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Old 12-24-2008, 01:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Which vehicle for this mobile tech? (a bit long)

Hi everyone, I have a dilemma that I need help figuring out.

I am a mobile computer tech. I drive in the Reno NV area and there isn't a way out of this valley that doesn't have hills, and a fair bit of the area I do is around a lot of hills. I currently drive my 86 4x4 Suburban, its my only vehicle.

Come tax time I want to buy something cheap that gets a lot better mileage. At least my employer pays 50 cents per mile so I can afford to drive that truck, but I'd like to get 20+ or even 25+ if possible, as it would cut my fuel bill in half or better.

I'm considering late 70's early 80's imports. My biggest problem is that I have a somewhat bad back and getting in and out of cars is a real pain, no pun intended. I am also a big guy in the size department and 6'1". So for me, cars are almost out of the question. Our company vehicle, which I rarely get to drive is a Scion xB and it is comfortable to get in and out of, as are most 2wd mini trucks.

I am considering a 75-84 toyota pickup with a 4 or 5 speed, or even a 2wd Chevy K5 blazer if I can find one with a 4 speed and a straight 6 instead of a V8. I know I'd be lucky to top 20mpg with it, but it would be a compromise I could handle if I could get a steady 18mpg out of it, if possible. Regearing the rear end would be a possibility with numerically low gearing around 2.92 or 2.50.

Considerations of 70's/80's 2wd short bed trucks:
Datsun 720 or 620
Chevy Luv
Dodge (mitsubishi) D50
Toyota
Chevy K5 blazer w/ 6cyl
Ford Courier

anything I missed?

I had a 1982 720 pickup once, it was a 4wd that had been beated pretty hard and I considered that thing a pile of crap. I'm not inclined to get another one as the motors are a pain in the butt with the alternator tucked way under, and there being 8 sparks plugs and thus a more complicated distributor setup.

Toyota's are an obvious choice since they are so durable. I don't know very much about the rest.

I know that with around town and only a mild amounts ofbit of freeway driving that aerodynamics aren't all that important. I am going to focus on things such as tires (aired up real nice), good engine tuning, decent gearing, and a vacuum gauge to give me real time readings.

I don't need much cargo space and I'm thinking that my stuff could fit in the passenger seat most of the time, and if I deleted the passenger seat it would not be a problem *any* time, and would save some weight. I have also considered weight reduction as a means of saving fuel. I don't know where you'd start on such a simple vehicle to begin with, though. Spare tire (mini donut instead of full size) and possibly aluminum wheels, but then the cost goes up.

The other part is that I have minimal money to spend. Being a mobile tech doesn't pay as good as one might think, even as a pro with 15 years experience. I've had higher (MUCH higher) paying jobs but this one keeps me unstressed and out of the hospital. I was on my way to a heart attack or stroke at my last long term (9yr) job.

Then there is maintenance. I'm not opposed to fuel injection by any means but I'm more comfortable rebuilding carbs etc when needed than fiddling with fuel injection. Then again FI is lower maintenance and generally runs better.

So, you can see where my dilemma is. I'm at your mercy.

What direction should I go here and is there anything I missed in my assessment? I'm not looking for a decision to be made for me, by any means. I just feel like I'm missing something here.

Thanks everyone for your consideration of this rather long post.

Ryan

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Old 12-24-2008, 02:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think if you pick up the Toyota and do some good aeromodding you could be getting 25-30 easily on the highway,
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Old 12-24-2008, 04:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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As for small 2x4 pickups, you might add Mazda B2000 to the list.

Is it the low slung seats in the cars that are the back killers, or the too small door openings?

FWIW 91-96 Ford Escorts (sedan, hatchback & station wagon) have a reasonably tall roof line = not necessary for me (5' 11) to hunch over during entry/egress. MPG is considerably better than any of those small pickups.
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Old 12-24-2008, 08:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Hi there people,

Thank you for the suggestions.

SVOboy- what kind of aeromods would such a pickup need?

TestDrive: Yes its the low slung seats. Door size and openings aren't a big deal, but when its low slung, ingress and egress is problematic. I look like an elk trying to get up on ice! lol

Keep'm' coming!
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Old 12-25-2008, 01:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rykoala View Post
Yes its the low slung seats. Door size and openings aren't a big deal, but when its low slung, ingress and egress is problematic.
Don't know if any will get you better (or even as good?) MPG as small pickups, but you may also want to consider mini-vans.
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, a minivan is a great idea that I passed right over! Looks like I'll be on the prowl for a Chevy Astro van. They're the only minivans I trust, with their truck based drivetrain. I don't trust front wheel drive a whole lot for rigorous driving every day.

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Old 12-29-2008, 10:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You'll barely break 20 mpg in an Astro.

You like the xb, so why not do that?

I'm tall too, and can't fit into the '70's import pickups. Try them and see.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:28 AM   #8 (permalink)
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A standard Astro cargo van is not as heavy as the conversion hi-top van I have(5800lbs) and with just taking the belt driven fan off mine I am up to 22mpg. I would say an Astro cargo van without the towing package should be over 26mpg if driven normally with just a few very minor mods. trying to actually do some mild hypermiling in a 3.54 geared cargo model could probably be very close to around 30mpg.

But they don't take to high speed driving well at all so if you want to do 75+ you won't even get 15mpg, same thing with under 35mph they suck with the mid stall converter they come with stock at lower speeds. A torque converter lockup indicator light is a great thing to have when driving them at lower speeds. They do seem to be incredibly tough vans though, the drivetrains in them should last 300,000 miles without any trouble other than the weak 4l60e. Just do the basic upgrades to the trans and the whole package should be running perfectly long after the body has rusted away.

A fwd minivan will beat an Astro in mileage and be a much smoother ride with better handling without giving up that much interior space. If you are not planning on towing anymore than 1500lbs or so then a fwd would be worth considering.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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A friend of mine has an Astro with the instantaneous mileage readout. It has the V6 and it appears to be almost as thirsty as my V8 4x4 F150.
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Old 12-30-2008, 02:08 AM   #10 (permalink)
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An Astro driven under 45 or over 75 gets horrible mileage. I let a friend use mine and he went 75-80 on his trip with 5 people in it and averaged 14mpg. I think going 80 in one is nuts they float really bad at 75 and it feels like it has no control. City traffic isn't much fun either the handling is vague and it feels like you are driving a wet cardboard box.

I personally think an Astro is good for a few specific things but for what he is probably going to use it for most of the time it is not the best choice. Astros are good at towing moderate loads or hauling lots of crap and in the case of conversion vans they are great for road trips. For a small load that could otherwise fit in a passenger seat a small truck or fwd minivan would be better. I think a lot of minivans get in the 30mpg range stock with normal driving. Not really sure what ones get what but a quick look on fueleconomy.gov would give an idea of what is out there.

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