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John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/11/19 5:13 p.m.

In the lower priced end of the pickup market its probably going to be more about the condition of whatever brand you find more than it is going to be about what specific brand.  

The hot items in the pickup world are:

  • big engines (diesel or gas)
  • big cabs (ext cab or crew cab)
  • 4x4

Those items command the seemingly ridiculous prices therefore, for a bargain I would maybe focus on:

  • full size trucks with the V6 engine (like F-150)
  • regular cab
  • rwd

 

Grizz
Grizz UberDork
2/11/19 5:20 p.m.

I'm going to suggest Colorados.

The ones we used for the business were no slouches even with the 4 banger, and they were very reliable.

Kreb
Kreb UberDork
2/11/19 5:28 p.m.

In reply to rob_lewis :

Small because in a dense urban area, full-size trucks can be a PITA, and my son will be using this as his personal vehicle as well. I don't much mind big, because I've been driving full-size trucks (and bigger) since 1978 and have got full-size trucks and vans in my fleet already. He's not so keen on them.

For equivalent mileage and condition, Rangers are half the price of Tacos here. I have experience with the 2.3 Duratec engine and rather like it, so I'll probably start by looking into one of them.  

The Smythe Impreza sounds pretty cool as well, but I need at least a 6 foot bed. 

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
2/11/19 5:34 p.m.

This thread has my full attention. I've been mulling a truck for a while (partially in anticipation of home improvement duties that may be in the offing, and partially due to a want of something new to tinker with) and I'm torn between the practical (this thread) and something much older and more interesting. If I end up giving in to the practical side of the brain, an 01+ Ranger with the 2.3 and a manual sounds really appealing. 4x4 would be an extra nice bonus if I can find one. Do these things tend to rust a lot? Any specific areas that are particularly prone? I'm in the salt belt, so this is a real concern.

RevRico
RevRico PowerDork
2/11/19 5:37 p.m.

Man my 4.0 ranger can barely get out of its own way. I feel like the 2.3 would be almost dangerously slow. 

 

The doors have drain plugs that can clog, the wheel wells obviously, the bottom of my bed on the cab side is rusted out with no visual clues to that on the outside. 

spitfirebill
spitfirebill MegaDork
2/11/19 7:13 p.m.

I have a Nissan hardbody that could not have been any more reliable.  

Chesterfield
Chesterfield Reader
2/11/19 7:22 p.m.

I will add to the ranger suggestion. I drove a 93 w/ 2.3 and a 5 speed for 20 years and all it needed was regular servicing. It was still on its original clutch when I sold it, and last I heard it was still going strong.

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
2/11/19 7:52 p.m.
RevRico said:

Man my 4.0 ranger can barely get out of its own way. I feel like the 2.3 would be almost dangerously slow. 

My OHV Mazda B 4000 can't really get out of its own way either, but it boils down to what you value in a vehicle.  I had a 26' box truck loaded to about 30k gvw with a 10k trailer, and it had a 6BT Cummins with 180 hp.  When you compare that 40k rig with 180hp to my Mazda that weighs 2900 lbs with 160 hp, it's an interesting comparison.  Think about 4-banger cars from the 70s with 65hp.  Yes, they suck in performance categories, but for a parts hauler and kid hauler, I would think anything above 100 hp would be sufficient and not be a slowness danger on the highway.

Having said that, I'm itching to swap out my 4.0L for a hopped up OM606 diesel making 300hp.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
2/11/19 8:23 p.m.

I feel my 180hp 4cyl 1st Gen Colorado is overpowered. It's a real struggle to get it over 2k RPM without hitting something where I live. I feel like a dope shifting an automatic manually just to keep carbon from building up -- and it already has big time. It's going to have to go down for a weekend to let some GM Top Engine Cleaner soak in.

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
2/12/19 5:11 a.m.
mazdeuce - Seth said:

So what do we think of the 2.3 Rangers? I see more than a few with that motor and a five speed in my general area in the single cab short box configuration. 

Ranger 4 cylinders come in 2 basic flavors. Anything older than 01 will have a Lima 2.0/2.3/2.5L. These are cast iron, SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder. They're tried and true, and trace their roots all the way back to the Pintos of the 70s. They came in carbeurated and fuel injected forms over the years. There were factory turbocharged versions in the Mustang SVO and Thunderbird TurboCoupe, but they're also popular among the circle track crowd in naturally aspirated form, so there are aftermarket options if desired. The engine has a timing belt, which should be considered when looking at what may be a 25-30 year old used  truck. Available with 2wd, 4wd (rare), manual or auto trans.

2001 there was a mid year change from the 2.5L Lima to the 2.3L Duratec. The Duratec is a joint venture with Mazda and is basically the same as the MZR engines that Mazda used in their small cars including the NC Miata. The basic architecture was used in the DISI engines that powered the Mazdaspeed stuff, and eventually evolved into Ford's Ecoboost 2.0 and 2.3L. It's an all aluminum, DOHC design with 4 valves per cylinder and a timing chain.  It's cleaner, more powerful, and more fuel efficient than the old Limas but was only offered in 2wd configuration. The Ranger Duratec is basically the most basic Duratec option. There's no variable cam timing, no balance shafts adding weight/friction to the bottom end. The 01-03 trucks had flaps in the intake manifold to control airflow that can break or fail, or cause a ticking noise in the top end. 04 and newer trucks eliminated the flaps with essentially no downside. These trucks are almost entirely regular cab short beds and weigh around 3000lbs.

Rangers in general ditched the notorious I Beam front suspension in 98, so any Duratec powered truck should ride a bit nicer and have more reasonable suspension options, and better weight balance than the older trucks. If you can tolerate driving an NC Miata in traffic, then a regular cab Ranger with the 2.3L/5 spd shouldn't feel all that foreign.

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
2/12/19 5:18 a.m.
RevRico said:

Man my 4.0 ranger can barely get out of its own way. I feel like the 2.3 would be almost dangerously slow. 

 

The doors have drain plugs that can clog, the wheel wells obviously, the bottom of my bed on the cab side is rusted out with no visual clues to that on the outside. 

A Regular cab, short bed, 2WD, Manual truck with the Duratec 2.3L weighs about 3000lbs.

A truck like yours with the iron block 4.0 SOHC in an extended cab truck with 4WD can weigh over 4000lbs.

Neither one is going to be a stoplight warrior, but for what they are, the little 4 cylinders can move a little.

As for rust issues, they do fairly well compared to a lot of their competition. Rust over the rear wheel wells is common. The bottom of doors as you mentioned as well. Both of those should be pretty easy to spot. The one common spot that might be easily overlooked are rusted out rear leaf spring shackles. They're a fairly cheap/easy fix, and can even be flipped for what amounts to a nearly free 2 inch drop in the rear.

Mike
Mike SuperDork
2/12/19 5:21 a.m.
Kreb said:

In reply to rob_lewis :

Small because in a dense urban area, full-size trucks can be a PITA, and my son will be using this as his personal vehicle as well. I don't much mind big, because I've been driving full-size trucks (and bigger) since 1978 and have got full-size trucks and vans in my fleet already. He's not so keen on them.

For equivalent mileage and condition, Rangers are half the price of Tacos here. I have experience with the 2.3 Duratec engine and rather like it, so I'll probably start by looking into one of them.  

The Smythe Impreza sounds pretty cool as well, but I need at least a 6 foot bed. 

Smythe makes a kit for the Charger with a claimed 6' bed.

 

https://www.smythkitcars.com/charger-ute

pimpm3
pimpm3 SuperDork
2/12/19 5:58 a.m.

I am very happy with my 1st gen s10.  It has been reliable and it handles like a go-cart thanks to dusterbd13's suspension setup.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
2/12/19 6:30 a.m.

In reply to STM317 :

Thanks for that info. Now I want to get a 2.3 Duratec Ranger and do the same 2.5 swap that they just did in the NC and update management to handle it. Just for funsises. 

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
2/12/19 9:14 a.m.

The duratec 5 spd Ranger was my favorite by far of all the Rangers i've driven (which is a lot). It's not fast but its fast enough, and the powerband encourages you to play around a little. I think they're actually fun to drive. Compare that to the 3.0/auto which is a total joykill both because of complete mediocrity of power and boring delivery. 3.0/5spd decent to drive with the stick but still a joyless powerband. 4.0 can be fun, but ... I still think the Duratec is the best Ranger combo. Fun to drive without ruining the fuel economy that is the main justification for a small truck. 

I also really like 4.2/5spd F150s and would take one of those over any Ranger besides a duratec 5spd. 

I also own a zq8 4.3 S10 and think it's pretty great, but not super economical. Spent a lot of time around a 2.5/5spd Dakota and also liked that thing a heck of a lot. 24mpg and, get this, fun handling. 

MulletTruck
MulletTruck HalfDork
2/12/19 9:34 a.m.

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
2/12/19 9:54 a.m.
STM317 said:
RevRico said:

Man my 4.0 ranger can barely get out of its own way. I feel like the 2.3 would be almost dangerously slow. 

 

The doors have drain plugs that can clog, the wheel wells obviously, the bottom of my bed on the cab side is rusted out with no visual clues to that on the outside. 

A Regular cab, short bed, 2WD, Manual truck with the Duratec 2.3L weighs about 3000lbs.

A truck like yours with the iron block 4.0 SOHC in an extended cab truck with 4WD can weigh over 4000lbs.

 

Not sure.  I just googled "94 ranger curb weight" and it said 2907.

jharry3
jharry3 Reader
2/12/19 10:06 a.m.

Rangers are great.  I have a '97  with 4.0 V-6 that seems like it will run forever.   I put 16" wheels from a Mustang on it with decent tires and its handling and braking ability went up 100%.    I added bigger throttle body, headers and an open exhaust. This makes it more power so I can almost keep up, something that will never happen with the 4 cylinder short of adding a turbo.

The only problem is finding parts for little things that break, mostly emission system related. 

  So far I have been able to find alternatives by modifying/adapting parts from later year fords but I fear this won't last forever.   

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
2/12/19 11:19 a.m.

In reply to Curtis :

Right, but did you specify anything about configuration? Is that for a  (relatively lithe) regular cab 2wd with 4cyl/5spd, or the extended cab/4wd/V6/auto trans, or something in between like a 2WD/long bed/V6/auto?

For reference, the truck in my avatar is a 2000 regular cab/short bed 3.0/5 spd truck with manual trans. It tips the CAT scales at my local truck stop @ about 3300lbs. Add the weight of another foot of frame, cab, fuel lines/wiring, exhaust and driveshaft, 2 more windows, a larger fuel tank, a transfer case and other 4wd components and you're getting a bunch more weight to move around.

Here's what Google says about the weight of 97 Rangers (Other than a different dash there's no mechanical or cosmetic differences with the 94 that you searched).

 

Raze
Raze UltraDork
2/12/19 1:10 p.m.

I regret selling my reg cab, short bed, 3.0 5 speed Ranger.  Reliable as the sun, cheaper than dirt, easy to work on.  Mine had manual windows and door locks.  I used to joke the only thing automatic was the ignition...

Antihero
Antihero Dork
2/12/19 4:55 p.m.

My 91 xtracab 4wd xlt with everything option, with a ladder rack weighed in at 4000 more or less on a scale

stanger_missle
stanger_missle SuperDork
2/12/19 5:43 p.m.

This was the best truck I have ever owned:

1991 Ranger 2.3L 5 speed 2wd longbed.

88hp of fury wrapped in a very useful package. It wasn't very fast but it was as reliable as gravity and it never balked at anything I threw at it. It was the perfect size.

Best $600 I ever spent yes

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
2/12/19 6:40 p.m.
STM317 said:

In reply to Curtis :

Right, but did you specify anything about configuration? Is that for a  (relatively lithe) regular cab 2wd with 4cyl/5spd, or the extended cab/4wd/V6/auto trans, or something in between like a 2WD/long bed/V6/auto?

For reference, the truck in my avatar is a 2000 regular cab/short bed 3.0/5 spd truck with manual trans. It tips the CAT scales at my local truck stop @ about 3300lbs. Add the weight of another foot of frame, cab, fuel lines/wiring, exhaust and driveshaft, 2 more windows, a larger fuel tank, a transfer case and other 4wd components and you're getting a bunch more weight to move around.

Here's what Google says about the weight of 97 Rangers (Other than a different dash there's no mechanical or cosmetic differences with the 94 that you searched).

 

 

Good to know.  My point above was that I was comparing 36k+ with 180 hp to whatever a small truck weighs (3k/4k) with 160 hp.  Just trying to say that power isn't everything.  Any of the small trucks would be fine with an 80hp 4-banger.  Not quick, but not dangerous either.

kevlarcorolla
kevlarcorolla Dork
2/12/19 6:41 p.m.

In reply to spitfirebill :

 I had the same experience,I've owned probably 50 vehicles of all types/brands and it was top 5 most reliable I ever had easily.

 

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