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Video: Project RAV4X4 gets a lift

by Drew Johnson

My little Toyota is finally starting to look like a 4X4.

A solid foundation is important for building anything in life. A house, a marriage and especially an off-roady version of a normal small SUV.

To that end, I've been toiling away for the last several month cleaning, fixing and generally bringing my 1997 Toyota RAV4 back up to snuff. And while I've made good progress, I don't have much to show for it, outside of fewer oil leaks on my garage floor. Project RAV4X4 still looks like any old RAV4.

But with my baselining work now complete, I finally have a solid foundation to build upon. So build I did.

Treating the build like a first day in prison, I started by knocking out the biggest project on my list -- the installation of an Old Man Emu lift kit. And that appeared to be a very big project from my vantage point given the fact I've never done suspension work. Ever.

But outside of a learning curve on the removal of the rear shocks, it all went surprisingly well. I had the rear end wrapped up in a couple of hours, and the removal and replacement of the front suspension took about the same time.

In my excitement to start the build I completely forgot to measure the 'before' height of the rear end, but it looks to be sitting a good bit higher than stock. At the front, where I did remember to measure, the ground-to-fender height increased from 31-inches to 32-inches.

Naturally the lift put the alignment way out of whack, so the next day I made an appointment to get everything straightened out. The shop also mounted and balanced my new off-road tires, which really compliments the higher ride height.

So with the first building block laid, it's time to get on with the other modifications. Next will be a custom vinyl wrap, followed by the installation of KC driving lights. Hopefully those projects will be just as easy to knock out.

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