RESULTS: BLAZER BEAT 4RUNNER AND THE REST!
From Dave from Portland, Oregon
Well, not in a 4X competition----BUT-----I'm the guy who was set on buying a 4Runner or a Cherokee, and came to this list for impartial advice. And low and behold, after LOTS of research, the winner was a 1985 Blazer S10. How did it happen? The following are two e-mails I sent to two other 4X lists, who also helped me, and it explains my Odyssey. I'm glad I finally found a home, right here. Thanks for all the help when I was asking questions. It all came down to the fact that the 1985 Blazer S-10 had the LOWEST curb weight of any U.S. built 4X in the 80s. Also lighter than 4Runners. But still will be looking for maintenance advice on the V6 2.8 liter engine, lousy reputation and all. I like the small size for gas mileage around town, but I understand they drip coolant into the oil a lot, creating bearing failure, so you have to watch the manifold bolts carefully. (At least that's what a Chevy dealership mechanic told me was the main thing causing people problems with them.).
The whole story is in the following two e-mails:
Sent to Jeepster list:
This is follow up on "what happened to that guy from Portland." If you'll remember I was on an adventure searching for the best small 4X for gas mileage, and one that I could fix myself (probably an older car). I was on this list at one point, convinced a Jeepster might be the car for me. Then I ended up on the Toyota 4Runner list, totally convinced that was my car. The following is what I sent to the 4Runner list, which explains how my Odyssey led me to a 1985 Blazer S-10. It all came down to the lowest curb weight I could find. (Maybe the Jeepster had that, actually, but decided I could have a little more room with a Blazer and not much more weight).
Thanks for your help along the way. I really enjoyed reading the responses of this list, and it gave me a great introduction to some of the factors I needed to consider.
Also, if anyone has any maintenance tips for the LOUSY V6 2.8 liter engine in Blazers, much obliged. I understand that they can be fine if they're taken good care of. (dave)
Sent to the Toyota SUV list (4Runner):
Well, you may remember I had decided I'd buy a 4Runner for sure, and some of you helped me decide. So on paper, I had made up my mind. Wanted older one I could work on, light weight model (probably late 80s), etc. But it was all in theory, on paper, even though I was sure. But when I sat in one, though, it didn't work. In the late 80's year I needed, the field of vision top was too low, hard to see out. I'm 6' 1" tall, and head to close to the top, felt like I was in a cockpit in several ways.
The total surprise----I ended up with the LIGHTEST weight 80s American SUV ever made, with a LOUSY engine, one of the worst engines ever made, but which felt great to sit in, had great visibility, turns on a dime, and fantastic handling. It was the first one I tried. What I did on the web was restrict myself to curb weights. The 1985 and 1986 Blazer S-10s, I could hardly believe, weigh only 3150 pounds. (Curb weight, no driver but full tank of gas). That's even lighter than 80s 4runners, and not much heavier than my dad's Accord. So, gas mileage tends to be quite good if you have a tight motor.
Anyway, that's what I ended up with, and I'm in 7th heaven. All I have to do is be extra careful with the horrible V6 2.8 liter engine, which will do just fine if you torque the manifold bolts exactly right. (Main problem I hear is coolant going into the engine oil, causing LOTS of bearing failures for MANY motorists, and a horrible reputation.) The small size of the 2.8 engine I consider a plus, because I just need good gas mileage tooling around town. (Any other hints regarding this notorious engine would be appreciated, anyway).
I admit I still eye 4runners out there with some envy, because they really are the best built. Can't quite get my mind off them!! But I am in 7th, 8th, or 9th heaven with my nifty little Blazer. It has incredible handling, pluck and zip---more responsive than I ever imagined. All of those aspects really feel more like the tightness and integrity of a Toyota. I've been very surprised--always thought all Chevy's were suspect and kind of creaky crates. Even the interior is almost perfect--in large part because it's made of hard plastic that is hard to damage. But it is also as well sound-proofed as any car I've ridden in, another big surprise. So, but for babying the engine, I think I'm ready to join the Blazer email list. So thanks again.