Vertical Improvements

Who would have ever thought that my 4runner would end up with these components? I say this boldly because I enjoy doing all types of offroading. Not only do I enjoy the ability to drive fast on the whoops in the dunes or out in the desert, I also enjoy rock crawling. Yes both are complete opposite ends of the spectrum but I do not engage in the extreme ends so the suspension setup that I have suits my needs. I'm sure people will give me the strange eye but I feel confident in my choices and it definitely works out nicely on the roads.

Front Suspension...

I enlisted the help of Total Chaos Fabrications in the spring of 2004 to work on an extensive project that helped pursue my dreams for the ultimate expedition vehicle. This meant that I wanted the plush driving characteristics and yet handle superbly on the dunes as well as on the rock trails. I could have easily gotten a simple 3" lift and some upper control arms but I wanted more. Getting a solid axle underneath my engine was not an option right off the bat because the new 8" front diff with its beefier axles were much stronger than any of the previous Toyota line. Initial calculations put the tolerances equivalent to a Dana 44 and I felt that these figures were adequate enough for me to keep the stock components. Since I wanted to do the prerunning speed runs as well, getting a quality long travel kit was a must.

After the grueling 6 months research and developement performed by Total Chaos Fabrications, the long travel was done in the spring of 2005. As you can see from the photo on the right, it's a rather unique design new to the Total Chaos Fabrications team. This long travel kit incorporates an uniball upper control arm and maintains a 100% bolt on application. It features a pre-tabbed lower control arm to include dual 2.5 shocks. The dual 2.5 shocks option offers maximum tune-ability to customize the ride for your specific application. Installing the primary coilover is necessary but the addition of the secondary smooth body or bypass shock can achieve maximum performance.

The changes made to the spindle and steering system on this 4th generation 4runner allowed for the development of a lower uniball conversion previously not featured on the older generations. Total Chaos Fabrications dedicated much of their time on developing the right setup to allow for the design of the lower uniball without dropping the spindle which effectively decreases the ground clearance on the vehicle. By maintaining the maximum ground clearance and wheel travel provided the best overall performance for both offroad and daily driving. The long travel kit provdes a true 13" of useable wheel travel while retaining the 4wd system. Total Chaos Fabrications provided the custom machined 300M extended axles to retain my 4wd system. Due to the changes in the spindle and steering, a boxed lower control arm was designed and incorporated a billet CNC lower control arm adapter. This piece was critical in ensuring that the spindle did not have to be lowered.

Optional skid plates were included in my kit as I wanted to protect the boxed lower arms when I navigate through the rough terrains that I encounter. The skid plates are crucial as the weakest links are now the welds unlike the tubular lower arms. A slight disadvantage but with the skid plates my fears are conquered! The kit includes all mounting hardware, urethane bushings and inner sleeves along with zirk fittings on the upper arms to lubricate the pivots on the vehicle. Limiting straps, adjustable limit strap clevis, upper shock mounts, upper and lower uniballs, tie rods extensions are also included.

List of equipment:
Total Chaos Long Travel Front Suspension - Featuring 13" Travel with Upper and Lower Uniballs
Fox Racing 2.5 x 7/8 Remote Reservoir Coilover
King Shocks 600lb coils

Rear Suspension version 1.0...

Since the front suspension features 13" of travel, the need for an equivalent performing rear was required. Using the factory points were out of the question as the stock featured only 8" of travel. This was 5" of less travel compared to my front setup so with the help of Bruce, we developed a custom rear suspension geared for future upgrades. First off, finding the right rear shock proved to be difficult. The limited real estate available meant that we had to figure out the best way to fit a shock that will compliment the front suspension. Finding the correct shock that will fit in the limited confines of the rear suspension was more than a chore. Luckily I was able to find a short body shock by Bilstein. Initially the design was geared for a Fox Shock for the rear to compliment the front since they do not market any short body shocks that went out the window rather quickly.

The image on the right shows the upper mount for the shock. The mounts are custom designed to fit in the small confines between the frame and body. All materials are 1/4" thick to ensure strength and rigidity as well as incorporating a boxed and triangulated design to ensure that the mount will hold up to the abuse that the 4runner will go through exploring the trails. The shock tabs are courtesy of Kartek.

The image below shows the boxed lower mount for the shock. We designed the bottom shock to sit close to the rear tire and wheel to avoid any rocks

from taking the lower mounts. The bottom mount is also developed out of 1/4" thick plates that is boxed as well. The double sheer design also ensures that the mounts will hold up and not fall apart on the trail. The mount itself was moved approximately 1.75-2" to accomodate better for the short body shock. All angles were measured and verified to ensure that no contacts are made on the shock or the mount itself.

The last image shows the final application for the rear shock. Not show in any of these shocks are the OME rear heavy duty coil (Part Number 896) and a rear brake extension bracket. The reason for going with the heavy duty coil over the medium duty coil was because of the planned rear bumper development. Since I was developing a rear bumper and a tire carrier, the 4runner would be very heavy compared to stock thus the heavy duty coil. This was not the only reason for the heavy duty coil but also because when on long trips, the rear will be packed with supplies and equipment that the heavy duty coil would come in handy. I would say on an empty load, the ride is very harsh and not as pleasant but ok for short drives. The rear brake extension bracket initially came with the Downey Offroad rear suspension kit. Since I've slowly upgraded all of my parts, this is the only piece that has survived.

List of equipment:

Bilstein 7100 Remote Resevoir Shock - Featuring 14" Travel on a 12" Body - Part Number AK7114SB04
Custom Rear shock Mounts (Upper and Lower)
Custom Brake Extension
OME Heavy Duty Rear Coil - 40mm Lift @ 150kg To 400KG Addition - Part Numnber: OME896

Rear Lower Links version 1.0...

This was a must do upgrade after bending both rear lower links. The stock links are durable but not stout for extreme adventures. I custom developed my own links to my specification to ensure that they are bomb proof. The end result, an 1.5" steel tubing featuring 3/4" heim joints. The heim joints are a 3 piece, high strength alloy where the ball features a machined misalignment shoulders. The specification on the heim joints are:

Ball - 52100 Steel, Hard Chrome Plated
Body - 4340 Chromoly Steel, Heat Treated, Zinc Plated
Race - 4130 Chromoly Steel Alloy, Heat Treated, Zinc Plated

This ensures that the links will not bend or get destroyed on the trails. The threading on the tubing are both clockwise. This is done to prevent the lower links from unwinding themselves off completely. Professional desert runner arms are made to narrow or widen on the fly by rotating the tubing but opted out of this as I wanted to ensure that once in place, it will not move. The only last bit that needs to be worked out are the mounts as the stock mounts are not holding up to take the additional abuse. Hopefully I'll have time to replate these mounts to strengthen them.

Top Left - Comparison of sample stock link to new lower control link.
Top Right - Lower link upper mount.
Left - Full view of lower link.

List of equipment:

3/4" x 7/8" Heim Joints
1.5" steel tubing

Rear 4-Link Version 2.0...

This is definitely not for the faint of heart. After tinkering with version 1.0 on the rear I decided that this setup was not going to be able to compliment the front as I originally anticipated. After researching for almost 2 years (off and on), I decided that it was time to do a true 4-link rear. This required the removal of the factory fuel tank as well as rerouting all fuel lines and any and all smog components to ensure the vehicle would comply with all local, state and federal regulations. For a complete write up please visit here!

Body Lift...

This is probably the easiest basic vertical improving modification available. It's not favored by many due to it's design as it separates the body from the frame but it is a modification that is necessary for some. This modification was a must as I needed the body and frame separation to accomodate for the rear upper shock mount. Not only this, the upgrade to 35" tires meant that I needed to move the body as far away from the tires as the traditional 3" lift was not going to support the 35" tires that I needed. The body lift are Courtesy of Roger Brown. Roger Brown's body lift comes in a variety of different configuration. They range from 1" - 1.5". He also offers optional heavy duty hardware which I highly recommend. Keep in mind that you are physically separating the body from the frame so making sure to use the highest quality hardware is essential. Safety is always key when building your rig so this should be a must purchase item with the body lift parts.

I chose to go with the 1.5" of body lift as I knew that I was going to be upgrading from the stock 265/70/16 (30.6" tires) to a 315/75/16 (34.6" tires). This meant that I was effectively going to need 4" of gain between the suspension lift and body lift. Since I knew that I my front suspension was dialed in between the 2.5" and 3" of lift I needed an additional 1 - 1.5" of lift. Since the front was going to vary over time I decided to go with the 1.5" setup as if I left my front dialed in at 2.5", the 1.5" body lift would give me the 4" that I need to fit the 35" tires.

Installation of the body lift is easy with the use of a hi-lift and the stock bottle jack. Roger Brown's instruction is clear and easy to understand. Just a rule of thumb, work from one side to the other. Lastly, make sure to use the radiator kit that is supplied to make the adjustments to the radiator height. Please make sure to loosen the steering link while doing the body lift and once completed, make sure to tighten the link. Double check all bolts and make sure to secure everything.

My impressions on the body lift are that they are a solid piece of product that has held up well to the abuse that I have given it. If you are not interested in a suspension lift and want to do a basic body lift, this is the way to go. I would not recommend this as a first means of lifting your vehicle but if this is to supplement your existing suspension lift then by all means get this lift. With the body lift, you should be able to safely add larger tires w/o any worries of rubbing as much as w/o the body lift.

For those that are interesting in this kit, please be aware that the stock bumpers may need modifications. From what I can remember the rear did not need any adjustments with the 1.5" lift. The bumper is attached to the body and will get raised the amount of the body lift so the bottom bolts/tabs will become useless but that should not become a safety issue. If you want, you can easily make a bracket to secure it but I don't really see a need. The front on the other hand may require some modications. Since when I did my body lift I didn't keep my stock bumpers, I'm basing this on what I can recall. Since the front bumper will get raised the same amount as the body lift, the cross member that is attached to the bumper may not align properly. I have read that some have disconnected the cross member and raised it by one notch (bolt) but I highly don't recommend this as now your front cross member is only secured by one bolt on each side. I would recommend either trimming the front bumper to accomodate for the change of the cross member location or suggest looking for an alternative solutions such as an aftermarket bumper.

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List of equipment:

Roger Brown 1.5" Body Lift

Future Modifications:

Bypass shock or Hydro Bumps
True 4 link rear suspension - This will utilize the same shock as well as the same mounts. Coils will be custom to accomodate for the longer travelling setup as well as the complete removal of the panhard bracket. Top control arms will match the lower control arms that will feature uniballs on both ends. Calculations are pending and this project will be next on the growing list of must do's.