I’ve spent the last three months shuffling between doctor visits instead of writing for Jalopnik because I crashed a Maverick X3 at my wedding and pulverized my left hand. But that’s a story for another time. For now, how about you help me get back on the road?
Here is the scenario:
I’m a 31-year-old Jalopnik editor living in Los Angeles, paying rent for three cars to live in the shade underneath my building because I’m bad at priorities and maybe a little bit of a hoarder.
Regular readers might remember that I already own a cheap luxury sedan, a cheap off-road truck, and a really cheap sports car plus two cheap motorbikes. Unfortunately for me in this uniquely shitty scenario, they all have manual transmissions. While it is possible for me to drive and shift using my right hand exclusively, it’s not particularly safe or comfortable.
So if there’s any silver lining here, it’s the excuse to buy another vehicle. And since whatever I do buy will remain in my fleet until an apocalypse renders cars obsolete (that hoarding problem I mentioned), I’d like to use this opportunity to fill a long-standing hole in my lineup: something that can safely and comfortably make the five-hour slog from Los Angeles to Mammoth Mountain with four people and a full rack of skiing gear on board.
I have a shortlist already of course, but I’m curious to see what Jalopnik readers suggest.
Something with airbags would be nice, ABS brakes are kind of key. I’m trying to spend $3,000 to $5,000 on something ideally not much older than mid-90s, then another grand or two sorting out whatever ailment broke the seller’s patience.
Budget: $6,000 set up and road trip ready.
Daily Driver: Sometimes. So, no.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Wants: Automatic transmission, long-distance comfort for four through bad weather.
Doesn’t want: Unreliable or unsafe.
Expert 1: Patrick George — A Good Car For A Good Human
Andrew, it’s good to have you back after your injury. I have tried my best to keep the staff’s bad takes in check during your absence, but I am only one man and can only do so much.
I don’t think I’ve ever written this sentence before, but: you need an automatic car. And if you want to go skiing (Side note: Why the fuck are you skiing? Can you just lay off the extreme sports until your hand heals? Put your wife on the phone, I need to talk to her about this) and need something practical, how about an older Subaru wagon? Here’s a nice, automatic 2001 Subaru Outback near you for just $3,500. And it has heated seats.
We both know older Subarus can be finicky, much more so than Hondas or Toyotas of the same vintage. Find an example in good shape with solid maintenance records, be prepared to wrench a bit yourself (something that I know won’t be a problem for you or your LA friends), maybe get a pre-purchase inspection and you should be fine. And then dump the thing once both your hands are good to go again.
Just stay out of any four-wheelers, okay?
Expert 2: David Tracy — Truck Yeah
Andrew! Boy have we missed your truck-ish charm over these past weeks, but now you’re back, so let’s talk about big body-on-frame off-road machines! Oh, wait, what’s that Patrick recommended? A Subaru Outback? Never mind that.
The real antidote for your health issues—one that should help your soul heal quickly—is, of course, an old Mitsubishi Montero. Beautifully boxy, off-road capable, spacious, and vent window-equipped. What more could you want in a vehicle? The owner of the 1990 model shown above, which is for sale near you, says the thing is an “absolutely prime example,” and that everything works. It’s got a lot of miles on it, and the diamond plate on the hood is a major bummer, but otherwise it looks like a sweet rig for only $3,500.
Of course, there are plenty of other great automatic truck options out there. As you know, I’ve been banned from recommending a certain four-letter brand, but you remember that road trip we went on last year? Boy was that fun. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky — I Still Think You’d Look Cooler With a Hook for a Hand
Andrew, look, you’ve been through something rough, and I know it’s incredibly hard, physically. But you’re getting through it! Now, we have to address the bigger issue: I’ve seen your left hand, all those pins in it, all that metal and hardware, so let’s just face the issue no one’s talking about head on: you’re more machine than man, now.
You’re probably wondering a lot about yourself. Are you still Andrew? Are you some cyborg? What will it take to reclaim your humanity? Luckily, ol’ Jayjay’s here with the answer: this 1987 Chevy K5 Blazer.
Yes, Andrew, know that I, for one, believe that the you, the real, human Andrew, is still in there, buried underneath that mass of levers and pins and pulleys. And there’s no better way to get you out of your cybernetic prison than to put you behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s really you.
This Blazer is an automatic, so you can just leave the robo-hand in your lap. The body is in amazing shape, with a really great two-tone red-and-tan paint job, looking like a gigantic hot dog.
It’s got a 383 cube V8, a limited-slip diff, reinforced transmission and transfer case, a custom roof rack for those skis or hangliders or whatever tool you’re planning to use to mess up your other limbs, it can do anything and go anywhere, including taking you, your lovely wife, and all of your pals to the mountains.
This is a very Andrew vehicle, and that’s exactly what you need. You’ll look fantastic in this beast, and it’s only $3,495! Dig down through the machinery to your human heart, and it’ll agree with me.
Get better soon! Remember, you’ve been through much worse.
Expert 4: Aaron Brown— What Can’t This Thing Do?
Oh man, Collins. You’re finally back! No longer will our coworkers have to scramble wildly to figure out car review scheduling and whatnot. It truly is a blessed day. We missed you, buddy.
Anyways, hey! We need to get you in a car, and I think I know what just might work. How about this 2004 Subaru Baja Turbo with an asking price of $6,000?
I probably don’t have to explain this to you, but you know, the Bajas are pretty easy to overlook. To me, they kind of blend into the blandness of the mid-2000s, and that’s a total shame. It’s an Outback with a bed and a tailgate! And this one’s even got a turbo.
Throw your ski gear in the bed (or buy a rack), and you and your friends can enjoy the ride to and from the slopes in the comfort of a quality Subaru interior. I mean, there’s nothing better than a mid-2000's Subaru interior...right?
Ok, mind the sarcasm, but it does, at least, have heated seats in the front and pretty much a full cab! And it’s a Subaru! With the right tires, it’ll get you wherever you need to go—at least until the engine starts knocking or overheating. But let’s, uh, not think about that yet.
Anyways, this thing is calling your name. I can hear it all the way from New York! And I’m sure you could get that asking price knocked down to around $4,500 or so. Just turn up that ol’ Collins charm.