By on June 20, 2018

In our creatively organized Crapwagon Garage, we’ve seen varied body styles like wagons and trucks. Today we’re going to pick out some truckwagons, which you may know as SUVs.

Let’s pick out four or five four-by-fours for cheap.

But first, I’ve perused last week’s coupe comments for the Forgotten Gem Award:

An easy choice, and one I should’ve remembered. It’s Ajla’s number one selection, the 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. At over 200 inches in length, the full-size final Toronado featured flip-up headlamps and an interior full of CRT digital goodness. They’re hard to find in good condition, but it can certainly be done. And it’s sure to always run, as it is blessed by GM 3800.

Time for today’s SUVs, so let’s look at the rules:

  1. A crapwagon must be a vehicle which is relatively easy to find and purchase using an internet.
  2. All vehicles in the crapwagon garage must have been sold as new, in the North American market.
  3. Said vehicles must be obtainable to the casual crapwagon collector (CCC). This means in clean, running condition each one asks $7,000 or less on a normal day.
  4. Your suggestions must fit into the vehicle category of the week. If you don’t like the category, that’s tough. We’ll get to a category you like eventually.
  5. There are five rules to this garage game, and that’s the maximum number of vehicles you may submit for each section. Just five.

In order to be considered an SUV, a vehicle must have a rear cargo area covered by a roof, and a vertical liftgate or swinging rear door. For our purposes, it must also have been offered with either all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Vehicles with sliding side doors do not qualify as SUVs. My first pick was an easy one.

It’s the first generation Lexus LX450. A thinly-broughamed inline-six Land Cruiser which was always loaded with options, it usually featured gold badges and two-tone paint. Just as capable as its Toyota brother, it came from a time when luxury SUVs outside of the Range Rover were still an experiment. Well-heeled owners hung onto these, and they’re not too hard to find in great condition.

Here’s my second choice, the final North American Mitsubishi Montero from 2006. Comfortable and capable, it had the veneer of luxury Mitsubishi thought necessary to compete with other luxury truck offerings of the time. It’s just as well, since Mitsubishi had the gall to ask $47,000 for the Montero Limited. Most of these have been beat up, and people like Gtem tell me that parts aren’t the easiest to find — but that doesn’t stop my Montero desire. Special nod to the simply gigantic glass sunroof present on all models without rear DVD player. I’d find the cleanest one I could, and it would still be within budget.

Let’s hear your SUV Crapwagon Garage picks.

[Images: JLR, sellers, Lexus]

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59 Comments on “QOTD: Can You Build an Ideal Crapwagon Garage? (Part VI: SUVs)...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Easy, Infiniti FX45.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    One 2005 Honda Pilot, the car we own to move the kids around, bought new , soon to be handed down to the teenage driver within a year, no issues with it in 120,000 miles.

    My garage is now filled, only need one and I am sure to some this is not a SUV so if that is the case my garage will remain empty, really no need for one in my life at this point, we have kept the Pilot because it has never given us a reason to get rid of it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    1. 2000 Olds Bravada
    2. 2003 Dodge Durango RT
    3. 2001 Ford Explorer V8
    4. ’87-’91 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
    5. Isuzu VehiCROSS

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I thought about a Bravada, ended up going with the Mercury Mountaineer V-8 AWD as my well equipped midsize choice. Better reliability, better build quality, and a V-8 to boot.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    2 door Tahoe is all I need to be happy.

    Though not allowed in this game, in real life I would rather spend my remaining $28k on restomodding the ‘Hoe with a modern LS engine than buying 4 other $7k crapwagons.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    In no particular order:
    – Land Rover Disco w/ the rare three pedals option for heavy snow duties or when you hanker for something rough and agrarian. Minor dents and scrapes tend to add character to these.
    – ’06-’10 Ford Explorer to daily
    – A Suburban for people hauling or towing

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Jeep Cherokee from the late 90s. Charming and classic, this will be my trail-basher for the local mountains. Won’t have to suffer the road dynamics for long and it fits down the narrow two tracks only ATVs and side-by-sides use.

    Lexus GX470 from the early aughts. You’re looking at 200K+ miles but its the overbuilt V8 4Runner I want. This will be the family camping rig.

    Acura MDX also from the early aughts. Family road trip vehicle when real offroading is not required.

    Honda CR-V second generation w/ manual transmission–commuter and around town use. Manual transmission is a bonus. Nice to have something that will routinely exceed 25mpg.

  • avatar
    gtem

    1st gen Rav4: 5spd and optional rear LSD. Fun little commuter/dog hauler/mountain bike carrier, arguably more fun on mild trails than my 4Runner in that the capabilities are more in line with the terrain. Better MPG than the rest of the “fleet” outlined below.

    2nd gen ’95 Montero SR (or ’98-00 winter package truck): Still a “classic” Montero with BOF, solid rear axle, locking rear diff. ’95 got a DOHC version of the 3.5L good for 215hp. Stupendously overbuilt trucks, 90% of an 80 series land cruiser but more affordable and noticeably better MPG. Something I’d want to drive out West and take on a multi-week long offroad adventure.

    1st gen Expedition 5.4L these are quickly catching the attention of many overlanders. Sturdy underpinnings with a lot of ground clearance, solid rear axle, and a ton of interior room. MPG stinks, so what (probably better than the LC 80 Toyota). Perfect cruiser to drive down to the Outer Banks with the family and run around the beaches down there. I almost picked a jellybean Explorer but the Expedition has better riding coils in the back and I have my next choice covering me in the midsize space…

    1st gen “ZJ” Grand Cherokee, 5.2L Limited. Comfy foul weather truck with some serious capability. I love the exterior/interior design, the classic LA V8, the solid axles, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Since I have one more: 1st gen Highlander Limited. Sadly $7k would put me in 150k+ mile territory for a newer 3MZ (3.3L) Limited AWD version, my in-laws got something like $8k when they traded in their ’07 Limited with 170k miles in 2013. These are just fantastic all-rounders, made with the last of Toyota’s classic “overbuilding” mentality. They still look modern and relevant today IMO. Perfectly sized, excellent ride and NVH control, adequate power, smooth transmission.

  • avatar
    gtem

    ” and they’re not too hard to find in great condition.”

    For $7k, finding anything with less than 200k miles and questionable ownership history is becoming damn near impossible. Sellers “know what they have.”

    • 0 avatar

      https://portland.craigslist.org/wsc/cto/d/1996-lexus-lx450/6603600108.html

      https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/d/1997-lexus-lx-450-toyota/6621367902.html

      https://losangeles.craigslist.org/lgb/cto/d/96-toyota-land-cruiser-lexus/6610263683.html

      Boom!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Option #2 is the only one that really looks like something worth buying with the factory front/rear lockers and by the sound of it the seller was willing to put money into repairs although it’s funny the owner thinks it has multiple headgaskets.

        #1 at 237k for $7500? #3 looks pretty rough, not “great” condition or a caring long term owner by the look of things.

        So not impossible to find something worth buying with sub 200k miles for less than $7k, but not easy IMO ;)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yeah, as someone who keeps his eye on FJ80s, I saw that picture and said “what?” The good ones are in five figures and climbing, sometimes well into five figures if the body is totally straight and the lockers are present.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “It’s the first generation Lexus LX450.”

    I don’t think you’re getting any J80 for $7k that’s not a rusty pile of parts.

    Moving on…
    2nd-gen 4Runner. Make it a 2-door because why not.

    Isuzu Amigo/Rodeo Sport. Could go either here or under convertibles when we get there.

    1990 Suburban 2500 (last of the pre-aero bodies) with whatever big block GM was using at the time.

    ’00s Ford Excursion with a DT360 swap, because everyone else goes Fummins.

    1st-gen Kia Sportage, because everyone forgets about them.

    • 0 avatar

      You and Gtem seem to be *issuing a challenge!* A Craigslist sort of challenge.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Well, I did turn up a few Toyotas right around $7k that weren’t hopeless at first sight, all over 200k though.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          IMO if you’re not building a serious overlanding offroader, there is not much to recommend an 80 series Land Cruiser, for the same $7k you’d be better off seeking out an equally high mile 100 series or a GX470 like 30 mile recommended. Better MPG AND better power from the 4.7L, better road manners, fewer expensive things to worry about (head gaskets and birfield joint rebuilds on the 80).

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I kinda like the GX. I wonder how hard it’d be to swap in the Toyota front clip.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            John the GX is a dream to drive, in a cushy, tippy, luxo-boat sense of the word. There’s a reason these things and their larger Land Cruiser 100/200 brothers dominate the landscape in countries with moonscapes for roads. There are a few pricey parts on them, namely the factory shocks and OEM front end parts when they finally do wear out (which takes a long time and a lot of abuse). Most of the $7k ones need some pricey catch-up maintenance, and up north, frames need to be looked at for rust.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Do they all have a 3rd row? And if so, is it difficult to remove?

            My ideal version would be stripped down from Lexus-levels of equipment, as in rubber floors, vinyl seats, no built in nav, etc.

            Given that the GX is sold here, I wonder how hard it’d be to simply import a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado configured the way a rough-and-ready SUV ought to be.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Most (all?) have the side folding third row that is indeed easy to remove in the sense of not requiring tools, but the seats themselves are pretty hefty. They only made a few years with the option of NOT having a nav screen, but other than that the US got all the gingerbread. If you want less of that, the 4Runner with its lower roof was (and remains) the only game in town in the States to get a more basic Prado. The US GX sadly missed out on the rear locker with was much more prevalent on the overseas Prado. We did get the KDSS system which is more than just gimmicks, but is also yet another pricey factory-only sort of thing to fix as it ages.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    1) Mitsu Montero/Dodge Raider, V6 preferred
    2) Suzuki X90
    3) Jeep Grand Cherokee 1996-98
    4) Isuzu Trooper, 4 cyl
    5) International Scout II

  • avatar
    Hank

    From what I found in a quick <7,000 search within 200 miles from home…

    2002 Mitsubishi Montero
    2002 4Runner
    Infiniti FX35
    '94 Ford Bronco

    And I guess this is certainly debatably within the rules…a 2005 Audi Allroad.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    F-Series based Bronco with removable top.
    Any 66-77 Bronco.
    My neighbour’s TLC BJ40. I’d own an FJ40 too.
    Any Jeep Wrangler, CJ5, CJ7.
    Chevy K5 Blazer.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    1) Isuzu Amego/Rodeo

    2) Jeep Cherokee XJ 1996-2001

    3) Mitsubishi Montero/Dodge Raider 2 door

    4) Saab 9-7X aka trollblazer

    5) Suzuki X-90-because T-tops

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    1. Any 1991-1997 Ford Explorer XLT 4 door, 4.0L (OHV in those years), 4×4, 5 speed.

    2. Suzuki Samurai tin top

    3. Isuzu VehiCross

    4. 2001 Mercury Mountaineer V-8 Premier or Monterrey AWD

    5. Honda Element 5 speed AWD

    *edit, swapped the Trooper for a ‘Zuki Sammy.

  • avatar
    markf

    Where are you getting a first gen LX for 7K? not here in Colorado where anything that smells of Landcruiser goes for 5 figures, even in the worst condition. Pretty sure you can find a Montero with under 250K miles for under 9-10K either

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Don’t be ridiculous, you can find old LCs all the time that need restoration for cheap.

      Without even trying: https://spokane.craigslist.org/cto/d/1971-fj55-toyota-landcruiser/6599889812.html

      Of course the desirable models are sky high, as are the ones that are usable and presentable as is, but that “even in the worst condition” statement is pretty far off base. I run across ones like I posted above all the time for $2500 and under. Some do run and drive but all need some level of restoration, depending on what you want to do with it. If its a trail pig, you can have it ready to sling mud pretty easy.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      All in Colorado. I guess if you limit yourself to mint condition models with low mileage and dealers, no, you won’t find one in/under budget. But, that isn’t what you said.

      https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/1999-lexus-lx470/6621125955.html

      https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/lexus-lx-470/6616663502.html

      https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/lexus-lx470/6621707423.html

      Land Cruiser under $7k
      https://boulder.craigslist.org/cto/d/1985-toyota-land-cruiser/6621325357.html

      https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/1992-toyota-land-cruiser-all/6604405407.html

      https://boulder.craigslist.org/cto/d/92-land-cruiser-fj80-s-t/6619324956.html

      https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/1995-fzj80-land-cruiser/6607122489.html

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        Well I stand corrected though I personally wouldn’t buy a 20+ year vehicle with 220K miles on it. Even at those prices I don’t see any real value. Even being a Toyota fan. The last LX is the only would I would consider, it is pretty nice. The Land cruisers, sure you can find them under 7K but are they

        “This means in clean, running condition each one asks $7,000 or less on a normal day.”

        Not sure 5K for a 33 y/o rusty truck is any type of value, though value is not part of the equation.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Well, “I wouldn’t buy it” is a far cry from “anything that says Land Cruiser is $10K+”.

          I spent just a few minutes looking those up, obviously a more in-depth search with real money on the line is warranted, but it was just to show they *can* be found. I can’t guarantee that they’re a good value or worth even close to their asking price, but they’re a place to start if finding one was your goal.

          The last listed Land Cruiser would really be the only one I’d bother to go see, but I sure as hell wouldn’t end my search based on those results alone.

          • 0 avatar
            markf

            You don’t always have to be right, it is not a contest. Yes, you can find rusty, POS Land Crusier under 7k but they are not “clean and in running condition”

            This what I was referring to….

            https://cosprings.craigslist.org/cto/d/1979-fj40-land-cruiser/6612114304.html

            https://cosprings.craigslist.org/cto/d/1969-toyota-land-cruiser/6615582094.html

            https://cosprings.craigslist.org/cto/d/1968-toyota-land-cruiser-fj40/6614889648.html

            https://cosprings.craigslist.org/cto/d/2002-lexus-lx470-4wd/6611558601.html

            https://cosprings.craigslist.org/cto/d/2000-toyota-land-cruiser/6610692679.html

            Only 320K miles (but they are “original” so its ok)

            https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/1996-lexus-lx-450-land/6603106264.html

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Okay, then I’m wrong and those examples I listed do not exist, do not run and cannot be driven. Thanks for the clarification, every running Land Cruiser is $10,000 or more. There is no such thing as a running and driving vehicle that isn’t clean, low mileage and priced into the stratosphere. Happy?

  • avatar
    tonyola

    2008 Suzuki XL7 (the one with the weird drooping headlights). Can be had for under $7000 on Auto Trader.
    https://blogs-images.forbes.com/jimgorzelany/files/2011/06/05bnc4GfrI9fn_459.jpg

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I think that I covered this category in the station wagon Crapwagon thread, since my SUVs could all qualify in both categories, I think.
    1985 GMC Suburban
    1989 Isuzu Trooper
    2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Can’t believe no one’s mentioned the Lincoln Aviator, so I’ll toss it in the ring.

    • 0 avatar
      richthofen

      That was my first thought as well. The DOHC 4.6 loses very little in reliability compared to its SOHC sibling, and gains quite a bit of power. Plus leather ‘n stuff.

      I also don’t know if I’ve seen anyone suggest a Ramcharger so I’ll throw that in for consideration.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Corey, a Rare Rides candidate:

    https://lasvegas.craigslist.org/cto/d/1991-nissan-figaro-jdm-retro/6606787382.html

    You can never have enough quirky JDM stuff. :)

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Saab 9-7x or 2nd gen Lexus LX470.

    • 0 avatar

      Can barely get first gen LX450 for $7k, not gonna work for an LX470.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        You’d be surprised how similar (early) 100 series values are becoming with 80 series as two thing are happening:
        A) 80 series becoming more rare and loved by the offroading community
        B) Increasing numbers of 100 series entering the super high mile, neglected category

        You definitely won’t find a clean, no-accident later year LX470 for $7k. But can you find a ’98-’00 ish one in equal-ish condition to an overpriced, high mileage LX450? Perhaps.

        Another “Toyota Tax” moment is the 3rd gen 4Runner market, the facebook classifieds page I follow is trending towards later year ’99-’02 trucks in clean rust free shape with close to 200k miles or slightly above still in the $6-7k range depending on options and maintenance records. A truck with an e-locker can easily pick up $1000-1500 on top of that. A 5spd truck, add an easy $2000 to the asking price. As northern trucks are being taken off the road by rusted frames the market is getting loopy. I’d guesstimate the value of my own ’96 (very clean and rust free, e-locked, full maintenance, 148k miles) in the $7000-7500 range. 4 years ago with 116k miles I would have been asking that same $7500, and I had bought for $6350 back in 2013 (with a list of neglected maintenance but 99k miles). Granted you can find much cheaper options on craigslist all over the north east, but many of them have terminally rusty frames. My buddy jumped on an ’02 with 130k miles for $3k that presented very well, but got burned with the frame. Still driveable for 4-5 years, but she’s terminal.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Gtem, I found these, was thinking (if I were in a position to take advantage) that they’d be prime candidates for a fix-n-flip (flip as in resell, hopefully not involving actual flipping! LMAO). That’s IF they’re actually 4wd (2wd versions are far more common around here, unfortunately).

          https://hattiesburg.craigslist.org/cto/d/1997-toyota-4runner/6619836171.html

          https://neworleans.craigslist.org/cto/d/runs-good/6620624987.html

          I would probably put them on eBay, in order to expose them to guys in the salt belt trying to avoid rust.

          They’re not my personal choice, but I certainly wouldn’t mind putting some cash in the bank after getting them into the hands of those who do like them.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Those are both kind of sketchy looking trucks, but the rot-free frames alone are a beautiful thing. It’s funny, in rust free CA and in the Southwest, these 3rd gen 4Runners are even MORE overpriced. A guy on the FB classifieds based in Virginia specializes in fixing them up and selling them, looks like he actually uses good parts and sells them for a fair price. That’d be a fun living.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The 470 is harder to keep running than the 450, because it has the first-generation AHC suspension that’s prone to failure. I haven’t shopped 470s but I’d expect a high-mile 470 to be worth less than an equally high-mile 450.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I wouldn’t consider AHC as scary/pricey of a thing (can always convert to regular springs) as worrying about a head gasket letting go on a 450, and on top of that worrying about rebuilding birfields. I do think the 80 supply is dwindling and running prices up, whereas there are still a lot of LX470s (more than LC100 Land Cruisers?) and there is also a non-trivial factor in that I think a lot of the offroad guys don’t care for the looks of the LX with its quad front lights versus the more classic/plain LC100. Trivial perhaps, but a factor nonetheless.

          I’ve always kept 100 series trucks in the back of my mind as a natural progression from my 3rd gen 4Runner, but the value factor just isn’t there for me, especially as they start to rust in the salt belt. I’d actually prefer a 1g Sequoia if I’m looking at that era, for the better interior room, lowering rear window, and (believe it or not) slightly better MPG.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I’m not really into SUVs but if I had to pick, my first pick would be the WJ Grand Cherokee (99-04). I wouldn’t care if it had the 4.7 V8 or the 4.0 I6, both are great engines. Second pick would be the ZJ. Third pick would be the ’92-99 Suburban.

    I’d almost pick a Jeep Patriot. They seem like they’d be a fun, cheap and small SUV (well, CUV) and most are at $7k or below. While the 2.0/2.4 World engines are bulletproof, it sits behind a Jatco CVT, the same variety found in the Nissans that put CVT notoriety on the map. If it just had the 41TE/62TE auto it would have my consideration. There’s always the manual, but…I have never driven a manual (eek)…

    If the ante was upped a few thousand more, I’d go for an X164 GL450 (the oldest, high-mileaged and/or neglected examples are around $7k. It’s hard to believe that some of these are starting to fall into beater status. I’d avoid those and spend more on a nicer example). I was considering a well-cared-for 2011 from my father in law until I realized I didn’t need an SUV nor did I want to deal with the Airmatic suspension if it failed ($4k repair, and not avoidable no matter how well the vehicle was looked after). The other deal breaker was that I eventually wanted to tow a travel trailer and the best it could do was ~7000lb. Besides costly suspension repairs, they’re solid otherwise and are probably the best-looking SUV I’ve ever seen, aside from the WK2 Grand Cherokee, the ’92-99 Suburban and the ’91-94/’95-98 Explorer.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I’m gonna cry foul on the Land Cruiser idea. In Portland and Seattle, after deducting non-running examples, obvious spam bait, and “for parts only,” you have something on the order of ten vehicles total to pick from. All high miles and with issues. The “Toyota Tax” lives.

    On the European front, the two candidates (Land Rover and Mercedes) have potential repairs waiting for you far in excess of that $7000 price point. Not no, but he** noes.

    So… a Chevy Tahoe (or it’s GMC counterpart) would work great, as would a Jeep Cherokee. If you could find one that hasn’t been hooned to within inches of it’s life. I’d recommend a Bronco, but I already own one of those. A pristine example will come closer (or over) you price point than you’d believe possible. But they don’t know what a rust-free 25 yr old truck looks like east of the Rockies.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Yep, the fullsize Broncos are easily cresting $7k in original, rust free shape. I was quite enamored with them a little while back, scoured the craigslists of the entire of Southeast for a decent one for fun. The best was a Kenne Bell supercharged ’96 that had obviously been cared for, right at $7500 asking. 2 door GMT400 K5 Blazer/Tahoes are getting up there as well, another cool SUV I lust after.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    *searching furiously if the 4-door Niva was sold in NA or not*
    no, saad :(
    any GMT900 platform then… ugly to look at, outperformed in each and every way by the orientals and even Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Our family friends in Siberia had one of the 4 door (VAZ-2131) models. I think the proportions are awkward compared to the classic 2 door design, but it is a very utilitarian and capable little rig. We rode to their dacha (small rural summer home) in the back of it once. The three levers sticking out of the transmission tunnel (shifter, center diff lock, hi/lo range), the incredible amount of gear whine, and surprisingly soft ride all stood out. They also have a gen 1 ML320 Merc but for winter duty to get down the unplowed dacha road only the Niva is trusted.

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