The War Rig build thread. '03 Montero Limited


New member
Hello everyone!

My name is Houston, I am an exploratory geologist and college professor from Seattle. My previous War Rig gave up the ghost (a 2000 F150), and I recently purchased a 2003 Montero Limited with 130,000 miles on it for $3500. Oh my gosh the turning radius is so wonderful compared to the old truck!

After replacing the timing belt, tensioner, water pump, spark plugs, cables, rotor, and fan, the engine purrs like a kitten. Now it is in the metal shop getting badassed by my friend Jeremy at Alchemy Industrial Arts. We put in a 2.5" OME HD lift kit and 4.9 HLSDs front and rear out of an '02 XLS. I got a set of five Black Rhino 18x9.5 rims for a steal off eBay and a set of five 35x12.5 Falken Wildpeak MT01s from Discount Tire.

Bumpers are off, and tomorrow Jeremy takes two inches out of the wheel wells and a bit out of the rear floor panels and doors to give the BSTs (Big Stupid Tires) some room to roam. Jeremy is building a custom flush rear bumper similar to what I found the Gitout Montero have so that I can fit the spare 35" on the rear door. He's also doing a custom front prerunner-style bumper for the winch as well.

The snorkel arrived today, and the X-Bull 13,000 pound winch arrives sometime this week (I went with a Chinese knock-off winch this time to see how it compares to the name brand ones I have used in the past). It was super cheap at less than $400 and figured it was worth the gamble.

All the plastic stuff has been ripped off and I will bedliner spray the body as others have done. Still need to get some fender flares as the new rims are -18 offset and as a result the edges of the tires stick out 3.77" further than stock.

Once the big stuff is done sometime next week I will start focusing on the little things like:

-new Android GPS stereo
-new speakers
-CB radio
-figure out why the right blinkers won't blink
-put a hard top pop-up tent on the roof
-jerry can or rotopack mounts
-replace the broken dash bulbs, of which there are quite a few
-install airlines from the diffs into the air box so I don't waterlog them
-buildout the rear with a platform, 18 gallon water tank with filters and pump in the third-row seat well, 12v fridge, pullout sink, etc...

I live out of my truck for 3-4 months a year, so I want this baby dialed! When I am through with the mining season I am taking the Fall off from teaching as I write the thesis for my new masters degree and I want to do the Trans America Trail from Oregon to Virginia while I write it, and then on the way back hit all the locations the USGS and NASA scientists took the Apollo astronauts to teach them about the geology of the Moon and prepare them for what to look for when they landed.

I might order some thicker custom CV axles because I don't think the stock ones will survive long with the BSTs rolling damn near 100 pounds each!

Also, I am new to this forum and want to post photos... how do I do that? Do I have to shrink the file size on a computer before I can attach them?
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Scratching a 10 year Itch
you dont have to shrink the file size unless they are gi-normous. See "attach files' on the lower left of the reply box? That opens up a window where you select the image you want.



Wow, that sounds like a fantastic vehicle. I remember the Gitout guys mentioning that the 35's were challenging for the stock CV's, but looks like you have done your research. What are your thoughts about the butterfly's in the intake which effectively change the runner length? I'm debating removing those later this summer from my 3.8 gen 3, or replacing the part. I've heard those called the piston eater, which is an alarming term.


Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.
Welcome aboard!
Sounds like you're off with a bang on this build!

Since you mentioned modifying the rear end/bumper you may want to consider increasing the departure angle. The Gen. III rigs have a horrible departure angle...even after hacking off a bunch of plastic between the rear wheel and the bumper, my stock rear bumper gets more and more hammered every trip. (I've designed a rear skid plate that will help, but haven't gotten past the mock-up stage of development.)

Happy trails!


Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
Welcome! Sounds like a neat build. Your stock 95mm CV's can handle 35's with normal use, it's when you start crawling large boulders and extreme terrain that you will start to stress those things.

I have some options for better CV's for you when the time comes shoot me a PM
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Incomplete Idiot
If you come through Virginia on the TAT and need anything (even just a beer or two) give me a shout. My '03 would love the company.


New member
Thanks, Toasty! I do not go out with the intention of rock crawling, but sometimes the rocks are in my way, but the spindly CVs do give me a little concern should that happen.

And thank you, everyone for the warm welcome! I have been lurking here for a while studying what I wanted to buy next and how I wanted to modify it. basically it was a toss-up between a gen-2 SR/gen2.5 or a gen 3 3.8L and the gen 3 was easier to buy!

I figure I will see how the traction control responds before investing in diff-lockers, I never had them on my previous rigs and I always got out of whatever I got stuck in... Except for that time I rolled my truck about 200 feet, but lockers wouldn't have helped with that! (See profile photo).

Oh, one more thing for the fix-it list: the dent in the rear passenger door. It impinges the hinge a little and I can't quite open the door all the way. I'll smash on it when I take the door panel off and put in the new speakers and see if I can free it up.

OK, here are some before and during photos for you. I'll post some more when the bumpers are on next week-ish.



New member
Oh, and my dog goes with me everywhere and hates washboard roads. I am hoping the front and rear independent suspension on the Gen 3 will be a little more gentle on her offroad anxiety than the old bouncy truck I was driving before.


New member
Nice profile pic. Looks like you photoshopped half of your truck out lol.

Sent from my HTC One M9 using Tapatalk
I rolled my old, old truck in Northern Nevada in 2015 while I was going from Seattle to Santa Fe, NM almost entirely offroad. I should have died but only got a seatbelt abrasion and a little cut on my shin. This is the result:



Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
Montero CV's (even the smaller 95mm fronts) are really tough, tougher than most (larger than Yota birfs and 6 bearings inner and outer). It takes some effort to break them, the rears are crazy overbuilt (125mm and 33 spline) there is even a rockcrawling team that uses Gen 3 rear CV's in their competition rigs front and rear. I ran 35x13.5's with crawler gears, locker and no bumpstops with 95mm CV's for a lot of years on mostly rocky terrain and they lasted a lot of years. I did eventually break 3 of them and then upgraded to 100mm which handled 37's with stock bumpstops. The main difference with the Gen 3 is if you use strut spacers it will allow your suspension to work outside it's range and you will break a CV and or tie rod end. This happens because there are bump stops inside the struts so moving them lets the suspension over travel beyond safe geometry. I don't recommend strut spacers for moderate offroad use.

As far as washboards go... You can get Kings :D


New member
Some updates. The wheel wells are cut out, and the diffs are all changed... it turns out that the salvage yard I got the XLS 4.9 LS diffs from forgot to ship the rear ones, so we had to wait for those to arrive. The bumpers are likely to be done this week, and if the snorkel arrives that can get done too.

We drove the rig on their motocross course through the woods to see if under any extreme articulation there would be rubbing... nope! It's coming along!



New member
Front bumper and winch are on... I had hoped to do a prerunner-style bumper, but it is pretty heavy as is, so I am holding off on adding any bars to it for now. Next up is filling the holes where all the plastic trim was mounted, spraying bedliner on there, and adding rubber fender flares... but first, lots of naps because I am currently snotty and running a bit warm.