The 1991 GMC Jimmy SLE – The Car I NEVER Should Have Bought

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer

1991 GMC Jimmy SLE

The 1991 GMC Jimmy was a throwback to a better time. The design, originally introduced in the 1973 model year, was all truck and its square, upright design spoke volumes about American strength and power. Over the years, the design gradually evolved and towards the end of its product run even gained small touches of luxury. Don’t be misled by the soft velour seats and carpeted floors, though, under the skin the truck was still all business. It was a serious rig for serious men and it required a seriously big wallet to fill its seriously big fuel tank. I didn’t know it then, but I was in serious trouble the minute it hit the driveway.

The Jimmy, resplendent in its two-tone grey paint and rolling on raised white letter tires and aluminum rims that look suspiciously close to a set of Centerline Racing wheels, is the “car” I never should have bought. Despite the fact that I was making almost weekly trips to visit my girlfriend on the other side of the state, 5 hours and a high mountain pass away, it was more vehicle than I needed. Still, my off-road adventure in my tiny Geo Metro had left me aware of the perils involved in the trip, especially in mid winter, and earnestly believed that a four-wheel drive was necessary to ensure that my love life remained uninterrupted.

I had begun the process of replacing the Metro by looking at the big GMC’s little brother, the S-15 Jimmy and it’s Chevrolet sibling the S-10 Blazer. What I found was disheartening and I have since become convinced that these vehicles are the 90’s version on the 70’s Camaro, usually bought cheap by young people and thrashed from the minute they leave the lot. Every one of them I looked at was in poor condition, frequently dented by off-road adventures and usually with some crappy aftermarket radio shoehorned into a hole hacked into the dash. The bigger, K series trucks seemed to be in better condition and despite the fact they were bigger than I wanted, I soon found myself gravitating towards them. The more I looked, the more comfortable I became with their price and size and so, when I found a 1991 Jimmy in great condition I jumped at the chance to buy it.

I’m ashamed to say that P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute. That day, it was me. Thanks to a poorly negotiated deal, something I was about to repeat, I was seriously upside down in the Metro. Add to that payoff a generous mark-up on the Jimmy at a convenient “no haggle” price and you can imagine the total that was presented to me. Today, almost 20 years later, I would beat it out of the show room in a hurry, but back then I was so clueless that I sat there while the sales manager worked to get me into the right loan that would let me take the prize home. Unfortunately, they were successful and ,in the end, I ended up paying about $330 a month for 6 years on a 5 year old used truck with around 90K miles!

The truck itself was a beautiful machine. Papers I found in the glove box indicated that the truck was a top of the line machine that had actually been given away as the grand prize, along with a matching bass boat, at the Outdoorsman’s Expo in 1991 and it still looked the part. ‘91 was also the last year of the big, square style Jimmy and although it was old school on the outside, under the hood it featured the latest fuel injected 5.7 liter engine. Inside was nice, with comfortable buckets seats, a huge plastic console and all the available options.

Reverse angle of my Jimmy

It did great in the snow and I regularly used it to storm over the Snoqualmie pass and across Washington state. Equipped with a hitch and a transmission cooler, the truck was also a great towing rig and I used it that summer when I decided give up the long weekly commute and moved to Pullman. I really loved the truck, but gradually the high cost of fuel and the poor loan terms I had received, combined with a poor employment situation, began to take a toll.

By 1999 I was at a low point in my life. A whole series of poor decisions had finally joined together in a perfect storm and I was really behind the 8 ball. I had finished college but the better life I had thought would surely follow failed to materialize and I ended back with my mother in my childhood bedroom. I felt like a heel. To make matters worse, I still owed so much money on the truck that there was no way I could finance a more fuel efficient vehicle and, broke, I couldn’t even sell it at a loss. Finally, with a job in Japan on the horizon, my mom stepped up and paid the loan down enough for me to sell it.

The guy who bought it was as thrilled with his purchase as I had originally been and he gleefully took it off my hands. I wish I could say that I was as excited to be out from under the truck as he was to buy it, but the truth is I was emotionally drained by the whole experience. Unemployed and beat down by life, I met with a recruiter for an English school in Japan and, after taking another loan from my mother and headed for Japan where I willingly stepped into an obviously dead-end job and began to rebuild my life. To this day, I can’t think of the Jimmy without a flood of world-weary, unhappy emotions welling up. It’s too bad really, that truck was one for the ages.

So now, for our entertainment, let me ask you to reach into that darkest part of your soul and tell us – What is the vehicle you should never have purchased?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

Thomas Kreutzer
Thomas Kreutzer

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  • Hawox Hawox on Apr 19, 2013

    the Lancia Thema 8.32 wins hands down! to be correct my dad bought it, i write about that because i feel responsible since my father saw the car in question on one of my newspapers. in thoose days he was looking for a saloon, instead of buying a bmw 3 series or a E190 one night he came home out of the blue with the 8.32 lancia. i was happy my dad had bought what was called the "thema ferrari". but i remember the allarming sound of the words "it was a bargain"! when new the 8.32 was a powerful car but soon alot of other compact turbos and powerfull sedans were lounched at a much lower price. so my father was able to buy a very well maintained 4-5 y/o thema "ferrari" for something like a 5th of the price. the car was simply a piece of crap: the 3 litre engine only had 200bhp like the much cheaper 2.0 turbo, the weight of the engine also made it unbalanced so in the corners it was a boat, the chassis also wasn't stiff enough so you could feel it bending. the whole car was badly enginered and badly buildt, full of electronic stuff that never worked (suspensions, spoilers, seats) and used more gas than a ship. the only good thing was the looking of the leather interiors. can't remember how much we spendt to repair that thing and to feed the engine but i remember that one day we couldn't catch up a citroen XM on the hyghway. luckly being the beast quite rare (not a surprise) a guy did a good offer and my dad sold it. i imagine the scene similar to "catch the money and run"!

  • John Scott John Scott on Jan 05, 2016

    Wow, I can relate to this on so many levels. Bought a full size Jimmy in the 1990's and blew threw 2 engines in less than 3 months pulling trailers over Snoqualmie Pass. Entirely regret buying that Jimmy. Later I bought an Expedition, end ended up selling it for about half what I paid, because I was moving to Japan. Japan hasn't been kind to me. Did enjoy my Land Cruiser 200 Series (bought new in 2008), but most 4x4's and most cars in general have been, for me, regrettable purchases.

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