Good morning! Today’s trip down Route 66 takes us into New Mexico, to cross-shop a pair of pickup trucks, one of which is more than twice the price of the other. Is it twice the truck? We’ll see. First, though, let’s see what you chose to drive out of the Texas panhandle:
That’s what I expected. But I was watching the vote today, and the Chrysler was ahead a few times. It ended up closer than I thought. But the Suburban wins, primarily based on its reputation.
Speaking of reputations, almost no vehicle enjoys a reputation for reliability and durability greater than a Toyota truck. The older 20R/22R/22RE-powered trucks in particular are known for racking up the miles. (I had one for a while and didn’t actually care for it much, but it certainly never let me down.) Such a reputation carries with it a high price tag on the used market, but personally, I think things have gotten a bit out of hand. A Toyota truck used to command a small premium over other trucks, but now the numbers are so skewed, the values so inflated, that “lesser” trucks can start to seem like a much better deal. So that’s what we’re going to investigate today.
Also please note that the next town in the song is in fact Gallup, New Mexico. However, Gallup is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, wide-spot-in-the-road sort of town, and I thought I’d have better luck finding vehicles if I stopped a bit short, in Albuqueruqe.
One last thing, before we get to the trucks: I have been remiss in mentioning a forgotten hero of the Great American Road Trip, one that bears mentioning as we wend our way across this great land: Stuckey’s. Once upon a time, it seemed like every highway exit across the bottom half of the country boasted one of their big red and yellow signs, usually next to a gas station and a Howard Johnson’s. Stop in for a bathroom break, treat yourself to a pecan log, and peruse their fine selection of gaudy souvenir trinkets before climbing back into the car to eat up some more miles. That was the way. I thought Stuckey’s had all closed, but it sounds like they’re making a comeback, and I’m glad to hear it.
All right. Let’s check out some trucks.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Odometer reading: 228,000 miles
Before there was the Tacoma, there was the Hilux. Or at least, everywhere else in the world, there was. Here in the US, Toyota decided not to give their truck any name at all after the mid-1970s. The truck went through several generations, each with subtle improvements, but all powered by the same engine: a 2.2 or 2.4 liter four. This one should be fuel-injected; I’m pretty sure Toyota had finally cut out the carbs by 1993.
Toyota pickups were available with a wide range of options. This one looks fairly plain-Jane, with a bench seat, but it does have air conditioning, and the seller says it works. They also say it has a rebuilt engine and a new clutch. The clutch I can understand, but I’m not sure why a 22RE would need a rebuild so soon. A timing chain, sure, but a full rebuild?
Outside, it’s pretty beat-up, but since it’s in the desert, at least it’s not rusty. I got used to seeing Toyota trucks with gaping holes in the rocker panels and bed sides when I lived in the midwest; a thirty-year-old truck with no rust on it almost looks wrong somehow.
Honestly, to me, this looks like a good truck, but a terrible deal. Sure, it will run “forever,” but it’s already been around half that long. I know used car prices are a bit crazy right now, but is a simple plain little truck like this really worth six grand just because it’s a Toyota?
Engine/drivetrain: 3.9 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Odometer reading: 201,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
In a way, this truck was responsible for the death of little trucks like that Toyota. Dodge’s mid-sized Dakota launched a whole new category when it debuted in 1987, and several smaller trucks grew over the years to meet it. This extended-cab Dakota is from the final year of the first generation, before a radical restyle that made it look more like Dodge’s full-sized Ram trucks. It’s powered by the most common powertrain available in the Dakota: a 3.9 liter “Magnum” V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission.
This Dakota has seen some hard use, from the looks of it. Hardly a single panel of sheetmetal remains that doesn’t have some dent or wrinkle in it. And while it probably did come from the factory painted black, it has obviously been repainted with a rattle-can in several places. But once again, desert air is kind to sheetmetal, and as dinged-up as it is, it isn’t rusty.
Inside, things look a bit better: the upholstery is more or less intact, if worn, and it looks like someone took good care of it. We aren’t given many details about its mechanical condition or recent repairs or service, but the seller does say it runs and drives well and has been dependable. If it measures up to its description, this beat-up Dodge should be ready to do some more work, without needing to be worked on much.
And you could buy two of these for the price of that Toyota, and still have change left over. Yes, it’s an automatic, which will put some people off, for either driving dynamics or reliability reasons, but it wouldn’t have made it to 200,000 miles if the transmission hadn’t been maintained, and while I do prefer trucks with stickshifts, an automatic in a weekend bomb-around truck like this isn’t a deal-breaker.
You might feel differently. You might be willing to pay the extra price for the peace of mind that comes with the Toyota name on the back. But at what point is the premium too much? I know how I feel, but you’re the ones who have to make the final call.
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)