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AClockworkGarage HalfDork
1/23/18 11:56 a.m.

Or more specifically, how little truck can I get away with?

I'm looking to sell my Grand Prix and replace it with a light truck. Now that I have the race car, having a sporty little daily is less important. I'd also like to have a vehicle that can haul engines and transmissions and whatnot. I would eventually lme to get a trailer and tow the  Camaro to events. I also own a Corolla so I have a small sedan if I need to carry more than 2 people.

Around here everybody drives giant useless trucks and SUVs and I think they're all pricks. I want a small GM truck with two doors, 2wd, a shortbed and nothing extra. I hate big trucks and i hate small trucks that try to be big even more.

My ideal truck would be like a turn of the century 4.3 auto GMC sonoma extra cab a lot like this one. That is small enough that I coulld easily commute in it but would I be able to get away with occasionally towing with something like this? Do I need to move up into a full size?


Desy New Reader
1/23/18 12:02 p.m.

You could probably get away with a v6 tacoma,  or s chassis gm. But I think you'd end up regretting it anytime you hook the race car to the back of it. It should pull it, but it'll struggle. A small v8 truck would be more useful for towing.  I'd probably look for a early Tundra v8 personally if I was going to tow.  Personally just picked up a 98 Tacoma 4cyl/auto for my daily driver (basically making a ND MX5 your only car is a terrible idea). It's has 200K miles on it, a solid frame, and although the shocks are pretty much toast, it still rides pretty good and mechanically is sound. I'm sold on Toyota trucks now.

RossD MegaDork
1/23/18 12:06 p.m.

Dakotas are a mid sized truck and can be had with a V8.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/23/18 12:07 p.m.

Tell us about your intended  trailer. 

Enclosed? Open? Aluminum? 

How long? 

How heavy? 

CJ New Reader
1/23/18 12:12 p.m.

If you figure that a trailer is going to be about 2500#, the Camaro is about 3000#, and that the towing capacity of the S-10 is 5500#, I would go for a full size rig.  I don't think it is ever a good idea to push to the limit of the rated towing capacity...

Also, I had a 4x4 extended cab S-10 of about that vintage and it was the most miserably uncomfortable vehicle I ever owned.

RevRico UltraDork
1/23/18 12:12 p.m.
RossD said:

Dakotas are a mid sized truck and can be had with a V8.

This. With similar criteria, and even a dislike of Chrysler/dodge products, I think v8 Dakota is the answer for small truck that can tow on occasion. 

After owning a 98 Sonoma, I can't push people away from them hard enough. Seemed like every fill up I needed to replace tie rod ends and mess with the throttle butterfly because it would stick. Don't even get me started on that push button 4wd garbage. 

alfadriver MegaDork
1/23/18 12:19 p.m.

Having pushed the towing limits of plenty of modern cars, I'd personally stick to your plan.  If the GM is rated to tow 5500lb, and that is what you are pulling, you will be just fine.

I, too, hate big trucks.  And have never had an issue pulling with a 3.0l or 4.0l Ranger.  And you are suggesting a larger truck than that.

Go for it.  Getting "too much" is so over rated, and such a PITA to own, I would never own an F150 again, unless it was $200/mo.

The only "large" thing we got with the rangers were 4 doors, and that extra cab length plus the access rocked.

jharry3 Reader
1/23/18 12:20 p.m.

If you are going to do a lot of towing of a race car I don't think  you will be happy with a V-6 truck.  

A Camaro would probably weight as much as the truck, not to mention the trailer.

If you live in hilly country you will be "that guy" everyone is stuck behind. 

Not to mention the strain on an automatic transmission and its lack of enough oil cooling to save it.

Then there is the braking.  You would need a trailer with electric braking for sure.


I was pulling a 2500 lb (loaded) trailer behind my ,97 4.0 liter V-6 Ford Ranger long distance for a while.  I was floored a lot of the time, especially for small hills, and gas mileage was down a lot.  I have the manual 5 speed transmission but there was no towing  this in the Overdrive 5th gear.     Its a tough little truck and I think it would have been ok for towing if Ford had put the Small Block 302/5.0 V-8 into it.

wearymicrobe UberDork
1/23/18 12:23 p.m.
John Welsh said:

Tell us about your intended  trailer. 

Enclosed? Open? Aluminum? 

How long? 

How heavy? 

These are the real questions. Also how far and how often you tow the race car. I ended up getting a beat up but low mile F250XL. Its a regular cab so its easy to prk, it has the long bed so I can actually put real things in the bed. It was so cheap that I don;t care what it looks like cosmetically which is the most important thing to me. I have the V8 gasser and even I admit its a little underpowered for towing the race car with fuel and extra wheels and tires and tools. But at the end of the day it woks for 99% of what I need it to do and the last 1% I just drive slow. 

dculberson UltimaDork
1/23/18 12:24 p.m.

I'd have a hard time passing up the value of a short bed Chevy 1/2 ton, about 10 years old or so, with the v8. They can be had for cheaper than a lot of the smaller and less capable trucks, and get the same - or better - gas mileage. I've seen good looking trucks of this vintage in the $4000 - $6000 range.

You can spend less and get an S10/Sonoma and get a way less capable truck with just as high running costs, or get a Tacoma for a bunch more money that still doesn't quite do what the Silverado does.

Desy New Reader
1/23/18 12:36 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Good Tacoma deals are out there, but they do take some searching and haggling to get. They hold their value so damn well (as I'm finding out why now owning one). But with patients, I was able to pick up mine for under $2000. However, it's basically a strip down. Doesn't even have tilt steering.

But if searching for a Tacoma, the 90's early 00's you'll need to check the frames for rust. Some were replaced, or patched, others not. Just depends on luck and the dealerships. But honestly, you can get a better deal on the Tundra. If I wanted the larger truck I would have went Tundra. But I really don't need a large truck, and if I was to get a large truck, it'd be a 70s/80's GM crew cab big block dually. On air.

Rodan Reader
1/23/18 12:37 p.m.

For a while when I was racing motorcycles, I towed a 6x12 enclosed trailer with one race bike behind a 4.0 V6 2WD Ford Ranger (1994).  It was well under the 3500lb (IIRC) towing rating for the truck.

It sucked.  Completely and totally.

Of course, we have actual mountains here, but there's no way in hell I'd try to pull a car behind a V6 small truck.  Minimum, I'd be looking at 1/2 ton full sized trucks.  I've no personal experience with the Dodge V8 Dakotas, but just having the power to pull something doesn't necessarily mean the chassis/brakes are up to the job.  IMHO "towing ratings" are for sea level and flat ground... if you've got anything different, adjust your expectations accordingly.   Don't forget all the other crap you're going to haul to the track when you figure your payload.

Buying too much truck is almost always cheaper and less painful than realizing you didn't buy enough truck.  And an iffy tow rig is no fun to drive, and may leave you physically and mentally worn out by the time you get to the track.

8valve New Reader
1/23/18 12:43 p.m.

If your hate is for full size pickup trucks and SUVs, get a van or wagon.  Tow with something funky.  

Toyman01 MegaDork
1/23/18 12:51 p.m.

I've been very happy with the two Colorados I have. They are 2005s with the 3.5 I5. I have pulled 3-4K pounds with them without problems. One of them is pushing 225K miles, the other is sneaking up on 200K. 

They are the extended cab which has been nice to have. 


Stefan MegaDork
1/23/18 12:55 p.m.

So you live in Sumner, WA (according to you profile)

The Ridge is an hour away along some reasonably windy highways

Pacific Raceways is about 30 minutes away with some hilly roads leading to the track.

That said, how often are you going to the track?  If you're not going too often, would it make sense to perhaps rent a Pickup/Van from UHaul/Penske/Car Rental?

I think if you're within the tow rating, you'll be *fine* but if you go to the track quite often, you'll tire of the mountain drives quite quickly.

Keep in mind that while you may be able to handle the trailer and car combo, there's also whatever you put in the bed to take to the track as support gear, plus any passengers.

You'll want to make sure the trailer has trailer brakes and the brakes of your chosen tow rig are oversized.  Your transmission will want a huge cooler (if automatic) or a stronger clutch (if manual).

The S-10/S-15 and Ranger can swallow a V8 pretty easily which can help with towing in the hills, etc.  There are also chassis and brake upgrades available to help control the trailer and weight better.  An early Dakota with the V8 is an easy choice and they can be a little bigger and better suited for towing.

I guess the question is:  Do you want an ongoing tow-rig project or do you want to spend that time working on race cars and actually driving on the track?

barefootskater Reader
1/23/18 12:57 p.m.

I daily a 1990 2x4 S10. Single cab, 5 speed, 4.3. Easily hauls engines and the like. I've had north of 600 lbs in the bed on several occasions on the interstate with no issues. The GM tbi motors are simple and reliable, and any parts are readily available and cheap. I don't know if the 2nd gen trucks have mor towing capacity but I do know they are much more difficult to work on.

I really love this little truck but I would not try to tow a car with it. Maybe something small on a uhaul dollie but not much more. 

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) PowerDork
1/23/18 1:09 p.m.

Early Tundra or a GMT400 is really what you're gonna want to tow a decent load and still feel ok for daily drivability.

MazdaFace HalfDork
1/23/18 1:13 p.m.

In reply to KyAllroad (Jeremy) :

Early tundra's were great trucks. I wish we got them in on trade more often with less than 200k miles lol

Bobcougarzillameister MegaDork
1/23/18 1:13 p.m.

Truck? F350 superduty crew cab dually, minumum. 


Or another option the GMT800 2wd stepside is a great package. 

APEowner HalfDork
1/23/18 1:42 p.m.

I'm probably not the guy to ask.  The smallest truck I've ever owned was a '78 C10 with the 8' bed and I've had a full size truck as a daily driver for over 30 years.

With that disclaimer I suggest finding out what you're loaded trailer really weighs along with whatever gear you're planing on bringing to the track and then buying the smallest truck you like that's rated to carry the load.  You may decide after while that you'd prefer something that's happier towing (as apposed to just being capable) or you might be completely satisfied with your choice. 

Just be safe.  Get a good trailer brake controller and make sure you stay under the rated load.

I'm going to throw out the Ridgeline as a possible option for you.  I don't want one but that doesn't negate the fact that their solid, capable vehicles.

Stefan MegaDork
1/23/18 2:10 p.m.

Ridgeline is a good suggestion for his needs.  Not sure if it meets the price requirements, but the GRM folks like their's and they towed various cars on open trailers with it and it is a bit nicer DD it seems.

akylekoz HalfDork
1/23/18 2:15 p.m.
Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
1/23/18 2:23 p.m.

In reply to AClockworkGarage :

A GMT400 is about the size of a modern mid-size truck(seriously, my 92 Suburban is within a couple inches in every dimension and 50lbs of our minivan), can tow up to 10,000lbs if needed, and shares quite a few parts with your Camaro. You should also be able to find one from about $1500 up, possibly less. 

pres589 PowerDork
1/23/18 2:31 p.m.

Used to have a coworker with a 2000 model year Silverado that really looked good.  His was a standard cab, long bed, lowered a bit, probably a 2/4 drop.  Not crazy, just lowered, and pretty flat amount of rake.  That with a 4.8 or 5.3 and an automatic, 2wd, would be very tempting were I to somehow need to own a truck.  The parts support is excellent, probably the biggest issue would be finding one that isn't an extended cab and 2wd.  I really don't enjoy driving full size extended cab trucks, never mind parking them.

ebonyandivory UberDork
1/23/18 2:38 p.m.

In reply to AClockworkGarage :

I had a few thoughts but realized I’m one of those pricks that drive a big, useless SUV so my opinions wouldn’t carry any weight.

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