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Bench build me this- the ultimate college "car" v 2.0

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  • Bench build me this- the ultimate college "car" v 2.0

    So, school goes on. I've got another year an a half of this before I stumble out of here with a degree. Anyway, after ditching my 2008 Focus for a '96 Tahoe and 350 Honda, I'm pretty happy with the truck/motorcycle combination. In the summer time I get 50+ mpg average, and over the winter I never, ever have to worry about whether or not I can get there.

    However, I'm planning on selling the Tahoe later this year, keeping only the motorcycle over the summer, and buying another truck before winter shows back up.

    The Tahoe is great right now. This time of year we are building snow statues for our winter carnival, and we use pickups trucks to haul snow. While the Tahoe isn't useful for that, our snow supply comes from unplowed fields, parking lots, and drainage ditches. What we use the Tahoe for is pulling the trucks out when they are stuck, which happens semi often. Most times I'm wheeling a 2001 Silverado with a 4.8 and older A/Ts (We call her Irene- it's an Air Force joke) that is merely adequate in 2' of heavy snow. But when it gets stuck I just drop the Tahoe in 4 lo and it tugs the Silverado out without any real issue at all. The Tahoe is heavy enough and has good enough tires (pretty new Destination A/Ts) that it handle the same 1.5"-2" of snow without any drama. Just stick it in drive, don't spin the wheels or act like an idiot and it'll crawl anywhere you want it to go.

    So, the challenge- next year I want a pickup truck. I don't want a wicked mudding/wheeling rig, but I want something that I can crawl through things with without drama- Irene takes a heavy foot and lots of wheelspin to get it into the same things that the Tahoe rolls through.

    Basic Requirements
    - Needs to be built on the relatively cheap
    - Engine needs to be reliable and torquey enough to tow and haul decent loads on and off the road
    - Preferably a stick shift
    - Stock suspension needs to be at least competent or easily retrofitted to a beefier setup- I'd like to be able to put 33" tires on it without needing to worry about serious geometry issues
    - Needs to be OK on the highway- it's 8 hours driving home and I want to see better than 15 mpg on the road
    - Has to have an extended cab

    Main focus
    - Snow/cold weather capability- I'll probably be adding a heavy steel plate in the bed to add weight- sandbags get in the way of hauling things
    - Vehicle recovery- as it is I end up helping one person a day on average right now. I'd like to add a winch so I can get myself out/not have to manually pull out other vehicles.
    - Winter commuting- there are some serious hills in this town and the roads are covered in snow and ice for at three months out of the year

    The most taxing thing it'll be doing is moving snow. For 6-8 hours at a time we make repeated trips about 1/2 mile up a 400' hill, into 2' of snow, pack the bed with snow- right around 600-800 lbs, and make the return trip, where we again drive through 1-2 feet on snow at the build site. A good crew can do this in about 15 minutes, and we'll haul 15-25 loads a day.


  • #2
    STF away from 3v ford V8s, way too many problems with spark plugs and cam phasers.

    Other than that - given your requirements - I'd go for a 3/4 ton as it will already have the ground clearance, HD suspension and towing capability, and they aren't any worse on fuel than a half ton with big tires, sometimes they're better.

    I would look for a truck that has manual transfer case with a stick through the floor - which will generally get you a lower optioned truck, that maybe a bit tougher to find in a supercab. Another generalization is that manually locking front hubs are more robust than auto lockers and I tend to agree with that.

    Manual trans will be a tall order - but you have time to look.

    If I were you I'd plan a summer trip down south on the bike, buy a rust free truck, put bike in the bed, and drive North.
    There's always something new to learn.


    • #3
      Go see Alex in Arizona, and get a late 80 -90's Chevy 3/4
      Previously HoosierL98GTA


      • #4
        you wont see the mpg you want with a 3/4 ton though. just something to keep in mind. sounds to me like Irene needs a new set of shoes... would probably make all the difference in the world.


        • #5
          Originally posted by HoosierL98GTA View Post
          Go see Alex in Arizona, and get a late 80 -90's Chevy 3/4
          This is great advise, for the simple fact that there are tons and let me say tons of trucks here in Phoenix, which means they don't hold their "value" that well, so you can find good rust free trucks for relatively cheap...... Check out Craigslist for Phoenix, if you find something I have no problem going and checking it out for you, and if you do decide to buy one from here, we can hook up and get some lunch......


          • #6
            all that writing for the need of a 3/4 ton.

            is irene "irene dover" for being weak?

            I thought thos days were gone like a squashy f100.
            Previously boxer3main
            the death rate and fairy tales cannot kill the nature left behind.


            • #7
              Right now I'm looking mostly at pre- '95 F150s. Most 3/4 tons in this range have been out of my current price bracket. Irene's shoes are OK- not the greatest, but good enough for right now. Irene's big problem is that it doesn't make power down low and it has a 1000 lb disadvantage when compared to the Tahoe. I haven't looked up how she's geared, but I'm guessing the Tahoe is a bit steeper also.

              Does anyone have any good or bad experiences with either the 300 line-6 or 351? I'm looking for low end grunt, and I feel like engine-wise these are my best options as a far as Fords go. I'm not totally averse to another Chevrolet, but I'd like to swing back to the blue-oval. I want to stay away from 4.6s, 5.4s, 4.8LS engines.

              I'm very open to heading south if it fits my timeline- later this semester I should be selling the Honda for a Yamaha FZR600 which should have longer legs than the little 350.

              Anyway- Irene is the subject of an Air Force Marching cadence-

              Irene's her name
              She's one of the best.
              So every night
              I give her the test.

              She looks so pretty.
              So sleek, so slim.
              The moon is bright
              the lights are dim.

              I've seen her stripped.
              I've seen her bare,
              I've felt her over everywhere.
              I took her everywhere I could.

              When I got in her
              I knew she was good.
              I rolled her over on her side
              Again on her back I also tried.

              She's just one big thrill
              the best in the land.
              She's my F-15
              in the Air Combat Command.

              The cadet who owns Irene and myself happened to know the cadence and have the necessary poor taste to call it during training events. This is the same cadet who last semester I staged a fight with in our Air Force class as an introduction to a conflict management briefing. We managed to convince people who knew us both well that we had flipped out and they ended up bodily separating us thinking I was actually prepared to turn his face inside out. We tend to get in a lot of trouble together.


              • #8
                so far I was hearing old fullsize Bronco (FSB) except the snow packing part, and the 15mpg part. A lot of your advantage is weight and it's distribution. Fords with any gear and 4x4 with 351's don't get usually get all that great of MPG. The six will do better but if it's got a lot of gear, it's gonna be thirsty to. It's still 300" to feed. I'd say with 4w-lo, gear is less of an issue if you are gonna roll up there and back. Tractor weights can be taken out for when you want to put cargo in it, I used them for a couple of years in a long bed, about 300 pounds if I remember.

                I think a 33" is about all that will fit under the older Fords without a body lift. My FSB has them and it's wheel wells are full. Lift kits and big tires kill MPG even more than gears. More modern trucks will drive a helluva lot more comfortably on the highway... I paid 1300 for the FSB with 33's, 351.. I think it was already lifted though, and not sure it doesn't have a body lift as well because the wheel well doesn't look as tight as most of them with 33's. It's been geared with 4.10's I believe. It's also got some non-factory looking transfer case armor. It's pretty common to see them for that down here. My suspiscion is it would about 11 mpg just because of the height and tires.

                edit - why do we name cars? My bronco's name is Burrito because I was drunk and trying to call it a Burro. It looks like a burrito so the name stuck.

                that's kinda what an F truck is gonna look like with a bigger than stock tire. 33x12.50 IIRC.

                better view maybe -

                The front bumpers are a JOKE - if you plan on a winch, plan on a winch bumper as well. I about ripped my bumper off with a 3/4" rope.
                Last edited by Beagle; January 24, 2013, 04:28 PM.
                Flying south, with a flock of bird dogs.


                • #9
                  i had a EFI 300 i6 in my 94 F150 base model 2wd truck had 400,000 miles. body was rotted out frame busted. it spent it's life on a farm as a manure spreader

                  sold the engine for $200 and it's still powering a truck to this day and that was 3 years ago when i pulled it out

                  it was a 5 speed mazda trans with 2.73 limited slip rear got 19mpg out of it the 300 is not a fuel efficient engine gets better then the v8s that where offered with it but nothing like modern v8s or v6s that would probably get 20's with 4wd
                  Last edited by Mater; January 24, 2013, 04:43 PM.
                  Originally posted by Remy-Z;n1167534
                  Congratulations, man. You've just inherited the "Patron Saint of Automotive Lost Causes" from me. No question.

                  75Grand AM 455:Pissed off GrandMA, 68 Volkswagen Type1 "beetle":it will run some year


                  • #10
                    300 EFI six for the win! I figured you were looking for something newer than that.
                    There's always something new to learn.


                    • #11
                      I believe the 302 was rated higher MPG than the 300... but that is a good real world number. I would get about 16-17 in a 302'd Extended cab 2wd with 3.55's and a 30" tire.
                      Flying south, with a flock of bird dogs.


                      • #12
                        my 302 4x4 got 15mpg

                        but it had over 200k on it and 32" tires with 3.05 gears
                        Originally posted by Remy-Z;n1167534
                        Congratulations, man. You've just inherited the "Patron Saint of Automotive Lost Causes" from me. No question.

                        75Grand AM 455:Pissed off GrandMA, 68 Volkswagen Type1 "beetle":it will run some year


                        • #13
                          I dunno. I was gonna throw all my votes behind a solid-axle GM product... right up until you said "need good mpg" and "needs an extended cab"

                          I get the hives around any IFS 4x4. Although, with 33"s, you'll probably be fine.
                          Yes, I'm a CarJunkie... How many times would YOU rebuild the same engine before getting a crate motor?


                          • #14
                            Probably not gonna get better than what you got..
                            Daughter was driving a crew cab 4by Chevy with the smaller V-8 (4.8? 4.6 ? Never can remember)
                            Now she drives a Yukon with the 5.3... Gets better mileage... Rides better.. At highway speeds, there is " something there" where the crew cab with the smaller motor had nothing to wheeze out..


                            • #15
                              I sorta hate to admit it, but I love the hell out of my Ford. '92 1/2 ton 4wd manual trans, hubs, and TC. I wish it was a 3/4 sometimes for the extra clearance and durability, but for the most part it does what I need. 300 six gets me between 13.5 and 14.5 average with very mixed driving. On long trips I routinely see 15+ on the the highway. Tomorrow on my ride to work the ODO will click 177,777.7 I bought it last January with 169,xxx.
                              Dustin in Pennsylvania