Good morning, and welcome to the middle of the week! Today we’re heading to Bozeman, Montana to look at a couple of four-wheel-drive trucks. But first, let’s see which date-night machine you chose:
Another Lincoln, another blowout! Man, you guys really love Ford’s big coupes. Or else you really hate what I choose to put up against them.
Montana, if you’ve never been there, is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Spacious skies, purple mountains, fruited plains, the whole bit. But life can be tough there, especially in the wintertime. Snowfall is measured in feet rather than inches, services are spread thin, and four wheel drive is often a necessity rather than a fashion accessory. I’ve found a couple of good cheapish 4×4 trucks for sale in the college town of Bozeman, on the western end of the state. Let’s see which one is the better winter warrior.
1995 Toyota T100 – $4,000
Engine/drivetrain: 3.4 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD
Location: Bozeman, MT
Odometer reading: 276,000 miles (or thereabouts; odometer is broken)
Runs/drives? Sure does
What do you do when you make a really successful little truck, but you want to break into the big truck market? Grab both ends and pull really hard. That was Toyota’s apparent design philosophy with the T100: the same thing, only more of it. It was a good idea, but it wasn’t really enough truck to pull many buyers of full-size American trucks; really, it was closer in size and capability to Dodge’s midsized Dakota.
But the folks for whom this was the right-sized truck fell in love with these things, and they’re still popular today, even as the “compact” Tacoma has grown to nearly T100 proportions, and Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup is truly gargantuan like all the others. People who love T100s really love them, for hundreds of thousands of miles, so seeing this truck closing in on 300,000 miles isn’t surprising. It’s kind of too bad the odometer and speedometer stopped working; I know verifiable high mileage is a bit of a badge of honor among Toyota devotees.
Apart from the non-functional speedometer, there’s not much wrong with this truck. It has a rusted-out exhaust so it’s a bit noisy, and apparently the driver’s side door is currently stuck shut, so you have to get in the other side. But it runs and drives well, and even the air conditioning still works. As for winter suitability. the photos in the ad tell the tale well.
1998 Chevrolet S-10 – $4,000
Engine/drivetrain: 4.3 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD
Location: Bozeman, MT
Odometer reading: 171,000 miles
Scared of “foreign” trucks? Need an extended cab? Have a thing for beige? Well then, have I got the truck for you! Chevy’s second-generation S-10 is a truck we’ve looked at a couple of times, but finally I found one that doesn’t have big gaping rust holes in it, so maybe we can evaluate this truck on its own merits. I have to admit that I hated these when they first came out; I really preferred the square first-gen S-10. These trucks always looked like someone put the clay mock-up in the microwave as a joke, and they just kept it that way.
Looks aside, these are good little trucks. Sure, the plastic interior may fall apart, but the bones are solid: Chevy’s good old 4.3 liter V6, coupled to an overdrive automatic and a shift-on-the-fly 4WD transfer case. I’ve driven 4WD S-10s and Blazers in the snow, and these things are absolute winter beasts. This one, with 171,000 miles under its belt, has a lot of winters left in it.
It’s a little beat-up, but really, you can’t make these trucks any uglier. In fact, a little character does them some good. At least it’s not rusty. The seller lists a bunch of recently-replaced mechanical items and says it runs well. I do kind of wish it were a manual, but S-10 buyers seemed to favor automatics by a wide margin, so used stickshifts don’t come up as often.
And there they are: two Rocky Mountain winter beaters, ready and able to tackle the snow. DIfferent ways of getting there, to be sure, but they bot end up in essentially the same place. Which one is more to your liking?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
Toyotas are indestructible. Easy choice here.
What’s with all the hate? I always thought those S10’s were pretty handsome.
Puttin’ my wallet away and waiting for a Ranger or Comanche from the same era.
didn’t bozeman recently have a gigundous flood?
stuck door, no speedo/odo and rusted muffler make me suspect the T100 might be flood-damaged.
s10 gets the nod here
Can’t really go wrong with picking either truck. I picked the T-100 just for the 5 speed. Granted, I think they are both about 1-1.5K to expensive.
WTH? That S-10 so many whiskey dents that I bet it whistles when it’s driving! ⚆ᗝ⚆
That T100 is pretty rough looking. S-10 for me.
That Toyota would make a good off-road beater.
Obviously the S10 is the more sane purchase. It’s much more practical, hasn’t been to the moon and back, is much newer, and has better parts availability. So why the hell did I pick the Toyota?
Love the S-10, and I’ll even confess to having loved the Astro I used to drive as a shuttle…
…I would just hope the S-10 wouldn’t die by fuel pump like I killed that Astro.
A former bandmate had an ‘01 Sonoma and the trans went out at 175k. I have a ‘96 K1500 which uses a similar 4l60e (iron case instead of aluminum in the small trucks). Trans went out on it at 200k. This S10 is probably on borrowed time from a trans standpoint, but 4l60es are so easy to build much stronger than factory, so it’s really not much of a concern.
One of my neighbors also has a T100. Admittedly he got about the worst T100 he could find, but at 120000 miles, that thing is *clapped out*. Shift linkage is garbage, V6 is underpowered, every interior panel is cracked and discolored. I realize his is an outlier for how bad T100s can be, but I’m not impressed. Pretty sure I’d pick the S10
I opened this item fully expecting to vote for the T100 … but that S-10 looks pretty spotless, dings aside. And the extended cab is the pick to click for us bigger folk. We’ll take the Chevy.
I’ve owned both of these trucks, a 1995 T100 and a ~90s S10. I drove of them on multistate trips as well as in town.
If I wanted a truck for truck stuff, the T100 is OK. But if I wanted to actually drive farther than the town dump on a sunny day, the S10 is the winner.
I loved the T100, it was a 4×4 automatic extended cab with a couple inches of lift. It looked pretty sweet if you are in to trucks. The build quality was exceptional, not a squeak after 315K miles. The auto trans was still going strong. The 3.4 V6 was bulletproof. But the truck was slow as hell, and at this age the vacuum lines will be driving you insane. Also, it wasn’t that comfortable and highway driving was a bummer. And the defroster was hopeless.
The S10 was more comfy and certainly drove better. It was just as reliable as the Toyota. It has terrible styling, I’ll admit, but had decent build quality. Also, after The Last of Us featured a two tone S10 these things will have hipster cred.
It’s hard to see exactly what kind of condition that Toyota is in based on the half-assed pics. It’s also filthy. Big turn-off for me. I have seen too many super rusted out T100s, Tacomas, and 4Runners around here to think the exhaust is the only rusty thing on that truck. I would hope the owner would not drop a significant amount of money on a top-end rebuild for a rusted-out hulk of a truck, but people have done dumber things..
Thanks for finally putting up a 4.3l S-10 that is a legitimate contender! I actually like the looks of these trucks. The only way it would be spec’d better is if it had those awesome, slightly swoopy 5 spoke alloys. The auto doesn’t bother me in a truck, and it looks to be rust-free from the pics. I love that Toyota, too, but it looks like it has been rode hard and put away wet (or frosty in this case).. Chevy for me today!
Easily the Toyota
I’ve never found Montana to be as visually pleasing as Idaho or Wyoming. The east half is basically North Dakota, and the west half is full of scraggly mining towns that don’t look very nice.
A few miles west, however, is Coeur d’Alene, which is absolutely spectacular.
My Dad’s side of my family is from Paradise Valley, between Livingston and Yellowstone Park. There’s no more beautiful place on Earth, and a reason why they call it Paradise Valley.
The S-10 should be running away with this one. Rust is what kills these little trucks, and this one doesn’t have any. The Toyota tax has doubled the value of this particular T-100, with a driver’s door that no longer does door stuff and an odometer that has retired from tracking mileage. All those problems to a rusty exhaust system, and I’ll take the GM cockroach for the same price.
except it has a dent on every surface, and the 4.3 NA is perhaps less efficient than an actual 5.7 or even an LS 5.3. But that at least would be somewhat easy to swap in there.
The dents don’t bother me on a cheap vehicle. It means you can use this truck for real truck stuff and not worry about getting dents and scrapes along the way. Plus, it has a nicer interior than the Toyota with its shredded upholstery.
The 4.3 in the S-10 will last every bit as long as the Yota. Given the cheaper and easier to find parts, I’ll take the S-10.
This is a tossup for me. Voted Chevy because of the door thing on the Toyota, but really this would come down to an inspection & drive.
Time fer T.
I’ve always had a thing for the T-100, and don’t understand why they weren’t popular. Every so often I’ll comb fb Marketplace, or even Craigslist to see what comes up, but it’s usually disappointing.
I’m not enthused about peeling off 40 Benjamins for this unit, but relative to the Chevy I’ll lay it down and operate on that door before I roll down to Meineke.
P.S. That door must be pretty lunched to roll around like this. ‘ makes ya wonder.
My understanding of why the T-100 didn’t sell was Toyota did all kinds of market research to see how truck owners used their trucks, and then built a truck that exactly met those needs.
Most truck owners are alone in the cab the vast majority of the time, so initially, the T-100 wasn’t offered with an extended cab.
Most truck owners don’t do a lot of toeing, so a 4 cylinder as the standard engine should be fine, with the V6 as the option it should be perfectly adequate for most situations.
What they discovered is most truck buyers don’t buy only what they need. They want a traditional truck, and that means, for most of them, an extended cab or crew cab and a V8 engine available.
I read that the T-100 was the first time Toyota had to slap some cash on the hood in the form of rebates to move the iron.
This makes perfect sense.
So many of us have a self image cultivated by The Great American Marketing Machine (myself included). When it comes to sucking greenbacks out of a hot pocket they have their ways.
I think at this point the T100s out there are past their prime, unfortunately. And if you find one that is cherry it will cost the same as a (better in every way) much newer truck.
I have no choice but to agree, DadBod, but the electronic/digital sophistication of the new models is a bit overwhelming, if not disappointing. Let’s not even get into pricing.
Please note, I’m a guy who has a strong preference for rollup windows and analog gauges.
Good luck to me, I guess.
My T100 had the fancy SR5 package with power windows. By the time I got rid of it, the passenger window took about 10 full seconds to close.
I was recently shopping for a new-ish truck and was surprised to see a 2018-or-so F250 with crank windows. Ford does build some strippers after all!
Fun fact: T100s had a payload rating of up to 2,300 pounds. That’s over twice the payload of a brand new Tacoma today. Toyota, very definitively, does not make ’em like it used to.
And also about 600 pounds higher than the new Tundra.
I’ll take the T100 just because it has the 5VZ. My first car was a Tacoma with that engine in it and it was slow but dead reliable. That Tacoma was in our family since new and when I got rid of the truck with 210,000 miles on it, it still ran just as good as new and never needed anything other than normal maintenance.
Honestly I’d prefer to have another first gen Tacoma but I just can’t justify paying current first gen Tacoma prices. The T100 seems like it would be a nice compromise
That T100 will outlive us all. It’s the better buy as long as it’s been maintained.
If the Toyoda didn’t have the door issue sure. The muffler is an easy fix.
I would get the S10 for the same money
GMs of that era have a horrible ergonomic issue that seriously messes up my knee if I’m driving for more than 30-45 minutes. Gimme the ‘yota.