So my wife and I bought a 3rd generation 4runner somewhere between 2007-08 (I don’t recall exactly at the moment.)
Having previously owned a 3.0L automatic 2nd gen, we knew we wanted a 3.4L and 5-speed, and of course, 4wd. These are considerably difficult to find, in fact, and I ended up buying this one sight-unseen on eBay after exhaustive local searches.
The truck was in Miami; I got the earliest morning flight possible, purchased it, and drove it home. Less than 12 hours later (and 15 minutes from our house) an inattentive driver crossed immediately in front of me on a rural highway and the 4runner was nearly totalled just south of the SC/NC border. I was able to drive it the remaining distance, making only right turns (as I could not steer left) taking breaks to avoid overheating.
This is how our relationship with this vehicle began.
Our insurance adjuster insisted that the truck wasn’t a write-off; I insisted that if it were repaired it needed to be done with factory panels and literally as-built by Toyota – I’d searched for this particular truck and would find another one if necessary. To the credit of our insurance company, they stood by their word and the truck was repaired with factory panels, to as-built condition, even though it more than doubled the estimated cost to repair. (in the 8 years since, I’ve been all over this vehicle and the repair work is imperceptible – and for what it’s worth, I modify cars for a living.)
After the repair, we ordered Old Man Emu (ARB) suspension and 265/75/16 BFG AT KOs for it and it became my wife’s daily driver, weekend family vehicle, and dog hauler.
Since then it has gotten maintenance only when it demands it: battery replaced when it failed, wiring issues affecting the fuel gauge and low fuel warning light addressed after stranding my wife several times, wiring issues causing intermittent failures of the driver’s brake light corrected when it failed inspection, clutch & flywheel replaced at the rivets, etc.
I’ve also done the valve cover gaskets and pulled an inspected the heater core after a winter without heat (which ended up being a control cable that had popped out of a guide clip behind the dash, making the flap inoperable.) It’s gotten a steering rack, pump, and tie rods, full clutch and brake hydraulics, and an alternator as well.
This year, my wife bought herself a first generation 4runner and I’ve made the ’96 my primary vehicle. Over the years, we’ve used it for travel, camping, hauling, you name it. It’s been great, but it’s definitely showing the wear and tear, so it’s getting some TLC now.
So that’s what this is about: the revitalization of the ’96 4runner. After making a frank assessment of what it needs and weighing the cost of the parts against the value of the vehicle, I’ve decided to do it anyway.
After all, this thing is pretty much family at this point.