ARB Bull Bar (bumper) -
After contacting Matt Glass at ARB USA and getting to know him and the company a little better it was decided that a big area of need for the vehicles was some solid front end protection that would also offer recovery and self-recovery options as well. The ARB bull bar does this and it does it well. For my 3rd Generation 4Runner (circa 200) this has been a nice match and the bull bar continues to prove itself time and again in both durability and functionality. And for those that know me they know I am not easy on anything that I own. I may have met my match with this piece.
When we started working with ARB we knew a fair bit about their product line and how we could work some of their product into our vehicle builds. For the 3rd gen we had to obtain the bull bar designed for the 2nd Gen Tacoma. After removing the stock bumper from the 4runner and making some modifications we were ready to fit the bumper. While this wasn't the hardest task in the world it definitely took some thought and modifications on our part, particularly when considering we would be adding a winch in the near future and we had to make sure everything would go together well. As designed the 2nd gen bumper was too snug to the vehicle and would not allow for the winch to be mounted and accessed readily. A few welds here...a few welds there (thanks to Matt at Blue Ridge Overland Gear!!) and we were in business. The bumper is mounted out a bit more than anticipated but with the winch we were going with it was required to allow the winch to be dropped out of the bottom for service/maintenance.
Having this level of protection on the front end of your vehicle really is a game changer. One of the more noticeable changes is in the approach angle of the vehicle as compared to the stock (plastic behemoth) bumper it came with. The bumper sweeps up nicely on both sides exposing the front wheels and really improving the vehicles capability. This is the more traditional looking ARB bull bar with turn signals only and no fog light cutouts. It has mounts for driving/off-road lights as well as mounts for a variety of winching options. ARB was kind enough to hook us up with the IPF dual beam lights which match very nicely with this bumper (more to come on those later). It also has two connection points on the front to attach D ring shackles for recovery points, which also work well.
In day to day driving and off-road driving situations one of the main things you notice about this bumper is how robust it is. As you drive along a dirt road you cant help but notice the rounded tubes riding just above the front of your hood and you soon realize you have a very high quality piece of protection on your vehicle. MSO has been running the ARB bull bars for several months now and we have had several chances to put it through the paces including some heavy winching situations as well as negotiating some very technical and challenging off-road routes here locally. The bumper has performed flawlessly. It is confidence inspiring knowing you have a bumper that will take some abuse...allowing you to jump into terrain you likely wouldn't have with that stock bumper you had before. We have winched hard on this bumper and plowed loads of mud with it and other than some scratches it shows no sign of giving up and likely wont for a very long time. After all, we buy gear to be used and ARB is no slouch when it comes to making gear to fill that need. We are excited to put the bull bars to use and hope everyone will pull up a chair and follow us into 2015 as we overland through Appalachia and share some interesting stories along the way.