View Full Version : OT - help buying 4x4

December 19, 2000, 10:00
OK, I know very little about trucks and SUVs, but here is my situation:

I live in the mountains of East Tennessee. I literally live on top of a mountain with very windy, steep roads that have NO guard rails. One slip or patch of ice could mean going down the side of the mountain. I need to get a good, used vehicle that is the BEST for driving in ice and snow. I don't have to do it much, but when I need it I want it to be the best. Gas mileage doesn't matter much to me, appearance either.

I currently have an old 1977 Jeep Wagoneer that has transmission problems. I haven't used it much or put much money into it, though it does have new brakes and a new carb. But I don't feel comfortable spending more money on it - there is a LOT of stuff it needs (heater, body work, tires, transmission work, etc.)

SO - what would you guys suggest? My criteria are simple - the absolute best, safest way of driving in snow and ice. I wouldn't mind it if it did get decent gas mileage and could funtion as a truck if need be for hauling stuff in and out of season. I need some good advice on a used vehicle as I plan on selling the Jeep and using the money as a down payment. It is just the wife and I, so no major need for a crew-cab or extra seating (a la SUV).

I have always liked what I have heard about the longevity and reliability of Toyota trucks, but don't know how they fare in ice and snow.

Thanks for the help, guys

December 19, 2000, 10:14
The absolute BEST FAL/StG rack- a Pinzgauer!

Someone in ATL sells these BTW. MilSpec 4x4, durable, cheap, reliable. Austrian!

1*.....Train Like You Fight: Second Place is NOT an Option.

E.M. (Ted) Dannemiller II

December 19, 2000, 10:28
Don't forget your tires. Power to all four wheels won't do you much good if you can't get traction. I noticed that many SUVs are equipped with dry weather road tires. This is probably done to enhance dry weather performance, reduce fuel consumption, and decrease tire noise. Aggressive tread patterns generate more noise so these tires are more of a compromise. For more treacherous conditions, you might consider the many lines of dedicated snow/ice tires available for SUVs. The combination of 4x4, traction control, and snow/ice tires will give you the most traction possible.
www.tirerack.com (http://www.tirerack.com)

Dan at VOW
December 19, 2000, 10:31
Hey GW, only problem with going with Toyota 4X4 is you will be going to a very light weight vehicle, wind and ice will affect it more due to less weight on rear axle. If you are wanting something for double duty, hauling stuff, getting around during the rest of the year and such, you already have a good platform. Look at what you would spend on a dependable vehicle, what insurance and such will run on a newer one also. Gas mileage on the old jeep isn't going to be great, but gas prices are going down. The Jeep you have has either a chyrsler 727, or a GM turbo 350/400 transmission. If it's the 727 I can understnad why you are having transmission problems, not wanting to back up when cold unless you really rev it up and not wanting to shift into 3rd gear easily. If that is the case, sometimes it can be just a matter of changing the fluid and adjusting the transmission bands (reverse and 3rd are in the same drum on the 727) if not you can usually find a local shop that will sell a rebuilt transmission of that type with a warranty for a fairly decent price. Heater is usually fairly simple, new heater control valve and heater core for under a hundred bucks, tires can be had in the size you need for around 200-250 for a set of 4 unless you want some monster mudders. You said you weren't really concered about looks, so try your hand at body work, if you screw up real bad you can always cammo it! http://www.fnfal.com/forums/biggrin.gif As a working vehicle the old waggoneers and Cherokees were pretty tough reliable vehicles, heay enough to maintain fair traction in mud and snow, ice is very misleading to a lot of people who have 4X4's, those are usually the first ones upside down in the medians after or during a storm. If you want more info, please email me. PS, just bought another Jeep, 79 Cherokee Chief 360 auto, good cond, good tires, 400 bucks. Will be using it to go mudding, hunting, and to work on the days when I don't drive the Subaru. Dan. PS, you can usually rebuild an older truck to like new for a fifth of the cost of a new one. I have 3 that I am presently working on, gathering parts as needed, 2 of them are 4X4's the other is just going to be a "toy". Find a reliable mechanic, not the easiest thing to do these days, but finding the right one can make life a lot easier on you and the better half.

[This message has been edited by Dan at VOW (edited December 19, 2000).]

December 19, 2000, 10:48
GW, I got to go with Dan at VOW. Sounds like you already have a decent platform for your needs. Ice is bad no matter what you drive.

December 19, 2000, 10:52
Hands Down Unimog.

I have one, everyone else needs one. Get the newer turbo deisel, so you can forge rivers.


December 19, 2000, 10:58
I have a 2000 Toyota 4X4, extended cab V6 and love it. It does great on ice and snow but I really couldn't say it was better than any other 4X4. Its the drivers ability, tires etc. If you do get a used Toyota just remember, that if it does need repair it ain't cheap. I'd just repair the old jeep, at least you know what you got.

December 19, 2000, 11:18
Repairing a Jeep is a never ending saga.

Go with the Toyota...and you'll probably forget what the inside of repair shop looks like.

Say what you want, the Toyota's are reliable.

13th Warrior
December 19, 2000, 11:32
I have to agree with Dano and the rest in regard to the Toyotas. If I were you I would get one of the early models with the Zeppa joint straight axle front ends. They are designed much the same way as the early jeeps. I have a 94 toyota extra cab and love it. It's not spacious but very well engineered! It takes a total of an hour to change the front and rear brakes.(provided you have all the correct tools). Early model toyotas are relatively cheap here in Florida but you get what you pay for in any 4x4. If cosmetics arent a problem one with a good drive train could be had for around 2k dollars. If you want added weight, find some 8" well casing and fill it up with concrete and cap the ends, they are a bit squirly and have a tendency to hydroplane on rainy days.The added weight would really help.

P.S. I dont and never have driven in snow so I cant say about their performance in those conditions.

December 19, 2000, 14:02
'77 Wag!!!! Keeeeeep It!! FSJ's rule! Who needs bodies or heaters!

I have a '80 J10 and I have pulled many a modern SUV and p/u out of the ditch. Sure its rusty and it stalls alot, but man its a great truck. 173,000 on the clock and going strong!

Keep the Jeeps running!


December 19, 2000, 14:11

December 19, 2000, 14:36
I hate to repost, but

Unimog by far is the best 4X4 ever. Look how many are of 60s vintage and are still working in the third world, held together by bush mechanics. And they run on poor quality gas, that would choke a 7.5 to 1 compression VW. They out perform a Hummer and at 1/10 the price. Yes I own one.

As far as Bart giving the nod to Toys over Land Rover I have something to say. I own two Land Rovers a 1964 109 3 door and a 1994 Defender 90. Equally unstoppable. Have perform some major maintenace with minor tool to bring trucks back to life. The reason Toys a popular in Africa and other third world places is they are cheap and throw away compared to a LR. Smart buyers and outfitters in Africa still laud LR, they are not as cheap but last 3 times as long.


December 19, 2000, 15:18
Bravo, KingSlug.
yes, do consider a Land rover. We have a '97 Defender D-90 "Limited Edition" and it's been a pure joy -- utterly reliable IF you do your part. Specifically, as with all LR products, stay on top of the maintenance regime and pay particular attention to lubrication and fluids. Perhaps more so than other marques. Yes, they're pricey -- but like cockroaches and now coyotes, Land rovers will probably inherit the Earth!

On a more practical note, consider a couple of alternatives. The LR Discovery (pre-99) late model wagons are becoming more reasonable in the market, with the intro of the Series II wagon. They're quite capable vehicles,especially for yourstated requirements. Indeed, many of the people who buy LRs in the States (did I invoke the image of soccermoms, nah) buy them for the perceived status they invoke, when they should be buying something Japanese or domestic. The ride is indeed somewhat harsher on normal roads than most of the competition, but in the bush, there's no comparison for what they offer in a modern production vehicle.

On the other hand if interior space is not a requirement or if LR service is not in your neck-o-the-woods, consider a late ('98 on, skip '97) Jeep Wrangler TJ with the 4.0L and the Dana 44. I've got a 2000 so equipped and it's about to be turned inside out. They're simple, reliable (despite what biased Consumer Reports says)and they hold their resale fiercely if kept in excellent condition.

December 19, 2000, 16:29
Could you all tell me more about these "Unimogs" ? They sound interesting.

December 19, 2000, 17:15
http://www.eurotruck-importers.com/links.htm heres the link to the dealer close to Gainsville, GA. I'd get one soon, if that is what you want, because the prices are starting to climb.
Now, on to my thoughts. If you just want to get up and down the mountain the Pinzs and Mogs are great choices, but if you plan on going at hiway speeds or long distance you might want to look at something else. I really like the Toyotas and have had two. I drove them around the mountains of W.Virginia all they way to GA in 6-12 inches of snow with no problems. Jeeps(CJs), I'm on number 4 now and love them too. They are easy to work on, loads of parts and are not too bad for longer travel. I've also driven them in up to 12 inches of snow. The most important thing, as someone said, is driver ability and equipment. I would at least get a good set of agressive all terrian tires and maybe some chains. For more serious work I would look into an air locker, at least for the back. A lockable rear or front can help and hurt you, on hard packed snow I'd run with both diffs. open and when it got deep use the lockers. Ice is a different story, studs or chians are probably best, but even they have no gurantee of traction.


December 19, 2000, 17:35
Unimogs the ultimate reference is at the "Rocky Mountain Moggers". Use any search engine to find them. Be sure to look at their links page and go to the dealers section. You can also look at some pics, just search unimog, I posted a message and referenced some pics when I bought mine in this forum.


December 19, 2000, 17:42
Dont forget www.unimog.com (http://www.unimog.com)


December 19, 2000, 18:01
J.E.E.P.- Just Empty Every Pocket

December 19, 2000, 18:17
I love our Audi Quattros. 1984, 1987. We used to live in Seattle, and those little cars could climb the Queene Anne hill with wet slick seattle snow on the qround.

They stick to the road very well, have good power distribution and you can selective lock the differential and rear end. I bet someone could get an older one for less than 4K. Subaru also has similar AWD.

I think the best traction solution for ice is studded tires or walnut shell tires. Hope you get a good rid you like.


Enquiring Minds
December 19, 2000, 19:30
Only one additional suggestion for extra useful weight in the bed of a pickup: Get an old truck tire innertube, cut through the tube (or just cut out the section with the valve stem), fill it with SMALL SHARP GRAVEL, and clamp each end with hose clamps. Now you've got soft, conforming weights that sort of C-curve around the fenders, AND if you need some extra traction getting up a super icy spot, you just unclamp one end of your "weight" and spill some gravel where needed.

Just one of these over the right-rear fender got me pretty far in/out of Colorado Rockies with only 2WD and "all-weather" (street) tires.

Good Luck. There's some great experience-based advice in this thread, which could be sorted/categorized according to "how much you want to mess with it yourself"! Enjoy the Great Smokies of E. Tenn. before the Yups make it one huge golf course.

[This message has been edited by Enquiring Minds (edited December 19, 2000).]

December 19, 2000, 20:12

December 20, 2000, 09:04
I just posted this same topic about 6 weeks ago. I settled on the Land Cruiser... a 1984 that I bought from the original owner for $5000! Only 136K on it!!!

Higlights of the FJ60...
VERY simple to operate.
VERY durable.
DOES NOT BREAK. But is easy to fix if it does.

Best thing is that it will get you in and out. I like the 1994 and before. My research shows that for reliablity the pre-'89s or the post '93s are the best, but all of them are great.

The FJ60's which is the carburated wagon and may get short of breath in very high altitude (can anyone confirm?). However, that was not too much of an issue for me. The best part about an FJ60 is that you can put 400K miles on them and they will still run like a top. You can buy one now for about $5000 in decent condition. Gas mileage is about 12 mpg in 2 wheel drive and I do use it as my every day driver. You can get up to 31 inch wheels without having to manipulate the suspension.

If you go with the later models. I would suggest a 1994. It is 2nd year of the larger fuel injected engine, and has the old style badges on it. It was the first year that locking hubs became optional so be sure to get one with locking hubs.(I like locking hubs and this may be personal preference.)Finally, this was the last year before the got all fancy smancy with the Land Crusiers so that they would be attractable to soccer mom's. I think you can get a good one of these for about $16 to $18K now.


December 20, 2000, 09:22
I have to agree w/ Bart: get an A4. My 97 A4 T is a serious stick, and FALs fit in the lowered storage area very nicely. A Quattro is trick, and incredibly hard to get loose.

1*.....Train Like You Fight: Second Place is NOT an Option.

E.M. (Ted) Dannemiller II

December 20, 2000, 11:21

Enquiring Minds
December 21, 2000, 00:16
toyotas with 5.3 liter engines,and so forth.
Right... GM & Toyota have been partnered for decades, so their tranny's share common bolt-up patterns. Buddy in CO dropped a Chevy 350 into his FJ40--it was... The Amazing Airborne Thunder Puppy!!

December 21, 2000, 01:34
Um, I think you need an adaptor to mate a chevy engine and toyota trans. Fairly common swap, but GM and toyota do not share bolt patterns. Tires, positraction devices and weight distribution have the most influence on winter traction. Imports are great until you have to fix them, expensive parts and limited availability. RT

December 21, 2000, 09:55
Wow! Never thought a simple question would generate so many opinions. Thanks for all the help and keep that advice coming.

Funny, last night a neighbor of mine who has a 1998 Chevy SUV (blazer, I think) couldn't make it up a gravel road with snow and ice on it. Her 4WD had crapped out on her (some part failed, I guess) and she went into a ditch. Now, keep in mind that this is a 100 lb. woman with a 5 month old baby and a 3 year old in the vehicle, and it was right outside my house. So I fire up the 77 Jeep Wagoneer (took a while - that damn thing coughs and sputter when first cranked) but I was able to take her right home with NO problems whatsoever. Made me give some serious consideration to spending the money and getting it fixed.

Now, is it possible to get a lift kit installed on it, and what kind of tires would you recommend for it? I do VERY little highway driving with it, if ever, so noise is not a concern.

Also, I saw in the original owner's manual for it that you can buy a snow-plow attachment for it - anyone have any idea where one might be found?

December 21, 2000, 14:47
Stay away from imports (if you must, then by all means Japanese 'cause of their superior reliability and cost/benefit)...

What you need is a used Ford Explorer (6 cylinder's fine as the V8 weighs considerably more and is not as agile -- fuel consumption is about the same -- if you do a lot of hauling, then get the V8)...

An old Cherokee is also a good choice and can be had relatively cheap (what they now call the "Classic" -- boxy ones with the 6 cylinders)...

Pickups have to have something in the bed (gravel/sand bags work fine) so as to improve traction -- can't beat a full size Ford or Chevy in that department...

As with a metric FAL, parts for the American vehicles are cheap and plentiful and differently then the FALs, any service station can work on them.

Good luck, happy hunting,


PS. Fuel Injectors this time, you won't regret it!

Andy the Aussie
December 21, 2000, 23:27
I have owned 4 cars in my life....82 BJ42 Lancrusier.....83 HJ60 Landcruiser.....89 HJ62 Landcrusier...and 93 80 series Landcruiser....I may be a little bias...but I have lived in some really harsh climates down here and where it counted the Landcrusier was...the military even used them in preference to the Rovers in the north....and that says something. Just my 2cents worth...(1cent US).

December 23, 2000, 00:23
Go with a Chevy. Best engine in the industry, cheap parts, as reliable as you can get. If you need to rebuild a 350 Chevy you can get a full rebuild kit for about $200. Depends on how complete a rebuild you want, typically about 1/2 the price of most Fords, 1/4 the price of Toy parts. I've got a '74 Land Crusier for a plowing rig, worst mistake was to rebuild the 6 cyl Toyota motor rather than the 350 Chevy swap. The difference in rebuild cost would have paid for the conversion.

If you go Chevy, I'd recommend the '88 or later body style. The eariler ones had rust problems, if exposed to road salt. Early 80's Toys are the worst, beds usually shot. Fords from the same era maybe a little better.

I've got a '89 Chevy 4x4 with about 200K miles, still good for 4000 miles on a quart of oil, never had the valve covers off. Bigest mechanical failure so far is the water pump, a rebuilt one at Napa cost me $18.

If you have a lot of ice, combined with steep, curvy roads, strongly consider studded snow tires. They aren't really necessary on flat land, even with lots of snow (I'm originally from the Buffalo area, should know about this) but they make all the difference in the world on hills. Like you, I live on the top of a mountain with about a 1000 foot elevation change going to town (North Idaho).

Now, from your post, I'm assuming you are concerned about driving on a snow covered or icy road, either paved or dirt, and that cost is somewhat of an issue. If hard-core off-roading is what your after, things change, and depends alot on conditions where you are. If money is no object, Hummer, Land Rover or the Unimog would be fun. If money is an issue, and you want the stoutest rig out there, go Scout II, one of the few with a fully boxed frame. Land Cruiser from the 70's or early '80's are small enough to get around well (FJ40), and look cool, still pretty stout, but don't box the rear of the frame like the IH. Consider the 350 Chevy swap in either, the 6 cyl LC motor is a dog, the Internationals are expensive to work on and heavy! The late model Chevys (or most others with independant front suspensions) are more expensive and generally not as strong for hard-core off roading.

Hope this helps.


[This message has been edited by brianidaho (edited December 23, 2000).]