Kyle’s E36 BMW M3 is doing what most German cars of that vintage do: rapidly fall apart and print repair bills. He’s ready to move on to something that can get him up the mountain for ski patrol duty. What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
So my E36 M3 is on its way out! Coolant is leaking into the cylinder head and I need to find a replacement quickly. I live in Fresno, CA but ski patrol in the winter so I’m looking for something that works work well in the snow. 4x4 would be a huge plus along with being able to sleep in the rig.
The problem is my budget is kind of tight. I want to spend less than $10,000 and what is usually available in that range has either a ton of miles on it or is not in great condition.
Budget: Up to $10,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Fresno, CA
Wants: 4x4 or AWD, big enough to sleep in.
Doesn’t want: Something in really rough condition.
Expert 1: Tom McParland- If You Are Going To Live In Your Car, Live In Luxury
Since you have a BMW you obviously prefer some of the finer things in life. Downgrading to something a bit more pedestrian, especially if you are going to spend the night, may not be ideal. You need a bit of luxury, even if it is old luxury.
The perfect antidote to an unreliable ‘90s BMW is a super reliable ‘90s Lexus.
Here is a 1999 Lexus GX 470 with only 183,000 miles. It may be over ten-years-old but it still has plenty of life left. It’s got the 4x4 and plenty of space for overnight excursions. While the V8 may be a bit thirsty, all the major components to this rig should hold up pretty well to mountain abuse and California traffic jams.
Live the Lexus life.
Expert 2: Mack Hogan - The Pathfinder, From Back When It Mattered
What you need, my friend is a Pathfinder. No, not the candy-ass crossover that you can finance for 96 months with a $30 down payment today. The last of the real ones.
While I’m a major fan of Lexus off-roaders, their outstanding resale value means you’re shopping for 25-year-old cars if you go that route. Luckily, the ninnification of the modern Pathfinder means that suburbanites looking for them shun the pre-2013 models.
As a result, you can nab these things for under $10,000 without even a thought. It may require a bit of travel, but there are examples of every color and trim you can imagine out there for your budget. This one is a bit of a hike for you, residing in El Cajon, but it’s only $8,999. Not bad for a pseudo-modern body-on-frame SUV with 123,355 miles.
Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky- Keep An Open Mind, Because This Is The Right Way To Do This
I’ll be honest: everything I know about ski patrolling is from what I learned from the Citizen Kane of ski patrol-based movies, 1990's Ski Patrol. From what I can surmise, there’s lots of snow and zany hi-jinx, which is why the vehicle I’m going to suggest for you is ideal: a 1992 Mitsubishi Delica 4x4.
Hi-jinkery aside, this Delica will meet your needs perfectly. It’s only $9,990, so it’s in your budget, it’s got a real four-wheel drive system with great ground clearance to really get through the snow, and is equipped with beefy bush bars and nice big foglamps to make sure nothing gets in your way as you scramble up those mountains.
But, best of all, this is a van, with plenty of interior room for sleeping, lounging, hi-jinx, whatever. The windows even have curtains, for private hi-jinx! This Delica has way more usable interior room than any SUV, and if you’re actually going to be sleeping/living in your vehicle, that’s a big deal.
SUVs are stupid. Vans like this one are the way to go. Enjoy the hijinks.
Expert 4: Patrick George - Please Buy This Pajero So I Don’t
Fools! All of you, fools. Jason is kind of on the mark with his Delica choice here, but I don’t think any American should pass up the chance to get a tiny Japanese imported 4x4. Between Daihatsu, Suzuki and Mitsubishi, they’ve been outclassing us in that segment for decades now.
This selection from our friends at Japanese Classics LLC in Virginia is from the last company, and it’s a gem. Behold! A turbodiesel, manual 4x4 Mitsubishi Pajero XR-1 with only 56,000 original miles. You’re an M3 guy, Kyle, so I have to imagine you’ll want to shift to something that’s at least a little fun and interesting after this—not just some used Lexus. It also has automatic digital climate control and removable rear seats.
Can you sleep in that? I dunno. Maybe. Probably. I’ve slept in worse places, and far worse cars. You should buy this right away.