I Just Bought A Rust-Free Manual Chevy Tracker 4×4 For $700 But It Doesn’t Run And Is Filled With Mouse Crap

20220614 124757

I don’t know why I just bought this car; I truly, truly don’t. I just sold my dream Jeep XJ on Sunday as part of a plan to reduce my fleet of cars to something that A: Might let me move to Los Angeles (to do work stuff) and B: Might afford me some amount of social life that isn’t just wrenching at junkyards. And yet, even though I’ve had a strict “No Buying Cars” policy in place for months, this morning I took ownership of a 2000 Chevy Tracker 4×4 five-speed. And while the machine is deeply, deeply flawed, it was also the deal of the century, so maybe it wasn’t a bad call. Just hear me out.

Autopian user “Shop-Teacher,” whom I met six-ish years ago at the Indianapolis 500 and whom I’m quite fond of, has for years been telling me in the comments of my articles to get my shit together and stop hoarding vehicles (my parents and brothers have been beating a similar drum). So to him and my family, I’m just going to say: Sorry about this one. I really had no choice.

But hear me out. This body-on-frame Tracker is rust-free! It’s got a stickshift! It’s 4×4! It was only $700! Seven Hundred smackerie-daiquiris! Those in the “know” understand what I’m saying; this is a Suzuki Vitara re-badged as a Geo Tracker rebadged as a Chevy Tracker. The 2.0-liter “J20A” engine is known for being rather stout, and the off-road capabilities are said to be substantial. Suzuki sold these things all over the world; I’ve had Instagram friends from Brazil and Turkey message me recently, saying they’re familiar with these little SUVs. The Japan-designed, Canada-built, America-branded 4×4 is rugged, maybe a little underpowered, but just generally awesome.

Screen Shot 2022 06 15 At 2.35.50 Pm

Technically the asking price was $1,600, and my plan was to try to snag it for about $1,200 to $1,400 if the body was as rust-free as the listing indicated. “It’s a 2000 Chevrolet tracker It’s been enough family since we move from Kansas It runs overheats little bit It’s a good car for the price” read the entire Facebook Marketplace listing.

I arrived at the seller’s home and met a kind Albanian man playing with his daughter at his sizable home, with a bunch of vehicles (presumably owned by his family members) out front, including the man’s big Chevy Silverado 2500 work-truck. He showed me to the Tracker. “It won’t start without a jump. I’ll be right back,” he said, before disappearing into his house, and returning with some jumper cables.

Screen Shot 2022 06 15 At 2.36.40 Pm

He hooked two sets of jumper cables to one another to get some extra length, and attached them to the Tracker’s battery on one end, and to his Pontiac Vibe’s battery  on the other. “Pop!” went a spark between the cable and the Vibe’s battery. The man headed to his car, and turned it on, then hopped into the Tracker. No crank, no relay clicking, nothing. I turned to the Vibe, and got nearer, only to see what I’d feared: The man had put the jumper cables on backwards, with black on red and red on black.

I corrected the issue, but it appeared the damage was done. No matter how long we waited, the little 4×4 wouldn’t crank. Nothing — I mean NOTHING — worked. No lights, no hazards, and definitely no starter motor. “Weird, it ran yesterday,” the man said. “Well, I think you may have fried something by reversing the jumper cable polarity. Normally when you hook a jumper cable to a car properly, you see a tiny spark, but I see nothing.” He suggested we wait for the battery to charge; he even pulled up his truck to us it.

“Man, this battery must be completely dead,” he guessed. “Well,” I responded. “We’re basically running this Tracker off your pickup’s battery. There should be some lighting or at least one or two signs of life. I think something’s fried. Maybe the engine computer, maybe some fuses.” I then started to look through some fuses underhood, but I wasn’t familiar with the Tracker, and gave up.

A few minutes later, the man gave up trying to start the thing, and I got ready to head back home. “I’ll let you know when I get it running,” he told me. “Sure,” I responded. “And if you want to sell it non-running, let me know.”

“How much?” he replied. “Oh, I dunno,” I answered, “Throw out a price.” He told me he’d been offered $500 already, so I threw out $700. He immediately went to get the title.

20220614 124017 20220614 123803

The following day, I had AAA tow the Tracker to my home, where it currently sits, dead. Completely dead. I haven’t done a full assessment of the vehicle’s health, but an initial assessment shows some mouse droppings (it smells like urine in the cabin) and some black and white growth on the carpet:

20220615 143000 20220615 143100 20220615 143049 20220615 143036

And of course, there’s this nasty ding in the rear quarter panel:

20220615 142920

I can’t seem to get the rear door open, either, plus the tires look a bit old. Anyway, I still have a lot to do on this thing. You could argue that buying a completely-dead Geo (let’s call it what it is) is a terrible idea, but I look at it as a rust-free, five-speed, 4×4, manual transmission, relatively fuel-efficient Japanese SUV for only $700.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Autopian (@theautopian)

20220615 142901

20220615 143015

It’s was a responsible choice, really. Well, assuming it’s got any life left in it.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

162 Responses

  1. So… How’s that Australian Valiant rust bucket wrenching project that you are never in a year of Sunday’s ever ever going to get registered on road again coming along in NSW?

    Or have you faced the reality that the road rego’ laws elsewhere in the world aren’t quite as lax as those in the USA and that story has died its natural death?

    :+)

  2. With a little bit o’ work, that 2L would be right at home in my 96 4 door. Nice combo of manual trans, and manual x-fer case. Not the most powerful, but extremely reliable and easy to repair. I get looks, smiles and thumbs-up when I drive mine. Should be a simple fusable link like previously mentioned. Cant wait to follow this repair/build. I can picture a 3″ lift and slightly bigge tire. Will make you feel like a manly man in the land of mall crawler Jeeps.

      1. I can’t speak to the newer ones, but apparently on the older ones they use a 60A bolt in fuse in lieu of a fusible link. It’s possible the newer ones use a fusible link which would probably be built into the positive cable. Break out the multi meter and test for available voltage 12v at B+ on the starter and work your way back I suppose. Or just go straight to the fuse box and check the fuse.

        https://www.suzuki-forums.com/threads/connected-battery-reverse-polarity.55701/

  3. Sell a car, buy a car! At some point in the future, Old David Tracy is going to have to give Young David Tracy the speech from Shawshank when Red is up for parole.

    “Rehabilitated… Now I don’t have any idea what that means…”

    In the meantime, we’re all here and ready to watch this saga just as we did the Jeep one. Whatever keeps us off the streets…haha

  4. “It’s was a responsible choice, really. Well, assuming it’s got any life left in it.”
    You bet it has a lot of life all right, and boy, it is growing and multiplying! Some of it will add a delicate scent and polka dots to the interior, and some of it might even be running around chewing cables as we speak!

  5. David,
    Brilliant purchase. A number of years ago I bought a Baroud expedition tent for the top of a RUST FREE Lexus 300RX. In reading the reviews about the tent I came across a guy that was using that model (used Suzuki Variant) and said that for the money it was the best vehicle for rooftop tent camping. Low gear availability, Japanese invulnerability, and cheap. Also actually got MPG not GPM. So my advice is to fix it and turn it into your camp mobile. Everyone should have a dedicated camp mobile car. (and at least 3 toy convertibles). Also if you fix it and want to sell it email me. The 300 currently gets about 17 MPG.

Leave a Reply