By on January 31, 2014


By the time you read this, I will have bought the last $100 car sold at a public auction… that actually runs!

This 1994 Ford Explorer XL has just under 94,000 miles and has been sitting at a local water department for a couple of years now. The exterior is nothing special, but the interior is surprisingly intact and well kept.

Which begs the question, what the hell should I do with this thing?


There are a couple of ideas I have that may be worth the effort, or maybe not.

The first is to donate the Explorer to a local food bank called Helping Hands.  A local non-profit here in rural Georgia that feeds a lot more people in my county than you would imagine. It would be a nice noble gesture, and what helps out even more,  is that I also have a second Explorer.


A 1993 model, that happens to run perfectly fine as well. Although it has a few (cough! cough!) cosmetic issues that I covered up with the finest duct tape, thumbtacks, and staple guns that are in my storage shed.


So hypothetically, I could give both to the charity so that food runs could be made on a weekly basis. Or I could just retail both, donate the proceeds, and let volunteers continue to use their own vehicles.

It all sounds like a good and easy thought for a rare snowy north Georgia afternoon. But then, I had this strange thought in my head that just wouldn’t quit.

“How far could I make a $100 car work if I kept on retailing the proceeds, and wrote about it?”


What if I reconditioned both vehicles a bit, re-sold them during tax season, buy another vehicle or two, rinsed, repeated, and kept trying to pay it forward until the end of the year?

Maybe the $515 I have invested at the moment in these two (along with the duct tape) can turn into $5000? Or more?

Maybe I may just end up with two cars that are junkyard fodder? Financially these two running vehicles would yield more from the local recycling center than what I already paid for them. So the risk here isn’t that much.


There have been mumblings about getting a fun car for a while now here at TTAC. At the moment, I have a 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood stretch limo that was apparently used by a strip joint in Miami way back in the Clinton Era, and I have, well, these two Explorers. I have about $3200 in the Cadillac, and until my kids have degrees and that rare good job, I need to keep that money working for me. But these two Explorers I can definitely spare, and invest a bit of my time and resources.

So what should I do? Buy? Sell? Hold? Donate? Offer Firestone a golden opportunity to associate themselves with Explorers in a good way? I’m always open to suggestions, and volunteers.

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54 Comments on “Hammer Time: $100 Worth Of Charity… And Fun?...”

  • avatar

    Steve, I like the idea of seeing how far a $100 car can get you by reinvesting the proceeds from the sale into another car and repeating that cycle. How about you donate the net proceeds from that process at the end of the year? You can write about it, take a decent tax deduction, and do even more good for that charity.

    You can also ask the B&B for matching grants. I’ll start: If you do this, and I’m still employed at the end of the year (unfortunately, not a sure thing), I’ll donate $100.

    • 0 avatar

      I was actually going to suggest this very thing.

      Retail the cars. Buy more with the proceeds, rinse/repeat. Write about it! (Definitely would be interesting to follow the story throughout the year) and then donate the money at the end of the year.

  • avatar

    Donating to charity may actually be a problem. Once they have cars, they need insurance. Commercial insurance is expensive? And ongoing maintenance?

    Sell the Explorers to the crusher, give the cash you get to charity.

    • 0 avatar

      Sending them to the crusher makes no sense at all. I’m not sure about the price of scrap in his area but based on the prices in my area I’d expect around $500 each at the scales. However a running driving Explorer with as few miles as the most recent purchase would bring a minimum of $1500 in my area in a private party sale. Crush them and the only winner is the Chinese who get more steel to feed their industrial machine.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    I definitely like the idea of retailing and see how much you turn the proceeds into. Would make a nice on-going series.

    The quickest, easiest thing is probably to sell them and give the proceeds to charity. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that a cash donation would be better for them than a vehicle that they may need to worry about insurance, maintenance, etc on. Maybe ask them what’s better/easier for them?

  • avatar

    Would the non-profit benefit from an old Explorer or two? Maybe not. I love the rinse/repeat/pay it forward plan. Great writing fodder, and the possibility to provide a big assist to Helping Hands.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with your assessment. As I don’t run a charity, I always find that cash donations are the best support you can give your favorite charity, unless they have a wish list of supplies/equipment. Good food based charities know how to stretch dollars. I know the charity I donate to around here feeds ten kids for every dollar donated.

      When I donate my time, I feel I get as much out of it as the charity does.

  • avatar

    You could sell them to me for $550 :)

    Seriously though the_yeti has a point, if an organization is set up for transportation expenses then great, if not your gift ends up eating into their cash flow. Either find a charity who is set up for transit or one with deep enough coffers they could cover free car ownership. A solicitous phone call could work wonders in the case of the food bank.

  • avatar

    Every time someone asks me what they should do with a first-generation Explorer, I want to give them an answer that involves painting them to look like the ones in the original Jurassic Park movie.

    • 0 avatar

      Now the Juarssic Park song is stuck in my head.

    • 0 avatar
      I've got a Jaaaaag

      Actually, that could be a good idea, if he could find some body shop to donate a paint job and get the co-operation of the Dragon Con folks.

      Paint an Explorer to look like the Jurassic park vehicle, get the Dragon Con folks to raffle it off at $5 a ticket at the Con. I would bet it would raise 10s of thousands of dollars.

    • 0 avatar

      I always wondered why Ford and really Jeep didn’t offer versions themselves. I’m not into Explorers or Jeeps for that matter, but one painted up Jurassic Park style would be all kinds of awesome!

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, make it a JP replica. I’ve wanted to make one for a long time. The closest I came was a die cast version for my JP pinball machine. Even with just a crude self-done paint scheme, ebay brush guards, and used XLT wheels, I bet you could make $3000 on your investment. At the very least, you can park it out front and draw in business.

      Fixing that mirror right would probably take $15 and 15 minutes of your time at the junkyard.

      Those cars that are donated to charity? I see them every time I go to the junkyards. They’re pretty nice. I’m never sure if there are any underlying reasons to justify junking them. I suspect since they got them for free, they just try to get anything for them in the least amount of time, regardless of value. It’s awfully wasteful. If you know that Ex will go to a good home where it will be used up, that’s a good channel though.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Most charities use a car donation broker that handles everything from taking the phone call to selling the donated vehicles at auction for a percentage after taxes. My charity uses and their percentage is 20%.

  • avatar

    If any of the Fords are 4wd find a way to sell it for big $$ up north where these have more or lest rusted into the ground. Split the profits with the food bank. You’ll both make out better.

  • avatar

    The idea of a Jurassic Park Theme is great, just sell them to a group of guys who want to participate in a 24-Hours-of-LeMons event. Team Jurassic Park… Add a lot of TTAC stickers, even promote your own business Steven…

  • avatar

    Anything but crush em. Cheap working cars are such a rarity now days, Someone would really benefit from this

  • avatar

    Yeah if the sumbich actually runs, my stepdaughter’s boyfriend needs a cheap running vehicle ASAP. His 89 Camry went over the edge of being “cheaper to keep her.” He’d pay you a lot more than you have in it.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know how he’d get down to GA…

  • avatar

    I was going to say give it to the food bank. But I really like the art car idea.

    Now I’m thinking, do the art car, but put the food bank’s name on it, and donate it to the food bank. It will help beautify whatever part of Georgia you live in, and it will help the food bank, both by being it’s workhorse, and by boosting its name recognition.

  • avatar

    I’ll buy it for 300!!!! 200% profit!!!

  • avatar

    Oh my gosh, that long gray Cadillac limo by that small brick house on the corner of Macland and Poplar Springs is YOURS?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      You nailed it! Actually, I moved it to a friend of mine’s place on the corner of Bobo and Macland.

      • 0 avatar

        This is so creepy but cool. I e-mailed Derek about a month ago, and he gave me your e-mail, so I’ll just e-mail and ask more about your lot.

        My mom always thought it was going to fall down the hill, the way it was parked. Good thing it got moved.

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          LOL! Thanks! The guy who owns the lot is actually a butcher and farmer by trade. I originally parked it next to the building but he was afraid the state would think that he had a tenant in the building, and there paying him for that since that building and pretty much all the others surrounding my lot are going to be torn down for the four lane.

  • avatar

    By selling and donating the proceeds you benefit more people. Those two Explorers can get a couple of people to work. The proceeds can help feed those who can’t. win/win

  • avatar

    The simple fact that the white one appears to be in good mechanical and physical condition points to its potential as an effective tool for either ‘retail’ or charity. You don’t really describe it’s mechanical condition, but considering I purchased a 1990 F-150 that “runs and looks reasonably well cared for” for about 25x what you paid for that one means somebody could still get good life out of it. Granted, I had to pay another $2500 to make it roadworthy (exhaust manifold and complete brake-line replacement along with other brake issues), but it runs reasonably well and has served its purpose for almost two years. It qualifies as an antique in September, but my state requires very limiting rules to actually classify it as such. Still, minimal body rust up in the rust belt is remarkable and even with what I paid, I could get more for body and engine parted out than it’s worth on any car lot.

    However, as the truck is still functional, it would be useful for somebody–either individual or organization–that can’t afford to buy new or even Blue Book used. Sure, some would love to turn that Explorer into a big play-toy but its real value is to those who wouldn’t expect to own any vehicle in that one’s condition, even if it does need work. As long as repairs aren’t prohibitively expensive, it’s worth far more than mere junk. My own father in law currently drives an F-150 that’s almost literally falling apart. He has the skills to keep it running, but it has been worked so hard that physically the thing’s just shot. Find someone like that and either make a gift of it (a little PR for you doesn’t hurt, after all) or sell it for the cost of repairs and what you paid (with only minimal but acceptable profit). Don’t put it on the lot, but rather find a deserving individual you see that’s currently driving a junker. They would appreciate it far more than someone looking for a cheap ‘beater’.

  • avatar

    I love the refreshing simplicity of these two explorers. Utility in spades. I’d say sell them on your lot.

    I spent some time with a 1998 XLS model that was a USDA field vehicle. Vinyl interior, hand crank windows, rubber floors as I recall. Ice cold A/C and 4wd and that’s all that mattered after a day’s work in a corn field. The SOHC 4.0 is actually quite a potent motor in my opinion, for the era. I hear these older ones with the Cologne(?) OHV 4.0 aren’t particularly powerful or efficient, but they are solid, long lived workhorses.

    Sadly it lunched its transmission at 58k miles, which doesn’t speak well for Explorer transmission durability.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m wondering if the transmission is why this went for so little money. A cosmetically sound ’94 4WD Explorer with 94k miles selling for $100, even at an auction, doesn’t sound like everything is fine mechanically. Even though it runs now, I’d have to bet that something major in the drivetrain is going to let go, and soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Only time will tell.

        It gets even more interesting. This was apparently a siexed vehicle that the local government put in their own name, and then never used.

        I’ll be coming by on Monday to pick it up.

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          I did the Carfax earlier but apparently forgot about it.

          The vehicle was only driven about 2500 miles a year since 2003 and at least from the pictures, the vehicle looks clean.

          I would hazard to think that the city wouldn’t have put it into their name if it hadn’t been worth keeping. Typically those types of vehicles are sold with a court order, which isn’t the case with this one.

  • avatar

    I like the idea of selling the XL to me for around what you paid! But the Charityt works too:)

  • avatar

    Start an Explorer-spec demolition derby, “Brim and Firestone,” last one to turn turtle wins. Proceeds from popcorn and scrap-metal to charity.

  • avatar

    Donate the car to a place that would use it. It has been a while since I have been in

  • avatar

    call the food bank and see if they would want the cars or a bigger cash amount at years end, pay it forward I am in for $100 for them if you decide to see how far the sell buy sell buy goes.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I called em’ this morning. They are definitely in. 9 months is an awfully long time. So we’ll see how nice of a job we can pull off on this vehicle, and how many raffle tickets can be sold between now and then.

  • avatar

    So, let me get this straight, Steve. Your going to fluff the mentioned vehicles with some theme and sell raffle tickets to the B&B and others(?) for nine months and donate the proceeds.

    I have never heard of the Jurassic Park Themed Explorers, but then I’m culturally depraved…err! deprived. Throw in a pair of Jurassic Park themed sneakers and you can put me down for a Benjamin. If I win, I will keep the sneakers and donate the JP_EX back so it can be raffled again.

    But, for sure, keep them from the crusher. That would be a green effort, and as somebody said, we need more and more cheap cars.

  • avatar

    I’d like to hear Steve Lang’s opinion of the recent Atlanta region snowstorm.

  • avatar

    Shoot, I’d be all over the $100 XL myself.

    I’ve always had a thing for the 1st generation Explorer myself. The reason like so many others have posted; Jurassic Park. Back the Dr. Pepper had a promotion where you could win a new Explorer if you found the winning message at the bottom of the can. Back then I hated Dr. Pepper but I still drank it trying to win it! That Christmas I wanted the Jurassic Park Jungle Explorer toy, though it wasn’t a faithful recreation per se, it still was a Explorer….. I never got it; I think my dad wasn’t able to find one. Lindbergh also had a horrible model kit for the movie car, it was all wrong though, they based it on their 2 door Sport model, I passed on it…. this one was an obvious cash in deal. My dad did build me the regular green Sport one though.

    Also in Jurassic Park 3, as Alan Grant and company escape the lab on Isla Sorna, they run by a derelict InGen Explorer. The Explorer kind of sticks out as the other vehicles shown abandoned on the island are K5 Blazers, Suburbans and the International Scout that Malcolm took refuge in (The Lost World) and the Toyota FJ/BJ40 seen in front of the lab in JPIII. The Explorer was added in as a nod to the first movie and rumor has it that it might have been one of the originals from the first movie as well.

    Honestly too, if my ’12 Wrangler was Khaki, I would have done it up as a Jurassic Park Jeep as a “what if” version. I think the JK would look great as such with the red stripe and red wheels, but unfortunately mine is red with a black hardtop. Call me a nerd, but I think it would be pretty damned cool. I will get my Wrangler a Jurassic Park ‘Official Vehicle’ tag for my rear view mirror.

  • avatar

    I had a 94 Exploder given to me by my father in law, it was nothing great but functional.

    Traded it on an F-150 at 116k miles. It was burning maybe a quart every 2k miles. The transmissions on these things typically die around 110-130k miles. I didn’t want to wait for that so I got rid of it.

    Make a great car for a HS kid or something. I’d sell them and donate the money, food bank could probably use something with better gas mileage.

  • avatar

    The keep on retailing project sounds like Wheeler Dealers Trading Up, although I’m sure you are easier to listen to than Mike Brewer.

  • avatar
    Big Beat

    So… a year later, how did this pan out? Was there an update? What happened to these Explorers?

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