Home » Seriously Crispy Critters: 1990 Subaru Legacy vs 2004 Ford Ranger

Seriously Crispy Critters: 1990 Subaru Legacy vs 2004 Ford Ranger

Sbsd 11 20 2023
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Good morning! I hope you all had a good weekend. And I hope you didn’t come here looking for nice clean used cars, because we don’t have any of those today. Both of today’s entrants are actually sort of impressively rusty. I don’t expect you to actually want either of them, but I do hope you enjoy gazing in rapt wonder at the huge chunks of them that are just plain gone.

On Friday, I asked a serious question, and from all appearances, most of you are just as baffled as I am. Why would anyone pay twenty grand for a car that’s essentially the same as one that can be bought for a fifth of that? And yes, I understand that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, with the salvage title on the California car and all, but honestly, to me, even that one seems too expensive.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

One other thing that stuck out to me in the comments were quite a few mentions of residual/resale value. This is something I’ve honestly never taken into consideration when buying a car, or anything short of a house, really. The thing costs what it costs, and I’m either willing and able to pay it, or I’m not. And if I sell it later, I check to see what other people are selling similar ones for, and undercut them a little bit. What I initially paid doesn’t even factor into the equation; that money is gone. It’s not worth what I paid for it; it’s worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. In any event, the consensus seems to be that the imported Integra is not worth the asking price.

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So, let’s move on. Rust, as our buddy Neil Young once sang, never sleeps. In the case of today’s two cars, it slammed a bottle of No-Doz and washed it down with a two-liter of Mountain Dew. The oxidation process has been very busy on these two, but the good news is that they’re both excellent runners and drivers according to the sellers. Does it matter, though? You be the judge.

1990 Subaru Legacy – $2,450

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam flat 4, four-speed automatic, AWD

Location: Madison, WI

Odometer reading: 97,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Runs great!

All-wheel-drive Subarus are popular cars in snowy parts of the country, and Madison certainly counts. The ability to just plow through snowdrifts is a wonderful thing, especially in a cheap car that you don’t have to care about. The trouble, of course, is that the snow isn’t hard on cars – but the salt used to clear it away is murder on them, sometimes literally.

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This first-generation Legacy sedan has fewer than 100,000 miles on its odometer, but it looks like all of them were acquired during the winter. Road salt has made such a meal of this thing that the entire rear door sill corner is eaten away on the passenger’s side. Both rocker panels are Swiss cheese, the lower portions of both front fenders are absent, and the bottoms of the doors aren’t too far behind. Someone has attempted to disguise the damage, or maybe just distract from it, with some half-assed spray painting, but somehow that just makes it worse.

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It runs great, the seller says, and has had a bunch of recent work done. The timing belt, head gaskets, exhaust, radiator, and rear brakes are all new. My question isn’t why they did all that work to such a rusty car, but how. I had a Honda Accord once that was so rusty I couldn’t put it on a lift to replace a blown rear brake cylinder. I ended up junking it because I just couldn’t safely get it off the ground. And this one looks a lot worse. How in the hell were they able to do a brake job and exhaust on this thing without it breaking in two?

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But since it’s all been done, it could make a decent winter beater, though there’s no way of knowing how many winters it has left in it. I do find it amusing that the seller points out that there are no child seat anchors; who in their right mind would let their baby anywhere near this thing?

2004 Ford Ranger – $1,350

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

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Location: Palm Beach County, FL

Odometer reading: 150,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Perfect”

Full disclosure: If you click on the link above for this truck, you’ll discover that it has already been sold. The listing was two hours old when I downloaded the photos at noon on Sunday, and by 7:00 PM, it was gone. This rusty-ass Ford Ranger sold in just nine hours. I’m writing this based on what I remember of the listing, but the photos tell most of the tale.

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LIke the Subaru, this one has big chunks that simply aren’t there any more. The rear cab corners are completely rusted away, as are the rocker panels, and the rear wheel arches are certainly not the shape they were when it left the factory. Both the front and rear bumpers are rusted through from the inside out as well. It has a plastic bedliner that I think is probably structural at this point.

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The seller did say it runs “perfect,” and the air conditioning is “ice cold,” so it’s got that going for it. Mechanically, these little Rangers are hard to kill anyway, and with only 150,000 miles on it, I wouldn’t expect much to have gone wrong. It’s usually rust that kills these trucks in the Midwest, but you don’t expect to see one so eaten away in Florida. The only thing I can think of is that it spent a lot of time in proximity to salt water, driving on the beach or something. The Baywatch trucks probably look like this by now, too.

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I get why it sold so quickly – these are great little trucks, and what’s left of this one could probably still be useful. But man, you almost feel like you need a tetanus booster just looking at it.

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Since moving to the west coast eighteen years ago, I haven’t given much thought to rust on cars. It just isn’t much of an issue out here. Sure, cars out on the coast, exposed to a lot of sea spray, get rusty, but usually in places you can see; they don’t rot from the inside out, slowly shedding chunks of rocker panels and floor pans. But frankly, most of the cars I had when I lived in the midwest weren’t this bad, either. But sometimes it’s fun to look at the extreme cases, because it’s actually impressive just how rusty cars can get without buckling under their own weight. I don’t envy the buyer of the truck, and I’m not suggesting that any of you rush out and buy the Legacy, but if you did have to choose one, which would it be: all-wheel-drive traction and comfy seats, or heavy-duty hauling capacity?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
7 months ago

I take the Ranger, assuming the frame is OK. . .a weekend with a welder, some sheet metal, and some half-assed body work spray painted with the closet color rattle can you find at the home depot. Done. . .at this point, looking good is not an option. Just needs to pass inspection (no holes or sharp edges up here in the land of salt and unplowed roads).

Last edited 7 months ago by VermonsterDad
Ricki
Ricki
7 months ago

I paid less than half as much for twice as much sheet metal on my same-gen Legacy. Hell to the naw.

That Ranger, though, still has use. As long as the box is good and the frame isn’t falling apart, I don’t care how many body panels are still on it. And for much, much less.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
7 months ago

Both of those vehicles have so many rust holes that I’d bet that at highway speeds they both act as deer whistles! ⁀⊙﹏☉⁀

Last edited 7 months ago by Shooting Brake
Anoos
Anoos
7 months ago

If I had to buy one, I’ll take the one that will sell for more to the salvage yard.

That Subaru should not be driven on public roads or anywhere else. That thing has at least one major suspension component that is no longer physically mounted to the car because the mounting point is no longer there.

On the Ranger, maybe the frame is still intact? Neither one of these would pass my state’s safety inspection. I guess I could plant one on my lawn as a jungle gym for children I don’t like (all of them).

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago

My vote goes to the Ranger since it’s a lot cheaper and it’s manual. If I’m gonna get a rusty heap of shit, it better be cheap.

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 months ago

WTF. Was ready to vote Legacy because I love those cars so much, but it is absolute worst spec: sedan, auto, AWD. WGAF about the low miles when the body looks like that and the engines on these weren’t the problem. Could have 400k on it for the shape it’s in with what it might have left for time on it. That’s like early ’80s Subaru rustproofing after being left below the high tide mark for a few years. Wouldn’t even pass inspection here. And $2500?! Are they f’n high? JFC, I regret junking mine even more now! The rust wasn’t 1/100 of this and the rodents that found their way inside couldn’t have been THAT bad to get out. Not sure the truck would pass inspection, either, but it is cheaper, I guess.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
7 months ago

The rattle can paint job on that Subaru makes it look like someone who is trying to cover up a bunch of cold sores with makeup.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
7 months ago

I mean really, this is a hard pass on both but if you’re making me choose…
Cheaper and body on frame means it’s Ranger all the way. I wouldn’t trust the rust in the Subaru unibody but on the Ranger it’s more towards cosmetic damage unless the Frame is a goner.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
7 months ago

Too much for the Ranger, but that’s how things are these days! I bought one in similar condition a few months ago for $500 here in KS. The transmission was used as a replacement for my daughters ’93. The engine went in the barn for future use if needed. The frame and running gear will go under a ’46 cab I have. And I got $100 back for scrapping what was leftover!

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
7 months ago
Reply to  Fordlover1983

Like Native Americans and buffalos, you use every part of the Ranger.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
7 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

You use every part of the Native Americans?

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
7 months ago

Neither of these provides enough magnetic attraction. Pass.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
7 months ago

If we ignore the price, the Subaru all day long. Though the 4EAT isn’t the desirable trans choice, the EJ22 and AWD make up for that. Where I’m at, 2.3 manual RWD Rangers are a dime a dozen inside the yard, so this isn’t even special as far as a parts truck goes. At least the Subaru is going to be useful for cannibalization and keeping at least one (or two) others on the road.

Now, going back to the price… WTF, Subaru guy? My son just paid a grand LESS than that for a ’97 Legacy AWD with just north of 130k miles, in PERFECT condition, with ZERO rust. And I do mean ZERO. I get that 1st gen Legacies are hard to find now, but the body and frame have to be intact for it to be worth anything!

As for driving either one of these… no. I wouldn’t even aim these at my enemy’s house with bricks weighing down the throttle. Because 1) I wouldn’t trust them to track anywhere straight enough to hit it and 2) I wouldn’t trust either one to be able to penetrate the exterior wall of even the shoddiest McMansion.

Anoos
Anoos
7 months ago

My neighbor had a 2007ish Outback with no visible rust or damage on his lawn last week with an asking price of $1000. It sold quickly. I suspect (hope) that this one does not.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
7 months ago

Somehow in these pics, the weird spray paint on the Subaru makes it look like it’s been on fire at some point.

Millermatic
Millermatic
7 months ago

I voted… but in reality I wouldn’t pay more than $500 for either of these.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
7 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

I’d pay a LITTLE more than that for the Legacy, but only if I needed the motor for something specific. It’s low mileage and unfortunately EJ22s, as bulletproof as they are, are starting to get hard to find in good shape.

Anoos
Anoos
7 months ago

You are trusting the person who drove this car to properly assess the condition of the engine. If they can ignore giant holes in the structure, I’m sure they can overlook all sorts of fatal engine noises.

ES
ES
7 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

15 years ago, i got $500 for the 97 version of this truck (sans AC, with bench seat) with 177K miles, and way more rust and a couple of minor electrical gremlins. the corroded u-bolts disintegrated on the delivery drive to the buyer (rr tracks in 2nd gear). times have changed.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
7 months ago

That Ranger is overpriced by about $1000 but I’d still choose it.

Cyko9
Cyko9
7 months ago

For the purposes of the brain exercise, the Ranger is a better “deal” but still not convincingly safe. The Subaru seller probably added up all the work put into it to get that insane price, because nobody should pay more than $500 for that death trap. Good brakes? I get the idea you’d jam on ’em and the body would keep going!

Alex Rockey
Alex Rockey
7 months ago

The Ford Ranger. As long as the frame is okay, it will still be useful despite the rust. In fact, it may be a positive; you don’t mind damaging the body when using it for the work it was intended for.

Using the Subaru as a “winter beater” would be nice, but that would just make it worse sooner.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Rockey

Agreed. If it has a solid frame, the Ranger would be a safer choice, and the price differential sure doesn’t hurt its odds (edit: in other words, if it breaks in half once you sign the bill of sale, you’re out a grand or so after scrapping it).

That Legacy’s a Gambler 500 car with an owner that doesn’t know it yet.

Last edited 7 months ago by FuzzyPlushroom
Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
7 months ago
Reply to  FuzzyPlushroom

I wouldn’t even Gamble that. The first washboarded section of road would make that fold like a taco.

Bqpqfb
Bqpqfb
7 months ago

I live in Madison and can confirm cars like this are common on the road here. There is no safety inspection in WI. That said, though, that license plate – AJX series is very new. So the owner hasn’t had it long, or at least registered it recently.

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
7 months ago

A neighbor across the street from me has one of these, and pulled the bed off of it. I remarked that I had seen Lingerie with more coverage than the lace that was on the bed frame. Apparently they ae 2 piece frames, and he repaired it with a salvaged rear frame.

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