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'88 Runner grocery getter
03-05-2017, 06:00 PM
Post: #1
Brick '88 Runner grocery getter

Had to switch a lot of gears in the past 4 years.

Been searching for the right path in life which has led me to downgrade from a high invested crawler combo to a lower invested crawler combo. Of course, I lost a lot of money due to this, but in enabled me to be able to continue wheeling without forking up a lot of costs or having to worrying about pricey fixes.

This was all fine and dandy till I realized that I just wasn't wheeling like I use to. Also, without owning a home, I racked up a $3800 bill in storage unit fees over the course of 2 years.

So, with that said, I decided to sell my current setup and look towards the future, something that fits everything I need for years to come


- Daily driver. Not saying it will be forever, but definitely for a few years. Car lease is ending in a year (FINALLY) and need a daily, never leasing again, this was one of my biggest mistakes, but a lesson learned.

- Fuel Injected with a dependable engine

- Manual transmission for longevity and ease of maintenance

- Able to tow a small boat or small trailer

- Thinking about a family, needs room for kids and a dog (Like I said, I want something for the next decade)

- Able to take top and doors off (not a must but that's what I really loved about the samurai for on road and off road)

- A true investment, something I can put money into and feel confident


So, it came down to a 1st gen 4runner or a jeep TJ. Both have been holding dollar value tremendously, the 4.0 jeep and 22re are both fuel injected and long lasting engines. The biggest thing that separated them for me was that a TJ is so small, and many times I see them up for sale due to size issues with a growing family. Also, 1st gen 4runners in good condition have started to spike in price. They are getting to the age where they are completely rusted out and/or the miles are so high that the unmaintained are just not cutting it and going to the scrap yard. Also, the jeep wrangler is still in production where as the removable top 4runner is obviously not. After looking at the vw scene, I am starting to see a trend with the 30 - 40 year old uncommon vehicles and I have a feeling that a clean and well maintained 1st gen 4runner will also bring in some decent $$ in the next decade or so.


Been searching for awhile and driving a bunch of 4runners and Jeeps. Found an 1988 4runner that is COMPLETELY rust free with 212k on the clock. Purchased from a well-off owner who was in the process of restoring the truck completely (and I mean literally purchasing brand new parts and replacing them).

Whats been done...
New fuel tank and sender, all new lines
New KO2 tires, 5 on 5 matching rims
New suspension bushings, billys all 4 corners, dampener
New radiator, all hoses, etc
New cap, plugs, wires, ALL vacuum hoses
New exhaust (manifold back)
New air intake and AFM
New window seals here and there
New battery
New updated radio, speakers
Rewired rear window

Parts that came with...
New H4 head lamps, ARB harness and relays
New Doug Thorley Headers
Lots of seals, gaskets, moldy, etc
Tons of other stuff, including original manuals


Okay, finally to the goal.

Pre-House. Haul the boat and use as a daily driver. Keep restoring where the previous owner left off. Make a 1 a weekend list of little stuff that I can get done every weekend and revive an already well maintained vehicle.

Post-House (year later)
Find a complete toyota solid axle rock crawler, something that has ALL the goodies internally but has been beatin so much that the selling price has diminished with the shape of the vehicle. I am thinking $5k - $7k. Then remove all the parts, clean them up, repaint or whatever is needed, and install them onto the 4runner. I also kept my 3 and 4 link suspension, and yes, this will be going onto the 4runner.

The main goal is to build something that is extremely beautiful and very capable both on road and off road by combining two vehicles together while still building value over time. I really would like to drive this for the next 10 years. I am sure within the next few years I will have another cheaper daily commuter, and this will probably become a boat tow vehicle and a weekend driver.

Did anyone actually read all this? I should start a poll...

Here she is....











First on the list was installing the H4 head lamps and wiring harness.

Plug and play for the most part. Attached the relays to the inner fender and routed the harness along the original harness in between the radiator and front support. Since I am treating this as a restoration project, taking extra care and putting everything back exactly how it was is more time consuming than I had thought.

Have to align them tonight.




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03-06-2017, 12:21 PM
Post: #2
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Wow, looks a super solid platform to start building off of!
I love your ideas.
These first gen 4 runners are really starting to get thin on the ground up here

1998 ZJ limited 4.5" lift 32s, lots of stuff
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03-06-2017, 02:23 PM
Post: #3
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Dude that thing is gorgeous. As I said on Facebook, I am so envious of this ride. Reading through the whole post and imagining what you want to do in the future... Big GrinBig GrinBig Grin

This is right along the lines of what I'm thinking if I can eventually find a 4R in good condition.
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03-06-2017, 04:44 PM
Post: #4
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
I think I got lucky with this one. I have been looking at a lot of runners that were quite a bit more expensive and in much rougher shape.

The pictures for this one on craigslist were not the greatest, plus it was in a garage and hard to see. After I made an appointment to meet up with the owner, I almost called him back and said forget about it based on the pictures and the info posted on the truck...

Thankfully, I went to look at it and it was obviously the best runner I have looked at thus far. PLUS, it made me very weary why he had replaced so many parts, as if he was chasing issues... and I really think this is why people were turned away from the ad. Turns out, he is just very well off financially and wanted something reliable. He actually had the dealer replace a lot of the parts, and I can only imagine how much that costed him.

Doing the math, and not including labor, the price I paid was essentially the amount of money he had in just the new parts.

So you never know till you go look!

If you are serious about buying a runner, let me know what your top dollar is and what your plans are for (or what you want) and when you want it... The south and west is the only place to look for these and I can keep an eye out and check them out if you want. I may even be able to deliver!


One of the first runners I looked at I almost bought, and honestly, its not a bad deal, didn't know if you would be interested

Road legal and tagged, drives awesome on the road, very good road manners minus the normal floating that comes with flexy springs and no sway bars.

The obvious is that the body is beat up a bit. But absolutely no rust anywhere on the body or frame. The deal breaker for me was that the engine has 300k miles on it (but ran great), bias tires, and no A/C, and for something thats going to be a daily for me and drive to NY and back, it was just too passed trail rig status for me.

"new rcv's in front
new chromo's in rear
dual transfer case
hydro assist
low range skid plate
front axle truss
arp studs
new 1" bore master cylinder
36 swampers
rock lights
mars fab did sliders, front bumper, and frame reinforcing
auto lockers front and rear
chevy rear springs
summer top and stock winter top
extra glass for top
extra doors, axle shafts, third, springs, and other parts"

You won't find it on craigslist, it was on a 4x4 group page, he was asking $5500 but told me he would let it go for $4800.



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03-06-2017, 08:34 PM
Post: #5
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Wow! That is in excellent condition, and way more practical as a dd than a TJ. Sounds like you have a good solid plan, not to mention the skill set to make it a reality. Looking forward to the build!

I may be in the market for a rust free Suburban body in the near future . . .

Too Many Projects . . .
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03-07-2017, 04:11 PM
Post: #6
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Beautiful 4Runner! Fantastic condition, would think it had 1/4 of the mileage it does. Sounds like a pretty solid well thought out plan too.
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03-08-2017, 05:58 PM
Post: #7
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
(03-06-2017 08:34 PM)Smithy Wrote:  Wow! That is in excellent condition, and way more practical as a dd than a TJ. Sounds like you have a good solid plan, not to mention the skill set to make it a reality. Looking forward to the build!

I may be in the market for a rust free Suburban body in the near future . . .

After driving a few TJs, I realized quickly that was not something I really wanted to drive on a daily basis (and thats coming from someone that enjoyed driving a samurai on the daily!) I don't know what it is about them but it just wasn't for me. The 4runner feels like an actual vehicle to me.

Yep, just let me know what exactly you are looking for and I can keep my eyes out, or just search craigslist near the charlotte area and I can always go look.

Since I have a full size spare taking up the back of the runner, I have been highly interested in a rear bumper tire carrier. Normally on an offroad rig I wouldn't consider it due to all the issues that come a long with having a spare in the rear, but for the grocery getter it would be very beneficial. Oddly, I am blown away by the lack of obtainable 'armor' for a 1st gen runner. From what I have seen, there is only 2 rear bumpers able for purchase online, and they are both tube, which I am against for this build. Also, none are built with a tire carrier in mind.... Also, to ad on top of that, I don't care for the majority of front bumpers that are offered, plus with the price tags, I cringe thinking about it begin with.

So, this brings me back to my memory of telling others who consider buying armor instead of building... where, for the price of a welder, you could literally build everything, and potentially for cheaper and better quality.

With that said, I talked to a friend at work who has a garage and wanted to do something similar, so I will be purchasing a welder and working at his place for the coming year. And even though I am a fabricator by professional, it really feels like so long since I have actually engineered and built my own stuff... I cannot wait!
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03-09-2017, 10:34 AM
Post: #8
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
I have been thinking about jumping ship in this direction.

I'd like a stock one - 22RE, 5 speed with solid axle. Not a wheeler just a neat DD toy thing. And to tow my camper.

2000 XJ Cherokee - 3.5'' lift / 32'' Tirerecapper Pizza Cutters / Front Locker
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03-11-2017, 05:09 PM
Post: #9
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Still focusing on purchasing a welder. The everlast 200 mig is a very reasonable price (still have to call the company), but part of me is still hoping an older miller 211 will pop up on craigslist for a much better price.

My father plans on moving down in a few years and would be bringing the 211, so this is why I am rethinking about buying a a new welder. The problem, of course, is that it has to be a dual volt welder since for the majority of the year I will be welding with 120v and those are much trickier to find used.

My gut feeling is that I will probably purchase the everlast 200 because it is a tool that will be used at work which will meet next years 2% work floor deductions.

Thoughts and opinions??

On another note, my goals this year was your basic armor which I would like to weld up. Front and rear bumpers and some sliders. Like I mentioned, I would really like to keep a clean and almost factory look to all of this for value purposes (hence why the tube bumpers are out). My goal is to make everything look almost seamless and natural to the runner (which may be tougher than I thought).

But beyond metal fabrication, one thing I would really like to do is lockable storage for the rear bed. I would really love to get a soft topper, so having lockable storage cubbys is almost a must. Plus it will keep everything more organized. With that said, again with keeping this a restoration project, I would like to do it in a way that flows with the vehicle and looks like it came from the factory floor.

Thoughts and opinions!?


The left side is the harness from 12voltguy for the rear window, and ofcourse, as you can see, the sides were removed and speakers were attached.. Something will have to be done with this. I am not sure if I should incorporate something to attach to the sides, or finish them and then install some kind of storage.
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03-11-2017, 07:57 PM
Post: #10
RE: '88 Runner grocery getter
Decided to take some measurements and throw them into my sketch program. The rear bumper started off with 2x4 tube but I knew it could not end that way. To make things look right (aka not just tube), its going to take a little bit more work. Also, it is currently set up for a 37" tire height and width wise. Down the road, I was planning on 35's or 37's so it will be ready for this when the time comes.

Also, the flip up design was already built by another guy. Because I am pulling a boat, a full swing out style hinge will not work. I have considered half swings, which is also an option, but the tire would potentially be in the way of the locking mechanism. (The half swing is still not ruled out). But I dig the flip up so I am pushing for this design.. my only concern is making it strong enough to eliminate any lateral movement and this may or may not be the reason no one continued with this style of tire carrier.

The tire is offset towards the hinge to eliminate leverage of the tires weight. I designed it in reverse, where as the tire should be on the drivers side not the passenger side, but when built, it will be corrected. I also made sure that a 37" tire would not block the tail light.

Inside the bumper is a fairlead cut out because I plan on putting a rear winch. The bumper itself and bottom cross member underneath the back of the rig will all tie into each other (and will also act as a mounting plate for the rear winch). The 1/2" D ring brackets are also in direct line of the frame rails and where the bumper will be connecting to the runner.

I also was considering some LED reverse lights of some kind... but didn't want anything too tacky. This may be something I ad or I may just keep it old school.




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