind steel bumpers (that included a winch), and the company who made them, Metal Tech 4×4, got free feedback and marketing. Though, both the shop and “Jane’s” owners decided that newer black wheels would complete the look for marketing while also widening Jane’s track.
“It ended up being a win/win for both of us and the partnership works since we trust each other. ‘Jane’ was dropped off and the transformation began,” mused CreeperSleeper. “She got a Metal Tech Fortress stage 3 front bumper with an Engo winch. The rear bumper is Metal Tech’s new Valkyrie stage 3 swing out. Metal Tech’s bumpers are a bit unique because they are a true one piece, no-cut system.”
After spending some quality time with the talented folk at Metal Tech 4×4, it came time for the marketing to take place. Metal Tech 4×4 wanted to take the car to an Overlanding Expo, where there would be ample opportunity for people to see Metal Tech 4×4’s talent put to good use. So, Metal Tech 4×4 proposed he and his wife take the car to Overland Expo West in Arizona. However, the couple weren’t able to make it, so “Jane” set off to explore the West without her family.
Thankfully, CreeperSleeper and his wife were not short of updates from “Jane’s” adventures. She traveled to Utah, Washington, and Colorado as a show car for Metal Tech 4×4. The couple was sad they weren’t able to make it, but it made them happy to see Jane doing so well in her natural habitat. Though, it might have been for good reason. While “Jane” was away churning dirt and taking names, the happy couple found out they’d be adding to their family after being told they wouldn’t be able to conceive again.
“However, my wife and I got news of the most unexpected adventure of all,” said CreeperSleeper. “After being told my wife couldn’t get pregnant, our son Canaan Thomas is due in March! That means that Jane will be taking on more domestic adventuring for a little while.”
When “Jane” returned from adventuring, she returned to her post as CreeperSleeper’s wife’s daily driver until their son, Canaan, was born. With a second child, a rooftop tent for camping was an issue on the discussion table. So, after another serious conversation, a trailer came into the picture. This way, the family of four would be able to camp comfortably. With “Jane” still an off-road magician, she now was a capable off-roader and trail hauler. Quite the utility vehicle, she is!
“Jane” has performed and adapted to miracles for this outdoor loving family. Oh, sweet sweet “Jane!”
This 4Runner’s story is periodically updated through the thread, so be sure to follow along! Got a story about your Toyota rig? We’d love to hear about and see your ride, so join in the discussion at the forums.
Photos: YotaTech forums