2nd Gen Rescue 4Runner

2nd Gen Rescue 4Runner

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The forested Oregon terrain attracts folks who enjoy the outdoors, as well as those who wish to reside in the remote wilderness. As a result, situations can develop requiring coordinated rescue operations. These operations can span many miles from base to rescue resources. To avoid a breakdown in communications, temporary repeaters are necessary to bridge the airwave gap. Cory Smelser of Portland, OR, serves as a volunteer communications technician, and plays a vital role in filling that gap.

2nd Generation 4Runner Search and Rescue, HAM Communications

Cory participates with a search and rescue (SAR) group that specializes in emergency communications. His 1992 4Runner 4x4 has evolved into an ultimate off-roading communications response unit, as well as a rescue and recovery rig. With a solid front axle, rebuilt rear suspension, and low gearing, his truck is the ideal remote access vehicle.


“Many areas in which we operate have no means of communication to the average citizen,” explains Cory. “Often times we use our 4x4 team to get radio equipment to places that are difficult to access. I typically get sent to the top of hills or mountains to set up a mobile radio repeater, which provides a critical radio communication link between the search teams out in the field and base.”

SAR operations also involve extracting stranded vehicles, conducting searches, and providing ground support for aircraft. Cory recently established a landing zone for a Black Hawk helicopter during a rescue operation for a man who had fallen down a steep slope in the Mount Hood National Forest.

The truck is equipped with several radios that Cory utilizes on a regular basis. “To the right of my shift boot is my CB. To the left is my VHF Icom that operates on amateur (Ham), Commercial, and Public Safety frequencies. On the headliner I have a detachable faceplate Yaesu that is my main VFH/UHF amateur (ham) radio.” Cory also improved the audio system with an Alpine head unit, Kicker speakers, and an amped subwoofer.

Powering the 4Runner is a stock 22RE with an LC Engineering header. The front-end is protected by a T17 front bumper by TJM. The rear is secured with a Marlin Crawler rear bumper, and Trail Gear rock sliders protect the sides.

In August 2013, Cory made the decision to replace the front IFS with a solid axle. Using an axle from a Toyota pickup, he installed Trail Gear 3-inch lift springs, cross-over/high steer, and a U-bolt flip. He completed the front suspension with Bilstein 512 shocks. In the midst of this, he replaced the 4.10 gears with Yukon 5.29 gears and installed a Detroit Locker in the rear. Next up was the rebuild of the rear suspension. Using Sky’s off-road leaf spring conversion kit, Cory installed 63-inch Chevy springs and long-travel Bilstein shocks. Driveshaft coupling was achieved with the help of a Low Range Off-Road driveline spacer. In the future, Cory hopes to install a dual transfer case, dual battery setup, a selectable locker for the front, and rock lights.

The truck is more than just a rescue rig. Cory goes off-roading with other Toyota trucks in the Oregon wilderness, including Tillamook State Forest, which he deems as the best off-roading in the area. When asked if anything has happened while out on the trails that made him appreciate his 4Runner, he said, “It's more of what hasn't happened on the trail that has made me appreciate my 4Runner. It is a very good feeling to know that your vehicle will get you where you need to go and back safely without hesitation.”


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