When we sold our 1986 4Runner, we knew that we wanted a more modern overland vehicle that we could keep for years to come. We needed our new vehicle to meet a few requirements:
- It needed more comfort features for long days of driving. This meant cruise control, AC, and comfortable seating. The GX is wildly comfortable at 5 mph on the trail as well as over 80 on the freeway.
- It needed more power and the ability to tow decent trailer weight without a lot of fuss. The 323 ft. lbs of torque and 6500 trailer capacity of the GX470 is plenty for our needs.
- We wanted more room for full-time living. We leave our vehicle packed most of the time so we needed enough space to store our camping and repair gear as well as our fridge and battery. The GX has plenty of room for all of our stuff.
If you have been watching our feed at all, you know that we take lighting pretty seriously. Since we are based out of Oklahoma, a long highway slog is required to get to most places worth going to. We typically choose to drive through the night, which means dark roads and a lot of deer!
To go in deep on our lighting setup read more: Lexus GX470 Off-Road Lighting by DENALI Electronics
Our favorite pair of lights on our truck is likely a surprise, but we LOVE the DENALI D3 Fog Lights. Like all of the DENALI lights, the fit and finish are understated and discreet but the lighting performance is fantastic. The beam pattern is 300 feet wide and has an extremely sharp cut-off that doesn't blind other drivers. We wired our D3 Fogs to the factory fog circuit because the D3s only draw 3.3 amps (less than the stock lights).
The most powerful set of lights and our most used set are the DENALI D7 Driving Lights. The DENALI D7s are not quite spot beam and definitely aren't floods, but they offer a ton of light from such a small lamp. Honestly, I would prefer a bigger light for strictly esthetic reasons, but the power of the D7 is hard to complain about. The D7s are aimed at or above our high beam and are our go to for fast and flat driving.
A third forward-facing light set is really not necessary, but we had a spot on the front bumper and it's hard to not use an employee discount. The DENALI D3 Driving Lights (next to the fogs) reach out in front. With the spot beams installed, the D3s have a beam distance of over 1900 feet at 1 lux! We use the D3s for when we need that extra punch, especially in dusty or hazardous driving conditions.
We have a pretty conservative approach to the exterior of our vehicles and all of our modifications are based on experiences with the stock equipment. We took our stock vehicle out and if the stock equipment got in the way, we made a plan to replace it. For example, the front bumper on the GX470 is painfully low and on our first off-road trip, we drug it pretty hard on a couple of embankments and creek beds. We began searching for a steel hybrid front bumper that had tube work, a winch mount, recovery points, and a great approach angle and found one. Thankfully, we received our bumper from a fabricator without much trouble, but Explore Overland screwed over a lot people. The bumper works as advertised, but the customer service and business practices were terrible.
Our primary shelter for trips is the OzTent RX5 and it is a bit cumbersome to store and transport, so a roof rack was needed. We didn't need anything fancy, but wanted a high quality roof rack and settled on Prinsu. The rack works perfectly and supports our tent well. Time will tell if the rack is too much of a budget option, but so far, all signs are good.
Like I mentioned above, most of our trips require at least a day of driving and on a recent trip to Utah, we stopped over in Denver at a hotel. Overnight, our rear quarter window was busted out and the thief took our well-curated kitchen utensil kit. Meth is a powerful drug kids, understandably, Denver PD and the hotel were of no help.
Because the cost of a Lexus rear window is around $1000, we used this opportunity to upgrade to gullwing windows. The team at Rugged Bound Supply Co. was extremely helpful in getting us setup quickly. The gullwings are imported from South Africa from a company called Big Country 4x4 and the quality is ridiculously good. Install is a bit complicated and intense (drilling into sheet metal) but overall we are happy with it. Access to the back is much better and it definitely toughens up the look of the exterior.
Explore Overland Front Bumper
Big Country 4x4 Gullwings
Prinsu Roof Rack
1UP Bike Rack
Storage & Living
The single most important area of our rig is the living area which houses most of our gear and our kitchen. The entire rear hatch area was based around our Dometic CFX3 95 DZ on a custom slide. The Dometic fridge was a GAME CHANGER, but we needed something a little smaller to accommodate more gear and less battery usage. Coolers are great for weekend trips, but being able to keep fresh veggies and even freeze ice cream on multi-week expeditions is unbelievably convenient.
I opted instead for a SnowMaster 65L Low-Profile, mounted behind the driver's seat and it is easily accessed through the rear driver's side seat.
I built a very basic storage platform in place of the rear seats (both rows). Each half is removable in the event that we want to add the seats back in. The front section uses the middle seat attachment point to secure turnbuckles and the rear section utilizes the 3rd-row attachment points.
Our camping gear, recovery gear, and all of our personal luggage live in the rear of the truck with our camp kitchen and furniture in the rear-most storage area next to and under the fridge. Most of our gear is stored in various harbor freight and Pelican cases.
Our electrical system is basic and simple including a 75 amp-hour battery under the hood with a simple 100-watt solar panel mounted to the roof. The solar power is ran through a Renogy charge controller. We also installed a Blue Sea Automatic Charging Relay to charge the auxiliary battery from the alternator.
We have plans to add a lithium-ion battery eventually, but our current system is good enough for us assuming we are moving every couple of days or have good sunshine.
Wheels, Tires, and Suspension
Soon after we bought our GX (and after bouncing around Moab for a week) our rear airbag suspension was starting to lean when left overnight so we replaced the rear airbag suspension with a coil spring from the V8 4Runner and a conversion kit from Southern Style Off-Road.
We opted to trust the same reliable suspension that we had in our 4Runner which was a set of Bilstein 5100 shocks and struts with Old Man Emu springs. We chose a medium spring front and rear and have been pretty happy with the results.
When we bought the GX, it had street tires with really good tread, so we have been putting them through the paces. We found a deal on a set of TRD Off-Road take-off wheels and a set of 255/75/17 Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs and jumped on it. The tires are perfect for our style of driving and the terrain we like to explore.
We quickly found a better solution for wheels and replaced our TRD Off-Road wheels with AEV Salta XR wheels. The AEV wheels have been tested to stringent SAE J2530 standards and feature a lifetime structural warranty. Hopefully the reduced weight and the increased strength will be noticeable.