Three hundred eleven thousand miles, lifted, tuned, and salvage-titled, for sale in notoriously sketchy part of Sacramento for almost exactly what I sold my Wagoneer for. In short, this thing is everything I was trying not to buy this time around.
“I kinda really like it” she said with a self-conscious grimace, sitting back in our car after the test drive. “Like, I kinda want to buy it”. I’d been working hard to channel my grandfather, a guy who loved cars but could never allow himself (or my dad or uncle) to buy something truly awesome or ridiculous. Ray definitely wouldn’t have approved of this rig, and I was mentally prepared to just write the whole thing off as just too much. Here we were, having driven two Suburbans and our third* Excursion and my wonderful wife is ready to spend too much money on a truck that’s too tired, too modified and too tall.
(*For those keeping track, there’s a boring one I’m not even bothering to write up)
“The rear seat slides like it’s supposed to, the AC works great and the kid’s obviously doing his best to keep it up”. She did have a point there. Despite all the ridiculousness, the young-enough-to-make-me-feel-old-at-33 owner had recovered the worn driver’s seat, replaced the crapped out CD changer deck and was using it daily as a tow rig in his job at a boat repair shop.
Against a background of peer pressure nudging to “just get the diesel” and with a tailwind of spousal enthusiasm, I texted the guy an offer.
Negotiations happened and I dropped off a deposit on my way home from the vacation we were on, leaving The Missus to drop off nearly nine grand in cash and pick up an eight thousand pound, eight foot tall SUV of only partially known roadworthiness. It behaved fine for her over the next three hours of driving, aside from an AC system that seems to default to FULL BLAST regardless of setting.
So what did we actually get ourselves into here? Rather than attempt prose, here’s the bullet list:
- 2002 Ford Excursion Limited with a 7.3l Powerstroke diesel
- 311k miles and a salvage title from a minor front collision requiring body work
- A least a 6″ lift of unknown brand, but all springs. No lift blocks besides factory 2″ block in rear.
- 315/75 R16 (about 35″ tall) tires with about 20% tread left
- Remanufactured 4R100 transmission somewhat recently installed (clearly cleaner than the rest of the undercarriage)
- 3.73:1 axle gearing with limited slip differential in the rear
- A pile of about $2000 worth of Banks Engineering parts: tuner, complete 5″ exhaust, intercooler, wastegate controller, etc
- Interior in “fair” condition: one rip in the middle row seat, needs a thorough cleaning, new driver’s seat leather
- Bluetooth touch-screen stereo head unit powering stock speakers
After about a week, here’s what we’re up against for maintenance and fixes:
- Steering is heavy at low speeds and super loose once moving. This means:
- Ball joints and/or front wheel bearings
- Steering box adjustment or replacement
- Boost is really low unless you’re really stomping on the accelerator, then maxes out just under 20psi. Depending on who you ask online this is normal for a 7.3 or a sign of wastegate issues or a boost leak.
- Minor oil leak coming from the driver side valve cover…or turbo?…or something in that vicinity? (really looks like the corner of the valve cover, though).
- Windshield is cracked top-to-bottom right down the middle
- The AC system is moderately demon possessed: some combination of button presses will lock the fan speed to MAX, but the some combination or OFF/ON will get it functioning normally. Luckily it’s always cold.
More importantly, this thing is hilarious to drive. You’re eye-level with most truck drivers and the hood lies parallel with most cars’ roofs. It’s shockingly pleasant behind the wheel: the diesel clatter is minimal and it has remarkably good sight lines. Between the front window notches, fisheye-equipped towing mirrors and some other magic at late-90s Ford, the thing just seems to shrink around you. Power is adequate if you put your foot into it and it stops impressively for a four ton machine. Long ago I reminded everyone to find a project car that, regardless of neediness still makes them grin. This thing makes me grin like an idiot.
That said, I’m probably going to get it looked-over by a local diesel shop before driving it much more. I know enough to know I’m nearly clueless on the specifics of this engine and poorly calibrated on what’s normal or indicative of major issues. With an informed and prioritized To-Do list, I have no problem spinning wrenches as necessary.
So, the obvious question: did I “Buy the 4Runner” or another Wagoneer? To some extent, obviously. I sold my pretty Jeep to spend too much money on something The Internet tells me is super awesome. Maybe the biggest difference this time around is I’m not deluding myself?