1996 KZN185 Hilux Surf
The market bonanza for third-generation 4Runners is well underway at this point. When examining the available stateside models, high mileage, and worn-out gasoline examples seem to command insane premiums. How about considering this 1996 turbodiesel model instead? It happens to have a 4x4 system bolstered by a factory center locking differential, and a spacious cabin with more options than an American 4Runner. If that wasn't good enough, this clean SSR-X boasts a mere 144k verified and documented miles. Fresh off a recent service, this five-seater is barely broken in, turn-key, and ready to rock. Dressed up by LED tail lamps, privacy tint, refinished alloys, and OEM rainguards, the one-off Panther Black paint is in good shape aside from some scuffs, chips, and dings associated with normal use. As a competent adventure mobile, daily driver, or weekend cruiser this reliable, safe, and torquey terror is a certified Japanese Classic.
The sizable and well-cared-for cabin is a delight to be inside. The view of the road ahead is clear and commanding and the driver benefits from an adjustable steering column and adjustable lumbar support for optimal comfort. Power windows, door locks, and mirrors all make daily use more enjoyable and work like a charm. The dashboard is designed logically and lacks any cracking or fading. A stunning Addzest radio steals the show with its transparent display. Lifted right out of the 90's it oozes style and sounds decent, to boot. Cold A/C and piping hot heat can be dialed in easily with the standard automatic climate control system. Dual SRS airbags add some peace of mind for those riding up front and the back seat passengers benefit from increased protection in accidents compared to the previous Surf. All of the cloth upholstery is in above-average condition and lacks any major rips, stains, or tears. Also of note, the rear seats are 4-way reclinable unlike US trucks, and they also fold flat into a pseudo-sleeping surface. The door cards and headliner are in good nick, although we did want to note some light staining on the carpets. Still, this rig is in better shape than almost all of its US counterparts, and this Hilux was clearly loved in Japan.
This body-on-frame design is an awfully good one. The new multilink suspension proved to be more comfortable on road, and more capable off road than the N130 generation this vehicle replaced. Powering this brute is the nearly bulletproof 1KZ-TE four-cylinder. Fresh off an oil and filter service, and with a new 12v battery installed to provide the juice, the engine whirrs to life. A new engine air filter and a new fuel filter make sure the 3.0L maximizes power and fuel efficiency, and she runs right as rain. New serpentine belts were installed by one of our trained techs to reliably power all the accessories, and we also installed a new valve cover gasket while we had the chance. This maintenance has given the 2962cc mill a new lease on life, and she is primed for immediate use and abuse. The powerplant is linked to a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox. It makes good use of the 1KZ's broad torque curve and easily gets up to interstate speeds when called upon to merge quickly. The driver can select 2WD for returning top-tier fuel economy, but this Surf welcomes loose and slippery surfaces. That's thanks to its high and low-range 4WD, and easy-to-operate selective transfercase. If you encounter some wicked terrain an OEM center locker fixes power fore and aft, to get you churning forward. If you feel the need to halt all that momentum, this tasty Toyota includes all-new brake pads and rotors on the front. The standard ABS will certainly add some reassurance for those residing in snowy climates. The 16" alloys are all wrapped in 31" all-terrain Falken rubber. The new tires not only look mean, but more importantly they quiet down the ride and will last for tens of thousands of miles to come.
*California Residents: In order to register a Grey Market vehicle in the state of California then it will have to be made CARB compliant first. CARB certifications will have to be performed within the state. Depending on the vehicle and any existing modifications will affect the pricing. Typically CARB compliance will range between 5-10K. Additional information can be found on the California Air Resources Board website.