Home » Handy Little Trucks: 1992 Ford Ranger vs 1995 Nissan Hardbody

Handy Little Trucks: 1992 Ford Ranger vs 1995 Nissan Hardbody

Sbsd 2 15 2024 1024x576
ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! Today we’re looking at a couple of basic, no-bullshit compact pickup trucks. You know, the kind no one makes anymore.

But first, we need to get the results from yesterday’s rear-engine love-fest. Lots of love for the Corvair in the comments, and it won handily. I get it; the second-gen Corvair coupe is one of the prettiest cars GM ever made, and the turbocharged Corsa with a four-speed is the most desirable version.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But man, that rust. Since moving to the West Coast, I’ve become a wimp about two things: the weather, and rusty cars. I tried to warn David before he moved to Los Angeles that the same thing was going to happen to him, and it sounds like I was right. It just happens. You find out that stuff you’ve been putting up with for years just isn’t necessary, and you lose your tolerance for it. So yeah, that Corvair is a hard pass for me. I’ll answer a thousand questions about a funny-looking little convertible instead.

Screenshot From 2024 02 14 15 43 05

And speaking of rust-free cars: I was in a hurry choosing vehicles today, so I just opened up Portland Craigslist and grabbed the first two small manual-transmission trucks that looked good. These are both still common sights on the road around here, nothing special at all, though I know they’ve all dissolved like wet newspaper in northern climates. So hey, if you want a rust-free small truck, come to the West Coast and prepare to road-trip one home. Here are two you can choose from.

ADVERTISEMENT

1992 Ford Ranger – $2,799

00c0c 3kfmaxr2chb 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Beavercreek, OR

Odometer reading: 130,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

ADVERTISEMENT

When Ford set out to replace its captive-import Courier pickup with something homegrown, it did the most sensible thing in the world: it stuck an F-150 in a copy machine, set it to “75%” and hit the green button. The result was twenty years of rock-solid little trucks, a surprising number of which are stil in service twenty years after the last one was built. GM did much the same with the S-series, with nearly as much success. Why reinvent the wheel? Just shrink it a bit.

00w0w 6tpm6i4cdyq 0ci0t2 1200x900

The Ranger’s similarity to the bigger F-series trucks isn’t just cosmetic, either. It has a scaled-down version of the same Twin I-Beam front suspension, and Ford’s 2.3 liter overhead-cam four, which really is a smaller counterpart to the legendary 300 inline six. That little engine drives a solid rear axle on leaf springs through a five-speed stick. It’s all simple, durable, and cheap to maintain and repair, like a good truck should be.

01111 7ggpdiguqpx 0ci0t2 1200x900

This truck’s five-digit odometer reads 30,000 miles, and the seller assumes it has rolled over once, but looking at its condition, I’m not so sure. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a Ranger interior this clean. And the “Ford Racing Beige” paint outside looks great, too. It looks like someone swapped black-painted Explorer wheels onto it, in place of what were probably steelies with dog-dish hubcaps, which is kind of too bad; I like base-model rolling stock.

ADVERTISEMENT

01010 Homwjgrduio 0ci0t2 1200x900

Hell, the bed barely even looks used. Someone needs to buy this truck and put it to work, stat.

1995 Nissan Hardbody – $3,250

00o0o 3ymo7hlks50 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Vancouver, WA

ADVERTISEMENT

Odometer reading: 148,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

And here we have one of the reasons Ford had to develop a small truck. Nissan (Datsun back then) was one of the first companies to offer a small truck in America, but it wasn’t until the mini-truck craze of the 1970s that sales really took off. Nissan’s 620 and 720 trucks were good, but the D21 “Hardbody” series introduced in 1986 was really something. It has great styling, muscular without being intimidating. It performs well and drives very nicely for a truck. And it’s as durable as all get-out.

00e0e De77rvgh6gm 0ci0t2 1200x900

This one is about as basic as they come, with a KA24E four-cylinder, a five-speed stick, and a bench seat that allegedly seats three across, but you’d better all know each other really well. The one option that the original purchaser of this truck seems to have sprung for is air conditioning, and it still works! The rest of the truck is in fine mechanical shape as well, and I know for a fact that with only 148,000 miles on the odometer, it’s just getting started.

ADVERTISEMENT

00z0z 6lyt332mvcb 0ci0t2 1200x900

It’s not in the greatest shape cosmetically. The front fenders and hood look like they were painted with rattle cans, making me suspect they’ve been replaced, possibly with junkyard parts. I’d like to know what happened there. It does have those sweet ’90s graphics on the sides, though.

00j0j C9ozuy8uzyj 0ci0t2 1200x900

It also has a topper, or camper, or cap, or whatever you want to call it. After all these years, having owned several trucks both with and without toppers, I’m still not sure whether I like them or not. They mess up the looks of most trucks, and make it harder to load and unload certain things, but then on rainy days when you have to make a grocery store run and cram all the groceries in the cab with you, you start envying all that dry storage. I guess the best solution would be to have a topper, and a place to store it, and some easy way of getting it on and off. Perhaps something involving pulleys…?

So there they are, a couple of basic motorized wheelbarrows, ready to take on whatever chores you need them for, even if it’s commuting. These are both probably more expensive than they would have been a couple years ago, but that’s the current market for you. They both still feel like decent deals to me. But no, I’m not going to include a “both” option. You can only have one.

ADVERTISEMENT

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
78 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Unimaginative Username
Unimaginative Username
2 months ago

Have had 4 Rangers over the years and I’m still tooling around in a ’94 with only 130k on the clock picked up at auction for $1400 a few years back. Solid truck and while the 4.0 is far from miserly it’s much less painful to fill than my big truck that stays parked when I’m not doing big truck things.

In high school my second Ranger had a shell (that’s what they’re called, I will brook no dissent), and I could have it on or off myself in about 10 minutes – six j-bolts to loosen, then kind of inverted crab walk it out with the shell on my back. My mid-40s old man back, however, would definitely not approve.

Still, voted for the Nissan because I always thought they were cool and also kind of rare where I came from. In our redneck-adjacent SoCal suburb you were simply issued a 5-10 year-old Ranger on your 16th birthday, unless your parents were rich and you got a Taco. A year’s worth of after-school work and the proceeds from the ’86 Dodge Ram50 (Mitsu Mighty Max) I learned on netted me a’ 93 4.0 5 speed, basically identical to the one I drive today except the one now has been rolled significantly fewer times.

Michael Culberson
Michael Culberson
2 months ago

I’ve owned two Hardbody trucks (1987 & 1994). They were awesome trucks!

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
2 months ago

This one was a toss up for me, that perfect interior pushed the Ranger slightly ahead. As a fun bit of trivia, my old department had a final year 4wd ranger as a security truck running around the prison fences until a couple years ago when they finally surplussed it with almost 3000k on it. The power ranger was the backup truck for whichever tacoma had crapped out for the shift because it just alway ran. Also it was the best one in the snow because it had a much better center of gravity, so when a fence alarm went off(usually because of a small bird or racoon) the power ranger would easilly be the quickest truck there. If I had been in a position to buy it when it got surplussed, I would have in a heartbeat, even beat to hell by officers driving like maniacs around a 1.5 mile oval basically 24/7 for a decade.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
2 months ago

That Ranger speaks to something inside me. Ranger it is.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
2 months ago

Ford F’ing Ranger.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
2 months ago
Reply to  Cam.man67

Every part is $30. Brake rebuild? $30 in springs and cylinders. Mirror? $30. Shocks? $30 for two. Starter? Believe it or not $30.

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago

I’d probably still pick the Ranger, but the person selling it is a curbstoner. That’s why they have no idea whether the odo is 30K or 130K. Their phone number turns up a Facebook “business” selling used cars.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
2 months ago

I used to have a D21 Navara dual cab diesel, great truck.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago

No contest- Nissan…I can’t believe that ugly Fix Or Repair Daily is winning

Cyko9
Cyko9
2 months ago

That Ranger versus almost anything else would normally get my vote. Great condition and a reliable vehicle. But in my imagination, I could see keeping the Nissan around. I fell for the graphics, and I’d sell the camper to get some of the cost back.

Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

I’m partial to the Nissan, but not sure there’s a wrong answer here.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
2 months ago
Reply to  Myk El

Exactly my view, both are great so pick the one that speaks to you.

JDE
JDE
2 months ago

Datsun for me, Both are pretty clean examples, but I would rather have a splash of the nineties over a Beige Cage in this instance. Topper is a nice bonus.

Genewich
Genewich
2 months ago

I had a similar Bronco II with those exact seats. They just fit me so well.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
2 months ago

One of my good friends in high school had an orange Datsun truck just a couple years older than this, it was one of the first cars I ever drove with a stick. Have always wanted a hardbody too because they just are invincible and awesome looking. Can’t go wrong here, but I like the graphics and the Nissan better.

78
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x