Latest Reader Qs (6/21/2017)

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Here are the latest Reader Qs, along with my Answers!

Mario asks – 

I want the best value used pickup truck (light duty-1/2 ton) I can buy for $10,000.  Any suggestions?

My answer – 

How far back are you willing to go?

Recent vintage 1500s are both expensive new and used. They are also expensive to fix – a real issue for the prospective used buyer. Your budget restricts you to higher-miles used trucks that are likely to soon need – or already need – expensive repairs.

Which is why I will suggest that you go back in time and look for a truck made in the early-mid 1990s. Not only will your budget get you a better truck, you will be able to buy a truck that is still a relatively straightforward truck. One sans the electric puffery that afflicts the new/recent vintage ones.

There will be no turbos or direct injection or ten speed transmissions or aluminum bodies.

One of my favorites from the ’90s is the Chevy 1500. It will have the excellent small block Chevy V8 under its hood, fed fuel by a simple, very reliable (and cheap to fix, if it ever needs it) throttle body injection system. It will have either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic (and GM automatics from that era are outstanding). It will have a simple, rugged 4WD system (assuming you want 4WD) as well as reasonable bed wall height; no step ladder needed to get in.

Dodge trucks from that era are ok – except for bodies (and frames) that seem more than normally rust-prone. The engines are generally good.

Ford went over to the 4.6/5.4 “modular” overhead cam V8 during the mid-’90s. These engines are torque-deficient and also more complex than the old 5.0 and 5.8 pushrod V8s. If you can can find an F-150 with either of the latter (or a straight six) and it’s otherwise solid, snap it up!

Hope this helps!


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  1. Good answer eric. I will give a caveat to Dodge in their “new” style pickups they began mid-nineties. Probably on of the most reliable of diesels was the ’98 and older and the newer style bodies were an improvement over the older ones although if you find a Dodge from that era that hasn’t had the dash replaced be ready to do it yourself although you’ll see before you buy(when you raise the dashmat cover) the reason for the mat. Seems like somebody makes a new dash for them but they’re pricey as I recall.

    This is the Dodge diesel of choice for me even though they are old….and simple and have a live axle on the 4WD models. The gas engines are good too and if you look around Dodge made some of those with lockers front and rear…..very good in the crud.

    A friend used to have the opinion that Ford had the best frames when I’d query why he bought pickups with unreliable engines and esp. transmissions. The truth is, Ford had the same frame design from ’47 t0 ‘96.5, the year they went to the new style engine and body. I knew several people who had these trucks and although they didn’t work them, they would still give up a cylinder out of the blue. I’d say stay away from Ford in the 90’s….all of them with the exception of Power Strokes.

    Early 90’s Dodge pickups that looked like GM in the body were ok, esp. the diesels, but they weren’t conducive to conversation. A guy I met went with me to eat in my 6.5 Turbo Diesel one day and on the way at interstate speed said “I see one thing you can do in this pickup I can’t do in mine”. What’s that I asked. Have this conversation he laughed. But the thing got 7 mpg better mileage than mine.

    And here we come to the bugaboo of the whole shooting match. Barring finding used parts for the Dodge, be prepared to pay through the nose for parts for everything but the GMs. GM’s were so popular that companies who originally made the parts for them kept on making them. Need door pins or bushing or latch, no problem. There’s lots of pickups out there too that are wrecked so getting a good major drivetrain part is sometimes cheaply done. Same for latter model Dodge’s too. I know people with their own boneyards of wrecked pickups who have robbed the driveline for another pickup out of them. Chevys are harder to find like this since most already gave their all for another truck.


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