By on June 8, 2012

While 1980s Toyota Land Cruisers show up in self-service wrecking yards every once in a while, you’re more likely to find a Studebaker Avanti than a Toyota 4Runner in such a yard. In fact, in all my years of visiting high-turnover, uniform-priced self-service yards, I can’t recall ever having seen a 4Runner. Well, there’s a first for everything!
The first-generation 4Runner was built on the Mujahideen Grade™ Hilux platform, and both the pickup and the SUV version have held their value better than just about anything from the 1980s. This particular example appears to be a crypto-RV-conversion done in that trailer-building superpower: Elkhart, Indiana.
Perhaps the horror of this 70s-style brown-and-white paint job pushed the truck’s value down to where even 4Runner worshipers didn’t want it.
If you’re fighting the Rooskies in Afghanistan, circa 1986, the 22R-EC is an excellent engine choice.
The interior is pure van-conversion velour, right down to the 4″ thick puffy sun visors.
Somebody has already grabbed the axles and the dash assembly, but this truck still has some useful pieces left.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota 4Runner Gran Ville...”

  • avatar

    My brother got the black-on-black 4Runner in 1989. A several months later, a massive crack on the ladder frame was found, forcing Toyota to write his first one off and offer him the replacement under the warranty.

    A several uneventful years later, he traded for 1998 red four-door 4Runner with beige interior as to accommodate his growing family. To this day, my brother’s still driving it as daily commute with over 300.000 miles and no major mechanical issues.

    Unfortunately, the latest generations of 4Runner compelled him to hold onto his 1998 4Runner as long as it runs…

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      “Unfortunately, the latest generations of 4Runner compelled him to hold onto his 1998 4Runner as long as it runs”…

      Hunh? I own a 2011 4runner Limited and after owning MANY perceived “finer” machines from Germany and Japan, I have to say this is the best vehicle I have ever owned. It’s solid, well built, excellent craftmanship (what a paint job!), comfortable with great seats and terrific sound insulation (wind and road noise). It’s awesome in the slick stuff and sand. The high driving position is terrific too and the massive 20 inch wheels makes you feel like you’re driving a monster truck and could drive over anything. It is very fun to drive. Sure one could be critial of the interior materials especially the hard dull interior plastics, the not so fine non-Corinthian leather, but it’s dog x 3 durable. The engine has plenty of pep and gets decent economy for a medium sized heavy, body on frame SUV (20 mpg on average). It runs on regular gas and I love how the rear tailgate window goes down and when you open the sunroof it’s breeze heaven. I’d put my neck on the line and say this has to be one of the best values on the market. A VERY impressive vehicle for the money. The online reviews aren’t that kind to the latest 4Runner saying more modern crossovers make a better choice, but I feel most lack a sense of purpose and utility and try to be too many things to too many diffent markets in my opinion. Nothing beats a solid Truck and that my friend is what the 4Runner is all about.

      • 0 avatar

        You sure don’t see many new 4Runners around my parts, but you see LOTS of the last and previous generations. I think that Toyota failed hard on the styling–it looks like they designed it with the Hummer in mind and it looks dated after only being out for two years. If it wasn’t for the overwrought, gimicky styling, then I would be more inclined to consider a new one to replace my 1997. That said, if you dig the styling, and need a truck-based SUV, I don’t see how you can go wrong with a 4Runner.

      • 0 avatar

        A friend of mine just made BMW buy back his lemon-law 335i and replaced it with a new 4-Runner that he loves. My next door neighbor also has a new 4-Runner, as does the woman who owns the condo under mine. They seem to be selling okay where I live.

        I got as far as test driving a 4-Runner around 1989. I really didn’t like the driving position or the plastics used in the interior. Maybe it was just the dealers’ insistence on drowning everything in Armor-All, but every Toyota I looked at had the same nasty sheen and stench.

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Wade

        I have an 05 4Runner V8 with 250k on the clock. I went in to buy a new 4Runner. I wonder if mine will last another 4 years or so before Toyota’s next generation?

      • 0 avatar

        Ditto on that, I recently acquired a ’12 4Runner SR5 myself. I’m quite happy with it myself. I liked it when it came out as a ’10 model; it has that 4Runner family look…. to me it looks like a modern take on the early 90’s ‘Runners, except without the crappy 3VZE V6 (what a horrible piece of junk engine!)that and it isn’t unreasonable large, but not too small either…..

        While it’s not a rocket, the 4.0 V6 does the job well, and it’s quiet and gets more then reasonable fuel economy. It just does the job well and they look striking in black, my only regret is that the Trail Edition was too expensive and not too common, especially in the turqoise blue. The SR5 works for me though. Not exactly a stripper.

      • 0 avatar

        Nothing wrong with the latest generations of 4Runner in my opinion. I rode in my friend’s 2005 4Runner with V8 motor in California and thought it was very fine vehicle but bit too posh for 4Runner.

        My brother felt that 4Runner ought be more toward utilitarian side for the off-road driving like Jeep Wrangler. If anyone want the luxurious one, get the Land Cruiser or Highlander. The styling on the latest generations wasn’t to his taste. He wanted something more ‘durable’ looking with chrome bumpers and such.

      • 0 avatar

        IMO, they made it too big for my tastes, same with the tacoma. The nissan frontier is the last “normal” looking smaller truck

  • avatar

    I don’t see many of this generation of 4Runner much anymore but at one point, I think it was late last summer, saw a decent looking red one, it’s rear top was off and the sides had the look of brushing against bushes but the paint looked nice otherwise.

    It had been retrofitted with newer audio gear but looked mostly stock otherwise.

    Even here in Puget Sound country where rust isn’t an issue, I just don’t see this generation much anymore but still see plenty of the later ones though.

    My BIL Bob has a red 2002 model with over 200K on it, I think.

  • avatar

    Tough trucks, possibly the most over-built series ever made, could conquer anything but rust. I have the Hilux version as a yard truck, great fun to drive. I think the 85’s were still straight axle. I wonder if the Granville package was in reference to Granville King the writer for Pickup, Van & 4WD

  • avatar

    A few replacement parts, plus an AK47, and this truck would be at home in any war-torn country.

  • avatar

    It is remarkable how absolutely bulletproof most 80’s and 90’s toyota trucks are. The 3.0 V6 ate head gaskets like popcorn, but the 22R and RE were great engines and Toyota fixed the V6 issies when they came out with the heavily revised 3.4 DOHC in 1996. The 3.4 is a smooth, powerful and dead reliable engine.

    I have a 1997 4Runner with 210,000 miles and it is amazing. Not only is it completely mechanically bulletproof and extrememly low maintenance, but the paint and interior are Lexus quality, if not Lexus fancy. The thing still looks like a 4 year old truck and drives like one too. It rides like 4×4 toyota truck until it’s loaded (bouncy and somewhat tippy-feeling). But it will pull a trailer, haul 4 people in air conditioned (somewhat) comfort and do it with a cost per mile that can’t be beat.

    I guess due to this, I too have never seen one in a pick and pull yard. Found some parts in a rural, locally owned yard that had a couple that had rolled over.

  • avatar

    Pretty excited about the Roth-era Van Halen sticker on the tailgate. Too bad that truck was built about when Roth and the Brother VH split…

  • avatar

    Murilee has won the trifecta with me this week!

    I had an 88 4Runner that was acquired in a bizarre transaction between my brother-in-law, my father, and me in 2004 or so. The ute was a base model, no options, plain white steel wheels and dark gray paint. It had been a one-owner car driven locally in NH and had only accumulated 75k miles or so in 16 years. While the frame was decent, the front fenders and rear quarters had been replaced/patched once, and the quarters were getting ready for “round two” with the MIG welder and Bondo.

    It was slow and kind of a gas pig (18 mpg if you flogged it, 20 if you hypermiled), but ran pretty well and served me well getting to work and back for a couple years. Once I put some H4 headlights and Bilsteins on it, it became a pretty good runabout. It attached attention from the local off-roaders, I had accumulated at least one “call if you want to sell this” card under the wipers while it was parked at work. A move from condo land on the coast to a house on a dirt road brought the 4Runner more into its element, but doubling my commute started to rack the miles.

    As I approached 99k miles, the 22RE started to overheat a lot and was down on (its very little to begin with) power. In the engine’s defense, it had to endure many many days of me trying to do a 28 minute commute in 18 minutes, getting revved hard while stone cold while I made up precious minutes against the Home Depot time clock. As Murilee says, while the 22RE is a legendary engine, it does not hold up to the abuse of constantly revving the snot out of it.

    Finally, in addition to the temp gauge’s wild fluctuations, the clutch started to slip. Faced with the prospect of dozens of road salt-encrusted nuts and bolts to loosen outside in January, I bought a used Outback and put the 4Runner on Craigslist for $900.

    I got a call very quickly, three guys showed up in a pickup truck and looked it over. They were mumbling amongst themselves, took it for a quick ride and pulled out a roll of Franklins.

    “Did you you used to live in Portsmouth?” one of them asked me.

    “Dover, actually,” I replied.

    “I knew it! This is the one that was parked at the Home Depot, wasn’t it?” Turns out that card in the glovebox had come from the guy who ended up with it.

  • avatar

    I had an 85 4runner with the stright axle front and the turbocharged 22r-te motor. great little truck and built to shrug off a beating from anything except roadsalt. the previous gen tacomas (98-2005) were the last sucessors to these rigs. I have an o2 tacoma with 150k miles on it, and the driver seat is just about finally broken in the way I like it.

    The newer tacos are mice, but friggin huge. A current model tacoma practically dwarfs a late 90’s F-150, and I don’t need that kind of size-grief. I’ll keep my older tacoma until the seat stops breaking in.

    • 0 avatar

      Small correction, the first gen taco was introduced in 1995. I had a base model ’97, best car I ever owned, apart from being pretty uncomfortable. The 2.4 liter 4 was a great engine, I never understood why the 22-re got so much more praise. I’m pretty sure they were closely related.

  • avatar

    That model looks like a standard 4Runner (no conversion other than the decals). A few models years before this was the Toyota Trekker which was a Winnebago conversion of the Toyota Hilux. The Trekker was mostly fibreglass shell with smaller windows. It got turfed when Toyota brought out the 4Runner.

  • avatar

    BURT Toyota must be huge. I’ve seen their dealer add on nameplates for years in California. I notice because my mother named her Toyota “Burt;” she would have loved to have purchased it from them and had the name surgically implanted.

  • avatar

    Elkhart, Indiana: The land where the 70’s never died.

  • avatar

    Wow, I’m shocked that you were able to find even a single 4Runner. I’m pretty sure 4Runners are considered a second form of currency in the greater Denver area. You probably wound’t have any problems paying for a hamburger with a handful of rusty oil pan bolts or a radiator hose.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    I had an ’86 4runner in the late 90’s that was my main car. I bought it with an unknown number of miles on it, but after driving it a year, it started using oil and failed smog. It turned out to be cheaper to buy an imported Japanese engine that to rebuild the current engine. I sold it a few years later for just about what I bought it for.

  • avatar

    Looks like a cosmetic addition and not much else. It pains me to see this ‘Run in the yard as I recent gave up on a rebuilding an ’85 that started out in worse condition than this one is currently in.

    Notice how I said I gave up on the project. *sigh*

    I did all the hard stuff, like rebuild the engine, axles, convert it to 4 wheel disc brakes, new winch mount bumpers, redone interior, rust proofed frame… and then came the body work. It was a never ending connect the dots to larger and more imposing rust holes.

    I promised myself that’d be the last project vehicle I undertake, but I’m sure I’ll be back in the fold as soon as the itch to patch rust gets to me again.

  • avatar

    I seem to think that these mid-80’s Toyota conversions had something to do with the “Chicken Tax”. I’m not sure how, but the Toyota Vans came in all as cargoes, and were likewise “converted” to passenger vehicles.

  • avatar


    I’m not so sure about that. There were a lot of Toyota Hilux chassis converted over for legit RV use and there were some Hilux chassis that were converted into quad cabs.

    I don’t recall the name of the company that did the conversion however. See pic below:

    • 0 avatar

      Some of those conversions overloaded the rear axles, resulting in lost rear wheels…not at all Toyota’s fault, but I did create some kind of recall.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a ‘Custom Cab’ conversion that added $3000 to the sticker. I worked at a Toyota dealer in ’86 and ’87 and would drive over the new trucks to be converted at Custom Fab Inc (in so. CA) and bring back the finished units.

      Most were turbo SR5 4X4s, special ordered by the dealer, but would convert any new regular cab of your choosing. They didn’t sit on the lot for very long.

  • avatar

    One of my best friends bought one of these when his family moved to Avon, CT. He really wanted a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, but needing cash from dad, Toyota was all dad would commit cash for. Something about his wife’s citation (which had AVEMARIA plates when she lived in NY). A red 1987 4Runner with the removable cargo/seat cover and the classic Toyota grey interior. Very reliable and simple, it was slow but steady. We had a lot of fun with that truck, and he kept it until he put 180K or so miles on it. Only repairs worth mentioning was a head gasket (caused by overheating due to a fan clutch), A/C clutch, and the clutch master cylinder which put fluid inside the cab. Rust took hold of the front fenders, rear hatch and rear bed. CT has issues with perforation, so he gave it to an ex girlfriend. She moved and he never saw it again. These were great trucks; I’d love to get one like the one seen in Back to the Future. I loved the 80s!!!!!!

  • avatar

    why oh why don’t they make two door 4runners anymore?

  • avatar

    My first vehicle I ever seen rolled over on a dry road was a 4Runner.

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