Ann lives in New York City and loves her Mini Cooper roadster, but often she shuttles around her sister-in-law, her large boyfriend and a big dog. She is looking for a cool and vintage SUV for under $15,000. What car should she buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
I have a 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster (which I adore), however now I need a second car to accommodate my 6'0" boyfriend, sister-in-law, and my 80-pound dog. I prefer a cool vintage SUV that’s around $10,000 - $15,000.
Some kind of open top design or at least a sunroof would be preferred and it needs to be comfortable on road trips. I don’t want something that is a money pit, and it would be great if I can park it easily in the city.
Budget: up to $15,000
Daily Driver: No
Wants: Vintage, Roomy, Open top
Doesn’t want: A money pit
Ann, the vintage SUV market is not my area of expertise, but when anyone asks me for a recommendation on an SUV that will hold up, my go-to answer is the FJ80 Toyota Land Cruiser. It’s not the most creative answer, but you can definitely find some cool and vintage Land Cruisers if you can filter away the expensive resto-mods and low mile collector cars.
Our friend Gary Duncan has a few at his place in Virginia and some with very reasonable miles for the price, the catch is that these are imported from Japan and therefore the steering wheel is on the right, which might make for some tricky city driving.
Here is a 1993 VX trim with less than 80,000 miles right within your budget. It has plenty of room for you, your family, the dog, and luggage. It even has a sunroof. As for the easy to park factor, well I guess you will need to get creative.
Not a money pit, easy to park in the city, cheap—this feels like that old “pick two” dilemma. Maybe I’m still feeling burned from my own failed vintage car experiment in the city, but that has definitely changed my philosophy on city cars.
New York is brutal at car ownership in general, not to mention expensive, and it won’t suffer some cool old vintage thing that ends up not being reliable even if you plan to drive it regularly.
How about this old Toyota 4Runner for way under your budget? With only 142,000 miles it’s not even halfway through its Toyota life cycle. It’s big, tough, cheap, ready for NYC duty and big enough to carry all your large adult humans and dogs. Keep in mind if you need something smaller you could just go with a RAV4, but you specified SUV and not crossover, so this may closer to what you want.
Obviously the truck you need that is cool, old, and so simple that you can fix it on the side of First Avenue using only items found at a local hardware store is an International Harvester Scout. These were built by a farm equipment company so you know they’re uncomfortable! I mean, uh, simple and easy to use.
It’s a damn shame that I’ve been banned from recommending J**ps, because what you need is a J**p C******o. Dammit, what’s with all the asterisks? Let’s try it again: The perfect car for you is a J**p C******o.
Okay, it’s clear that my bosses have employed a sophisticated bot to block my Built in Toledo recommendations, so I have no choice but to recommend instead a third-generation Ford Bronco. It’s got everything you want in an SUV, really: A convertible top, rugged good looks, four-wheel drive, a four-speed manual transmission, and an unkillable motor.
That motor is the 300 inline-six, an iron block torque-monster that served in Ford trucks for over three decades, and wowed every owner with its willingness to just keep running. You can read all about why the 300 inline-six is the right motor for you in my article, but the gist of it is: it’s bone simple.
And simplicity is what you need in an old vehicle, otherwise you’ll spend too much time tracking down annoying gremlins, when you should be cruising down the road, rowing through gears, listening to a silky-smooth (ish) inline-six purr under hood.
This generation of Bronco hasn’t gotten too expensive yet, and I bet you could find a sweet one for $15 large. Here’s one going up for auction in Texas, though with only 27,000 on the odometer, it may get expensive, but who knows, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
In any case, you definitely need a Bronco, ideally one with the inline-six and the manual. We all do.