In part four of our series about the Attainable dream car collection, we’ll get muddy discussing the ideal tough toy- the truck or SUV you can feel good about beating up.
Last week’s Caterham Seven fit the Fast Toy category like a sweaty crash helmet. And while today’s category is a bit more utilitarian, you can still have fun while you work, or at least get a little work done while you’re having fun.
Everybody loves a guy with a truck. It’s not because trucks are cool or fun to drive. It’s because when you have a truck, you get a lot of chances to be someone’s hero, whether you’re tugging them out of the snow, hauling a foul-smelling like-new couch they pilfered from a dumpster behind the Salvation Army, or taking them to the next county to buy an ATV they found on Craigslist.
But you also want a truck because you love adventure, and a pickup (or sensible SUV) can get you there. Their high ground clearance and 4×4 capabilities can take you places your daily driver can’t, even if it is an Impreza.
So, while many of us would prefer a Dakar SUV or SCORE truck that costs six figures, let’s get realistic and take a look at the qualities the Attainable tough toy needs.
Resilient- Most tucks and (older) SUVs are designed to take a bit of a scuffing, but since you’re on a budget, you need something you won’t have to replace often, if ever. That means it will be able to take punishment from bumpy back roads and heavy loads alike. So the ideal tough toy will have a reasonable weight rating for hauling and towing.
Scratchable- Whatever you do to modify your off-road machine, there’s a fairly decent chance it will get scratched, dented, and nicked from time to time. If you’re worried about giving it a rakish scar or two, it probably doesn’t fit in the Attainable dream garage.
Immortal- Unique to the world of trucks, you’ll probably end up caring much more about how long it lasts than how fast it is, what kind of mileage it gets, or how good it looks. If you don’t agree, try to imagine meeting someone who has a half million miles on his or her pickup and tell me you wouldn’t be skeptical. Power train, body, frame, and even interior. They all need Kryptonian durability.
4×4- Two-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs can be practical for the road, and can even bring a unique challenge on the trail, but if you really want to have some adventures, you’ll need something that can pull itself out of the mud without a winch (though a winch won’t hurt).
Cheap- Remember, your tough toy will see some tough situations, and as skilled as you claim to be are, if you take a brand new, cutting edge truck or SUV out on an adventure, the sheer investment factor will cause you some hesitation when diving into risky situations. You’re better off with something used and common, with a proven reputation.
Efficient- Driving over the highway to your adventure spot wasn’t much of an issue ten years ago, when gas was cheaper than water. But nowadays, a massive, ponderous, fuel chugging machine might give you pause when considering muddy quests whose points A sit on the other side of the state. This is the truly delicate balance you have to strike when choosing an attainable tough toy. You want something you can afford to take far away without selling your furniture, but it seems like none of the vehicles big enough to do any actual work fit that description.
My Choice- 1985-86 Toyota Pickup 22R-TE
It’s an awfully small truck to be my ideal Attainable tough toy, isn’t it? Despite the fact that the 2.4 liter straight four is turbocharged, it only makes 135 hp and 173 lb ft of torque. And the truck is only rated to tow about 4,500 pounds and carry less than a thousand.
But when you think about it, if it really is a toy, and you don’t use it every day for work, when are you going to need to pull an excavator or carry a pallet of uranium? Those situations are few and far between. You’ll more commonly have to haul a load of gravel or tow a car whose engine threw a rod.
Which is not to say that the Toyota would collapse under a pallet of uranium. I’ve always heard that Toyota pickups tend to have eerily long lives. But I made up my mind about my dream truck when I saw Top Gear UK’s “Killing a Toyota” spot. If you haven’t seen it, and you’ve got a half hour, check it out. Top Gear has been known to exaggerate in exchange for entertainment, but this one I believe.
They took a 1988 Toyota Hilux (called the Pickup for us simple Americans) with 190,000 miles on the odo and crashed it at a low speed, tied it down in a flood plain and let it get submerged and half-buried in sand for hours, dropped it from a dozen feet, hit it with a wrecking ball, drove it through a shed, dropped a small RV onto it, and in exasperation, lit the interior on fire, all in efforts to kill it. After all that, and using only simple hand tools to repair it, they drove it into the studio.
Finally, they lifted the Hilux to the top of a 240 foot building which was about to be leveled. Following controlled demolition, they found it perched on top of the ensuing pile of rubble and used an excavator to roll it off. They reconnected the battery, added some fuel, and started it. And though the frame was severely damaged, it was still drivable.
My only problem with the Toyota is rust. I would have to completely sand blast the entire underside of the truck and coat it, since even the frames of these trucks are prone to the Orange Cancer. Aside from that, the Toyota Pickup is frighteningly invincible, and that makes it my Attainable tough toy of choice.
If you have a pulse, there’s a good chance you also have a beef with my decision. What’s your ideal Attainable tough toy?
Next week, we’re boiling down the very best Attainable family hauler.