The Great sub-$10k Field Vehicle Challenge
Gentle readers, I come to you today to throw down the proverbial gauntlet. A challenge to you, faithful Car Lust readers, to engage your imaginations and web-searching skills, with the sole goal of saving me beaucoup bucks and finding me. . .The Ultimate Field Vehicle.
Or at least one that works okay for relatively cheap.
As many of you may know (see, for examples, here, here, and here), I have a couple degrees in archaeology and have been working in the field in various capacities for some *mumble mumble* years now. My first 'field vehicle', if you can stop laughing long enough to call it that, was my sorry old Buick Century; its primary archaeological claim to fame is nearly setting a field on fire on its very first trip to the field (just a minor one, btw). I finally -- FINALLY! -- got rid of that one only to land in another utter POS, my short-lived Bronco II. That thing should have been a great vehicle for fieldwork: it was simple, pretty rugged, easy on gas, decent cargo space, 4WD, good ground clearance. . . .but a sorry engine that died after less than two months in my possession, on the way to my then-final bit of domestic fieldwork for some *mumble mumble* years. I swapped it for my current "field vehicle", my Mustang II.
Now, the Mustang isn't such a bad car to do fieldwork in. It's an absolute kick to drive to and from projects and always breaks the ice with clients. Plus, being a hatchback, it can really fit a ton of equipment. Sadly, however, driving it so much and in often off-the-beaten-path areas -- not to mention filling it with said equipment -- takes its toll and, despite my best efforts, it's gotten a bit dinged up. Now, it's truly a driving car, not a show car or a museum piece; and I like it that way. But it's really not that practical and I don't like dinging it up unduly; after all, it's a nice looking example of that model and it's won a couple of trophys at car shows already.
So, it's time to start thinking about getting something I don't mind doing fieldwork in. Hence, I am beginning my search for The Ultimate Field Vehicle. And I decided to throw it open for Car Lust readers to chime in with suggestions.
-- Must be 4WD available
-- Must have reasonable and secureable cargo space
-- Must have some room behind the front seats
That's pretty much it. For example, a pickup must be at least an extended cab that I can fit with a shell or cover over the bed so I can keep those screens and shovels and other junk safe. Past that, I'm flexible: pickup, smaller SUV, minivan. . . .even a suitably equipped station wagon would work for me. Pink, green, I don't really care.
I might. . .might. . .ease up on a couple of those for style points. I mean, really, a bad-ass 350 El Camino could feasibly throw a couple of those criteria out just for the sheer studliness of driving one to and from a job site. But it would have to be majorly cool (not to mention El Cheapo). Realistically, I am loathe to go much past the mid-90s year-wise; I want cup holders and a reasonably quiet ride! As much as I like older cars, newer ones are just less fuss and muss (and noise).
So to start the ball rolling, a couple of possibilities immediately present themselves:
Yes indeed, that is a minivan, a 1995 Mazda MPV. Close to being the ideal field vehicle: lots of room for passengers and/or cargo, easy to drive, and available in AWD. The ground clearance is a tad on the low side, but otherwise I think it's peachy. . . and better than what other archaeologists are driving!
And finally. . . .
There are many others I've pondered that could work. A Honda Element would be a great choice, although maybe not strictly in-budget. I could probably snag a decent Subaru Outback as well, although I'd almost rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp piece of obsidian than drive one (except maybe an XT). And, yes, I've thought about some true Car Lust classics. I came very close to snapping up an AMC Eagle a while back which pushed all the right buttons, but I'd feel bad about shoving dirty equipment in the back, not to mention having reservations about its reliability. And while I truly like the idea of showing up to the site in a Scout or a 1973 GMC pickup, I just can't bring myself to use yet another old car for serious work.
So, toss some ideas out for consideration. Balance function and style and find me something that'll make me look like a BMOS (Big Man On Site) upon arrival, but still not cause headaches on the way there and back.
Credits: The DeLorean is found in numerous places on the web. Tacoma is from CarGurus.com, the Jeep is from Edmunds.com, the Mazda is from, not coincidentally, 1995MazdaMPV.blogspot.com, and the Magnum is from MotorsTown.com.