• Off-Roading 101:

    Best budget 4×4… for dad

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    WE just celebrated Father’s day last Sunday. And for the fathers out there who dream of getting into the sport of 4WD off-roading but have concerns on cost – this one’s for you.

    In this article, we pick the best bang for the buck off-road vehicles in the price range below P 250,000 but are still in road-worthy condition.

    Truth be told, a P20,000 rust bucket with an engine and drivetrain that is still working can be a good starting point. However, you will most probably spend lots of money in rebuilding it and won’t get your money back in terms of resale value.

    Needles to say, the P250,000 vehicle will be a fixer upper, so some level of mechanical knowledge is required.  Our criteria is based on availability of the vehicle in the used 4WD market, price, durability, modifications and project potential, which means ease of rebuilding an old vehicle at a minimum cost.

    Here are three categories in selecting 4WDs:

    The short wheelbase, two-door 4WD – This is ideal for pure play use and is more for the “I need my alone time” kind of father.

    The four-door, long wheelbase 4WD – This can double as a family wagon, or a second car to deal with the number coding scheme.

    Lastly, the 4WD pickup trucks. Pickups are work horses that make great dad toys as well as daily drivers.

    For the short wheelbase category, Suzuki Beavers and the Samurai are the champions of the 4WD masses.  It is light and agile that makes it perfect for trail play. These toys can range anywhere between P125,000 and P165,000, depending on condition.

    For long wheelbase 4WDs: There is the Toyota Land cruiser BJ 40.  This old model is extremely popular to this day but parts are ridiculously expensive. The Willy’s Jeep and their numerous replicas also have a platform that makes for great conversion job as parts are easily available with the flood of surplus parts from Japan and Korea. The Series Land Rover 88 is not cheap to buy but it has great off-road capability matched with classic looks. The downside is the restoration cost of the Land Rover can buy a fairly new off-roader.

    The Nissan Patrol short wheelbase made during the 1980s is big and boxy, and its six-cylinder diesel engine is a bit underpowered for its heavy body. But it is a very good platform to start with. The first-generation Mitsubishi Pajeros two-door that were informally imported in great numbers two decades back mostly have petrol engines that were quite thirsty. But these Pajeros are easy to convert to diesel engines.

    For the long wheelbase 4-door wagons, among our choices would be the Nissan Safari Patrol GQ of the 1990s. This is the entry-level king in our book in the long-wheelbase category and priced a bit above our price range. It’s the only one equipped with a rear differential lock giving it fantastic traction. The downside is that they are heavy and extremely thirsty for a diesel.

    Another choice is the Nissan Patrol MK that is boxy and utilitarian, but they look the part and are tough and rugged. An engine upgrade would help this beast.

    Other good models include the first-generation Mitsubishi Pajero, the first-generation Isuzu Trooper, the Nissan Terrano and the Series Land Rover 109 wheelbase.

    Last but not least are 4WD pickup trucks.  During the early years, these were introduced in the local market with two body configurations: the 2-door sport cab and the 4-door crew cab.

    Today, only the crew cab, 5-door variants are available, which from a practical point of view makes sense. The candidates for this segment are the 1983 Toyota Hi-lux pickup, the Nissan standard pickup and the 1994 Nissan Pathfinder.

    Remember, if it’s not on this list, then it probably costs way over our low acquisition price range because daddy has more important things to spend on like tuition, medical bills, electricity, etc. etc.

    We intentionally left out some vehicles available here. There are also other great 4WD vehicles available, but were not sold in large numbers locally. Most of those vehicles are from informal importers and their buyers usually have extreme difficulty in the acquisition of parts.

    So if you plan on acquiring an affordable off-roader for your dad, stick with the list we provided and let dad start building his 4WD project.

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