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Alex

The Ultimate Climbing Rig - Suggestions?

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Back in '95 I found what I thought was the ultimate climbing rig - the Toyota 4WD LE minivan - sitting off to the side on a dirt road at Red Rocks. The owner showed me the inside, where a futon mattress was set up, and there was wonderful space to store climbing gear for road trips. I bought an '87 Toyota 4WD minivan shortly thereafter, and have been driving semi-happily ever since...until 2 weeks ago when it died MIDSPAN ON 520!!

It had some problems...no heat, poor electrical, very light rear so it wouldnt do well in wet weather, and easily the most tippy car I've ever driven, even more tippy than my 68 westfalia...so bad for Banff in the winter and ice climbing in general.

Its time to replace the rig, on a budget. I am looking for the best combination of road-trip mobile, commuter car (30 mi RT a day to and from work), good MPG, good clearance, excellent reliability, can set more than 2. Not interested in something I can't put alot of crap into, or that I have to put money into..

After a little research, my "possible van replacement list" includes:

another Toyota minivan (one with heat??)

late 80s-91 Honda Civic FT4WD wagon

early 90s Toyota Corolla All Trac wagon

1990 Audi 4WD/AWD (pre-cursor to Quattro?)

Nissan Stanza 4WD wagon

Subaru Legacy wagon

old Nissan Pathfinder

Mazda MPV - I have heard many horror stories about the MPV, so its about the lowest on the list..

something else??

What do you all drive? Experiences? Suggestions?

Thanks, Alex

[This message has been edited by Alex (edited 06-21-2001).]

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This past winter, we drove into the Ghost area in a Toyota 4-Runner, about eight years old. Other than the brakes freezing (it was -30C), it worked well. Got us in and out. Also, the brakes did thaw out.

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There was this article in R&I a couple months ago that had this humorous "climber quiz" in it. It had multiple choice questions with humorous answers. One of the funniest questions was: what kind of rig do you drive?: a) toyota pickup b) subaru wagon c) aging cargo van. I thought it was funny since I've owned each at one point in time.

Anyway, my vote is for a 4x4 Toyoto Pickup as the ultimate climber rig. Great clearance, good mileage, super reliable, can put mad shit in it. Downside is a little light in the back for paved icy roads and can't live in it in cold weather.

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I've been driving a 4x4 Toyota for several years and, while it has been a very reliable vehicle, it has the following downsides: it only carries two people comfortably, it gets poor gas mileage; it handles poorly at high speeds; and it offers poor visibility. Further, I drive on logging roads at all times of the year and I find that I use the 4 wheel drive only a few times a year. If you are going to use the vehicle primarily for commuting and you are a weekend climber, I would look for clearance, yes, but unless you are using the truck bed for hauling cargo on a regular basis I don't see the advantage of the pickup. Minivans and station wagons will allow you to sleep in your vehicle.

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I lived for a year out of a Toyota 4x4 Extra-Cab with a big fiberglass canopy and a wood deck built at top of the bed height. Pros: very reliable, expect over 200,000 miles easily. It stores tons of stuff under the deck (I sleep on the deck), decent gas mileage.

Lived out of a '81 VW Westfalia for a year, too slow, bad mileage, unrealiable.

I'm selling the Toyota to get the ultimate rig:

A full sized (slightly extended) domestic van. With a 302 (Ford) or 305 (GM) they get ok gas miles, have power to spare, and since the Ford F150 truck is the best selling vehicle in the US, the parts are easy to come by (Econline vans are on the same basic chassis as F150s, and the 302s are identical) Same goes for the chevy vans/trucks and 305s. You can strip the interior and put in extra insulation. Bolt a steel "lock box" (Al Gore would be proud) to the floor for storing gear, put in a bunk or full sized bed on a deck and have plenty of storage underneath. Pull one of the middle seats and install a closet and stove. Pop a propane heater in there and use a T connection from the tank for the stove/heat lines.

As for 4x4 capabilities, Ford mades/makes some 4x4 econlines (expensive) but you can essentially plop an econline body onto a F150 4x4 chassis with almost no modification.

I'm eyeing an '84 15 passenger Ford with a little raised roof conversion that I'm gonna style out. It's set-up as a cushy traveller already with velour Capt chairs, back seat that coverts to bed, etc.

A good way to quickly equip a cargo-style van is to find a VW Westfalia in a junk yard and strip the propane tank and Stove/sink/watertank/fridge console and bolt it in.

There's also the option of finding a 83 or newer VW westy in good shape with a fried engine and do the Subaru 2.1L engine conversion (search the web, there are some details on this conversion). Then you have power, reliability, and a damn fine living set-up. If you can find a "synchro" version they even have 4wd. Good luck!

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I drive a similiar setup that's the-bomb for climbing trips - 85 Ford E150 conversion van, with a 302. Its not a super complex setup like you've described but it works fine. I've just got a raised up full-size bed with lots of storage underneath. I've found its easy to just keep a Coleman double burner and cook outside though. There's plenty of room for ateast two people, and a dog, to sleep and live comfortably.

Its not great on logging roads or even windey highways, but its great on interstates, and once you get were your going your set. And gas mileage sucks ass. I would like to get a rocket box or something similiar for more storage.

[This message has been edited by specialed (edited 06-21-2001).]

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edog1.bmp

this is the ultimate climbing rig. f250 xtra cab with power stroke turbo diesel. there is aboot that removes the windows between the canopy and cab. we sleep 4 very comfortably. and you can camp in it in the winter. many a trips taken with this thing and many more. the only set back is gaz milage but with 4 it is cool and 2 is not that bad. more shit can fit in it then you want to know about.

side note. notice little mike regulating john. nothing like a pucnh to the temple to decied who is doing the dishes.

[This message has been edited by erik (edited 06-21-2001).]

[This message has been edited by erik (edited 07-24-2001).]

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After wrecking my last car (an 89 Sub Wagon...wasn't my fault). I was faced with this same question. I ended up going with a Legacy Wagon and added a rocket box on the top. The Legacy engines are just getting warmed up at 100k miles, they're more comfortable to drive on long road trips, and I can stick more than a couple of people in them. If I need to sleep in the back, I just stick all my stuff in the box and lay out the back. Even with the box on top adding drag, it still gets better gas mileage than most pickups. It's fine on forest roads and is right at home in snow, but I would love more ground clearance.

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I have to vote for the subaru wagon also, although I have a '57 willys wagon that will go EVERYWHERE, but it only gets about 5 miles per gallon....

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FROZEN BRAKES:

EV, if you drive back and forth a few times while applying brake pressure before actually shutting down and stopping the vehicle you shouldn't have that problem again.

Mike

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I just got a Subaru wagon, haven't even got to put it to good use yet. Previously I had an Eagle Summit, kind of a cross between a wagon and a minivan, AWD, decent clearance, plenty of storage space. It was a great car. They don't make 'em anymore, about the closest thing is a Sub. Forester, but those have less room. Years and years ago I drove a little Geo Metro, it always got me where I was trying to get to, can't beat the gas mileage, but not so good for storage space.

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I "loved" my 81 Toyota PU Long bed with the Brahma Canopy with boot seal to slider rear window until it broke in half. I had it set up with the plywood deck at wheel well height but they were in fold up sections to make a fore and aft compartment. Draw back, only two people although I did make two trips into the maze with 4 people and a dog.

I'd love to find one in decent shape but they're pretty old now.

My next rig was Mitsubishi Montero. I really liked the rear door that swung open. I had spare tire rack for bikes and could put sea kayaks on top. A rocket box would work well. This was a tough rig for off road and pretty good storage. I call it the poor man's Land Rover.

I now have 95 4-runner. I specifically wanted 95 because I hate hatchbacks which all post 95 4-runners are. The tail gate- sliding rear window is much better for accessing gear without it all falling out. I like tail gates for sitting on or having a picknick! In both the 4-runner and Montero, I make a plywood shelf full width and about 1/2 the total depth of the rear storage area. This is great to put some gear under and some over without it actually resting on each other. The cooler is always handy thru the open window. I threw on the rocket box for my trip to Canada, so there was plenty of room. Not bad gas milage, best clearance, and oh so reliable. Don't go cheap, go with value!

I also drove my own version of a self converted VW Bus in Europe for 6 months in the 80's and I can say I think I'd love to have a VW Eurovan Pop Top with all conveniences. That might work well with wife and kid, but so far it aint in the budget.

Subaru Forester is a great car, especially with rocket box. Good leg room front and back, good clearance, all wheel drive and awsome gas milage. I drove one over North Cascades last week and it was pretty darn peppy for passing. I was amazed what that little 4 banger could do. Just don't like hatchbacks though.

My next rig will be a Monster Truck with the extreme tow package to tow the battle cage around.

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I'm in the same boat as Alex, though my car still runs with 200k miles. The one before that was a 76 Volvo 242 Sedan with 300k. Man I loved that car. frown.gif

I know I'm going to get clobbered for saying this, but the newer Subaru Outbacks are awesome. Yes tons of people have them. Yes half the REI parking lot consists of them, but there is a reason, it's a very good affordable car.

My folks bought one in last June and I've borrowed/stolen it on a few occations for trips. It is very roomy, very fun to drive with decent power, and gets killer gas mileage (33 highway). The thing is amazing in snow, I've never driven a car that stuck to the road like that. In December I was caught in what was the most scary heavy snowstorm whiteout that I had ever experienced (10 hours from Seattle to Spokane) on I-90 going to Spokane and the car was just velcroed to the road.

I was looking at a truck (Donge Dakota Crew) that gets around 18 to 19 MPG but after driving down to Bend a couple weeks ago in my friends "I'm from Bellevue MILF mobile" V8 Grand Cherokee and spent what must of been $100 on gas, after that I don't know if I could handle having a car that gets such poor mileage.

My one complaint with the Outback is that the rear seats don't fold down all the way and if you are somewhat tall sleeping in it isn't as comfortable as under a truck canopy with a nice setup.

Hey Caveman, is that you in this shot? tongue.gif

photo01_lg.jpg

[This message has been edited by jon (edited 06-22-2001).]

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I drive a rig exactly like the one Erik described. Did you know he comes from a long line of Erik's with a K? It is overkill most of the time (for climbing) but when you are 20 miles up a loggin road in late January it is much better for overkill than under.

Alex,

These full size, long wheelbase rigs are great except (as specialed noted) they are a total bitch to turn around on a loggin road. I think for a purely to and from the trailhead type of vehicle the smaller ones your are a huntin are the most logical. If you are the type who camps in the car for a week while you crag, give a big van or truck with a small camper a closer look.

My favorite rig of all time was a retired civil defense 1967 Ford Bronco with a totally gutless 170ci Inline 6 engine and a three speed manual trany. It's top speed was only about 55 mph going downhill on I-5. Incidentally, that was the same speed I would typically try to drive it off road. We camped two guys in it with the tailgate down and a tarp over the back. Anyway it's off road capabilities greatly reduced the length of a lot of approach hikes and several small trees. grin.gif

PS I believe in driving as close as possible to where you are going otherwise you'd walk the whole way, right?

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My feeling is-Subaru. The wagon gets decent mileage (more money for gear) you can comfortably sleep in back (no tent at the trailhead/campground) and chicks dig the cigar shape.

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Well...I didn't read the other posts, but I thought I would share what works for me...

I got a Eurovan GL (1993) last summer. This is the version without any special features-no pop top or fridge etc. That means that it is a lot cheaper than the fancy ones. And, it has more room in a way because the vans with the cupboards and sink take up at least 12" of the driver side of the van. I just cook with a two burner coleman when I am car-camping and that works out fine for me and takes less space in the van.

I built a bed for the back that is raised above the wheel wells. Under the bed I have tons of storage for gear, and it keeps it out of sight. The sleeping surface of the bed is made of 3 panels, which makes it easy to load and unload from the top from either side of the bed, or it can load through the rear hatch.

The bed is light enough that I can take it out of the van myself pretty easily. That is nice for having quick flexibility for different trips. It comes with passenger bench seats-the rear one is for 3 people and the middle one is for 2. I leave the middle one in to work with the bed, but I have used lots of different combos for different trips.

The van does not have 4 wheel drive, but it has decent clearance, front wheel drive and I have a manual transmission (which is hard to find). Actually, I wrecked my original van in May and had to get a replacement outside of the state to get the exact same thing. It gets 20 mpg, which I think is pretty good for a vehicle that you can sleep in. Compared to other vans, it is probably pretty similar to the Toyota van. Its really roomy on the inside, unlike most "mini-vans" and I am pretty sure it has a higher head clearance (I can almost stand in there, but I am only 5'4").

Anyway, I really like this vehicle, and when I wrecked mine I spent about 3 days thinking about looking at Aerostars and Toyota vans, and then I got serious and just went and got the same thing.

Have fun figuring out what to do. Its hard to make a choice, but once you do I am sure you will have a great rig.

[This message has been edited by hollyclimber (edited 06-27-2001).]

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Thanks for all your input. A few comments, then I'll reveal my choice (made Friday, in Bremerton of all places).

The Ford F250, Eurovan and Econoline were good suggestions for road tripping/living in, but a Toyota minivan offers the same clearance and better MPG, while allowing you to get into bed without exiting the vehicle (as you have to with any PU truck). But when it comes to commuting to work every day and parking in a parking garage, all these vehicles become a little more problematic, so ultimately I need something a little smaller and with shorter wheelbase. I did have a line on a cheap, large conversion van, but the whole MPG and commuting thing wins out..

The Subaru wagons are good. I drooled on both the Outback and Forrester, but my budget is arounf 4k, so neither of those two were within range, really. An early 90s GL wagon was in the running, however.

I couldnt find any decent Tercel 4WD or Corrola AllTrac wagons.

I couldnt find any decent Totyota LE 4WD vans on short notice, though I see one in good shape occaisionally aroung town. This isnt surprising, as when I bought mine originally about 4 or 5 years ago, it took about 3 months of searching to find a 4WD with manual tranny. But the Toyota van is a hideous maintenance problem, as the engine is under the drivers seat, so since I already know all about this particular cars issues, it wasnt so seriously sought after, either.

Every MPV owner I asked cursed the car. Even though the MPV seems like it exactly what I wanted, the engine and tranny problems it seems to chronically have made me search for something else.

I did however find two Honda Civic 4WD wagons. One was in great shape, an 89, with automatic tranny. The other was in similar great shape, a 91 (the last year they were made), with manual tranny but higher miles than the 89. I ended up driving both the 89 and 91, and committed to buying the 91. The reasons were:

I realized I didnt need the clearance I had with the van, but I did need *some* clearance, and that for winter driving the 4WD would be desirable

Comfortable for 3 grunts with gear.

Zippy, good pick up and handling, acceptable turning radius

Full-time 4WD and larger-than-the-avg-civic 1.6 L fuel injected engine.

fuel economy - 30s is good!

legendary Honda relability - I owned an 86 Honda Civic HB and know what it can take.

Heat, electrical all works.

Downsides:

cant sleep in it really.

not enough clearance to do real damage

no towing package

Thanks for everyones thoughful comments, good luck in finding your ultimate rig!

[This message has been edited by Alex (edited 06-25-2001).]

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