Reader Question: Older Trucks?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Cliff asks: I heard just a minute of your conversation with Bryan Hyde today and was very impressed with your comments regarding older vehicles.

I have a fairly new and very low miles Dodge Diesel truck. I would like to know what older trucks you might recommend to replace my Eco Diesel. I’m thinking about selling it and getting something that I could work on rather than sending it to the dealer for every little electronic issue. I have had some months of that and want to stay away from  it. I currently own some 60s era  Mopars and keep them running without ever visiting a dealer or mechanic.

My reply: This subject comes up fairly regularly – more so, recently! I can personally vouch for two pickups, the 2004-older Nissan Frontier (with the four cylinder engine) and the equivalent Toyota (just called “pickup” through ’95) and the T100/Tacoma, all of them excellent, durable rigs that are easy to maintain and rarely need it. My current (’02) Frontier sill runs like new; it even has the original clutch (with 140,000 miles on it).

If you need a larger (1500 or 2500) pick-up, I’d go back to the early 2000s – or even before – and seek a Chevy 1500 (first) or (second) a Ford with either the straight six, the 302 or 351 or the early 4.6 Triton (not a bad engine). A ’90s-era Chevy with a TBI 350 or 305 and a five speed is perhaps the finest half-ton truck truck ever made – though a same-era Ford F1-50 with the straight six is a close shave. A buddy of mine got one – brand new – after he got out of college in the late ’80s. His 16-year-old son is driving it now…

Don’t be afraid of TBI or EFI, by the way. Both are very reliable and easy to maintain, if that should ever be necessary. The things to avoid are direct injection and over-electronicized systems, such as drive-by-wire (throttle and transmission) as well as – of course – all of the creepy Big Brothery “features” that began to become common in new cars circa 2010 or so…

Thanks for the kind words!

. . .

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  1. Something else to consider if its utility suits you is a full size van from the same era, especially a cargo van. They tend to be quite affordable

  2. A benefit to getting a late 80s early 90s GM truck with TBI and distributor ignition is they can be easily fitted with a carb and vacuum advance distributor if/when the electronic controls fail. 90’s suburbans are also a good choice if pickups are too expensive. Tons of cargo space and perhaps less used and abused than ol hoss’s muddy pickup. The yota pickups of this era, while good, are sought after and overpriced. They’re pretty small and I find them more complex and harder to work on. Squarebody 90s nissans are fine trucklets but the brining has culled them from the northeast. They run like roaches in the south.


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