I previously owned a Jeep CJ-7, and while it was a capable off-road vehicle, I wanted something different. I had already sold the CJ and bought a pair of Jeepster Commandos with the intent of building one for rockcrawling. Shortly after I bought the Commandos though I moved to Venezuela. After a while I cooled off on the idea of the Commandos, they were just going to be too much work and would never really be comfortable for long trips. I had a while to consider all of my options and save up some money while I was living overseas, so I researched everything from Samurais to Cherokees.
I liked that Samurais are cheap and easy to modify, but they are really small and by the time you make one truly capable you have lost the appeal of the low buy-in price. To be honest I never seriously entertained the though of buying a Cherokee, I don't like the unibody construction and there is just too much sheetmetal. Then I seriously considered getting a new Jeep TJ, which are very capable off-road vehicles. The aftermarket support for TJs in phenominal also. Only two things kept me away from the Jeep, the purchase price and the fact that they are way too popular. I wanted something a bit less common. The 4.0L motor, as sweet running as it is, is too heavy for what I wanted anyway. My hope was to keep the vehicle as light as possible to minimize parts breakage.
I started looking at Toyota pickups. I was actually suprised to hear that these vehicles are relatively light weight, given the reputation that Toyota has for overbuilding vehicles and the relation to the Land Cruiser, which squish out pavement under the tires they are so heavy. Further research on Toyotas revealed a heathly aftermarket and a solid platform. The 22R four cylinder motors offer reasonable power, are light weight, and have proven reliability, which all appeal to me. Then I learned about the turbo 22RE-T motor that was offered in Toyota pickups and 4Runners in 1986 and 1987. It offered a beefier transmission and transfer case, as well as the additional power out of the reliable 22RE motor. I had found my vehicle!
As soon as I knew that I was moving back from Venezuela I started my search in earnest. I liked the wheelbase of the shortbed trucks and wanted a manual transmission. I found one truck for very cheap in Cleveland, but it sold before I could purchase it. Then I found another truck in Pennsylvania, very close to a friend of mine, but it too was sold as he was driving to the dealership. Missing out on these two East Coast trucks didn't concerned me much because I didn't really want to deal with rust. I then found a great deal on a turbo truck in Northern California, but it ended up having a salvaged title. Another Nor Cal truck sounded like a good deal, it was an Xtra Cab and it already had a lift, lockers, and dual transfer cases. The truck had high miles though and the owner was unwilling to negotiate price so I passed again. I knew that if I was patient sooner or later I would find the right truck for me.