The only thing riskier than buying a vehicle before test driving it? ….driving it across the country to get it home.
This is exactly what I did Christmas of 2017. I had decided I wanted a second road-legal 4-wheeled vehicle to 1) Make my daily driver 2) Haul Dirtbikes 3) allow me to make the Civic much more racecar than streetcar.
I determined that I was going to search for a small pickup and didn’t want to pay more than $3000. I narrowed my search down to 90’s Toyotas or Nissans. The Toyotas were more expensive and while even though there were more of them, I had to eliminate them from my search since it felt too much like I was buying an STI instead of an EVO (I’m an EVO guy for life). So this left me with searching for a 90-97 D21 Nissan Hardbody Pickup.
I searched Texas for months and I dealt with some really sketchy owners of some really really busted trucks. Only one truck I found was in decent enough shape to consider buying it but they wanted twice what I was willing to pay. After all that, I still had no truck but realized that even the most beaten and abused Nissan Hardbody pickups were still running despite have a black sludge for oil, extreme shaking in first and second gear, no power steering and not much left for an interiors. After asking the hard questions that made a few sellers never call me back and pointing out to another seller that he would have to lower his price to nearly half what he was asking I had about given up the search in Texas. By this point I further narrowed my search to only the SE 4×4 model – one that had a sunroof!
My brother had moved to the Boise area of Idaho and given me the idea to search that market instead of Texas. Well I’m glad I did because there were way more trucks in seemingly better shape with more reliable and trustworthy owners. The first one I called, I ended up chatting with the owners for about 30 minutes and immediately could tell they took great care of the truck that I would later end up buying. They had owned it for 10 years, it only had 164,000 miles on it and they had all the service records for it. So I sent my brother to go test drive it for me and he gave it the thumbs up for purchase.
I flew up to Boise a month later from Austin and got to finally see the truck in real life. To my surprise it was in even better shape than I had expected. It has it’s dents, dings and some sun damage but overall the paint was in really good shape, the interior immaculate minus one tear in the rug and everything worked except for the back speakers. I was astonished… even the air filter was totally clean and the oil was freshly changed so It wouldn’t even need a change before driving it home to Texas! After searching through the service records I quickly saw the previous owners had spent thousands in preventative maintenance to keep it running and had actually completed all recommended tuneups. New belts, shocks, brakes, tires and records of every oil change existed – This truck was the exact opposite of the ones I had come across in Texas.
Even though the truck was in excellent shape for a ’94 – I planned for the worst as I departed Idaho the day after Christmas to head back to Texas. I was kicking myself for forgetting my battery jump starter and my air pump but I didn’t end up needing either for the journey back home. The only part I replaced was the wipers in Wyoming. The truck worked perfectly the rest of the trip and the 4×4 came in handy a few times when I chose to do some exploring through snow off the beaten path.
Since there seemed to be no winter storms in the forecast, I stuck to my original plan of hitting the scenic routes (most of which are closed during treacherous weather). I lucked out and had no precipitation over the four day trip and saw some beautiful sites in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The Million Dollar Highway was the highlight due to it’s guardrail-less dropoffs and scenic views. I explored some old mines and abandoned mine camps that really helped you go back in time to when gold-miners frequented the rockies in hopes of striking it big.
For the first time in my life and travels, I didn’t bring a tent but instead set up camp in the back of the truck since it has a cap. This was wonderful because I would roll up to a campsite and immediately take photos and cook dinner instead of messing around with a tent for half an hour (which also made leaving the next morning easy as well). With many layers, a 0 degree sleeping bag and the protection from wind in the back of the truck I was able to stay warm enough to get some good sleep.
As much as I loved the truck – I hated the stock wheels and went out of my way to swing down near San Antonio to pick up new ones before heading home on the last night. I also picked up a grill guard in Grand Junction CO off an older model that I will add on later with some KC lights for that true 90’s look.
made it home! over 2000 miles traveled in 4 days with no issues. I picked up the truck in Idaho, a grill guard in Colorado and wheels in Texas along the way. I installed the wheels, removed the fender trim, mud flaps and bug deflector…looking much better already!
A post shared by Brian DeFrees (@defrees) on
I’m stoked to have a truck and even more stoked I got such a reliable one for such a low price. If there’s any advice I could give to someone searching for an older vehicle like this (or any vehicle) is be patient and wait for the right one to come along. A trustworthy seller will save you a lot of headache in the long-run and for me at least 2000 miles and a 6 month wait was worth it to have a good quality vehicle.
Looking forward to finally being able to get my supermoto to a race this year and taking more camping and motorcycle trips.