Home » Back In The Saddle Again: 1997 Ford F-150 vs 1999 Chrysler Cirrus

Back In The Saddle Again: 1997 Ford F-150 vs 1999 Chrysler Cirrus

Sbsd 10 10 2023
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Good morning! As of this writing, I have been awake for approximately thirty-nine hours. We came home to a blocked shower drain and a flooded basement, so I’ve spent the last two hours wet-vacuuming and sopping up water. I’m hungry, I’m exhausted, and all I want to do is go to bed, but I foolishly told everyone I would be back on the 10th when really I meant the 11th, and the Showdown must go on, so here I am.

I need to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to Thomas, Mercedes, Stephen, and the Bishop for filling in for me; you all rose to the occasion magnificently, and I really appreciate it. Thank you all.

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The last thing I want to see right now is another damn French car, but let’s look at yesterday’s results anyway:

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Sixteen is more than five, so that makes sense, I guess. And I agree, based solely on the rarity factor. But the LeCar could be fun too, if driven properly.

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But enough of croque monsieurs; it’s time for some good old-fashioned cheeseburgers. I’ve got two American cars here, from just about the geographical center of the lower 48 states. Let’s check them out so I can get some sleep.

1997 Ford F-150 – $2,295

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.4 liter overhead cam V8, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Wichita, KS

Odometer reading: 137,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Yep

Here once again we have the divisive (is that “di-viss-ive,” or “di-vice-ive?”) tenth-generation Ford F-150. Arguably more refined, and indisputably less attractive (sorry, Matt) than the preceding generation, these trucks played a big role in the truckification of American roads, for better or for worse. Ford still sells F-series trucks at approximately the same rate that Taco Bell sells chalupas, which means there is no shortage of used ones available at any time, at any price point.

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This one is an extended-cab XLT, which means it has all the car-like stuff you’d expect: power windows, air conditioning, all that jazz. It’s powered by Ford’s 5.4 liter Triton V8, but I think this is the early “good” one. It’s an automatic, of course, and two-wheel-drive. The lack of 4WD definitely hurts its appeal; while it’s true that most 4×4 truck owners (including me) rarely touch that lever or button to engage the front wheels, but when you need it, you need it, and buying a truck without it means there are all sorts of things you can’t do with it.

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Thanks to the extended cab, however, there are lots of things you can do, like carry more than one passenger, and keep groceries dry. And of course, it will tow like any other truck.

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It’s in decent shape, and the seller claims 137,000 miles (but states “odometer broken,” so who knows? It runs and drives well, and apart from a little rust in the corners, doesn’t even look terrible. For a good honest truck, with this few miles, at this price, it’s hard to beat.

1999 Chrysler Cirrus – $2,600

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

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Location: Colwich, KS

Odometer reading: 128,000 miles

Runs/drives? Indeed

Chrysler’s “cloud cars” – the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus – arrived in 1995 to finally put an end to the K-Car’s reign of terror. They’re more refined, better handling, and a hell of a lot more stylish than the cars they replaced. This one is a Cirrus, powered by a Mitsubishi 2.5 liter V6 and Chrysler’s own Ultradrive four-speed automatic. It’s not exotic, but it works.

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It’s said to run and drive well, and has had a bunch of recent work: the timing belt, ball joints, and thermostat are all new. Again, it has low miles, especially for the wide-open spaces of Kansas. This is a place where it was once said that “you can see on Wednesday who’s going to come visit you on Saturday.” There’s a lot of ground to cover.

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It’s a weird detail to point out, but since the seller included a shot of the dashboard, I’ll mention it: I like the font on this car’s gauges. It’s a condensed form of Optima, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s a welcome change from the basic blocky Helvetica you typically see. It’s too bad the odometer and gear indicator are that green LED display; it looks jarring against the other classy gauge faces.

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The seller says this would be a perfect first car, and I agree: it’s cheap, clean, basically reliable, and not the sort of car likely to get a young driver in any more trouble than they can get themselves into anyway. Of course, with this low mileage, it could also make someone a good cheap commuter for a number of years yet.

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Neither of these are going to raise anyone’s pulse, I know, but they’re both good honest old cars, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. So which flavor will it be – the overstyled truck, or the basic sedan?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Aaron
Aaron
8 months ago

For about the same price, that Cirrus looks like it’s in a lot better shape than the F-150. Unless you really needed a truck, it’s the better choice.

The seller says this would be a perfect first car, and I agree: it’s cheap, clean, basically reliable, and not the sort of car likely to get a young driver in any more trouble than they can get themselves into anyway.

A 1995 Cirrus was my first car and it served admirably. Good interior space. Enough power to keep you from being a liability but nowhere near enough to get in trouble. Reasonable gas mileage. Hopefully this one doesn’t reek of mouse urine like mine did.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
8 months ago

Cirrus- would still rather have it especially being in decent shape than that extremely ugly, horribly designed, rusty Fix Or Repair Daily
(Would be pissed off every time driving it)

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
8 months ago

Tell us more about used Taco Bell chalupas…

The dixie cup graphics would make the F150 perfect for a pool cleaning business.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Now that I have either buried or passed off everyone I know I’ll take the F150. Don’t have to worry about helping other people but can help myself.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
8 months ago

Cloud for me. That V6 is a Mitsubishi V6 and is actually a very nice engine. Plus it seems to have no rust while the 150 clearly has some rust.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
8 months ago

Hmm, on the one hand I’m a Southerner and thus hate and fear rust, won’t deal with it. And the Triton spits plugs. Better than the 3 valve where they break but I think putting in inserts is an engine out job. It is on the Econoline. So that’s two strikes against the truck. The broken odometer might make it three.

On the other hand literally everything that Chrysler made in the 90s was garbage. Only the DSM cars were worth a damn, because Chrysler did not build them. Every time I’ve worked on one I got the impression I could rip it apart with my bare hands, maybe a pry bar.

I guess if the truck could be carefully inspected and if the rust isn’t bad and the engine has either been fixed or did not have the spitting problem I’d go for it. If not I’d have to bite the bullet and drive the Cirrus, hoping it doesn’t fall apart before I can find something else and unload it on some other sucker. These choices are what people mean when they talk about the struggle.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

My mechanic did the kit on my 5.4 without taking out the motor in my E350.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

A more flexible man than me, I suppose. Or just more skill and dedication than me, one of those at least.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
8 months ago

The truck wins, I have a 2002 F150 XLT with the 8′ bed and it’s a very useful tool for towing and hauling, both serious stuff like lumber and furniture and less serious like kayak duty. These have the two valve 5.4 which only suffers ejected spark plugs, fixed by using solid inserts for repair and torquing to 20 ft-lb instead of the factory 15 ft-lb

The Cirrus is still a slightly flimsy and uninspiring sedan.

Mike F.
Mike F.
8 months ago

Truck. I have little need for a truck but I have more need for a truck than a Cirrus.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago

As a former Wichitan, this is a tough one. The rust on that F150 is going to be worse than it looks, though not anywhere as bad as the rust would be further north. However, I once had a Cirrus of that generation as a company car and just…no, I will not spend my own money on one. The F150 wins my vote.

ChefCJ
ChefCJ
8 months ago

It’s really hard to turn down a truck that’s shaped like a truck, rather than an SUV with half a roof, which seems to be about all they make anymore

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
8 months ago

Both actually seem to be quite solid choices, but ultimately the greater utility of the truck wins it for me. In an awful lot of places the lack of 4WD isn’t a big deal – even where you have winter put on snow tires and toss some ballast in the back. My father didn’t bother to buy a 4WD until the 2000s and maneuvered 2WD 1/2 ton standard cab work trucks into a lot of out-of-the-way places.

There’s nothing wrong with that Cirrus as a first car or commuter. It’s rare to see such fairly priced vehicles out on the market anymore, at least around my neck of the woods.

Crisis
Crisis
8 months ago

Easy pick for the F-150. I own a 2002 Extended Cab XLT with a bit more mileage and that thing has been invaluable doing truck things. Helped multiple daughters with multiple moves this summer and that thing was stuffed full and pulled a tandem axle cargo trailer like it was meant to do that.
And actually a pretty good buy for the price.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
8 months ago

Truck it – I’ve had two cheap beater-level Ford trucks do the truck things I’ve needed them to do for over 16 years now.

Everyone I know that owned a cloud car had problems with them. The head gaskets went out on my sister’s Cirrus. The transmission on a neighbor’s Stratus. The worst was the “cream puff” a friend of mine bought off of his family’s estate. Seemed like a great deal at the time, but at 40,000 miles it started leaking oil. I crawled under it and noticed most of the oil pan bolts could be loosened by hand. By 47,000 miles it had other leaks, a weird pull in the front end, and a couple of interior parts had rattled loose. At 60,000 they traded it for a Pacifica and the dealer would only give them $2K for it, claiming their transmission didn’t have much life left.

That said, I think everyone I knew that had them had the 4-bangers, but no thanks – I’ll stick with the Familiar Old Rusty Driver.

Cyko9
Cyko9
8 months ago

I enjoy these showdowns where you think you’ve made your mind up at the heading then start to ponder the differences by the end. I was on team Ford at first: it’s a useful vehicle at a nice price. But the rust, lack of 4×4, and general wear dissuaded me. The Chrysler is dull as dirt, but it’s a decent car. Knock a few bucks off and it’s a good daily driver.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
8 months ago

Close call for me, but the condition of that Cirrus puts it over the top. You don’t see many cars this clean for under $4k in These Troubled Times.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
8 months ago
Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
8 months ago

I know I’m an outlier for this, but I”d do the cloud car. I have no problem with that era of F-150, but less a fan of *this* F-150. Yeah, I could do a bunch of truck things with that truck but not enough of them, as the 2WD would take away one of the bigger things (drive the crappy vehicle on the snowy, crappy days). I know…get snows and throw a ton in the bed of the rear wheels…yeah been there. The little sedan doesn’t look bad and would probably do better on a snow day than the truck would.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
8 months ago

The Ferd’s body cladding and the Cirrus’ Walmart wheel covers cancel each other out … but the F150’s rust is a little too difficult to overlook.

Merry Chrysler! Time to find some Stratus alloys.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Agreed on the rust. Never thought I’d see the day where I’d choose a cloud car over ANYTHING, but here we are.

“A little rust in the corners” is Midwest-speak for “Your frame has the integrity of a used wet wipe.”

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
8 months ago

Ha! Also, Gee-offs unite!

DDayJ
DDayJ
8 months ago

I already have a beater yard and house work truck and a beater XJ so I’ll take the Cirrus as an around town runabout that gets better fuel mileage than the Jeep.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

OK, I held my nose and voted for one of these, but I truly hope tomorrow I can say, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas, anymore.” Sheesh, what boring choices. Get some rest.

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