Light-Duty, Budget-Friendly GX460 Overland Build

Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
Wanted to document the mild build of my '15 GX460. I plan on doing a few extended trips in it this year, but its main job is to continue to be my wife's daily. The first thing she told me after we purchased it was to make it look "less like a soccer mom SUV". Challenge accepted.

We had plans to use it to haul a small camper behind it for the entire summer traveling, but those plans had to be postponed due to our first kid on the way. She still wants to do a shorter overland trip so the modifications have begun.

We'll be sleeping in the GX so a platform will be built to accommodate for that, but I need to get into our new house first to get my shop organized before I can start fabricating again.

First I'll focus on the exterior and all the things I can "bolt on" to help make the trip successful.

Here it is fresh from the dealer where we purchased it. Looks like a "soccer Mom's SUV" apparently.

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First order of business was to add a platform for carrying items outside of the vehicle. For that, I scoured FB marketplace and found this Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform for a Jeep Wrangler for dirt cheap. $75 to be exact. I ordered some LFD Offroad Ruggedized Crossbars to mount the platform to and voila, a large platform to kill my fuel mileage!

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The next step was to fit the rig with some decent all-terrains for when we boondock out in the national forests and the roads get mildly treacherous. For that, I had a set of 275/65/18 KO2's installed on the factory wheels. It's the biggest I wanted to go as I have no intention to lift the vehicle aside from a set of 5100's to level the front out. She rides well with the E-rated tires on but I do feel the unsprung, rolling weight that was added. There is a little rub when reversing at full lock, but I'll either get the heat gun and fix that, or ignore it. My average fuel mileage feels it too sadly. I'll gladly compromise for the reliability of this motor and transmission from Toyota for fuel mileage though.

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I'm installing an ARB awning onto the rear of the Pioneer Platform this weekend with brackets I have fabbed up using basic hand tools. Stay tuned for pictures of that install. Is it pretty? No. Will it work well? Certainly.

Stay tuned.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
As I mentioned before, I have not yet set up my garage to be the shop that it can be as I am waiting for my tools to get out of storage from moving. Thus, I had to channel my inner-caveman and get my hammer and c-clamps out to fabricate a couple of primitive, yet sturdy angled mounts to attach the ARB awning to the rear of the GX on the pioneer platform.

I did not document the entire process of the simple fabrication of the mounts but imagine a man with a hammer, hacksaw, drill, and a can of spray enamel.

Here are a couple of pictures of the result. The wife has the GX today out of town so I will have to mount the awning tomorrow.

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Joined
Nov 8, 2021
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129
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CA
How are the ends of the pioneer rack put together? Can the 90 degree ends be removed and the center bars cut shorter? Looks like a good platform option. Seems like a lot of overhang due to the narrower GX. The most soccer mom looking item is the steps, the minute you remove them it really changes it
 
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Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
How are the ends of the pioneer rack put together? Can the 90 degree ends be removed and the center bars cut shorter? Looks like a good platform option. Seems like a lot of overhang due to the narrower GX. The most soccer mom looking item is the steps, the minute you remove them it really changes it
There is a lot of overhang, but the photos make it look more pronounced than it actually is. I actually bought it for my Tacoma and was going to cut it down to size it for that roof, but there is a lot of drilling and tapping that would need to be done in order to assemble the way it comes from the factory. Thats how it ended up on the GX. Possible? Yes, and I would probably prefer it that way. One day I'll unbolt it and give that a whirl.

I REALLY want to take the steps off, but the wife is short and wants them to stay... :( Maybe I can find a slider with a step?
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
Got the awning mounted late this evening! Will take a share some pictures tomorrow when the sun is helping me out!
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
Been busy getting the exterior set up for our trip in May. The awning from ARB is now mounted on the back of the rack for coverage above the hatch when it's open. I'll need to figure out some sort of bug defense as ARB does not sell walls for their small 4ft awning. The brackets are burly and work perfectly to help keep the awning lower than the rack as to not create more drag.

I also rudimentarily mounted my maxtrax to the rack, though they will likely be moved. Along with the maxtrax I also mounted my handy recovery shovel via a set of quick fists. They seem to work well for my uses and I had a bunch of them on my van last year when we traveled the country. No issues. A great budget-friendly option for mounting tools for sure.

Finally, I mounted a cheap HF hard case that will house all my recovery/tools so they are not taking up space in the cab. It's an okay case and not too expensive so I don't mind drilling holes into the bottom of it. Before you ask if my stuff will get wet because of the holes, know that first I don't keep precious valuables in this thing, and second the amount of water ingress from four 5/16" holes will be minimal if any. So far, it works great and only whistles at speeds above 70mph. Lol.

To finish the exterior, I'll be mounting up a DFG shower cube and potentially another hard case on the other side of the rack for more sotrage. I may test fit my roof box to see if it'll fit, but its getting crowded up there so we'll have to see.

Here are some pics I took quickly while on the farm this weekend. The one from above was taken from a deer stand. I'll get some more close-up pictures to post here soon.

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r2m

Richard
Joined
Nov 1, 2007
Messages
4,948
Location
San Clemente, CA
Been busy getting the exterior set up for our trip in May. The awning from ARB is now mounted on the back of the rack for coverage above the hatch when it's open. I'll need to figure out some sort of bug defense as ARB does not sell walls for their small 4ft awning. The brackets are burly and work perfectly to help keep the awning lower than the rack as to not create more drag.

I also rudimentarily mounted my maxtrax to the rack, though they will likely be moved. Along with the maxtrax I also mounted my handy recovery shovel via a set of quick fists. They seem to work well for my uses and I had a bunch of them on my van last year when we traveled the country. No issues. A great budget-friendly option for mounting tools for sure.

Finally, I mounted a cheap HF hard case that will house all my recovery/tools so they are not taking up space in the cab. It's an okay case and not too expensive so I don't mind drilling holes into the bottom of it. Before you ask if my stuff will get wet because of the holes, know that first I don't keep precious valuables in this thing, and second the amount of water ingress from four 5/16" holes will be minimal if any. So far, it works great and only whistles at speeds above 70mph. Lol.

To finish the exterior, I'll be mounting up a DFG shower cube and potentially another hard case on the other side of the rack for more sotrage. I may test fit my roof box to see if it'll fit, but its getting crowded up there so we'll have to see.

Here are some pics I took quickly while on the farm this weekend. The one from above was taken from a deer stand. I'll get some more close-up pictures to post here soon.

View attachment 2979167View attachment 2979168
Just a suggestion, if you haven't already, make sure all your gear is locked onto your rig.
I went to my local hardware store and bought some small diameter wire cable and crimps to make loops on both ends. Then ordered some inexpensive combo locks that you can set your own combo. Then looped the cable through all my gear on the rear swing-out and through the swing-out itself.
So far it has worked great! I like using the locks that you set your own combination because I hate carrying keys, and set all my locks with the same combo so it's easy to remember.
Agreed, it's not the most secure method, it's just to keep the "honest, honest".
If somebody really wants my gear, there's not much I could do to make it all absolutely thief proof. But it'll at least keep some jerk from seizing an easy target (meaning me) and make them move on to someone else as an easier target.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
73
Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
Just a suggestion, if you haven't already, make sure all your gear is locked onto your rig.
I went to my local hardware store and bought some small diameter wire cable and crimps to make loops on both ends. Then ordered some inexpensive combo locks that you can set your own combo. Then looped the cable through all my gear on the rear swing-out and through the swing-out itself.
So far it has worked great! I like using the locks that you set your own combination because I hate carrying keys, and set all my locks with the same combo so it's easy to remember.
Agreed, it's not the most secure method, it's just to keep the "honest, honest".
If somebody really wants my gear, there's not much I could do to make it all absolutely thief proof. But it'll at least keep some jerk from seizing an easy target (meaning me) and make them move on to someone else as an easier target.
That's a great idea for when we're out there! I'll probably do this for just about everything that doesn't require a set of wrenches to take off like my shovel or maxtrax! Thanks for the tip!

I did not do this on my van when we were traveling the country last year, but that's likely because everything was 12ft off the ground. :rofl:

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Joined
Mar 14, 2013
Messages
1,055
Location
Washington State
Been busy getting the exterior set up for our trip in May. The awning from ARB is now mounted on the back of the rack for coverage above the hatch when it's open. I'll need to figure out some sort of bug defense as ARB does not sell walls for their small 4ft awning. The brackets are burly and work perfectly to help keep the awning lower than the rack as to not create more drag.

I also rudimentarily mounted my maxtrax to the rack, though they will likely be moved. Along with the maxtrax I also mounted my handy recovery shovel via a set of quick fists. They seem to work well for my uses and I had a bunch of them on my van last year when we traveled the country. No issues. A great budget-friendly option for mounting tools for sure.

Finally, I mounted a cheap HF hard case that will house all my recovery/tools so they are not taking up space in the cab. It's an okay case and not too expensive so I don't mind drilling holes into the bottom of it. Before you ask if my stuff will get wet because of the holes, know that first I don't keep precious valuables in this thing, and second the amount of water ingress from four 5/16" holes will be minimal if any. So far, it works great and only whistles at speeds above 70mph. Lol.

To finish the exterior, I'll be mounting up a DFG shower cube and potentially another hard case on the other side of the rack for more sotrage. I may test fit my roof box to see if it'll fit, but its getting crowded up there so we'll have to see.

Here are some pics I took quickly while on the farm this weekend. The one from above was taken from a deer stand. I'll get some more close-up pictures to post here soon.

View attachment 2979167View attachment 2979168
Purchase ARBs wind break for the left side of that awning, works well for extra space.


 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
Joined
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JC, Thank you for the awesome pics of your beautiful part of the country. Very nice rig and setup you have. Unless you are serious rock crawling the OEM steps are not going to be an issue.

It's all about spotting and where you plant your tires. Most "overlanders" that carry those traction devices have no idea how to use them. First thing to do when you hit the dirt is to get MaxTrax ready for quick access from roof rack. You will be pleasantly surprised of the bridging capability and use for getting clearance to navigate rough trails. If you can afford 4 of them then you can navigate just about anything short of a Jeep trail.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2021
Messages
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Location
Tuscaloosa, Al
JC, Thank you for the awesome pics of your beautiful part of the country. Very nice rig and setup you have. Unless you are serious rock crawling the OEM steps are not going to be an issue.

It's all about spotting and where you plant your tires. Most "overlanders" that carry those traction devices have no idea how to use them. First thing to do when you hit the dirt is to get MaxTrax ready for quick access from roof rack. You will be pleasantly surprised of the bridging capability and use for getting clearance to navigate rough trails. If you can afford 4 of them then you can navigate just about anything short of a Jeep trail.
No doubt! I'm not too worried about the steps at all. If it gets hairy and they get crushed, then they'll get removed anyways!

I have a lot of crawling/wheeling experience over the years so I am fairly versed in the art of wheel placement and recovery tactics (sadly..? Lol.). This build and its uses are just staying very modest by design.

Here is a TJ I built and wheeled HARD over 10 years ago. Full internal cage, regeared, double-locked goodness. Not to mention a full set of ungodly-expensive Dick Cepek Crushers to boot. I spent a lot of time over on Pirate4x4 in those days...

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r2m

Richard
Joined
Nov 1, 2007
Messages
4,948
Location
San Clemente, CA
JC, Thank you for the awesome pics of your beautiful part of the country. Very nice rig and setup you have. Unless you are serious rock crawling the OEM steps are not going to be an issue.

It's all about spotting and where you plant your tires. Most "overlanders" that carry those traction devices have no idea how to use them. First thing to do when you hit the dirt is to get MaxTrax ready for quick access from roof rack. You will be pleasantly surprised of the bridging capability and use for getting clearance to navigate rough trails. If you can afford 4 of them then you can navigate just about anything short of a Jeep trail.
Although a quick note that to bridge, as you mentioned above, one should have at least 4 MaxTrax's with them. Don't try to bridge with 1 or 2, you'll buckle them.
 
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Jan 25, 2022
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Although a quick note that to bridge, as you mentioned above, one should have at least 4 MaxTrax's with them. Don't try to bridge with 1 or 2, you'll buckle them.
Yes for sure Richard, it's why I suggested 4. Before these fancy traction devices we used 2x4's and plywood. I have bridged with single X-Bull cheapies in local mountains and desert. While they bend they still do the job.

Without fail I see idiocy and broken down rigs when I'm on my KTM or Beta in Holcomb Creek, Cougar Buttes, Gold/White Mountain, John Bull, Dishpan Springs, etc etc. My opinion on the GX platform is to use it as intended. Super large lifts, overweighting the GVWR and going into gnarly terrain are not conducive to its design and indented purpose.

I'm an old and crusty dude who scratches his head at all this rock stacking and nonsense of taking vehicles where they don't belong. I loath trail clogging from not using common sense. Social media and YouTube has brainwashed so many of the motoring public into "Keeping up with the Joneses" of our society.
 

r2m

Richard
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Messages
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San Clemente, CA
I agree!!
Was up at Holcomb Creek a couple years ago and the trail was backed up about 20+ vehicles because an almost stock Jeep Cherokee was trying to get through.
It was also that trail and getting past the "gate keeper" (that had changed significantly to difficult and crushed my exhaust) I decided not to do rock gardens, gate keepers and rock crawling in general with my rig. Yeah, I have front and rear lockers, regeared and 24" tires and all the armor at the time along with every recovery gear from winch on down, but I realized that I didn't build my rig for rock crawling, but overlanding. Don't get me wrong, my rig is not a trail princess and have done some (semi) difficult trails, but I avoid the more difficult paths if there's an easier round-about. Yes if push comes to shove and I should ever get into a bad situation, I at least know I can get myself out. But I really like my rig and Lexus' are just to darn expensive to be crumpling panels and doors on.
I'll let the Jeep rock crawlers in my club enjoy John Bull, Holdcomb, and the other local grade 4+ trails with their buckled fenders, panels, twisted axles, etc. I'll keep my baby nice and straight.
Also, I'm too darned top heavy with my RTT!
 
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Messages
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Yes for sure Richard, it's why I suggested 4. Before these fancy traction devices we used 2x4's and plywood. I have bridged with single X-Bull cheapies in local mountains and desert. While they bend they still do the job.

Without fail I see idiocy and broken down rigs when I'm on my KTM or Beta in Holcomb Creek, Cougar Buttes, Gold/White Mountain, John Bull, Dishpan Springs, etc etc. My opinion on the GX platform is to use it as intended. Super large lifts, overweighting the GVWR and going into gnarly terrain are not conducive to its design and indented purpose.

I'm an old and crusty dude who scratches his head at all this rock stacking and nonsense of taking vehicles where they don't belong. I loath trail clogging from not using common sense. Social media and YouTube has brainwashed so many of the motoring public into "Keeping up with the Joneses" of our society.
I agree. The GX is not a platform to strain drivetrains trying to move 37" tires and wreak havoc on CVs trying to transfer power at massive angles. To each their own, but longevity is most important to me and my builds now!
 
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I agree. The GX is not a platform to strain drivetrains trying to move 37" tires and wreak havoc on CVs trying to transfer power at massive angles. To each their own, but longevity is most important to me and my builds now!
I hear you there. I'm blown away at some of these builds and wonder why they did not start with the right platform in the first place. I will say yours is looking just about right for form and function. And my gosh those MaxTrax are some serious recovery boards!!
 

r2m

Richard
Joined
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I agree. The GX is not a platform to strain drivetrains trying to move 37" tires and wreak havoc on CVs trying to transfer power at massive angles. To each their own, but longevity is most important to me and my builds now!
Yeah, if I had it my way, I would NEVER had gone with 315/70R17's and the minor rubbing. I was very happy with my 285/75R17's.
All around great ground clearance, no rubbing and minimal stress on drive train.
But there were no BFG's in 285/75R17 in the ENTIRE U.S. of A!
So either settle for several sizes smaller (not going to happen) or a size larger.
 
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But there were no BFG's in 285/75R17 in the ENTIRE U.S. of A!
Americas Tire will have that size in a few days. Unfortunately they are E rated which is very heavy (accelerated component wear) and gives a harsh ride. The sweet spot I have always had on all my full size trucks are the 265/70R17. That is the equivalent on a 265/65R18 for the GX.

No matter what the "wheeling group" has to say, those K02's are a fantastic tire for overall off highway performance. All of our Lexus sedans and my truck is rolling on Michelin Defenders. Amazingly it does a really good job off highway and pretty darn good in snow for what it is. And it's very light.
 

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