|An early petrol Surf takes on the mud … until its electrics got too damp.|
Surfs are up! The no nonsense Toyota is one of the most popular 4WD used imports. The Hilux Surf, or 4Runner as it was known in export markets including New Zealand, was conceived as a wagon bodied Hilux, primarily for the North American market. Those that began to filter into to New Zealand in the dawn of the used import era came first with the two litre petrol motor or the 2.4 litre turbo diesel. In 1987, the 1998cc motor was replaced by the larger 2247cc motor and fuel injection replaced carburetion. A 3.0 V6 petrol version, developed principally for the North American market, was sold here both new and as an import, but its improved performance and smoothness came at the cost of relatively high fuel consumption.
When imported new, the 4Runner was available with the 2.4 litre petrol motor producing 75kW of power and 185Nm of torque (at 2800rpm); the 2.8 diesel producing 65kW and 183Nm (at 2400rpm); and the V6 producing 105kW and 240Nm (at 3400rpm).
Although the five speed manual rules the roost, Surfs were imported with a four speed automatic gearbox.
The Surf gradually became more refined, getting four doors, a fully integrated wagon body and double wishbone independent front suspension replacing the beam axle. Although the IFS was quite good off-road, some serious owners retro-modified their Surfs to a beam front axle.
By 1989, the part time 4wd system had become more sophisticated, Toyota ditching the basic auto hubs for units that electrically engaged by a switch on the transfer case lever.
A weak point of the four cylinder (and V6) petrol motor, as is the case with all petrols, is the vulnerability to water of its electrical system, but otherwise was a good alternative to diesel for people using it off road. It had an ability to lug nicely at tickover speed and, on road, had a reasonable turn of speed. Off road, though, it’s hard to look past the diesel, which particularly impressed with its ability to climb steep hills at almost an idle.