03' 4Runner V8 - "Pearl" The Prerunner Poser

2UZ 120

Active member
Oct 31, 2022
In the research process of building my 5th gen 4Runner, I stumbled on this lifted 03' for sale. I brought her home a month later in the fall of 2017. The first owner was in the military and I guess had it delivered to Germany from Japan. Then had it shipped to Brunswick, GA. and from there it has several DC registrations, so they were most likely an officer.

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This is how she sits now....completely ruined. Fiberglass has been purchased and just waiting on my lazy ass to get motivated.
This build started out getting a TC stock length kit with a smoothie on the side, some CaliFab links w a Tacoma spec rear shock, and the larger 5th gen front rotors and calipers, in the summer/fall of 2018.
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Pearl stayed with this party dress for several months and then a set of Thorley Headers and Y-pipe came into her life and got her pepped up a bit.
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This set up was fun, but the 3.73 gears were holding her back, so the planning continued....
During this period, I had taken an obvious influence from the Prerunner scene out West and decided to get a bumper fabbed up.
Next was an upgrade to a newer intake plenum w a larger throttle body and some larger 270cc injectors. This plenum is a much better flowing part than the old aluminum and has a vacuum actuated butterfly valve system that creates equal length runners through out the torque curve.
Pearl had some serious Smegma built up under there. She had about a pound of sand in the galley. Toyota reman starter was installed also.

Pearl of course was feeling quite a bit more feisty now. But those damn 3.73s kept holding back her fun. This was starting to piss her off, on top of the fact the old Toyota V6 3rd and axles were known to be a weak point.
So at Pearl's behest, I kept on with my research. During the Fall of 19', an ad popped up on RDC for a slightly beefed up housing out of an 03' 4Runner with Nitro axles, Nitro 4.56 gears and an ARB. So now I have to get this thing purchased and convince this person to go through the hassle of shipping it from California to Florida.
So I contacted the gentleman, and gave him the pitch, not expecting a good response. I have to give props to the seller Todd in San Diego, who is a Toyota geek as much as myself, and was pretty receptive right away. He discussed at length how we could maybe get this deal done, and was super cool helping me out. I guess he has some clout at his firm, so he had their shipping dept. handle everything for pretty damn cheap. Then he went home and secured it to a pallet and got the shipper to pick it up at his house. He even gave me his front Nitro gears when had the time to pull them out of his truck.
While I had her up on the stands for the axle swap, I picked up a manual t-case out of 2012 4Runner and did that swap as well. New prop shafts have to be built because the welds that Toyota uses don't work well for modifying length. Solid U-joints were thrown in also.
As this build was coming together, as you all know, the planning never really stops. I caught the Black Friday bug back in 2020 and jumped on a DK +3.5. So the last couple years were spent getting the shocks together with all the other pieces/parts.
So the TC stuff got pulled off, cleaned up, and stored to make room for the new kit.
I am NOT a fabricator or welder, and with no one here in the swampy off road community that knows anything past a mud puddle, I am learning quite a bit but still way over my head. Luckily my 24 yr old neighbor is a welder for Space X and has a Tig cert. So I would cut, shape, and tack the pieces up, then he gets my Hobart 175 fired up and got me glued up. Getting the bump cans sorted out was a bit of a challenge. I did ok, but I could have squeezed a little more travel out of it. The bypass hoops came out pretty good, but I think my limit strap boss is a tad low. Cam tab gussets could have come out a little better also.
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Here is the DK kit hanging.
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I found a couple of old Corbeau seats out of Mustang and welded up some brackets to make em work. They ain't pretty but they work and are
more comfortable than the 20 year old factory buckets. Not being a racer, I know nothing of harness safety. But with no cage, I figure I should at least have something more than a shoulder harness. The harness bar is built for a mid size sedan and surprisingly it worked....with some persuasion. But, it's sitting pretty solid in there. The one thing that needs to be changed is a better shoulder angle, but it's the best my budget can afford
with no cage.
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I have a plan to gain more travel for the rear w stock geometry, but not sure it will work. Right now I'm at a stand still because this Tundra is taking up the work space. Replacing core support, fender and hood.
Getting my ass kicked as I am not a body guy...at all.
Well the Tundra is starting to come together, so maybe this side bar will be over soon and I can get back to the 4Runner.
Once I got the Tundra outta the way, I cycled the rear of the 4Runner to see if my idea for more travel and bypasses on the stock geometry would work.....and I pussed out. The bypasses I have are too long and would require lower link clearance on the axle and most likely cutting into the cab, and I'm still not sure if all the shock travel would be utilized. I may have to seriously consider a 3 link at this point. I'm pretty green at all this stuff, but I did find a little more up travel I didn't know was possible.

So I decided to cut my losses at this point and rebuild/revalve the 10" smoothies I have. They weren't holding more than 75psi and fading pretty quick. I've been doing my best to learn this art of valving, but only in theory, never in application, so I figured this was as good a time as any.

Judging by what I had learned in the last couple years, these shocks had way too light of valving for the weight of the 4Runner. They are Tacoma spec and I'm pretty sure valved for the unloaded bed weight of a pick up. Maybe even a 1st gen?
At this point I was lost as far as what valve to put back in there. I dm'd the barge pilot (Thank You Barge!!) and showed him the current valving and he got me headed in the right direction. I haven't hit the trails yet but it already feels a shit ton better on pavement. The old stacks are in the pic below, and he had me go up to 15 and delete the flutter on the comp and change the smaller three .006 to .008 on the reb.
03' 4Runner Rear 10 inch smoothie valving.jpg

So I'm back to shuffling weight around for ride height and will find a spot next to my spare for this off road jack I guess is a copy of the Pro Eagle.
Since this rig isn't really set up for camping, I decided to build a basic cargo box for the jack, recovery gear, and tools. No drawers or galley needed, so it works fine for what I need.
Not very confident in that cheap orange strap for the spare. Will be changing it out.


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Also got my glass mounted and primed, and put some cheap amazon headlight housings in at the same.
The whole rig needs paint, but that won't be for awhile.
Need to extend either side of the bumper to match the fenders as well.


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Nice dude. Doesn't looks like you're using the bumps much.

Also that exhaust sounds pretty great. Jelly. Once day I'll be a V8 guy haha.
Nice dude. Doesn't looks like you're using the bumps much.

Also that exhaust sounds pretty great. Jelly. Once day I'll be a V8 guy haha.
Thanks! Yea the headers & Y pipe w a single muffler seems to work well for the 2UZ. Hits the rev limiter quick.
Both of my highly impractical vehicles in an inflationary economy......luckily my regular commute is on an airliner.


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Nice build,
similar way i started mine, watching a certain 4runner online poke my interest
Pearl drives pretty straight down the road, but is a little twitchy still. So she is getting a UCA Heim alignment.
Need several more degrees of 1694862967650.jpeg and Firestone flakes out on modified suspensions. So they can suck it. Another shop did a pretty good job, but couldn't get it dialed in completely, and gave me some shrugs and a deer in the headlight look when asked how I should adjust it. So bye bye to them also.
Now, "I gotta a guy" at the local redneck tire shop who showed me what adjustments to make. He's an old Jeeper who used to wheel a lot. Owner is way cool and lets him do his thing. So they didn't even charge me last time. He said go twist em out a couple more turns and come back tomorrow. Going back at 8am.


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I've had quite a bit of time off recently, so I decided to extend the main tube on my bumper that was built for a factory length IFS. Now with Fiberglass, it needs extended.
I had picked up a cheap bender on Marketplace and decided to give it a try.
I screwed up so many times, then recovered, then screwed up again, etc... I'm lucky this thing turned out at all.
I am not a fabricator, at all.
But I only used a little over 6' of tubing, so I'll take it for granted that I got lucky for the most part.
The biggest help was a coping calculator I stumbled on, pretty cool software.

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I decided to add some upright support for the Nerf, and that would allow me to fill in the center area with a larger piece of aluminum. Took a
crazy angle to make it work.
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Next up were the extensions. I had a couple scraps left from the Nerf bar and made them work. Nipples worked out pretty well too. I'll plug weld either side, and then stitch the seam.20231101_150320.jpg20231101_150301.jpg20231101_204202.jpg