Home » SUVs (Spectacularly Ugly Vehicles): 2003 Honda Pilot vs 1986 Ford Bronco II

SUVs (Spectacularly Ugly Vehicles): 2003 Honda Pilot vs 1986 Ford Bronco II

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Good morning! I’m writing this from a motel in Springfield, Ohio, after a grueling day including 100 miles through the worst rainstorm I’ve seen in years. I’m beat, but the show must go on, as they say, so here are a couple more vehicles chosen by my better half.

Yesterday, we looked at a couple of cheap reliable beaters from Iowa. I figured the Honda minivan would win; J-bodies are a hard sell with you lot. Personally, I’d take the Sunfire, if I was just looking for a cheap way to get around; it’s not a very nice car, but it’s reliable, efficient, and cheap and easy to fix if something does go wrong.

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But if you need more space than a small two-door coupe affords, the Odyssey would be a good choice as well. You should be able to get $2,000 worth of use out of it before the transmission shits the bed again.

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Today, Erika has found a couple of cosmetically-challenged SUVs for you to consider. One is ugly on the inside, the other on the outside, but both at least will get you home. Let’s check them out.

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2003 Honda Pilot EX – $1,999

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.5 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Odometer reading: 160,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

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Oddly enough, this Honda Pilot is pretty similar mechanically to yesterday’s winning Odyssey. It has the same 3.5 liter V6, and the same fragile automatic transmission, but the Pilot adds four-wheel-drive. The front wheels are driven normally, but the rears kick in if the fronts start to slip. You can also lock it in 4WD with a button on the dash. It’s not what you want for off-roading, but for snow, it’s just the ticket.

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This Pilot runs and drives well, according to the seller, but it has led a hard life. The interior is ripped and stained, most of the power locks don’t work, and the whole car just has an overall feeling of tiredness. There’s no mention of the transmission’s condition one way or another, but it’s a question worth asking.

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One of the Pilot’s claims to fame is that it came with three rows of seats. This is great if you need the seating, but a waste of valuable cargo space if you don’t. It looks like the seller of this one left the rear seats folded down most of the time, and transported something messy back there.

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It’s hard for me to find much to say about this car, actually. It’s a completely nondescript family car, an NPC vehicle if there ever was one. But I suppose that has its advantages: Such an invisible vehicle would make a great getaway car. And it’s got room for the whole crew!

1986 Ford Bronco II – $1,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.9 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: New Albany, OH

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Odometer reading: 51,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

The Bronco II was Ford’s answer to the Chevy S-10 Blazer and GMC S-15 Jimmy, which debuted the same year. It’s based on the Ford Ranger pickup, and powered by Ford’s “Cologne” V6. Earlier models made do with a carbureted 2.8 liter engine, but in 1986 the Bronco II received the updated 2.9 liter version, with electronic fuel injection.

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It’s equipped with a five-speed manual and four-wheel-drive, as they all should have been. Yes, you could get a 2WD Bronco II for a while. Weirdly, the 2WD ones still have a transfer case housing like the 4WD ones; it’s just empty. This one, however, has fully functional 4WD, and the seller says it works just fine.

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In fact, mechanically, this thing seems to be in tip-top condition, and the seller offers photographic proof in the ad. Here we see this Bronco II rolling down the freeway, admittedly only at 55 MPH, but the steering wheel is straight, and the gauges all appear to work. I’m not sure how prudent or safe it was for the seller to snap a photo like this while driving, but it does get the point across.

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However, not all is well in Bronco-land. This truck was used as a snowplow, and as such, it bears the scars of a lot of Ohio winters. The frame is solid, according to the seller, but there’s a lot of rust in the sheetmetal. The latches on the driver’s door and the tailgate also need some work. But if you want a perfect Bronco II, you’re going to pay a lot more for it.

Beauty is only skin-deep, they say; it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Well, one of these has some pretty rough skin, but is actually nice on the inside. The other is uglier inside, but has a nice inoffensive incognito exterior. Which one is more important to you?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
14 days ago

I wanted to like the Bronco II but the abundancy of rust and duck taped windshield let me down. If the previous owner wasn’t willing to re-seal the windshield with proper weatherstripping I wonder what else may’ve been skipped.

I’m reluctantly going with the Honda (transmission be damned)

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
14 days ago

I’ll take the Pilot due to same reasons as the Odyssey yesterday and especially since the other one is a Fix Or Repair Daily Bronco…I like the Blazers & Jimmys way better

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
14 days ago

Give me the baby bronco. It’s a great trail basher. Added plus, since it is rusty, who cares if it gets body damage. Wanna fit bigger tires? All you need is a hammer to trim the fenders

Last edited 14 days ago by Lizardman in a human suit
Amy Andersen
Amy Andersen
13 days ago

Exactly. Beat up old SUVs are perfect for building off-road rigs.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
13 days ago
Reply to  Amy Andersen

Bingo. Too rusty for a good daily driver. Cheaper than a used side by side. And if ya wanna go crazy and Sawzall the roof off, heck, why not. Weld on an exo cage, cut most of the fenders off, who cares, it is all rust anyway. Engine blows, drop in better power. People get pissed when you chop up a perfect bronco, but this one is probably one foot in the grave. Not worth saving, so go crazy.

Tricky Motorsports
Tricky Motorsports
14 days ago

The Honda is the smarter choice but I’d have a lot more fun in the Bronco so I’ll take that.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
14 days ago

I hear the engines from this Honda are just the thing to swap into a Miata so there’s that.

JDE
JDE
14 days ago

don’t let the low miles fool you here. that Plow Mount means it has done some hard miles with a good portion of it’s radiator blocked. Also it was likely in salt infested roads most of the time. I suppose if you were ok with leaving it as is, and maybe hitting a radwood or two it would garner a bit more attention, at least until it rusted apart or died one to many time, but it would never be worth the money to try to repair.

Honda is barely broken in, the low price is as others said actually a little concerning.

Matt Woods
Matt Woods
14 days ago

Having driven both, the Pilot is a far better place to be. Plus, I would rather swap the transmission in the Honda over fixing the certainly rusted to swiss cheese frame on the Ford. Yeah, I know they claim it’s solid, but there is no way that’s the case with the body looking as it does.

DDayJ
DDayJ
14 days ago

I’m generally not a “neither” type as we all know we must choose here, but that Bronco looks like it would fall apart if you sneezed near it. And why is that Pilot that cheap? I’ll take the Honda knowing it’s probably headed to the UPull as soon as something big breaks.

Last edited 14 days ago by DDayJ
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
14 days ago

Always thought the Bronco II should’ve had a removable top and this one is getting close. Still, I’ll take the old plow horse and start combing southwest junkyards for body panels and suspension parts. Gonna have a Broncostein monster when I’m done, but that’ll be part of its charm.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
14 days ago

I’ll take the Pilot any day over a rusty, beat-to-shit ex-plow truck.

Jatkat
Jatkat
14 days ago

I adore the Bronco II, but any vehicle with plow attachments is an automatic no-go for me. Not only is likely rustier than a siberian lighthouse, but that front end is sure to be destroyed from carrying that plow and bashing into crap.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
14 days ago

If the plow is included, B2 all day long! Think of all the beer, pizza and future favors your neighbors will owe you next winter! That’s worth $1900 easy.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
14 days ago

I consider both to be ticking time bombs. Honda for the tranny and Bronco for the rust.

I guess the rust is scarier. I’ve driven 2 rusty vehicles to the point where a pothole broke a control arm mount loose and then it’s straight to the junkyard. Strictly around town and I never haul the family around in such things but it’s kinda fascinating and satisfying to take a vehicle right to the end.

Cyko9
Cyko9
14 days ago

Both of these are going to take some money to keep running, so my choice was which would I even think of investing more in? Ultimately, the Bronco II got my vote. Assuming the frame really is okay, you could patch up the rusty body – maybe learn to weld. It’s a beater, not as cheap as it deserves, but nobody wants to invest time or money in a new-old transmission for that Honda.

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