Home » High-Plains Thrifters: 2001 Ford F-250 vs 1986 Jeep Comanche

High-Plains Thrifters: 2001 Ford F-250 vs 1986 Jeep Comanche

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Good morning! I’m back, after a mishap in Mountain Home, Idaho the other night. I’ll tell you all about it when I write up my trip report, but suffice it to say that when the fender of a U-Haul trailer meets a cinder-block wall, they both lose. I’m gonna have some ‘splainin to do. Good thing I bought the insurance.

Massive thanks to Thomas Hundal for covering yesterday, in his inimitably locquacious way. Excellent picks, too. Who doesn’t love a mid-engine sports car? (Put your hand down. You do too.)

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After adding my vote for the X1/9, the results are pretty clear. There’s nothing wrong with a good 914, of course, but it’s hard to beat two-tone brown, especially with those gold wheels. The X1/9 is the other sports car I have wanted ever since I was in grade school, along with my beloved MGB GT, so this was an easy choice for me.

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So let’s continue with our eastward journey. I’m writing this from the Fairfield Inn in Laramie, Wyoming, after a very long drive through the mountains. Wyoming is the least-populous state in the country; fewer than 600,000 people call this big rectangle home, and you can tell driving across it. There are places on Interstate 80 where there is not a single sign of human habitation in sight except for the road itself.

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As such, the entire state of Wyoming has but one Craigslist site to serve the whole thing. And as is typical of sparsely-populated areas in the US, the most common vehicles by far are pickup trucks. I found the two cheapest viable trucks listed for sale within our typical price range. Here they are.

2001 Ford F-250 Super Duty – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 6.8-liter overhead cam V10, four-speed automatic, 4WD

Location: Casper, WY

Odometer reading: 312,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives well

Ever since Ford spun off the Super Duty line of trucks as its own body style in 1999, it has been a huge hit. When a mere F-Series just won’t cut it, you reach for the big guns. And in this case, that means a gigantic V10 engine displacing 6.8 liters, or if you prefer, 415 good ol’ American cubic inches. You could get this monster with a five-speed stick; I’ve seen one, in US Forest Service Green, in fact, but this one makes do with Ford’s 4R100 automatic.

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That transmission, however, was replaced five years ago, so it doesn’t have nearly as many miles on it as the rest of the truck. The rear suspension was just refreshed as well. The seller says it runs and drives well, but I do wonder how that’s possible with no battery. Maybe they swiped it for some other vehicle, or maybe they took the photo mid-replacement. Either way, it’s odd, and something you should ask about.

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This isn’t quite the luxury truck that you can get today, but it is a comfy truck, and since it’s the Lariat model, it has quite a few bells and whistles. The heater and air conditioner work fine, and really, what more do you need? Oh right; four-wheel-drive. Done and done.

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Comfy or not, trucks in harsh environments get used hard, and this Ford bears the scars of a life well-used. It’s got dents and rust, and a plastic bed liner and a toolbox in the bed give it working-truck cred as well. Luckily, Wyoming doesn’t use road salt, as anyone who’s ever tried to drive through here in December knows all too well, so it shouldn’t be eaten away underneath.

1986 Jeep Comanche – $4,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5-liter overhead valve inline 4, five-speed manual, 4WD

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Location: Laramie, WY

Odometer reading: 170,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

How do you improve on the beloved XJ Jeep Cherokee? Easy: Chop its ass off, weld on a couple of frame rail stubs, and make it a pickup truck. That’s what AMC did in 1986 to create the MJ-chassis Comanche pickup, to compete with the likes of Ford’s Ranger and GM’s S-series, as well as a host of imports. The welded-on frame rails were necessary because, unlike its competitors at the time, the XJ was a unibody design – no frame to build on.

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This first-year Comanche is set up just about how you’d like: it’s four-wheel-drive, of course, with a five-speed manual and AMC’s tough 2.5-liter pushrod four-cylinder. The mighty 4.0 liter six wouldn’t come along for another year or so, and the optional engines were a Renault diesel and a GM-sourced 2.8 liter V6, and the less said about those, the better. This Comanche runs and drives just fine, and the seller says it is a veteran of many an off-road adventure.

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It looks like it, too, with rust and dents, a beefy-looking steel tube rear bumper, and a 2-inch lift. The icing on the cake is the factory stripe kit; nobody does stripes like these anymore, and they are sorely missing from new car lots. It looks a little rough, but the seller says all the rust is on the surface from damage; it’s solid underneath.

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No mildly obscure vehicle worth its salt would be complete without a battered Haynes manual and a bunch of parts the seller never got around to installing, or picked up years ago “just in case,” and this Comanche doesn’t disappoint.

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So that’s Wyoming. Tomorrow if all goes well I should be at my aunt’s house outside of Wichita, staying there for a couple of days before hitting the road again. In the meantime, choose the 4WD truck you want from the high plains.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Marques Dean
Marques Dean
21 days ago

I’ll take the Jeep. The Comanche is the right size for my needs,plus the added bonus of a manual transmission,more economical than the Super Duty or anything in Jeep’s current lineup.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
22 days ago

This was a tough choice, but in the end I just dig the look of the Comanche. It sure looks like it’s had a lot of off-road adventures.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
22 days ago

Jeep by default since the other is a Ford and don’t like most of their body styles. I also like the Jeep!
“inimitably locquacious”
2 words I learned today, Thanks Mark! Glad it’s going alright besides that hiccup

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
22 days ago

I originally read this on my phone and wondered why the F250 was only $2500; it looked very nice on a small screen. After viewing the photos on my laptop I can see it has some battle scars. I still think it is a great truck, though.

As others have pointed out, it has a few desirable options (Lariat trim, V10, and 4×4). The short bed/extended cab is also a great combination. It offers a lot of passenger space and utility but is only 19 feet long (not exactly a compact truck, but far more maneuverable than long bed or crew cab models that are up to 22 feet long). The interior also looks to be in good condition (the upholstery we can see isn’t torn or excessively worn, the carpet looks clean, the dashboard and door panels aren’t cracked, etc.). This truck would be a lot cooler if it had the 7.3 powerstroke, but then it wouldn’t be for sale for $2500.

I am biased since I am a huge fan of 3/4 and 1 ton Ford pickups, but this truck seems like a very good deal at this price. I can see why people like the Comanche, but the F250 deserves to win this one.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
22 days ago

I will never need nearly as much truck as that Super Duty offers – the Comanche would be plenty, and easy to live with – but it is so great, and so American, that you can get that much truck for $2500, that that’s the truck I’m voting for.

Gene1969
Gene1969
23 days ago

I voted for the Ford because it would be fun to own. Plus, the $1,750 saved should pay for two weeks’ worth of fuel.

Michael Rogers
Michael Rogers
23 days ago

F250. Those turn of the century V10 Ford Super Duty’s are bomber. Though we did have a brand new 1999 F350 throw a rod about 7k miles in. Ford replaced it obviously. There was no trouble after that. If that truck was near me I’d drive over today and buy it.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
23 days ago

The F-250 is the logical choice as parts are easy to get and it will run forever.

However my Autopian hind brain says Jeep.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Pretty close at this time. I wouldn’t turn either down
But I’d probably buy the Ford because cheaper but if I weren’t so cheap I’d go Jeep. So since voting don’t cost nothing I voted Jeep.
Someone has to take up Tracy’s slack.

Myk El
Myk El
23 days ago

I love the Comanche, but not this day with that price differential.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
23 days ago

That Jeep is 50% of a Rat Patrol.

Last edited 23 days ago by XLEJim700
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