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Wrenching Tips: How to Fail at Buying Project Car, Episode 1

Tim Odell September 6, 2012 Featured, Wrenching Tips

1985 4Runner suspension flex

Just as “jump the shark” and “nuke the fridge” have special meanings in pop culture, to “Buy the 4Runner” has a special meaning for me and my family. To find out why, let’s rewind to spring of 2002: I had three summers of “professional” tire/oil change experience under my belt and was just wrapping up my sophomore year of college at UC San Diego.

With ubiquitous internet access and lots of time between classes, I was spending countless hours on 4×4 forums, pirate4x4 in particular. Funny thing about spending 100X as many hours debating something online as actually doing it: You can lose track of what matters.

I’d become convinced that my ’91 Wranger, with its 35″ tires, a 5″ coil conversion lift and front/rear air lockers was underbuilt. The factory Dana 30 and 35 axles would snap at the slightest hint of a hill climb and the transfer case was woefully under-spec’ed. What I really needed to do was sell my Wrangler for the high price it could bring, then build up a solid-axle Toyota 4Runner from scratch to be the hardcore wheeling machine I really wanted. After all, you could get a great used specimen for like $4,000, and that 22RE motor would run forever.

Of course, none of this was true…

As long as I didn’t make a habit of bumping my way up rocky hillclimbs under full throttle, my drivetrain was been fine. Busy with school, I wasn’t doing all that much offroading to begin with, certainly not of the Super Hardcore variety. I’m not sure how I thought a 17 year-old 4Runner was going to be a reliability upgrade over a Wrangler with a 2 year old motor.

Regardless, a grandiose plan was hatched: I’d sell the Jeep for a bunch of cash, and use it to buy and build a 4Runner into exactly what I wanted.

 1985 4Runner1985 4Runner

I came across the example you see above. 5.5″ All-Pro Offroad lift, 5.29:1 gears, 35″ Super Swampers and a winch. Sure, it had 160k miles, but it really only had 50k on a rebuilt engine, so it was fine.

There were a few small problems…

  • Instead of the $4-5k that I was looking to spend, the guy was asking $9k (but it already had lift/tires/gears that I wanted, so it was really a bargain!).
  • It had an exhaust leak at the manifold-to-head surface (and easy fix)
  • The driver’s seat was busted, with the backrest flopped backwards.
  • The transmission was in need of a 2nd gear synchro (but good, used replacements were only a few hundred bucks)
  • The clutch was chattering (but I could get it when I did the transmission)
  • Lastly, it was in Sacramento but I was in San Diego. No problem, I’d just have my dad check it out for me

Everything in italics came back to bite me.

I’d like to believe if I’d been there in person to hear the exhaust leak, to drive it and realize just how gutless 100ish horsepower feels when yoked to 35″, 50lb bias ply tires, that I would’ve passed. Most importantly, it showed all the signs of a vehicle built in all the wrong ways, then neglected. Tip: all the “little things” wrong with a vehicle that’s clearly not getting driven are just the tip of the iceberg. Get those fixed and another round will pop right up.

Because of some ancient history involving his dad, my dad was reluctant to let me know what a pile of crap I’d sent him to buy. Meanwhile, I was 50/50 on the whole thing, but figured fortune favored the bold.

Straight away, the spread between the $12k I sold the Wrangler for and the $8k I paid for the 4Runner disappeared quickly. I paid for sales tax, 1st insurance premium, a new driver’s seat, a (used) replacement transmission and getting the exhaust leak (mostly) fixed. The budget for tons of kickass upgrades vaporized pretty much instantly.

Winter break of that year really epitomizes my ownership experience…

1985 4RunnerWorking on my '85 4Runner

On the way to my parents’ place, the front main oil seal quit. I added at least five quarts of oil over the trip, most of which proceeded to spray down the undercarriage and up the back of the car. Once there, I had two weeks to fix the seal, change a clutch, swap a transmission and  install dual transfer cases before joining my girlfriend and family on a snowboarding trip. After burning a day fixing the oil seal issue, the drivetrain swap was longer and more difficult than expected. My girlfriend up expecting to go snowboarding, but instead spent the first day helping me bench press 300lbs of drivetrain into place. Yes, I married that girl.

It turns out this 4Runner once had a rear seat heater, with its own dedicated coolant line. I learned this because my new dual transfer case setup was about eight inches longer and rubbed on the U-tube that was used to cap off the coolant lines. I learned that because said U-tube blew out at a rest stop on I-5, resulting in a few hours delay while I figured out why the hell my car was leaking coolant from the transfer case.

After four months of relative calm on the maintenance front, the head gasket blew. I think it had something to do with the return of an exhaust leak, causing a local hot spot at the head/block surface. Without the skills, tools or space to do a head gasket, I borrowed a pile of cash from The Bank of Dad and took it to the best Toyota specialist in town. A little over $2000 later everything was perfectly sorted with a full 12 month warranty. It hurt, but at least I could stop worrying.

Two months after that, it was stolen. I parked (right here) it at 8:00am, came out at 5:30pm and it was gone, never to be seen again. Insurance paid me more than I could’ve sold it for, but less than I paid and nowhere near the total I’d spent in 10 months of ownership.

4Runner side lean

Back to the original goal of the vehicle, I did manage to get two offroading trips out of it. On neither one did it perform anywhere near as well as the Wrangler it replaced. That said, I’m still in love with the 1st generation 4Runner. They’re a perfect size and proportion, with tons of utility.

For years, I beat myself up over the whole fiasco. Really, the whole thing embarrassed me. In my family to “Buy the 4Runner” came to mean entering into a financial boondoggle with delusions of coming out ahead of the game, when in reality you’re just biting off more than you can chew. A few specific car-life lessons from that experience:

  • “I can sell my _____ for $______, buy a ______ for $______ and then…” is always false
  • Chances are you’re not as hardcore of a track rat/auto-crosser/offroader/drag racer as you think you are. Using a “lesser” vehicle more often is better than endlessly wrenching on your purpose-built machine.
  • Beware of other people’s upgrades. Very rarely they can work to your advantage, but more often than not they’re not really done right and distract from other issues.
  • Beware of cars advertised as potential drivers that have a bunch of problems that prohibit driving. Chances are they’ve been sitting (or worse, driving) half-broken for months in the hands of an owner unable or unwilling to maintain things properly.
  • Don’t buy a car remotely, at least not with any expectation that you’ll get something good. There’s no substitute for being there to see/hear/smell the car and seller to get a handle on a car’s condition in its totality.

Ten years later, I’m still frustrated by the experience. But when I think about everything I learned as a result, I’m not sure I wouldn’t wish it upon myself again. I learned a lot about wrenching, but even more about just how much time, money and space it takes to take on a real project. I’m glad I had that learning experience on an $8,000 4Runner than a $30,000 BMW or a $300,000 money pit of a house.

4Runner Tilt guage4Runner Tilt gauge

I wish I could say that’s the last time I bought the wrong project car, but this is “Episode 1″ for a reason…

Part 2 is here

Currently there are "72 comments" on this Article:

  1. DemonXanth says:

    Sometimes you just have to break down and admit that the perfect car for the job is the one already in the driveway.

    • CherokeeOwner says:

      True that.

      Speaking as a Jeep fan, whenever I see someone (usually online, but occasionally in real life) who's got a modded Wrangler or Cherokee designed for rock-crawling that they DD, I can only chuckle to myself and think of how impractical that is. I'm a firm believer that stock Jeeps (and for that matter, most mid-size 4x4s) are more than capable of 95 percent of the offroading you can and will do, unless you live someplace like Moab where extreme trails are within an hour of your house. I will never put a lift kit on my Cherokee or any future Jeeps in my stable.

      • thebloody323 says:

        I have found that modding your truck only leads to you getting stuck in more inaccessible places and brake more expensive parts. All my D2 has is a 2inch lift (lets face it air suspension sucks and if you are going to put coils in it why not add a few inches without the need for additional work), 32's, steel brush bumpers and a winch.

  2. P161911 says:

    More car life lessons:
    It's just a little rust, I can just tack in a patch and keep going.

    The engine sounds fine, must be a bad oil pressure gauge.

  3. chrystlubitshi says:

    i've only owned one project car/dd shared duty car. I learned that you have to be *really* careful as to what/when you do things because it HAS to get you to work the next time you are scheduled. As a result of its DD duty, it did not get the upgrades I wanted and comforts sometimes took a higher priority. example–A/C went out, if it weren't my DD, I would have pulled out the whole system and said "great! less weight/engine draw!" instead, I had it fixed. (Indiana summers suck with no a/c and leather interior). and on and on and on… more and more little things that took priority over making a faster drag car. in the end, I had a '96 t-bird that made an excellent daily driver, long-haul road tripper, and high 11/low 12s in the quarter mile. then the ice patch and tree combination killed it.

    • JayP2112 says:

      "A Mongol soldier needs two horses" – guy at my work

      • PowerTryp says:

        "A Mongol soldier needs two horses" – New Hooniverse Motto.

        /FTFY

        • chrystlubitshi says:

          POLAЯ needs a whole fleet…

          /trolling for the funny guy.

        • JayP2112 says:

          Yea- this guy DD's a Ranger with a 2.5 with 200k miles on it, has a Ford AND Chevy truck, a Maxima garage sale find and at one point had 4 Mustangs, 2 Fox, 1 SN95, and a 66 coupe. At any one time, only 2 vehicles are working.

    • SVT2888 says:

      Were you on TCCoA?

      • chrystlubitshi says:

        Nope, I was not…. I was an early "jalop" (joined in '07 after reading for a year) Indianapolis based, if that helps (used to run the "run whatcha brung" thursdays every other week out at IRP)

  4. LTDScott says:

    I have seen this exact same situation with the same type of vehicle with three different friends over the last couple of years:

    1. Trust fund kid, lived in L.A. and had a friggin Unimog which got hit by an out of control car causing damage to the portal axles which essentially totaled it. One day he decided to become a doctor, so he moved to Seattle to go to school, bought a big lifted 4Runner (looked almost identical to yours), dumped a bunch of money into it to make it reliable, then hardly ever drove it because it was too impractical. Sold it at a loss.

    2. Unemployed friend/former roommate here in SD bought a 22RE/auto 4Runner when his Maxima that he had owned forever died. Planned to offroad it a lot, but only did a couple of times. Engine threw a rod on his way to my wedding rehearsal (where he and another friend in the car were my groomsmen). Found a local engine rebuilder, got a cheap reman engine installed, and drove it for about a month before the engine went kaput again. By that point he got a good job and said screw it, and bought a brand new Elantra. I think the 4Runner is still at the shop getting inspected to see if the engine will be replaced under warranty.

    3. Another friend bought a 22RTE (TURBO!) 4Runner as a toy to go alongside his '11 Mustang GT. He's pretty much a perfectionist, so he went through it top to bottom and replaced a ton of stuff. Had to custom make an intake tube because there are none left in the US for the turbo engine. Even repainted it and added the factory oh-so-'80s graphics. It turned out REALLY nice. He pretty much lost interest in it once it was "done" and ended up selling it for a profit, as long as you don't count all of the money dumped into it, heh.

    So I've already vicariously had 4Runner headaches and won't rush out to buy one anytime soon haha.

    • Mad_Science says:

      I've still definitely got Stockholm syndrome when it comes to 4Runners.

      Even as I was writing this up, I was looking to see what was for sale. They're definitely creeping into rare classic territory; basically the next 66-77 Bronco or '69-72 K5. Some day in the near future there will be no more $3-5k examples, they'll all be quadruple that.

      That said, the 22-RE's reputation is massively overinflated, particularly for such a gutless motor. If you're cool to toodle around town with your gardener truck, sure it'll last. Unfortunately, having to rev to 4200rpm every time you get on the freeway is tough on a truck motor.

      • LTDScott says:

        Yeah, I agree with the 22RE reputation. My friend's Toyota pickup crapped one out as well, and he didn't abuse it.

      • CptSevere says:

        A buddy of mine bought a Toyota 4X4 truck for 600 bucks, drove it on and off road for two years, and the engine finally blew. Of course, the thing had about 350,000 miles on it when it finally fried. I think he sold it for what he paid for it, somebody else in town has it now and it's back on the road with a new engine. It's hard to completely kill those little trucks.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

        They sort of are like a drug or something. Two guys here at work had a string of them, said they were the best cars ever. But now they are expensive or rusty out here too.

      • Han_Solex says:

        Then again, my dad used to have an '84 pickup, rocking a 22-R backed up by an automatic. It was painfully slow, and it blew around like a plastic bag on the freeway. BUT it was most definitely warlord-grade. My dad doesn't really "do" maintenance, so over the 172,XXX miles it labored over the road, it maybe got a handful of oil changes. Maybe less than a handful. Air filters? Gaskets? Fuel filters? HA! Other than a minor valve cover leak, it never gave a single problem, until I pulled out in front of a VW Fox a couple weeks after getting my license and totalled it.

        So, I do have a strong appreciation for how reliable that engine was, in a 2WD understressed situation. Pulling a mudding rig around, and getting abused on a trail … I think that's overkill for the little engine.

        Speaking of overkill, after my brother was born my parents bought a Toyota Van (the one before the Previa). Automatic, 4×4, with A/C. It would overheat brand new on a grade with the A/C on at any speed over 35 MPH. It would struggle to hold 60 MPH on the freeway with the A/C on. I struggle to think of a less appropriate vehicle to sell to the USDM … it was comically bad, like a Subaru 360, given the customer and the typical driving scenario. Cool as an idea, but really terrible execution.

  5. calculatedrisk says:

    Two more 4Runner stories:

    My own- Bought a clapped out '95 4Runner because it had the "Rare" 5 speed manual. First off, a manual transmission doesn't make a super heavy, under powered truck any fun to drive. Second, think about the people who drove that 5 speed before you, and relentlessly tortured it. Within 5K of owning it I did the clutch, front CV axles, brakes, a starter and a BUNCH of differed maintenance. The car has been a total headache and it sits in my drive3way as I decide whether or not to rebuild the syncros in that damn transmission.

    My college roomates- A sweet '87 4Runner that he poured a second college tuition into. Solid axle swap, 6'in lift, 35" tires, custom cage, bumpers, rock rails, rhino lined, and detroit locked. We took it offroad ONCE! He didnt want to get it dirty.

  6. JayP2112 says:

    My CPO 2002 A4 turned into a project car. At 100k miles it needed new suspension, transmission, mounts. Leaked oil and the AC was dead, dead. Paint was flaking off. And I was still making payments. I managed to convince myself to upgrade the suspension, brakes, chiptune, and bother with a lower ratio trans when I replaced it. It was a pretty good track car.

    I was throwing $$$ at this POC.

    Then the car port landed it on totaling the car. Bought a Mustang. (<<< The answer to any question.)

    I did have a 944S as a track car. Bought it for $4500 or $5k, tracked it, bought a set of 911 wheels + new tires for $500 on ebay, sold the old phonedials for a few $$$. Craigslist find found 2 magnesium Fuchs and a chrome replica Fuch for free. Sold them for $350. Replaced the trans for $300. Added shifter for $100, fixed the odometer and added oil.

    Sold it on ebay for $4500.

    • LTDScott says:

      Well duh, the A4 issues are no surprise. I still refuse to buy a late model VAG product, despite the fact that a GTI would be an ideal car for me.

      • SSurfer321 says:

        Get outta here with your common sense! I desperately want a '12 A4 Avant w/manual but just cannot pull the trigger knowing what's down the line in terms of maintenance/repairs.

      • JayP2112 says:

        I'm still looking for a not-so-abused B5 1.8T for a track car again. That quattro is just nuts with slicks. Makes the 911 guys cry.

        Or a V8 S4.

        Yes. I will never learn.

        EDIT:
        Found a A4 1.8T Avant for less than $3k in SanAntonio. $1500 of that might be the BBS lookin' wheels. But it's a tip… so :(

  7. failboat says:

    Like I told my wife this weekend, "Sometimes you don't learn anything until you fuck it up a few times."

  8. danleym says:

    Yeah, I fear I got myself into that situation with my house. First one I've bought, and I don't live in Cali, so it isn't anywhere close to a $300K mistake, but if I could go back a year, I think I'd keep on looking.

    The big lesson I learned- don't buy a house someone is flipping unless you know for sure they know what they're doing.

    • mdharrell says:

      I'd be at least as concerned about the flippers who know exactly what they're doing.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

        This is the truth. We almost made a $30K in unexpected repairs mistake, but thankfully bought the house on the other street. Some family of my wife's friend bought that one.

        Whoa that's really cool… I just clicked cancel on accident, it's right next to the submit button, and when I clicked on reply again, my comment was still there! Someone was a clever code monkey, thanks nameless dude or chick!

      • PowerTryp says:

        Exactly, those are the people who know the tricks to hide the stuff that was too expensive to fix and still make a profit.

        • danleym says:

          Well, in that regard, maybe this guy did know what he was doing. Or maybe I was just naive about buying houses. Fortunately its not serious stuff, nothing that makes the place dangerous to live, just shoddy craftsmanship that isn't readily apparent until you do need to fix something. The kind of thing that doesn't necessarily mean more repairs, it just means that it's going to cost more to do it right when the repairs are needed (like when he put drywall over the pre-existing tile in the kitchen, instead of ripping out the tile first, or how he doesn't know about teflon tape and using it to keep shower heads from leaking in the wall and taking out part of my basement ceiling).

          • joshuman says:

            Drywall over the tile? Nuts! Tile comes down like rain once you get behind it with the chisel.

            • danleym says:

              Exactly! I've done it before, it isn't that hard, and you're not going to be out anymore cash to do it right! But now that he's gone and done it, I'd have to yank the whole kitchen to fix it, and that just isn't gonna happen.

    • Mad_Science says:

      …and $300k is Project House Hell territory for CA.

      But yeah, in the wake of this experience, the question "are we buying the 4Runner?" was thrown about regularly while house shopping.

    • Jeff_Glucker says:

      Interesting… the wife and I were looking to buy because property finally hit reasonable (relatively) price points here in Huntington Beach. The problem is, we're not the only two to notice this, and everytime we find a place we like we find that there are already at least 10 offers.

      So, we decided to upgrade our rental situation while saving money for a larger down payment. This way we can look at properties costing a bit more, that will wind up with a similar payment as we initially intended.

  9. Feds_II says:

    I like this article so much that I've just gone through and thumbed-up everyone.

    RIP, failed 4-speed auto swapped oldsmobile, failed 2.4l/16v Mighty Max, abandoned Dune Buggy, and VW cabrio sitting behind my garage waiting for me to get sick of looking at it. You were all Can't Lose propositions in my head.

  10. facelvega says:

    My rule number one for project cars is to be ready to let two dozen go before I buy one. A lot have flat out lies in the description, others mislead and most just don't know how crappy their car actually is. I buy when I'm distressed that I have no choice because I know I'll not soon again find another one in that condition for that price. It's by far the biggest stage of the project when you have the chance to save yourself money and headaches, and anyway I'd rather spend extra hours looking at cars than trying to figure out where an electrical problem is exactly.

  11. PowerTryp says:

    This is exactly why I don't sell cars, I just buy projects. Luckily I have the space to store them until I can work on them.

  12. muthalovin says:

    Jeez, Tim, way to be a downer. Tomorrow can we have a How to Win at Buying A Project Car?

    Oh, yeah. Project cars probably have the same failure rate as start-ups.

    • P161911 says:

      "How to Win at Buying A Project Car"
      Sell it before you start or part it out.
      See my stories below.

      • mdharrell says:

        That sounds like a win only in a financial sense.

        • P161911 says:

          I have finally come to the realization that I'm doing good to keep the grass mowed and keep the house from falling in. I probably shouldn't even attempt project cars.

          That being said I do have a 77 Corvette that has been sitting in my basement/garage since 1996. One day……

        • Tiller188 says:

          Yeah, I guess some things have to be done for the fun of them, financial consequences aside. Can't say I really have personal experience with it, but a favorite quote I came across while on the FSAE team in college was, "You know how you make a small fortune in racing? Well, first you start with a large fortune…"

  13. chrystlubitshi says:

    i'm so glad to see you around these parts!!! your brand of humor has been missing (and I always enjoy it) in my blog-life since I left that other place…

    also, you were the reason I actually signed up for and auditioned for a commenting account there… glad to see you in the 'verse.

  14. VolvoNut says:

    Sounds like what I am going through with the BAMF 240DL. One little thing after another. Exhaust manifold. Brake rotors. New catalytic converter. Get the rear bumper welded back on. And on and on and on.
    Currently waiting for mechanic to finish swapping in an engine to a 760 wagon (Turbo! Intercooler!) so I can swap him the BAMF 240 and some cash for something marginally more…dependable isn't the word. Less needy is more like it.

  15. P161911 says:

    I've had three cars that I bought as projects. All are now gone.
    The first was an Austin Mini (probably Cooper, maybe Cooper S) that I drug home from the neighbors house with a tractor. I paid $50 for it. The junkyard was only going to pay him $35. I realized it was too big of a project for me and sold it a couple of weeks later for $600.

    The second was a Fiat 850 Spider. I payed about $300 and towed it home fro Ohio. It had been sitting in a barn for 20 years or so. The body was rusty, but the interior was in good shape. It got pushed around a few times at my parents. I remember commenting to my dad "at least I didn't get a giant Cadillac or something (see car number 3). After about 5 years I finally gave up on it and tried to sell it on ebay. No takers, but a guy wanted the engine for about $150. I take the engine out and proceed to part out the rest of the car on ebay with every ad mentioning that I had more part, e-mail what you need. I had a friend that worked for FedEx at the time and got to use her 75% or so discount so I could charge reasonable shipping. I think parts of that car ended up on about 5 continents. I probably tripled my money on the parts. I ended up donating the shell to my church to use as a prop for vacation bible school. About 10 guys can carry a Fiat 850 down the aisle and up on the stage.

    The third was a rusty 1967 Imperial Convertible (one of 500 or so) and I later acquired a 4-door parts car to go with it. I got some good stories out of driving the Imperial star destroyer around, but lost big time when I sold them, the convertible might have cracked in half on the way up North.

  16. mallthus says:

    I hear you on this one. My affliction is full size Jeeps (Wagoneers, Cherokees, etc).

    Had a '91 Grand Wagoneer that got 11 MPG (downhill with a tailwind) and ate 3 rebuilt motors in two years. Loved that truck and bemoaned the day I traded it in for a Saab. But really, it always had a vacuum leak, got crappy mileage, struggled to go 70 MPH and wouldn't start on cold mornings unless I prayed to Ullr. It was, by any empirical measure, a crappy car.

    So I got another one a few years later. An '83 Wagoneer. It had all the same drama as the first one, except it had 25 years worth of "upgrades", including a too small battery, an interior refresh that was ill conceived and an utter refusal to start on anything other than a completely level surface. I didn't regret seeing it go (at a profit) towards a new VW.
    <img src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2412/2473610693_436870a81d.jpg"&gt;

    But, here I sit, planning what kind of engine swap and other upgrades I'm going to do on my next FSJ. I'm sick and I know it, but there is no cure.

    • Mad_Science says:

      You should definitely tune in next week, as it appears we have the same disease.

      As I type this I have 5 other tabs open looking at TBI EFI setups for my '69 (not grand) Wagoneer.

      If you know FSJs, you know some of the peculiarities of a vehicle that was the "same" from '63 to '91…

      Edit: in my case, I'd love to swap a Caddy 500, given that I've got a BOPC pattern TH400…

      • mallthus says:

        Will do so, as I understand completely.

        It isn't a "Super Wagoneer", by any chance? If memory serves, the '69 Super Wagoneer had a center console with gear selector, which is unique across all FSJs.

        The Caddy 500 swap has been done. I recall the one I saw years ago had the entire hood punched with vents.

        I vacillate between doing one with a 401, adding Edelbrock MPFI and keeping the 727/229 or swapping to an all GM drive-train with LQ9, 4L85e, Borg Warner 1345 (out of an H2).

        So, yeah, I hear ya'!

        • Mad_Science says:

          The problem theme I keep running into on the Waggy is that I could fix something for (medium money and time) and be left with something functional but crappy (2bbl intake, closed knuckle drum-braked Dana 27 front end, etc) or I can drop the bigger bucks and just upgrade.

          In the long run, upgades make sense, because I'll do them eventually anyway, but taken to it's logical extreme that has me spending like $5-6k in the next year on engine, axles, gears, lockers lift, etc etc.

          Looking at that, the $50 2bbl rebuild kit and $75 knuckle seal kits don't look too bad…

      • Feds_II says:

        Somewhere in my basement, there is a megasquirt that I will absolutely never use. It's yours for the cost of shipping and future couch surfing considerations.

  17. Stu_Rock says:

    So was buying the Wagoneer your automotive equivalent to "growing the beard"?

    If you want another 4-runner, there's a V6 specimen sitting next door to me in need of new head gaskets. I'm sure I could talk my neighbor into letting it go for a good price.

  18. joshwebster84 says:

    I have always wanted to waste my money on one of these 4Runners. I would put a safari top on it and replace the carpet with bedliner.

    The 4Runnner cuts to the core of my history with vehicular abuse. The very day I got my driver's license, took a tightening right hand sweeper too hot in my old man's '90 4-banger auto and rolled that sumbitch right over into the ditch, landing upside down.

  19. Sean says:

    My life has been full of dead end projects. The first was a rare 1973 Audi 100GL that I picked up to transplant the engine from my wrecked (one week after I got my drivers license) 1974 Audi 100LS. The engine transplant went fine, but nothing else on the car ever worked. Moved it from a friends house to high school auto shop to parents yard to… Scrap yard. Latest project is a 1977 International Harvester Scout II that I picked up in 1996 for $2400. I promptly dumped another $2400 into it on a 4" spring lift, 33" Super Swampers, a Kayline soft top, and Smittybuilt tube bumper. Than I preceded to beat the living crap out of it. Rebuilt the 727 Torqueflite only to burn it up in a sand dune. Swapped it out for a Borg Warner T19 4-speed. And then beat on it some more, using it to launch a boat into saltwater every weekend for three years. Now it sits in my garage (hasn't moved in 8 years) waiting for me to do something with it. But I am scared about what I would either a) do with it or b) replace it with! Best to leave sleeping dogs alone…

  20. chrystlubitshi says:

    another "moment of clarity" type realization…. if your commute stacks up to 20K miles a year (points thumbs at self) make sure you love it. that's a sh*t ton of time to spend in a car.

    *sneaks away on a side road, parks the THUNDERVAN in a parking lot and naps in air-conditioned,camper back end for an hour or two

    (if you didn't know, small/stealth RVs rock)

  21. Zzoott Zzootticus says:

    Since we're sharing moments and rides, I'll add this: Our green over gold monster, Spike, was a 1996 Suburban K1500, into the family bone-stock at 75,000 miles off lease, sent to the next owner at 314,000 miles, still stock other than upgraded heavy-duty shocks all around, a K&N air filter setup, and 17" rims sourced from an Escalade. Took it to a loal event at 300,000+ miles for the first – and only – time and won everything we entered. In all that time, only one major failure – transmission – at 175,000 miles.

  22. alloywindows says:

    I drank the toyota kool aid,
    three times now (I think)
    2 hiluxes and a 4runner
    the one I have now is the one I always wanted,
    and I don't know if I love it (yesterday, driving in the sun) or hate it (two weeks ago, a snapped steering knuckle, stranded in an industrial area)

    they are prone to problems, just like everything else,
    the engines are not super human
    and that episode of topgear?
    well, just as fictional as their usual episodes,

    but I drank the kool aid

    • Kurt says:

      I drive any 86 toyota 4 runner with the 22 re and this is for the people who say the22re is not super human I bought it in nc drove it back to Ohio drove it and wheeled it for three years until the the engin blew from having a frozen radiator only to find out the head gasket was blown and had been for awhile and it had three cracks in the head but the only time it quit on me was because of human error ie putting water it the rad instead of coolant and still to this day drive the same truck after a replacement engin and have never had another problem out of it the problem is the people who don't know what to look for when buying a car or have little to no mechanical knowledge and think they can fix a junker

  23. jtk2 says:

    My sister had one of these 4Runners. She went through 3 transmissions in 4 years because of some kind of transmission overheating issue (although even an external trans cooler didn't fix it completely). I think she liked it otherwise though.

    Also… I sold my 2 year old Accord and used the money to buy my grandmother's 6 year old Buick with the idea that I could use the rest of the money to pay off credit cards. Alas, the Buick that was described to me as "perfect" needed new tires, new brakes, new suspension, new coolant, and fairly serious engine work, didn't get very good MPG (lower than EPA rating), and basically was, in all ways, very nearly the cause of my financial ruin. And then the transmission blew at 73,000 miles. I bought another car, and now I'm in more debt than I was before I sold the Accord. It's going to take years for me to recover from it. And I spent 5 years driving a Buick!

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