Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re looking at two examples of one of my favorite categories of vehicles: old beat-up pickup trucks. But before we do, let’s settle the score on yesterday’s British cars:
Looks like Sprite beats 7-Up, and also Land Rover. This would be my choice as well. I love the idea of Land Rovers, but the reality scares me off. The little Sprite, however, isn’t fundamentally different from my MGB, so it doesn’t scare me.
Speaking of scary, what is it about the swamps of Louisiana that inspires so many people to tell creepy stories about it? Whether it’s tales of vampires from the Civil War, or songs about monsters coming out of the lake, something about that place just gives people the willies, and they feel compelled to write about it. I get it; my grandparents lived in Louisiana when I was little, and I remember the palmetto bugs, and the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and not being allowed to play in the yard because of the cottonmouths. To survive such a spooky place, you need a good sturdy truck (how’s that for a segue?). We’ve got two cheap old trucks with a reputation for surviving damn near anything; let’s check them out and see which one is the better deal.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Marrero, LA
Odometer reading: 185,000 miles
Here we have quite possibly the least imaginatively named vehicle of all time: the Toyota Pickup. In other parts of the world, this truck is known as the Hilux, but for some reason, Toyota dropped the Hilux name in the US after 1973, and until the Tacoma’s introduction in 1995, Toyota’s small truck was nameless. Nevertheless, this little marvel gained the same reputation for durability and reliability here as everywhere else.
That reputation rested on the shoulders of Toyota’s R-series engine, a stout unit with a chain-drive overhead cam. This carbureted 2.4 liter variant, 22R in Toyota-speak, only put out 97 horsepower, but it was enough, in its chugging, tractor-like way. This one is going to be even more sluggish than most, with an automatic transmission, but it will keep on going until the end of time. Provided you replace the plastic timing chain guides with proper aluminum ones, that is.
With only 185,000 miles on it, this little Toyota should have plenty of life left in it. The number-one killer of Toyota pickups is rust; this one has some, but it seems to be confined to the bed area. Somewhat worryingly, the ad contains no photos whatsoever of the interior. Old trucks tend to be treated unkindly, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s pretty rough in there.
This truck runs and drives like it should, thanks to a new battery, new fuel filter, and some carb adjustments. The front brakes are also new. Apparently it needs a muffler, but otherwise it’s mechanically solid. These little Toyota trucks are going for some silly prices these days, and this one would have been overpriced a few years ago, but now it almost seems reasonable. You just have to put up with a little rust and an automatic.
Engine/drivetrain: 4.2 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Odometer reading: 154,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
This truck doesn’t really have a name either, I suppose, just a letter: F. The numbers following it typically refer to the truck’s carrying capacity: 150 for half-ton, 250 for light-duty three-quarter ton. Anything larger or heavier-duty had been moved to Ford’s “Super Duty” line by the time this truck was built. This tenth-generation truck is a divisive design, even around these parts, but it carried on the Ford truck tradition of toughness and reliability.
This short-bed single-cab F150 is a basic XL model, so it will have a bench seat and rubber floors and crank-up windows and all those other wonderful things that make a truck, you know, a truck. It does have air conditioning and an automatic, so someone checked a few boxes on the order form, but not many. Its front bumper has also been replaced by a big honkin’ steel structure. It looks like the truck was in a minor accident which damaged the right front fender and also took out part of that big bumper. I wonder what the other car looks like?
Despite the cosmetic shortcomings, the seller says this truck runs and drives beautifully, and is ready to drive anywhere. The front end components are all new and freshly aligned, and it has good tires. The pushrod “Essex” V6 doesn’t have quite the indestructible reputation of its inline six precedessor, but it’s still a solid engine, and it puts out considerably more power than the old 300 six. It’s backed here by Ford’s 4R70W overdrive automatic, an ancient design refined and improved over the years until it got to be pretty damned good. Yeah, I’d rather have a stickshift, too, but it’s what we’ve got to work with today.
Despite being a short bed, this truck is ready to get some work done, with a bedliner and a nice locking toolbox in the bed. It’s rust-free outside except for the big bumper. Again, we don’t get any photos of the cab interior, but we can imagine how it looks. But it’s a truck; if you want a nice fancy interior, look elsewhere.
I know beat-up old trucks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s all right; you’re allowed to be wrong. And we’ll do something different tomorrow. That’s the beauty of this little endeavor – there’s always tomorrow. Today, this is what we’ve got to work with. What’ll it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)