Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mid Week Match-Up: Truck For Nathan

It is Wednesday, so that means time for another episode of our reader's favorite game of pin the tail on the donk --  Mid Week Match-Up!  This week's MWMU request comes from Nathan who writes:

I have been feeling the need for a truck. I am a Vermonter and my current ride is a 2007 Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi with a light tune (320hp, 360lbft) which has been equal parts reliable and fun, with multiple Jeeps over the years on the side. As a home-owner and avid DIY guy it would be so much easier to have a vehicle with a useful bed and medium duty towing abilities. I have plans to replace a bunch of clapboard siding, haul/tow a trailer to transport materials (yards of stone/fill/building materials), appliances/etc, and hopefully drag an old motorcycle or two home while I am at it. I am a fairly staunch 'row your own' driver with a love for forced compression. I would also like this vehicle to have 4wd and reasonable off-road prowess. Enough here to rule out basically everything on the market in stock form? Probably. I have been shopping for manual, V6 Tacomas of the lightly used variety (2012+) but good examples with reasonable mileage-price combos are 'unobtanium'. 


Similarly, the 3.5L Ecoboost F-150's are a tempting alternative (I could probably forgo the manual for a well dressed FX4 twin scroll) but also seem to be priced sky high. The F-series would need a light lift in order to go anywhere off pavement to boot. The current gen truck market is a bitter pill for the budget conscious buyer right now. In light of that I have also been shopping for Jeep CJ-8 Scramblers (AMC 258 min engine requirement), late 70's Cherokee's (4 barrel 360 or 401's preferred), 7.3L F-series trucks, early K20's, and all other manner of sweet old trucks which have double the character and half the price. All over the board you say? Makes perfect sense to me.... Am I overlooking something? Any ideas?


DT E-i-C Vince: For my money I'm going to recommend that you keep the Saab as a daily driver, but pick up something cheap that can go offroad and head to Home Depot.  Expect to spend some time wrenching per mile on the road, but you could probably get away with driving an ex-military vehicle like this 1973 Pinzgauer 710M bidding here on eBay for $11,800 reserve-not-met with 2 days to go, located in Wexford, PA.



What do you recommend? Comments below.

22 comments:

  1. Have you considered getting a 78-79 Ford Bronco? They were the first of the F-series based Broncos and are large enough to haul and capable off road.

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    1. DK: I haven't previously considered them. It could be because I haven't seen that many of them in my search. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  2. I have a 1st generation 4runner for similar purposes. It'll supposedly tow 3500lbs, but north of 2000lbs is really starting to push it. Still that's generally enough for motorcycles and building materials.

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    1. 4runners have also made it onto my list at times. My brother has had a few 3rd gen T4Rs and they are great vehicles. I missed a unicorn 3rd gen with a rear locker and manual tranny in the fall and kicked myself for a few weeks. The good ones go extremely fast. Overall, I am leaning towards something with a bed (even a small one) over an suv at present.

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    2. If you go the route of keeping your daily driver and adding a truck to the stable, an older model could make sense. The 1st gen 4runners have the removable top, so you can in a pinch put a tall/bulky load in one that wouldn't fit in an SUV. A good 1st gen can get pricey these days.

      A nice thing about Toyotas in general, but particularly when they're a few years old is that the aftermarket is so healthy for them. Probably the only vehicle with a stronger aftermarket is the air-cooled VW scene. My old 4runner is presently setup with an Old Man Emu suspension, 33" tires, an air locking diff, 5.29 gears, and I have a soft top for it in the summer. Domestic trucks have a pretty healthy aftermarket as well, but if you go with a non-Toyota import, you'll probably have to just leave it stock.

      One of the things to consider if you plan on getting a trailer anyway, is you really only need enough suspension spring rate for the tongue weight of the trailer. Trucks that are setup for 2k lbs in the bed are going to ride terrible when you're not loaded down.

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  3. Id go with a well used ford/chevy 1/2 ton with 140k miles. Ya know broken in. If you really want to go off road then lift it, or throw a dirt bike in the back. Beat the hell out of it for a decade and when it finally quits you'll be sad, or you'll be wishing it would die so you'd have an excuse to get something newer but the damn thing doesnt owe you anything and refuses to die. If you dont want it to overstay its welcome then same plan but get a dodge.

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    1. @TimCoon - just about snorted a coffee out my nose at your Dodge comment. Thanks!

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    2. Tim, thank you for the thoughtful and funny response. I have looked at a few trucks similar to your recommendation, but examples that aren't pretty rusted out or overpriced are hard to find. Also, the only dodge I ever enjoyed was a mid 90's 1 ton dump with a turbo diesel and a 5spd, that truck was both competent and comfortable on the road.

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    3. Is it just me or have used truck prices really gone up lately? Is it the gas prices? Just a couple years ago you could get an older but respectable truck for like 6k (my standards are low for a work truck) now its tough to find anything decent for 10k.

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    4. Oh and I do have give dodge credit for keeping the 3 pedal full size longer than anyone.

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    5. The prices are one of the main things giving me pause. I just can't stomach the apparent bubble I guess.

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  4. keep the saab and drop your down payment on a land cruiser fj80 92+ old enough for you to work on yourself, new enough to be comfortable getting to your camping spots. you can still find reasonably priced nice examples for what you would put down at the dealership. they are great platforms to build on according to your needs.

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    1. I will second the FZJ80 recommendation. I have a '94 as my all-around workhorse and family truckster. It will tow a race car on a trailer, and I've had more than 6000 lb behind it on one occasion. Not refined but modern enough for my needs. I've had it on some gnarly trails in the Sierra Nevadas without one ounce of doubt that I might get stuck or stranded. Great vehicles. What other engine has the head bolt torque instructions printed on a sticker on the valve cover?

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    2. This will likely be a cash purchase, but I see your point. The Saab really isn't giving me any reason to get rid of it and I still enjoy the car quite a bit. But a short commute coupled with all the other things I need to do are pushing me towards a truck. I do like the Land Cruisers (and 4Runners), but there hasn't been one that made me take the plunge as of yet.

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  5. Tacoma's are so spendy and they ride like shit.....I looked @ the Nissan Frontier not bad never will have the Tacoma resell value so what can you live with....?

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    1. Friend of mine has an electric-blue (paint color) Frontier that's shed most of it's paint and is starting to flash rust. Nissan won't cover it because it isn't rust through yet.
      Otherwise it's been reliable but I'll never buy one because of that, and the lack of Nissan support on a fairly widespread issue.

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    2. JB: I don't think the Taco's ride poorly personally (but I am driving on VT roads, so chances are you can't feel the ride because they are so caved in, pot holed, cold, patched and falling apart anyway). Frontiers look pretty expensive compared to when I looked last time around (8-10yrs ago). Has that window where they are a good deal comparatively passed? Also, the interiors are pretty horrible in the Frontier, even compared to the poor interior of the Taco.

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  6. hunt down a old ford, chevy or dodge 3/4 ton (pre emissions) you may have to take a ride to find a decent one, cheap to fix with no bullshit on it, tough enough to take most of what you through at it, and in most cases they run and run

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    1. I really like the late 60's K20s. Great looking, still enough truck to do what I need. The only downside is no back seat. Admittedly, I didn't list that as a requirement, but a usable back seat would be a huge plus. Especially if this next vehicle is going to replace my Saab and not be in addition to it.

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  7. DT: I dig the Pinzgauer, but I am more of a Unimog guy if I am honest. My wife is not a fan of this idea, but I think I could convince her if I could show her a 60's Doka that was in good shape and in the target price range. As an aside, she is wholeheartedly in favor of a C303 which could double as our camping/overlanding rig.... go figure. Sigh, if only.

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