Best Cheap Project Trucks for Any Budget


A number of our followers love pickup trucks. And why wouldn’t they? Vans clearly present utility for getting work executed, however additionally they present a stable platform for constructing enjoyable autos for all the pieces from autocrossing to abandon racing. With all of this in thoughts, we thought we’d put collectively one other record of comparatively low-cost pickup vans to show into working and driving tasks. The “working and driving” half is essential there; these lists began as a way to indicate how the youthful, aspiring tuner may shuttle back-and-forth to highschool in a cool ongoing venture. We’ve stored in thoughts the entire “summer time money” facet and aimed for a truck that runs beneath its personal energy (so says the classifieds vendor, anyway) for $4,000 or much less.

Earlier than we get on with the record, folks are inclined to ask how we determine this stuff as a result of they will’t discover something we record of their space for the costs. Up to now, we’ve used CraigsList aggregators, however these have been unreliable currently. This time round, we regarded up two dozen vans in six completely different cities that roughly are consultant of their areas (Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Dallas-Fort Price, Denver, and Los Angeles). Is it complete? No, however it provides a reasonably respectable image. Right here’s how these search outcomes look, charted for the most affordable working model of every truck:

That was compiled regardless of issues like engine choices, mattress types, and so forth so that you may need to be extra affected person or look farther afield in order for you, say, a short-bed 1968  Chevy C10 Stepside or an prolonged cab Dodge Dakota. We jumped round a bit and skipped a couple of years, however principally, it’s best to have the ability to discover any post-1980 truck for beneath $4,000 with some endurance in case you’re searching for extra late-model stuff. With out additional ado, listed below are 10 vans we wished to concentrate on:

1953-1956 Ford F-Sequence

Ford’s second-generation F-Series vans mirrored the aesthetics of the model’s mid-1950s automobile completely: a broader curvy hood, “stepped” fenders, an enormous curved windshield, acres of inside house, and a horizontal grille. Ford launched new engines for his or her vans one yr forward of the vans’ 1953 redesign (which coincided with the corporate’s 50th anniversary), together with the pushrod straight-six and the Y-Block V-8. By 1954, these had utterly phased out the previous flathead inline-sixes and V-8s. For the primary time, truck patrons may examine the field for an automated transmission as effectively. Whereas we all know the up to date Normal Motors and Dodge choices have been equally bridging the hole between previous and new applied sciences, we have been solely capable of finding working Fords beneath our $4,000 worth restrict. That’s to not say there have been a lot of F-100s (Hagerty values them at a good bit extra) otherwise you gained’t discover Chevy 3100 for the cash, however it seems you’re extra more likely to strike gold in case you’re searching for a working ‘50s Ford truck.

Low Finish of Pricing: Yow will discover the occasional full truck for $2,500, although you’ll seemingly pay a little bit extra.

Worldwide Pickups

Like these early Fords, we had a tough time discovering many International Harvester vans so it was simpler to simply lump collectively the entire mannequin years, all the pieces from the rat-rod favourite Okay-series to the later 1000-Sequence (So as, the pickup traces from the ‘40s by way of the ‘70s have been named Okay, KB,  L, R, S, A, B, C, D, and 1000). Worldwide Harvester primarily served as an agricultural equipment firm, however they produced pickup vans of various sizes and capacities for a lot of the 20th Century. Venture vans have been simpler to seek out, however the working vans we discovered ran the gamut from early pushrod-sixes—Worldwide was an early adopter of overhead-valve engines within the ‘49 L-Sequence—to haggard V-8-powered D-Sequence. We gained’t fake it gained’t take endurance to discover a working venture, however these are some cool and uncommon vans.

Low Finish of Pricing: Count on to pay about $3,500 for a working truck. Older IH vans are more durable to seek out beneath $4,000 however not unattainable.

Jeep Gladiator and J-Sequence

Jeep’s pickup vans, like Worldwide vans, might be onerous to seek out however are additionally attention-grabbing items of truck historical past. The Jeep firm, as a part of Willys-Kaiser, developed the Gladiator within the early ‘60s on the Grand Wagoneer platform, the ties of which might turn out to be extra obvious by the point their pickups adopted the Grand Wagoneer grille in 1970 (above). A lot of the Gladiators have been bought, unsurprisingly for Jeep, as 4x4s they usually have been the primary four-wheel-drive vans supplied with impartial entrance suspension. Early fashions have been powered by a 230 cubic-inch overhead-cam straight-six, the one such mass-produced engine constructed on the time. Jeep added V-Eight choices later: first the AMC 327, then a Buick 350, then the gamut of AMC choices after AMC obtained Kaiser-Jeep in 1970.The evolution of Jeep vans is attention-grabbing and the vans have been later given J-Sequence naming conventions like Ford’s F-Sequence. After AMC’s acquisition, Jeep continued to construct new J-Sequence vans all the best way till its ultimate yr, 1987, when Chrysler purchased the scattered American Motors’ skeletal stays.

Low Finish of Pricing: Costs have been in all places right here regardless of mannequin yr. We’d say to goal for $3,000 in case you’re searching for a selected yr.

1967 to 1972 Chevy/GMC C/Okay Sequence

We may have put the Muscle Truck-era GM truck on right here, however we opted to go one technology additional again to GM’s “Motion Line” vans. In contrast to most Chevy highway automobiles from this period, these muscle-bound vans nonetheless stay comparatively inexpensive. Whereas some are different folks’s swap tasks, you possibly can nonetheless discover authentic straight-six vans in working order to be your clean canvas. The beds have been supplied in Fleetside (clean rear fenders) and Stepside (“indented” rear fenders with a step between the cab and wheel effectively) and the upper the quantity after the C (two-wheel drive) or Okay (four-wheel drive), the heavier-duty the truck. We’re clearly suckers for Stepside C10s. Chevy variations tended to have coil-spring and trailing-arm rear suspension (GMC’s vans had leaf springs customary) with customary entrance disc brakes beginning in 1971. V-Eight displacements jumped from 327 to 350 cubic inches early on, later together with the Chevy 396 (truly 402 cubic inches) on the choices record. These are super-cool vans and an incredible probability to personal an attainable car from the muscle-car period as Chevelle and Camaro costs proceed inflating.

Low Finish of Pricing: $2,500 ought to get you a place to begin from a six-cylinder or driving-project truck.

1967 to 1972 Ford F-Sequence

Ford first supplied the 302 Windsor V-Eight in its F-Sequence in the course of the muscle-car period, which additionally noticed them producing vans with the 1967-debuting, stump-pulling 300 cubic-inch Large Six and the hefty big-block 390 cubic-inch FE V-8. The design maybe lacked the aptitude that Normal Motors instituted on the time and possibly even lacked a little bit of the panache of Ford’s previous-generation truck, however there’s one thing interesting about Ford’s no-frills design of this time. Ford supplied these vans with Styleside (like Chevy’s Fleetside) and Flareside (like Stepside) beds and whereas GM aimed for non-traditional truck patrons to some extent with this technology C and Okay truck, Ford primarily tried to engender itself extra towards industrial customers. If you happen to’ve ever heard of the vaunted Ford 9-inch differential, you’re trying on the residence to lots of of hundreds of them.

Low Finish of Pricing: Someplace between $2,000 and $2,500 must be your goal.

1972 to 1980 Dodge D-Sequence

We’ve documented the love for these vans exhibited by Engine Masters and Roadkill Storage cohost Steve Dulcich earlier than so we are going to let Freiburger clarify {that a} bit on this Roadkill Further episode. Just like the above-mentioned ‘67 to ‘72 Fords, the early runs of those vans have been primary, hard-working vans that simply look proper. Dodge additionally launched the Membership Cab in 1972, which gave a bit extra room for inside storage or the possibility to wedge an unfortunate human being sideways behind the motive force. Later within the ‘70s, Dodge piled on gimmicky “customized” fashions that you could possibly snap up from the dealership: the Li’l Crimson Specific, Midnite Specific, Warlock, Adventurer, and Macho trim stage. These are all outdoors the value vary we’re exploring as a result of whereas they have been gimmicks, they have been superior gimmicks.

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Low Finish of Pricing: This appeared extra regional than most of this record. East of the Rockies, search for round $3,000 with costs beginning round $2,000 west of the Continental Divide.

Chevy El Camino/GMC Caballero

The El Camino and Ford Ranchero are as shut as we ever bought to Utes right here in America they usually had lengthy manufacturing runs. Nonetheless, Rancheros are more durable to seek out in working order and older El Caminos are additionally onerous to seek out. That mentioned, you possibly can nonetheless discover later G-Physique El Caminos (and their GMC Caballero siblings) for affordable cash and with the plethora of obtainable velocity components for that platform, you have got the makings of a enjoyable automobile…truck…ute…no matter. These laterG-Physique El Caminos didn’t include the Large Block Chevys the best way that earlier ones did (and also you’re unlikely to discover a 454-powered El Camino SS), however one of the best a part of that technology is that folks have already put nearly each GM V-8 (and V-6) on this planet into that platform.

Low Finish of Pricing: Begin trying round $2,500 for a G-Physique. Something older will seemingly be at or greater than $4,000.

Ford Ranger/Chevy S10/Dodge Dakota

Every of those three small-to-mid-size pickups has its ups and downs you could argue amongst yourselves. These are in every single place nonetheless for grime low-cost and lots of of have withstood the take a look at of time with stunning vigor. As such, they are often good platforms for infrequent work vans or, many being rear-wheel-drive, for constructing a righteous, light-weight drag vans. The Dakota, after all, had an non-compulsory 5.2-liter V-Eight beginning in 1991 and whereas neither the S10 nor the Ranger had manufacturing facility V-8s, sufficient folks have transformed them to eight-cylinder vans that swap kits might be discovered for affordable cash.

Low Finish of Pricing: Low-cost, in all probability $1,000 or much less for a well-worn truck. Someplace round $2,000 ought to get you a runner in good situation.

Toyota “Hilux”

Toyota bought tens of millions of Hilux vans world wide, although they have been often called the Toyota Pickup or SR5 or a bunch of different names right here in america for some motive. As High Gear documented years in the past, these have a well-earned fame for being indestructible. That facilities across the Toyota R-engine which have cultivated followers among the many off-road world for it grunt (although not outright horsepower) and sturdiness. Early four-wheel-drive variations borrowed closely from the ever-present Land Cruiser. You may be unsurprised then, that many of those have been modified for off-road, rock-crawling, and path obligation so that you may find yourself inheriting another person’s work as these get more durable to seek out in authentic situation.

Low Finish of Pricing: Round $1,800 for a primary truck. Add a bit extra for 4x4s.

Datsun and Nissan Pickups

Along with timeless sports activities automobiles and a few slightly pedestrian three-box automobiles, Nissan’s predecessor Datsun additionally imported light-duty vans from Japan at a time earlier than Detroit acknowledged the significance of getting gentle vans. From the early 520s to the Nissan D21 Hardbody vans, they served effectively within the U.S. and lots of are nonetheless round. By way of 1980, the pickups all ran the L-series engine, widespread to nearly each Datsun bought right here besides the six-cylinder Z-cars. Whereas they appear maybe a bit slighter than most different pickups, the truth that so many Datsun vans are nonetheless round speaks to their stunning sturdiness.

Low Finish of Pricing: Intention for $2,000 to $2,500.

Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

We couldn’t make this record with out at the least one oddball, proper? In 1980, Volkswagen tried their hand at making a light-duty pickup. As a substitute of ranging from scratch, they constructed a lengthened two-seater Rabbit with a small mattress instead of the hatchback. Known as the “Caddy” in Europe, the little pickup retained front-wheel drive and engine choices that inclued a 78-horsepower 1.6-liter fuel engine and a non-turbo diesel engine that made all of 48 clattering horsepower on an excellent day. Quick, they weren’t and the 1,100-pound payload restrict appears optimistic on reflection, however they’re an attention-grabbing tackle the pickup truck as one among few with front-wheel-drive (throw the more and more uncommon Omni-based Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp in there, too). Some have had Volkswagen TDI swaps to make them extra driveable and whereas these chassis—like their Rabbit siblings—undergo from structural rust issues, a clear one can get some primary work executed in type.

Low Finish of Pricing: $3,000 can purchase you a runner, however be very skeptical of rust on the strut towers and cabin ground pan.

Pickups You Can Purchase and Construct Low-cost

  • 1953-1956 Ford F-Sequence
  • Worldwide Pickups
  • Jeep Gladiator
  • Jeep J-Sequence
  • 1967 to 1972 Chevrolet/GMC C/Okay Sequence
  • 1967 to 1972 Ford F-Sequence
  • 1972 to 1980 Dodge D-Sequence
  • Chevrolet El Camino
  • GMC Caballero
  • Ford Ranger
  • Chevrolet S10
  • Dodge Dakota
  • Toyota “Hilux”
  • Datsun and Nissan Pickups
  • Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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