I'm a High School Robotics Coach and Race on the Weekends! What Car Should I Buy?

Illustration for article titled I'm a High School Robotics Coach and Race on the Weekends! What Car Should I Buy?

Andy is a high school robotics coach, an amateur racer on the weekends and a new dad. His old Tacoma is not quite cutting it for kid and tow duty. He would also prefer something that is not a pickup truck. What car should he buy?


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Here is the scenario -

I am an amateur racer (autocross a Miata), physics teacher, coach of a high school robotics team, and a new dad. I have a 2007 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner that is getting a little long in the tooth, the backseat is a little tight for the car seat, and I’m ready to move on. I regularly tow the Miata (open trailer) or an enclosed 7x14 trailer full of robotics gear for the team. I’m looking for a new tow vehicle with some more room but the standard fare of full-size pickup trucks are a) expensive and b) a bit boring. Help me expand my horizons and find the unique tow vehicle of my dreams!

This new ride needs to be safe and reliable but also has to be able to tow over 5000 lbs and I have a budget of up to $25,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $25,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Cincinnati, OH

Wants: Family friendly, reliable, able to tow,

Doesn’t want: The same old trucks

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Hemi To The Rescue

Image: Andrew Collins/Jalopnik
Image: Andrew Collins/Jalopnik

Wow, a physics teacher who coaches a robotics team and races Miatas on the side! Most of us wish we had such a Jalop teacher when we went to school. While the Tacoma is a good rig for a while, once you add car seats into the mix, those small trucks can be difficult. You definitely need something a bit bigger and more comfortable.

I understand your desire to avoid the pickups but when you go to the crossover/SUV segment you get limited in your towing capacity. There are plenty of truck-based rigs like Tahoes and Expeditions, but those are also going to come with high miles for your budget. If you want something that isn’t too old but can still haul and looks the part go with a Dodge Durango R/T.


Given your occupation and hobbies, you certainly don’t need to go out of your way to say “I’m a cool dad” but the Durango’s mix of muscle and utility certainly doesn’t hurt. With the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 its rated to tow about 7400 lbs, and the three-row configuration has plenty of space for kids, gear, and robots. Here is a 2013 Durango R/T nearby that is slightly above your budget but I’m sure you can talk them down a bit.

Expert 2: David Tracy- Like a Rock

Illustration for article titled I'm a High School Robotics Coach and Race on the Weekends! What Car Should I Buy?

Remember those Bob Seger “Like a Rock” commercials that Chevy put out in the 1990s? If you do, you’ll realize that the decade that brought us Pokémon was a high point in GM advertising, and it was also a high point in GM truck design.

That’s all thanks to one legendary platform. Starting in the late ‘80s and finishing up in the early 2000s, the GMT400 architecture graced the world with classic boxy SUV and truck designs like those of the Suburban shown above, and also of the Tahoe and C1500 pickup, among others.


The ’90s are “in” these days, so why not pick up one of the most quintessentially ’90s trucks out there? Something with a stout frame, an unkillable V8 engine, tons of room inside, and plenty of towing capability. But most importantly, timeless, chiseled good looks.

The things are dirt cheap, so if you buy one like, you’l have $22,050 to spend on robotics equipment. Just think of the children.


Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky - It’s Van-Time, Robot

Illustration for article titled I'm a High School Robotics Coach and Race on the Weekends! What Car Should I Buy?

Andy, you seem like a fun, interesting guy—robotics, autocrossing, physics, a family—the last thing you need is some boring-ass SUV. So write an AI algorithm real quick and instruct it to ignore what my two colleagues just suggested, because they’re both very wrong.

You need more room, you have a kid now, you need to tow, and you don’t want a truck. You need a van.


You need a real, workhorse van, and I’m going against all my usual instincts and suggesting something incredibly common and easy to repair, get parts for, service, all that. I’m suggesting the unsung workhorse van that has kept America running for decades: a Ford Econoline.

But, since you’re mostly towing the bulky stuff, we don’t need the interior to be some stripped-out work van: that’s why the Econoline you need is this sweet-ass 1997 Ford Econoline conversion van. It’s only five grand! It’s a steal!


It’ll tow 6600 pounds of Miata or robot no problem, and the inside is furnished like the lobby of a classy orthodontist in a suburb of Atlantis. You have plenty of room for your kid and all their stuff, there’s a built-in CRT television, so your kid can appreciate what life was like before LCDs!

Plus, when you’re autocrossing in the hot summer or cold winter, you’re bringing along your very own personal climate-controlled luxury lounge to relax in, change in, meditate, whatever, because we all know most of autocrossing is waiting to autocross.


Also important: that amazing paintjob and stripe kit.

Man, this makes so much sense I can’t believe it’s me writing this. But, I just checked for distinguishing scars and, yes, it’s me. Get this thing. You won’t regret it.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)


As soon as I saw the headline, I knew he autocrosses.

Autocross is many things. It is competitive. I’m sure a lot of people find it very enjoyable.

But when you say “I race on the weekends”, you KNOW everybody is thinking you mean you’re Kimi Raikkonen doing wheel to wheel, not a dude in jorts in a parking lot. Pet peeve.

Don’t say “I’m going racing”, “I race”, “This is my race car”, when you mean autocross.