"The Border Runner" build thread: '87 4runner built for epic PanAm journey


Yep, sounds like roof racks on these fiberglass toppers are just asking for trouble. Interesting idea on the front hitch mounted cargo basket. I may have to look into that, although I'm not sure if it would be usable all the time (would block the winch and could hurt either visibility or approach angle [or both]).

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
If I had the time, skill, and resources, this would be my solution for front/rear winch mounts and the ability to carry a cargo basket when necessary.


We haven't left yet, but hopefully we'll shove off at the end of this week. There's still a bunch of tiny loose ends to take care of.



Dude, I saw that bumper when they made it/posted the photos on YT way back when.

Frickin' sick. rock.gif

Such an elegant solution to needing it front and rear, reducing risk of theft, and reducing weight & keeping it out of the elements when not needed on a daily driver.
I'm surprised that Trail-Gear hasn't started manufacturing it. ;-)

BTW, if you aren't set on that bumper that you have, did you see this one just a short drive away from ATX.


Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Such an elegant solution to needing it front and rear, reducing risk of theft, and reducing weight & keeping it out of the elements when not needed on a daily driver.
I'm surprised that Trail-Gear hasn't started manufacturing it. ;-)

BTW, if you aren't set on that bumper that you have, did you see this one just a short drive away from ATX.

View attachment 84520
No kidding. It seems like the perfect compromise.

I've been watching that craigslist post for the past month :drool:. I'm going to wait and see what our loaded weight adds up to, then I'll decide if it's feasible to get that ARB bumper...it is a sweetheart of a deal. If it's gone when we're ready, then I'll consider it a blessing in disguise :ylsmoke:

I'm getting beginning to get the feeling that my rear bumper build is going to be much heavier than I had originally hoped...

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
we've been really busy lately and we have lots of updates to post in the build thread, but the good news is we're finally on the road! We've started a new thread for our journey in the "In Progress Adventures" section.

Ruins and Rust: Texas to Patagonia AND BEYOND

If you go there you will find a short teaser video, showing some of our latest mods...check it out!


Not sure if there is any chance you will make it that far by then, but I will be in Ecuador with a family friend (who lives there) for the month of March and it would be fun if you could stop by.

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
I totally forgot about our build thread...

Not sure if there is any chance you will make it that far by then, but I will be in Ecuador with a family friend (who lives there) for the month of March and it would be fun if you could stop by.
Sorry BeratE, never got back to you. Ecuador was a long shot anyway, since we're still in Central Mexico. :sombrero:

I left a ton out of our build thread and I'll try and catch it up. After more than two months on the road now, I can definitely say that the best mod ever was the roof vent-fan. I use that sucker EVERY night. It's kept us comfy many a night....

Bumper/Swingout Build
Before I left Austin I slaved for a couple weeks on a rear bumper. I wanted to be able to carry two jerry cans along with a set of waffleboard traction aids, so I designed a rear bumper to use a swingout. My buddy Zack gave me a hand with the actual bumper since he has a really nice welder. We started by taking the tow hitch and welding all the pieces that were just bolted together. This was going to be the framework and mounting for the bumper.



I cut two pieces of 1/4" plate and Zack welded them to the receiver tow hitch so it would extend to where we needed it and I notched the plates to fit the 2x4 1/4" thick rectangular tube bumper.


Here it is mocked up, making sure that I could still lower the spare tire mechanism. Note the Comp 4x4 1-1/4" spindle that's responsible for the swingout action.


The swingout arm is 1/4'' thick also, 2x2 square tube. Welded to the spindle truss is a spring-loaded drop pin that keeps the arm open at 90 and 180 degrees...it was nice while it worked, but eventually the pin snapped so now we just use a simple hitch pin to secure it open.



I integrated the waffleboards into the build by using them as a cargo rack that could be removed when I get stuck. The mount for the upright waffleboard hinges down, so while the swingout is open you can remove two pins and it folds down into a countertop/work surface. I used a Destaco latch to keep it secured shut, and it clamps down onto a cut section of a rubber steering rag joint. There's also a shock bushing that supports the arm in the middle of it's span. When the swingout is shut, these rubber pads carry the majority of the load and prevent any rattles.



All prepped for paint. Note the part that hinges down. We have a tailgate cable to keep it down at the right angle/height.



UPDATE: Here is a picture of the swingout open, with the top waffleboard hinged in the down position, to be used as a cooking/storage surface in camp.


Here's a picture of the swingout closed for driving, but still being used for storage (while keeping the rear window closed).


I really wanted to use 3/16" steel for the structural stuff and keep the bumper light, but I had a problem finding anything but 1/4" thick steel and I was on a time crunch. This thing is overkill, built heavy as hell, and ugly. It was the first time I've ever tried to tackle a bumper or anything like it. I'm satisfied with how it turned out, especially being an amateur build. You can bet there's a million things I would've done differently…but that will have to wait until next time.

In Nicaragua a group of backpackers flagged us down for a ride. We told them we had no room for them inside (they were muddy and we didn't want them trampling over our bed). I felt bad, so I told them that two could stand on the rear swingout and two could sit on the front ghetto bumper guard. After a few miles on a really bumpy road the bumpers held up, but the rear swingout has a slight angle to it now! I'm actually impressed to how well it handled all of that dynamic weight but it looks a little funny now if you look closely.
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Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Mo' Storage Less Problems

The same buddy from work who helped me with the storage benches, helped me throw together a chuckbox. It fits perfectly above and between the storage benches that run the length of the bed. There is a gap underneath the box so that if we can't set it outside, we can still put our legs beneath it while we're sleeping. It's actually quite comfortable even with the box inside, and I'm glad we designed it this way because it really uses up wasted space. Eventually I added some removable legs for the chuck box using pipe flanges, threaded pvc slip-on fittings, and SCH-40 pipe.


CHUCK BOX UPDATE: we ditched the chuck box due to weight and the desire for more comfort without removing a big bulky box. We've eliminated so much clutter that the chuck box is no longer necessary on the road, however we did really like the design, especially after adding the legs.

FRIDGE UPDATE: We ditched the Engel fridge at my brother's house while we were in Washington state. It just took up too much real estate to justify bringing along. We looked at it as more of a luxury than a necessity...after all, eggs come out of a chicken's butt warm, fruits & veggies stay fresh if you eat them quick enough and there's cold beer on every corner! The meat in most of Latin-America rarely looked edible anyways, so we eat much healthier now that everything is fresh and green. We honestly don't miss the fridge and I would tell anyone to look at it as a want vs. need issue.

We did however keep the 110v to 12v adapter that came with the fridge and when we can plug in, we use the Endless Breeze fan on hot days. Here's Shannon doing just that!


Note the security cable that we have draped thru the rear swingout. When the swingout's closed, we use the hitch clevis/shackle to secure the security cable just in case the swingout latch fails. When the clevis is attached to the cable, the swingout can only open a few inches.​
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Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Dual Odysseys, wired fan, lights, 12v outlets

To fit two batteries under the hood, I fabricated a longer battery tray so I could sandwich one more Odyssey PC1200 next to the one I already had. It fit like a glove and it almost looks like it was the way Toyota intended it (aside from my ugly fab skills).


I was a little intimidated by the idea of wiring up the dual battery setup, so I figured I'd leave it with professionals. Earlier in the year I picked up a great deal on a Blue Sea ACR and a bunch of HD circuit breakers, but when it came time to get the install done the ACR was missing an important piece. Couldn't find a replacement and we wanted to hit the road asap, so I gave the guys at Tri-City Battery the green light to do things their way.



They have dealt with plenty of dual battery installs on RV's and commercial rigs, so I put my trust in them. They went with the simple continuous duty switch and wired in the auxiliary fuse panel behind the passenger seat. While they were at it, I also had them replace my battery cables since they were getting a little unreliable. I was lucky my brother was able to get me a discount on the Odyssey battery, the rest of the parts, and the labor. They did a great job and I'm really happy with the outcome...hadn't had any issues yet!

UPDATE: the continuous duty solenoid fried on us in Costa Rica and the replacement Ford solenoids I tried wouldn't do the trick. Eventually found a manual switch in Panama that a member of 4x4Panama gifted to me. I tried to pay the guy for it and he refused...another amazing act of kindness on the road! The manual switch has been great and simple. Much more robust and bombproof. I wish I would have installed this from the get go. Apparently the terrible roads in CR and hot conditions are no bueno for those solenoids...the more you know.

While I was fabricating the dual battery tray and replacing all of my fluids with synthetics, I cleaned up the engine compartment and some wiring. After moving things around a little, I found I had room to mount my MV50 air compressor under the hood!



Wow, two batteries, a compressor...what else can I fit under here?​

My brother gave me a hand wiring up the roof-installed Fantastic Fan, some aux. 12v sockets, and low draw LED lighting for the interior. Here's what the inside looks lit up...

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Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Even mo' Storage and a little security


We wanted a secure place to store our valuables when we're away from the rig. Since we also needed to level out the cargo area to sleep on, we had to do something about the "dip" leftover after the rear seats were torn out. I fabricated this steel security "hatch" that we could lock up all of the irreplaceable items. I used the factory mounting points and some of the hardware from the rear seat to keep it all bolted down. I also kept one of the seatbelts bolted up in case we wanted to ride 3.


Here's a better view of the bungee cargo net and the LED mood lighting that we wired up to the aux. battery & fuse panel. This was a cold and windy night so we opened the roof vent, set the fan to exhaust, and we were cooking dinner and hot cocoa in comfort! With the fan on, the CO monitor/smoke alarm never made a peep...although I definitely had to keep an eye on the flame when getting the stove preheated!


We also added a bungee net in the cab area, but I can't really keep anything on my side while I'm driving because it really bugs me. Shannon loves to stuff jackets up there, another advantage of a smaller navigator.


When I sold the Tuffy console, I decided to keep the cupholders. They're easy to remove and clean, plus they fit all sorts of sized cups due to the neoprene mug-grips. We put an painted ammo box between the seats as an armrest, console. I still need to do something about the rear window & wiper switches, for now the wiring is just wrapped up tight under the seat and I tuck the rear window switch with the transfer case shifter so it's easily accessible.



You're probably wondering why we have the seatbelt mounted to the hardtop bolts...the other end of the seatbelts are bolted to the chuck box, so we can quickly and easily strap down the chuck box or pull it out. We saved these little spots behind the storage benches to strap down all of our awkward sized items. Dual fuel lantern, tool roll, Optimus backpacking stove, and it's fuel bottle. There's also a light switch for the rear LED strip that's on the windshield wiper housing, illuminating the tailgate area. On the other side, in the black tool roll is all of the tools to change a flat tire, the tan molle pouch has is my tire repair kit, and a bottle jack is strapped down by a quick fist.

While we're driving Shannon likes to keep the pillows and blankets neatly folded under the chuck box, but when we're sleeping this is where our feet go. Doesn't look like much room, but it's perfect. The small table we carry tucks between the chuckbox and the closed tailgate, we just have to keep the tabletop pointing outwards so I'm not wiping my feet all over!


We needed a place to keep our reading material and guide books. This spot was completely fair game so we ran a bungee across the rear window, and that's all that was necessary. As long as we don't have a super thick book in there, we don't have issues opening the storage benches.


Here you can see our small black first aid kit, and our big khaki first aid kit. The black kit has emergent stuff inside and you can quickly pull it off it's velcro mount. The velcro backing plate is screwed to the wall. Behind that you can see the flower pot that Shannon HAD TO HAVE. The plant eventually committed suicide, so now it's just a penholder. Below and behind the 1st aid kits is the 12v charging station on Shannon's side of the bed. UPDATE: We've since removed the big khaki first aid kit because it was full of crap we were never going to use...that's what happens when a nurse and an EMT put a first-aid kit together. Keep it simple. I relocated the black first-aid kit to the back of my seat and we may use the space for a 2.5 gallon Scepter water can.


Here you can see the wood platform that extends the sleeping area to directly behind the bucket seats. The wood platform is hinged to the metal security hatch, and the front end is supported by two short pipes connected by pipe flanges. We have it "strapped down" with turnbuckles, so with the seats back while we're driving nothing underneath can fly around in an accident. On the driver's side under the platform we keep two 10 Liter Dromedary bladders, one of which has the hydration kit. This is our drinking water while we're driving, because the mouthpiece is just hooked to the ceiling. Underneath the passenger side has our toiletry kits and shoes when we're sleeping. Since I sleep on the passenger side, I usually leave the seat forward to give myself a little more room and it's kinda like an indoor welcome mat.


These Cabela's Trail Gear seat covers have been awesome for giving us more storage options. We often hook things to the side laces, and of course there's the pockets behind the seats...very convenient for items you want access to while sleeping.


Pictured Above:
Here's a better view of the charging station on my side of the bed, (both sides have three 12v outlets). The 300w inverter is only for charging the laptop while we drive, and for grinding coffee beans when necessary...no Nescafé for us! Thank god. :sombrero: UPDATE: We've since cleaned up this area to store a 5 gallon Scepter water can. You can see it in this picture. The inverter now sits in the nook below the stereo surround. 12V sockets are now just above the water can, below the window.

Another great use for the carwash bucket storage pouches that we found at PepBoys. Cut up, these things can be secured anywhere for easy organization and they match our interior! You can kinda see the coffee grinder tucked back there. On this side we keep a bottle of vinegar/water for washing vegetables, and a bottle of bleach/water solution for cleaning our kitchen surfaces. The other side has the same pouches, where I keep tools I want to access easily.
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Bravo! Bravo!

You have made the most use of the space in a 1st gen 4runner. I like the rear bumper. It's similar to the idea that I have in mind, except I want to be able to move it from either the tacoma to the 4runner.

I am envious of your travels.

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Bravo! Bravo!

You have made the most use of the space in a 1st gen 4runner. I like the rear bumper. It's similar to the idea that I have in mind, except I want to be able to move it from either the tacoma to the 4runner.

I am envious of your travels.
Thanks Patrick! That shouldn't be too difficult if you used the same size/style of spindle on both bumpers, right? You'd just have to repack the bearings every time you'd switch the arm over.

I wish I would've used a dual shear spindle or even two large heim joints instead, but there's no sense in living in the past! So far this seems to be holding up great...even on the terrible Mexican roads and topes.

Ruined Adventures

Brenton Cooper
Lucky for me, James of Home on the Highway was out testing the same OME suspension in the field and he found a potential issue. The Old Man Emu CS009R springs have a leaf pack added toward the front hanger, unlike the factory springs. If the vehicle is loaded down enough and hitting the trail right, it's possible that the nut/bolt from the leaf pack can rub on the fuel tank lip. MAYBE if you're unlucky enough, it could even cause a leak in your fuel tank...right James?


With my overbuilt rear bumper and all our gear loaded up, even with the OME leafs we were starting to sag in the rear. I didn't want to have any issues later down the road, so I ended up doing the Zuk coil spring mod (again) as overload protection. Since I had used them in the past with such success, I figured it was worth a shot but honestly that was my plan B. I had originally inquired (a couple times) about getting the OME add-a-leaf spring with a reputable dealer, but apparently my request wasn't important and I was running out of time. I won't mention names...


Now there's no chance that the suspension will sag enough to let that nut/bolt be an issue with the fuel tank. I should've originally gone with the Old Man Emu heavy kit originally, but this will be a great temporary solution. On the plus side, after it's days as an overlanding vehicle the "Border Runner" can one day easily be retired to a "Grocery Runner" by easily removing the coil springs for a softer ride :sombrero:

Here is how it looks, leveled out (again) with the Zuk mod

Oh yeah, I know I originally said that we wanted to keep gear off of the roof...well, forget I said that. If you want to sleep INSIDE a 1st gen 4runner and drive across the world, it's inevitable that some of the crap is going to end up on top! UPDATE: we have slowly thinned out more and more crap so there is more room inside the rig and less junk on the roof...keep it simple!
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