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a requirement for living in tennessee

This has to be one of the worst bastardizations I have ever seen – not that it was poorly executed, just that it is so very … wrong – but I find myself wanting it on some strange level…  I doubt I could afford it, and I doubly doubt I would use it to its fullest extent, but it surely seems like an entertaining toy. 

And speaking of "entertaining", or "toys", depending on your perspective, I have started idly truck-shopping; our remodeling of our current house demonstrated that a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe simply do not have the load capacity or trunk space to move around some of the things we really needed/wanted, and a recent trip to an outdoor range adequately demonstrated that two low-slung vehicles are ill-suited for anything not on pavement.  The good news is that I do not want/need much, which should make the search easier… should. 

So here is roughly what I am looking for, in no particular order: 

– Enough ground clearance to take it off pavement without having to worry about breaking the frame.  We are not going to go mudding, but being able to traverse a dirt track would be nice.  
– Four-wheel drive would be nice, but not mandatory (four-wheel drive gets you stuck where two wheel drive would never let you go).  
– Two rows of seats.  Having one car without a functional back seat is enough.  
– Pre-mid-1980s.  This is for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I want something I can tinker around with myself, and maintain myself should I have/need to.  
– Automatic transmission would be nice, but not mandatory.  
– A/C and power steering both would be really nice, but not strictly mandatory.  
– It must run as-is and must not be turning into a rust farm. 
– Does not need to be a daily-driver, but does need to be highway-capable.  
– As cheap as we can get it. 

I have no particular brand preferences for used cars, so what makes/models should I start looking into?  What specific features should I look out for or problems should I avoid?  As you can tell, I have been toying around with the idea of an International Harvester Scout, but that is just a random idea. 

19 comments to a requirement for living in tennessee

  • Reading down your list, a Scout was the first thing coming to mind, but I think you’d probably be better served (and less frustrated by) a Bronco, Blazer, or ‘burban.

    Or an A-team GMC van. :-)

  • Or a Grand Cherokee of the era… Cargo Space & Off Road capabilities.

    My heart will always belong to the old Toyota Land Cruisers.

  • You want to be hauling building supplies, so that puts you in the pick-up market.
    Most (if not all) full sized p/u in the `80′s had about the same ground clearance as 4x4s.
    All the major truck makes made super-cabs or crew-cabs.

    The only thing I can tell you about makes is that if you get an F-150, get a spare brain-box for your motor (it’s a quick fix, or you could let it cool down enough to drive again)- I never had any problems with mine, but heard of some people who did.

  • If you want tinkerability, my 94 F150 is pretty easy to work on, with a real pushrod engine. You could go all the way to a 96 and have the same setup, and the parts are cheap, too.

  • P. Allen

    The IHC Scouts were notorious for rusting. I would probably go with a Blazer or Bronco. If you look around you can find low mileage ex-military M1009 blazers for around $3k

  • We had a wagoneer for many years that was great fun…

  • AMC Eagle! Go big, go strange! 8)

  • TS

    My choice for a third vehicle “beater truck” would be an FJ80 Land Cruiser. I’d stick to early 90s when they still had a solid front axle, and look for one with the selectable locker option. That’s probably more off-road capable than you are looking for, as you would have to pay for it even though they almost always come with 200-300K miles (a testament to their durability). Best bargain would probably be an XJ Cherokee. You don’t have to worry about tinkering. If it breaks, throw it away and buy another.

  • BalloonGoesUp

    Jeep XJ or Ford Bronco II

  • Steven

    Have you considered the Toyota Previa? Seven passengers, full 4X8 foot cargo bay with middle seat removed, 4WD available. One of Toyota’s most durable models, mine is still running great at 307K miles and never an engine repair. Most available in the $2000-$5000 range with around 100K miles on the clock.

  • @ ZerCool: So my thinking initially went like this:

    1. My father-in-law has two Series II Land Rovers parked in his driveway, and I approached them to see about purchasing one at some point, only to find out that they are caught in a limbo of only having two rovers but three daughters, all of whom are interested in them. So there they sit, slowly dissolving.

    2. That idea stymied, I realized what I really want is the ideological/conceptual ancestor of the 2000 Subaru Outback I had before Katrina washed it away.

    3. Poked around Ebay for a bit, found Scouts, and went “Hm…”

    So aside from the apparently inevitable panel rust that all Scouts seem to have, what other issues were they known for?

    @ Miguel: I am really digging the Land Cruisers – probably mostly because of their marked similarities to their aforementioned competitor – but finding any of the older styles (specifically the FJ40) at a reasonable price and in good condition is borderline impossible. They either did not hold up well, or they turned into rich people’s play toys…

    @ Kurt P: So the only issue with pickups is that finding a pre-’90′s extended cab seems almost as hard as finding a rust-free Scout. Both exist, they are just hard to find.

    @ Lokidude: Cheap parts are always a good start.

    @ P. Allen: Was it just the panels that rusted, or was it more a systemic thing? And aside from the obvious sources (Craigslist, Ebay, etc.), do you have any good suggestions for markets to look in?

    The only catch with most older military trucks is that they were diesel, and one of the items I left off the above list was “gasoline only”.

    @ bluesun: My dad definitely loved his Cherokee, which was apparently an XJ model…

    @ Weer’d Beard: We must be talking about different cars, because I am not sure “big” describes the one I am thinking of…

    @ TS: So, stupid question time – what is the locking differential for? My off-road experience consists exclusively of “4×4″ or “not”, so little details like that are somewhat lost on me.

    That said, the 80s that I am seeing are almost the same price as the 40s, and “class” might win out in that competition ;).

    @ BalloonGoesUp: My father loved the hell out of his XJ, so I definitely see the merit there.

    @ Steven: The pillbug van? I honestly had no idea it came in AWD formats. That said, nothing personal against your choices or your car, but I think Better Half might kill me if I came home with one of those, and I have always promised myself that I would go through life without having to own a minivan. Going to try to stick to that ;).

    @ Mark@Sea: Yours I trust? I must admit to being somewhat envious of the big guy…

  • TS

    Happy to answer. With a locked differential both wheels will spin at the same rate vs. an open differential which allows the outer wheel to spin faster in a corner. This is significant off-road because with open differentials, your 4×4 is at best “2 wheel drive”. The wheel with the least resistance will get all the power. Your right wheel may be deep in mud, and your left wheel on solid rock, but when you hit the gas only the right wheel will spin. There are three different differentials that could be locked: rear axle, front axle, and center (transfer case). In a typical old school 4×4, the four-wheel drive system is part-time (you usually drive on the street in RWD and shift into 4WD as necessary). In that case the center acts as a locked differential. But if it is a full-time 4WD system there is a center differential to split power front and rear. From an off-road perspective, this is not as good (unless it is lockable). The caveat is that it is not advisable to drive with any locked differential at speed on dry roads. When making a U-turn at slow speeds you’ll experience what is called “crow hop” because your back wheel is trying to spin as fast as the front.

    There aren’t too many trucks that come with front or rear lockers from the factory, especially in the era you are shopping in. When they do it is usually a special edition to satisfy a niche market, like the Wrangler Rubicon, or really high end vehicles like the Mercedes G-Wagons and H1 Hummers. The FJ80s had them, but I think it was only an option, and I believe it was center and rear only (center locker was because it had a full-time 4WD system). If I ever get serious about buying one, I’ll find out. Lockers are very common modifications for the aftermarket, though- so you may come across them in your search. It probably means the owner was somewhat serious about off-roading which means those miles are going to be “hard miles”. If you are not planning on doing anything harder than mild trails, it might be best to just avoid it. But the thing about them is sometimes they make all the difference in the world. I had a Rubicon, and sometimes I hit a trail with the right kind of undulation that would spin one front and one rear wheel, and I go no where. Back up, and turn the lockers on and it walks through with no wheel spin.

  • Well, that answers that question then, and quite thoroughly at that. Thanks!

    I had seen the locking hubs on a lot of the trucks I was looking at, but never really paid it much mind. Given that I do not see us doing any “mudding” at all, and we will only really need 4×4 (if “need” is the right word) for snow or rough patches, I do not see us requiring that particular piece of hardware, but I certainly will not turn it down if it comes with the vehicle.

  • Mark@Sea

    The big guy is a Dodge M37 that I restored (frame-off) a while back. The front axle has locking hubs, though I still have the original military hubs around somewhere. You’re welcome to take it for a spin.

    It uses gas (original straight six) and I have the hardware for the troop seats and canvas cover. Would that fulfill your second row seating requirement?

    I replaced the entire wiring harness with new manufactured to original spec, so the electrical system is waterproof. I have most of the hardware (lacking only the snorkel tube and the submersion version of the oil bath air filter) to go fully submerged – without those two items it is rated for 46 inches of water. With them – well, on youtube you will find a great little video of submersible trucks. Got scuba?

    Drop the tires to about 10 PSI for snow.

    I didn’t restore it for “going mudding”, but it is comforting to have a vehicle that will tow a loaded dumptruck out of a mudhole (yep, done that), and to know that any reasonably non-vertical surface is a road, when need is sufficient.

  • TS

    @ Linoge:
    Locking hubs are a different matter. Most of the old school 4x4s from the 70’s and 80’s will have manual locking hubs where you have to get out of the truck and turn them to engage 4WD. If you don’t, the driveshaft to the front wheels will turn but neither wheel will. But that is not a locking differential. The more modern 4x4s have “shift on the fly” where it automatically engaged the hubs and you don’t even have to stop. Hardcore wheelers still prefer the old-school hubs because they are tougher.

  • @ Mark@Sea: Curse you for tempting me. My only hesitation is that I fear I would have nowhere to park it, given that our garage is amusingly insufficient for the vehicles we have now. Stupid angled walls…

    @ TS: Ah. Wierd. Seems vaguely counterintuitive that four wheel drive would require locking things up. I guess I will have to be more attentive to what is locking where on the vehicles I am looking at.

  • TS

    Disconnecting hubs are just a way of saving energy. In 2WD mode, your transfer case won’t be sending power to the front wheels, but if your hubs are engaged the axle shafts and differential gears will be spinning. That adds friction decreasing your mileage and adds wear to the parts when there is no need. Disconnecting the hubs from the axle allows the wheels to spin freely like on any RWD car. If you never use 4WD it is probably a good idea to lock the hubs every now and then and give them a good spin.

  • Ah, so both disconnecting hubs and locking differentials can be good things for general-purpose applications where you will not always need the full 4×4 power. Good to know, and a damn bit more complicated than my experiences of “just throw the lever” seemed to indicate :).