The Black Pearl
Typically, you would expect to see a Toyota 4runner cruising around the suburbs of Atlanta carrying kids to a sporting event, packed full of groceries, or out at local shopping spots, it is rare to see one traversing terrain found in the sweetest dreams of Bear Grylls. I’m Patrick Metzger, the co-founder of Peach State Overland, and I love exploring the great National Forests of the South from Point Washington State Forest in Florida, to Talladega National Forest in Alabama, to the Uwharrie National Forest and most everywhere in between. I enjoy getting lost in the vast spaces of the wilderness. While I consider my 2007 Toyota 4runner (affectionately named “Black Pearl”) a moderate build, it is more than able to keep up with some of the biggest and best built off-road vehicles in the South.
Known in its country of origin and most of the world and the Toyota Hilux Surf, but known in North America as the Toyota 4runner, this truck has come a long way from the its original 1984 version, which was a Toyota truck with a permanent shell over the bed and a bench seat in the back. While the majority of the US population sees the 4Runner as soccer mom perfection, the combination of Toyota’s legendary reliability and capability with its design simplicity make this a very desirable Overlanding/Off-roading rig. The lush leather seats, comfy cruise control, soft independent front suspension, built-in DVD and Navigation accessories, and along with its backup camera make for a pleasant long range vehicle, and even better yet, a great family vehicle.
I purchased the Black Pearl back in January of 2015 and built it for the ultimate goal of a trip out West through Utah and Colorado. Thirty-seven thousand miles later she competed in 36 Hours of Uwharrie, on overland endurance challenge set in North Carolina. Over the past 20 months the Pearl has seen an upgrade in suspension, wheels, tires, and accessories for her many journeys.
The most significant upgrade I made to date is to the suspension. Resting on Tundra TRD Pro springs in the front paired up with Camburg Ball Joint Upper Control Arms for ease of alignment, and Old Man Emu Medium Weight Overlanding Springs in the back, she sits at 4″ of lift in the front and 3.5″ of lift in the back. To keep the ride comfortable, I replaced the Pearl’s factory XREAS shocks with Bilstein 5100s for that silky smooth ride. With the recent addition of a Budbuilt hidden winch mount and a Smittybilt XRC 12k lb. steel winch in the front, there is no nose dive, or loss of clearance.
To make this rig truly able to go anywhere, I shoed up the Black Pearl with newest and best in all terrain technology. 34″ BFG KO2 All Terrain tires wrapped on 17×9 Ion Alloy Wheels (Back to the Future truck look-a-likes) give the Pearl the confidant and towering stance needed to tackle any obstacle. If the ATS lose grip, the Pearl has 2 recovery redundancies, a trusty set of FJ Cruiser yellow MaxTrax, and ultimately a 12k lb. Smittybilt XRC winch.
For long distance journeys, I outfitted the Pearl with a CVT Mount Rainier roof top tent resting on a budget DIY Electrogalvanized Super Strut roof rack I made with parts from Home Depot for about $100. Resting on a king-sized bed with a 1.5″ memory foam mattress makes the longest of journeys that much more enjoyable.
To light the way, the Black Pearl has been upgraded to SPPC after market halo headlights, with all LEDs, high beams, low beams, and floods. For wilderness use, the Pearl also has 4 Pro Comp LED pods operated by a wireless remote system. Northern Tool LED off-road lights are mounted to the roof rack for camp lighting, and AutoZone LED accent lights light the ground up when you open the doors for safety. To wrap up the lighting conversion, all the interior lights have been upgraded to LEDs. Upgrading all of your vehicle lighting to LEDs will reduce the draw on the battery, and run cooler and brighter.
To keep the power coming, the battery has been upgraded to a Duralast Platinum Group 34 battery, which has a capacity of roughly 1.5x that of a traditional battery. When driving off-road with severe vibrations, and steep inclines, it is also imperative that you upgrade to an Absorbed Glass Mat battery for more consistent charge retention.
While the industry may not consider the 4Runner the best overlanding vehicle, this truck meets every need I have in my life, from going on family vacations, to my daily 50-mile commute, to hitting the dusty trails!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @4Runner84 and on Youtube at Patrick Metzger!