Toyota launched the 4Runner in 1984 and it was an instant hit – not just with others, but with me. I knew I wanted one. Unfortunately, I had been squandering my paycheck for several years and I had no money. In 1987, I bought an inexpensive Toyota pickup, with a fiberglass canopy. I took out the window between the cab and canopy, built a bunk and cabinets in the back, and it worked amazingly well as an inexpensive 4Runner substitute. In fact, it was often mistaken for a 4Runner.
My goal was to drive that pickup for 10 years while I saved for a real 4Runner. After I paid off the loan, I continued to make payments into a savings account. Seven years into that plan, the engine needed to be replaced, so I sold the pickup and took my cash around till I found a 4Runner to buy. It didn’t take long and I found one at Broadway Toyota, in North Portland.
It only had 23,000 miles on it and was ready to drive off the lot – which I did. I looked at many small SUVs before deciding on the 4Runner. Most were not long enough for me to sleep in the back, or if they were, the rear seats did not fold down flat. Some were fine in the back, but they stored the spare tire on the back door – which is just annoying.
Overall, the 1990-1995 4Runner was the one of the best SUVs built. The customer satisfaction ratings were high and the reputation for low maintenance and longevity were some of the best ever recorded. And looking long term, the resale values stay high with Toyotas.
My goal in buying this 4Runner was to keep it for 20 years. We made it 18. I drove this truck across the country several times, pulled a fully loaded, large U-Haul trailer to Michigan, and towed it on a trailer behind a moving van a couple of times. I’ve camped in it, explored in it, and lived in it.
There was a time I was camped on the original Oregon Trail. As I sat in the back of my truck, contemplating my ancestral heritage on this same trail, I couldn’t help but making the comparisons to my 20th Century covered wagon. I primarily bought the 4Runner for skiing – and spending nights on the mountain. Several times I drove to Mt. Bachelor for two days of skiing – sleeping in the parking lot.
However, the SUV experience allowed me to be the explorer I am. While I really never did any real 4-wheeling in this truck, I knew the 4 wheel drive was available to get me out of tricky situations – which it did more than once. The high ground clearance allowed me to get off road farther than if I just walked. I was also able to haul things – either on top of the truck, or in the back.
I remember being in South Dakota – or someplace like that when she turned over 100,000 miles. It was only a couple of months ago when the odometer turned over 200k.
As my family grew, my lifestyle changed, and the 4Runner aged, it became our second vehicle. Last year we began thinking about selling it. The engine was running rough, the tires needed to be replaced, and I didn’t like not having airbags – especially living along Highway 30. So, we put it up for sale.
Just a few years ago, it was still worth a modest $8-9000 – however, with the financial collapse, it was now worth just half that. I advertised the truck for $4000, but got no calls. I dropped the price to $3800 – but still no calls. And then we had a small wreck. Because our deductible is so high, I didn’t even look into fixing it. But a few months ago, I realized the insurance company would most likely total the 4Runner.
Yesterday, they gave us a check and hauled off my beloved 4Runner. It was hard to let go.
Here’s a quick clip of my one and only big water crossing:
As I sit here and look out at the empty driveway, this song keeps going through my head…
I bought this truck the year I left my emergency services career and over the next 12 years, I lived in five different states, got married, had kids, and changed careers and jobs multiple times. It’s been an interesting 18 years – no wonder it’s so hard to let go of this favorite piece of clothing.