What are some of the most reliable old vehicles?

I want to spend more refurbishing something mechanically simple than buying new (unless someone were to actually cater to this), even if I was a billionaire. For instance, my buddy has an old 1990 Toyota pickup, super simple engine with the 22-RE and a manual trans.

This is the sort of thing I'm looking for, but Toyotas.... They cost so damn much these days, even when they're 25-35 years old. It's kind of outrageous, really, and it is only getting worse.

Did no one else make anything close in terms of reliability and simplicity? Especially if there's something that maybe has ONE well known weakness that you can be prepared for or replace with a better aftermarket part.

Main interest is any pickup or SUV that has back seats that allows me to sleep in the back (i.e. inside a topper for the pickup).
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[s]hard[/s]MEDIUM Core!
Hi, I'm new but have something to offer. I'm a big fan of the SJ Jeeps (the fullsize Wagoneer/Cherokee/J-10/J-20. From 74 to 91, they had the AMC 360 V-8 which lasts forever with proper maintenance. It's downfall is the reduction of ZZDP in available oil which wears the engines faster (same with all flat tappet 90* American V-8s). They came with Motorcraft 2150 carburetors which have altitude compensators (poormans fuel injection). The axles were D44s front and rear (late 80s they got a version of the M20 that has more in common with the D44 than the D20 that came in smaller Jeeps). If it came with a V-8, then it also came with either a TH400 or TF727 automatic (both bulletproof, but inefficient), the T-18 4-speed, or blah blah blah.

The only problem with these is corrosion. While their are some options offered through the years to avoid (83-84, some came with a vacuum disconnect front axle, but they are very few and far between), really it's just the corrosion of bolts and sheetmetal that turn them into rickity jalopies.

Granted, I'm very biased. I have 4 Jeeps and 2 are SJs.:smiley_drive:
I live in the Southwest, so if I bought something rust prone, it would be less likely to have an issue when buying it. I know old Toyotas are rust prone as well. What can you do to protect a vehicle? I guess this is just the "I'm going to be buying a vehicle within the next year" thread.

My general vision is just to buy something old and awesome and over the years turn it into something great.
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[s]hard[/s]MEDIUM Core!
Rattlecans of rustoleum. Some swear by POR or the like, but if you use it, you'll scratch it. Touching up with a rattlecan is quicker and easier than applying some special rust paint. If you search "full size jeep" you'll find two support groups right quick to learn more about them if you're inclined.
While not directly related to your question, and I definitely don't want to stop your day dreaming of rig building, it should be said that keeping an old rig is it's own (super fun!) hobby outside of overlanding. You'll be miles and miles ahead in both time and money to get a newer Wrangler Unlimited or 4Runner. With my old Jeeps, I spend about 6 hours with my hands on a wrench for every 1 hour my hands are on the steering wheel. I spend so much time making repairs and improvements that the hobby isn't "adventure", it's "wrenching". With a newer vehicle, you just pack it and go, that's why I got the Trailhawk for actual adventures. I'm "Medium Core", if I was "hard core", I'd have gotten a Wrangler or 4Runner. I've still got low range and a locker, but with 30mpg and quiet, comfy ride on the hundreds of highway miles between me and the dirt turn-off.
BACK on the topic of a rig-building day dream, tell us more of what you plan to do with your dream rig? Where are you going to go and what do you hope to achieve? What are the things it "must do" and what are some of the "would-be-nice-if"s?
EDIT>> I've tried linking pics, but I haven't learned the ropes of this board yet...
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..... It's downfall is the reduction of ZZDP in available oil which wears the engines faster (same with all flat tappet 90* American V-8s).... :
This can be easily mitigated with using an appropriate lubricant:

AMSOIL Z-ROD® 10W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil
AMSOIL Z-ROD Synthetic Motor Oil is recommended for older or modified engines requiring either 10W-30 or 20W-50 motor oil. Z-ROD Synthetic Motor Oil meets API SL and earlier specifications, allowing for increased levels of anti-wear additives. ZDDP levels in Z-ROD Synthetic Motor Oil exceed the limits of API SM ...

I'm an Amsoil dealer and yes I promote their products. However if you notice, I've made no reference to buying it from me. It took me 10 years to get "comfortable" using their products that state various claims about longer oil changes and superior lubrication.

The proof in the pudding for me was "oil sampling". The oil analysis tells no lies.

In fairness, most name-brand synthetic oils (even blends) are much better than dino oils. Be it for engine, transmissions or drivetrains. Some are technically better than others, but still synthetics are the best ... especially for older rides! Don't be fooled by the "it'll start leaking oil" syndrome....


[s]hard[/s]MEDIUM Core!
Roktaxi, that's a slick little sales pitch!

I hit your profile to see if you were a stealth spammer and was instead surprised to see you live in Grand Junction? I'm FROM Grand Junction! Technically I was raised in unincorporated Mesa County, but I was born at St. Mary's in 1979 and graduated GJHS in 97. Since you're pushing AMSoil, I'll plug my old sponsor "Royal Purple". In 99 I was in the Navy and started racing Tuff Trucks in WA as a hobby (Kitsap/Puyallup/Tacoma Dome). One day, a Royal Purple rep was walking around, talking to everyone about sponsorships. To be honest, it was more of a referral program. I signed up for a "sponsorship" and he handed me a stack of 10% off coupons. The barcode was linked to my sponsorship, so the more my coupons were used, the more sponsorship I got, in the way of cases of 30w racing oil. I actually used 10w-30, but that's what they kept sending me, so I switched (it was a race truck after all, a 77 Trailduster). All that said, I like synthetic oil. I use Castrol GTX (dino juice) in my AMCs, but Syntec in all my rollerized engines.
Oil talk aside, I do want to hear more from the OP and his aspirations!
Late 80’s early 90’s f series with the 7.3 idi. I have an 88, air conditioning, 4wd, beefy 5 speed, underpowered from the factory but bullet proof diesel that is easily modified for pretty good power. Can be had in 3/4 or 1 ton as well as van/ ambulance chassis.

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Roktaxi, that's a slick little sales pitch!
Just trying to bring some "old timers" (like myself) up to speed a little. Oil brands can be a touchy subject with some. I'm a firm believer of "sampling". Just like going to the doctor = The blood test tells all. Most OTR truckers who own their own rigs do this religiously. Many can go over 80K miles before an oil change.

Sampling analysis not only states the condition of the oil (based on the brand), but also wear particles attributed to air & oil filtration and contaminates like coolant and oil delusion (very common now with newer direct injection). Sampling is very specific to the application: Vehicle brand and year.

With oil sampling, I can go much longer than the oil mfg recommends between oil changes. I WOULD NOT jeopardize my engine for saving a few bucks. Sampling costs about $25 so it's not so much about saving $. It's about knowing the condition of the engine and oil. I sample about every couple years depending on my off hwy use.

Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
...IMO reliability and old are somewhat contradictory...
Personally I end up doing serious work to all my used vehicles before they are even fit for the street.
If it has an automatic transmission it will normally require a rebuild at/before 130,000 miles (often within a month of purchase).
If it has a manual transmission I will normally replace the transmission with one that I like along with the clutch at the earliest opportunity.
Usually the axles get re-geared and locker equipped the first summer (sometimes the first free weekend); assuming they have adequate strength when stock, if not; the axle assemblies get completely changed out for something acceptable.
if it has a 4 cylinder the engine will get changed to a sequentially injected 6 or V-8 within a couple of months; not because they are unreliable but because they have unacceptable, to me, torque and horsepower curves.
If it has points or a carburetor I will probably not get it; because it will need too much maintenance or a complete power train change (easier than messing around with it), IMO. (I grew up with these kind of vehicles).

By the time I'm done/its acceptable; the vehicle is stronger than stock and nearly utterly reliable... I don't believe that I have ever had a used or old vehicle that I could call reliable before going through it, doing required maintenance/fixing previous owner "improvements" and making changes/upgrades.

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Chevy Blazer or Suburban from 73 to 91. They are simple, plenty of room to get to things, spare parts are everywhere, earlier models can easily be upgraded to fuel injection and such, aftermarket parts are there to upgrade factory shortcomings. You can bolt in 3/4 or 1 ton axles and run huge tires. The weakest link is the overdrive automatic which can be upgraded or replaced with a stouter model.


[s]hard[/s]MEDIUM Core!
...IMO reliability and old are somewhat contradictory...

Double ditto! My J-10 is TBI'd, I've touched every single nut and bolt, I've driven it between Seattle and Denver multiple times, but NEVER without some terrifying issue along the way.:costumed-smiley-007

Chevy Blazer or Suburban from 73 to 91. .
This is another good suggestion! I've had an 84 K5 Jimmy (my first 4x4) and two 88 V10 Suburbans (Liked the first so much I got another just like it). The main issues I had with all three were the 700r4s. I learned to hate the Q-jet and love TBI. Main issues with these trucks anymore is that 1) People think they're worth their weight in gold so it's tough to find a deal, and 2) They're big and boxy, so they can be tough to get through tighter trails/obstacles.
NOTE: The V10 Suburbans didn't have 10 cylinder engines. GM uses the designation of C=2wd and K=4wd, but in 88 they introduced the curved body IFS trucks. These trucks inherited the C/K designation. They kept making square-bodied straight axle trucks through 92, and these were redesignated R for 2wd and V for 4wd. An 88 V10 was identical to an 87 K10.
Another plug for the SJs, my J-10 uses all Chevy axle parts (except shafts), has the same payload size and weight capacity as a K10 (8ft bed) but with the same wheelbase and trackwidth as a Toyota Tacoma.
I would suggest further consideration of your needs to narrow your search.
Basically every major manufacturer put out a good product at some point. I can think of Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Toyota, Dodge vehicles that would make good base vehicles as long as you get the right model, year, and options. You just need to narrow down what you want regarding size, power, offraod ability, fuel efficiency, the amount of restoration you're willing to do, where you plan to take it, cost, etc. Then you can start figuring out what works for you and where you are willing to make compromises.

I drive a 1995 Toyota T100 4x4, 5vz-fe engine and manual transmission. I purchased it for $2500 (after a couple weeks of searching) 1.5 years ago. I changed the fluids and did a basic inspection after purchasing it. I have since driven it to Panama, back to California, and am currently in Baja, Mexico.

I consider it reliable for a truck with 220,000 miles, but I have had to replace a few parts in the last 25000 miles. I've had no major issues and parts availability has been as good as could be hoped with a USA vehicle abroad.