I've had a few comments inquiring as to why I am putting so much work into the rig without really increasing its potential significantly (by going to a link suspension setup or tons, for example). Looking over this build thread I see that this rig is turning out to be quite a bit of work without really adding much of what I would consider upgrades to its abilities -- without really building it UP... just rebuilding it to be just as capable but stronger and more reliable than it was...
And I've never really done that before. Pretty much every upgrade I added on my D-cab Taco was a real upgrade one way or another that gave me measurable advantages on the trails. Bigger tires, lower gearing, lockers, armor, skids, lift, more suspension travel, etc. But with the arguable exception of the new high pinion third for the front axle on Zilla (which might be a tad bit stronger and does get the front driveshaft up a little bit higher and away from the trail obstacles), none of the work we are doing really qualifies as an upgrade in that same way as my Tacoma build did.
The 4Runner is being built better, with more attention to detail and to strength, but not really any more capable. What I mean is... the tires and gears are the same, she's still locked front and rear, still has the same exo cage, and even though the Chevy 63-inch springs on the rear and the AllPro buggy springs on the front have been cut off the frame, the frame has been built up with new stronger crossmembers, plating, etc, the rear bumper is beefy as hell, and she is basically built a lot stronger with newly designed spring hangers, etc. Zilla still sits on the same exact leaf springs with basically the same amount of travel and lift, just with new shocks in the rear. Its no gain in wheel travel, just in build quality and toughness.
I had to make a run for more raw materials...
I suppose its worth noting that this rebuild of Zilla is not really geared towards making it into the ultimate biggest crawler of my dreams. Its not getting tons or link suspension, or bigger tires for example. I am not swapping out the 22re for a larger powerplant. The body panels are all staying, so the build is limited in those respects. When I bought it I wanted a mid-level wheeler more capable than my IFS Taco, that I could wheel without breaking CV axles all the time. And Zilla is that rig... she just needs some TLC for me to wheel her safely and reliably is all.
I basically liked the level it was built to when I bought it, but once I got it out and put it through its paces I started finding out how much of it needed to be rebuilt better in order to be reliable for trail use. Disuse by the previous owner who just didn't drive it much, time and a bit of ghetto fabrication all have taken their toll, so those things are being addressed. I was sort of forced to either sell it and start over or tear into it and rebuild if I wanted to wheel at the next level from where I was with the Taco.
Even though the idea was to buy a built rig and go bash it for a few years (before I decide whether I want to build a truggy/buggy and go to links, tons, V8, etc.) I sort of had to rebuild it to make it strong enough to wheel. That's what all this current rebuilding work is about right now. That is why I keep working on it but not really increasing its travel etc. I was tearing leaf spring hangers off the frame and bending in the back bumper just by slow crawling it through the rocks, so obviously that was not going to work for me.
So basically, the intention of this rebuild is to just make Zilla work properly and reliably for the type of build she already was (which is a full-bodied, 22re-powered garage-built crawler on small 37's which measure closer to 35's, and built up Yota mini axles)... to make the rig more solid, reliably functional, and basically make it able to hold together structurally to be usable for the mid-level trails. I don't intend to point this rig at the buggy lines, mash the skinny pedal and let it ping off the rev limiter for 5 minutes until it either goes up or blows up. But on a 3-4 rated trail by the AZ ratings system (6-8 up here in Colorado) I am hoping to rebuild this thing stout enough that the bumpers, springs, etc. all function to their potential and stay attached to the truck by the end of the trail.
If I blow up a drivetrain component here and there, that's fine... I will just have to learn its limits and to wheel within those as best I can - just like I had to with the IFS truck.
I know some of you guys are shooting me comments like, "why put so much work into just setting up the same springs with no gain in wheel travel, when you could just link it." And based on all my experience building that IFS Taco, I totally get where you are coming from. Every time I found a weak link in the Taco, I went for an upgrade that improved it somehow, not just a replacement part of the same quality. But this build is being approached a little differently than that. The idea is to make it hold together and be more reliable but keep it built to the same basic level it is already at. When we finish with this current list of to-do items, my job of learning the rig and learning to wheel it will really begin.
From my IFS D-cab Taco, there are a lot of differences moving to this rig. Lower crawl ratio, bigger tires (Taco is on 33's) much shorter wheelbase, now I have a front diff and driveshaft to worry about whereas in the IFS they all sat up protected by skids, stronger drivetrain, smaller motor, full exo from just bumpers and sliders, that solid front axle behaves a lot differently than IFS, not just because it has more articulation either, the Runner is a lot wider than the Taco, wheeling a 5-speed like Zilla requires a different approach than I used in the automatic Tacoma. The list goes on. But once we get the thing basically strong enough to hold together on the trails, then its my job to learn all these nuances of wheeling a new rig. The ten trails that I've had her on so far were a good start. But I've still got lots to learn about wheeling this thing... Let's go wheelin'!
That said, I am sure one day I'll want something built bigger and more capable. That seems to be the natural progression of this sport. When that time comes, I'll be able to either hand this one over to the little lady to wheel or sell Zilla to the next guy who is where I am at right now, knowing that Zilla is built like a tank and handing her off in good conscience and then build something else to wheel the bigger lines.