Should I buy '97 FZJ80? Sell the 2010 4Runner Trail?

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Mar 4, 2016
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Santa Monica, CA
Hi All, first time post...
Always wanted an LC and I have an opportunity to buy an 80 from a family friend. Ive been looking for a low mileage 100 for months now and haven't been able to find. This would not be my daily driver and would be used for weekend beach trips, Eastern Sierra, Mojave Desert, and some Baja trips. Light towing (small boat or pop up trailer), 2 young kids so airbags and 3rd row seat is a must which it has.

'97 LC FZJ 80, 126K Miles. One owner. 100% stock except upgraded stereo/bluetooth. Asking $4K
Dealer maintained---owners did everything they were told, when they were told.
Has never seen a dirt road, some snow (2x/yr). Generally this vehicle was well taken care of.

The dealer mechanic just inspected and found the following:
  • Front axle knuckle seals are leaking-recommending replacement
  • Valve cover gasket and distributor O-ring-leaking- recommending replacement
  • A few minor issues: drive belts showing wear and hood shocks need replacement, roof racks not in good shape
  • Interior and paint perfect
They are going to get me the full maintenance and repair history from the dealer. They are pretty sure the transmission was replaced around 100K (I know...how could someone not remember this detail)

What I'd give up/sell: 2010 Toyota 4runner trail, 100K:
I want to love this vehicle but I never have. Its always felt undersized (cargo space is smaller than youd expect and akward), underpowered, and kind of plastic-ey. It doesnt have the power or feel of durability that the SUVS I grew up with (1980's land Rover, Isuzu Trooper). No 3rd row seat...instead it has a useless gear tray. My wife always says it feels like a golf cart. But it is really good offroad even in its stock condition. I have only been putting 3K per year more or less, might be best to sell now while it still has value.


Questions:
  • What should I expect to pay/man hrs for the knuckles work? Looks a little daunting and time consuming for me to do myself.
  • Valve cover gasket seems minor. any thoughts?
  • Am I better off waiting for a low mileage 100 Series (Unicorn)? It might check more boxes but its rare to be able to buy a vehicle from someone you trust with ALL the vehicle history.
  • I used to do more work on my vehicles and would like to get back into it again. 80 series better for DIY projects than 100? Better than my current 4Runner?
  • Any specific things I should look for in dealer maint and repair records on the 80? Anything I should visually inspect for?
  • Price point? Feels like a deal...
Thanks to anyone who can help me out!
 
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Also, vehicle currently located in Bay Area and would be moved to Los Angeles Area. Any mechanic recs in either place?
 
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If you feel the gen 5 T4R is "undersized" your going to feel the very same way about the 80, they are nearly identical in interior and exterior dimensions. I love my 80 but my groin hurts every time I am in for more than 40 mins at a wack when I get out because the seat just wont go back far enough for my long legs. Despite this I still have driven it across the country several times
 
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That sounds like a screaming deal for $4k.

Things to consider:
-if you think the 4runner is underpowered, you're in for a shock because the 80 is worse *understatement*
-if you think the 4runner is good off road, you're in for a shock because the 80 is better *understatement*
-if you're looking to get back into doing some maintenance, do the knuckle rebuild yourself. Takes a weekend and about $150 worth of parts, or $800 for the shop to do it. Not hard, just messy.

For a 2nd/fun vehicle, I would absolutely make the trade and pocket the money made by selling the 4runner. If it were a dual-purpose DD/weekend warrior, I would think a little harder about it.
 
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just keep the runner.....
or even better, I'll trade my '96 LX450 supercharged OEM TRD triple locked, stock except 2.5" OME lift (162K miles) plus say....some cash for your Runner....!!!???....hurry-up...let's do it ....


regards
 
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Brentbba

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Knuckles here in CA will run you at least $1200 or more at a dealer. IIRC doing it myself with help was $400-600 for all the parts including replacing the races and bearings. That was years ago so I could be way off on parts pricing...aging memory. Don't forget all the grease, shop towels, etc. too! If you are anywhere near Sonoma, Mudrack is a very well respected mechanic in these circles. Down here, YotaMasters in Corona, ST Trux in La Jolla, both a little far for you in Santa Monica. Couple in the valley I can't recall. Not sure where you are.

Valve cover and distributor O-ring not to expensive. Hood shocks on Amazon and DIY. Nutserts for the factory rack are rust magnets, even for a California truck! Lose the rack and seal the nutserts - threads here on Mud on that topic. If you do buy and want to remove the factory rack, soak those rack screws several times with your favorite rust spray!

Does it have the magic button - front/rear lockers? Little dial to the immediate left of the steering column? Do you care? You'll generally pay a little more for it.

Agree 100% regarding underpowered comments on the 80. Inline 6 is a very reliable workhorse and will get you where you are going, but not fast up steep grades. It'll do fine with a small trailer or boat.

Don't know the interior of a 4runner, but the 80 compared to newer Yota SUV's won't seem that big. Yes, it does have the 3rd row seats you are after. Not a huge amount of storage if you've got those seats down though.

If gas mileage is at all a concern, run Forrest run!

$4K seems mighty low for a '97 with that low a mileage. What else is wrong you aren't being told? Transmission at 100K seems odd. Been reading and on this board for more years than I'd like to admit to and don't recall too many threads on transmission issues.

If power is a concern, wait for a good 100. Loads more power than the 80.
 
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I live in Santa Monica. You're welcome to look at mine if you'd like to "try it on for size." It's a bone stock 97 - for a few more days anyway...

They are great trucks, but you're going to need to love it for its flaws - because there are many. That said, it's like driving an anvil - heavy and hard, but damn near indestructible.

I had a 100 and sold it for an 80. The 100 was better in almost every way, but I just never fell in love with it. Something about a no-compromise, third world truck. Solid axles. Locking differentials. Lumbering inline 6. And those sexy looks!

Regarding axle knuckle seals. If they are leaking, that's just the symptom. You need new inner seals. That's an overhaul. Not a difficult job, but cataclysmically messy. Happy to lend you the tools in you decided to tackle it yourself - which I'd recommend.
 

Hornd

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That sounds like a screaming deal for $4k.

Things to consider:
-if you think the 4runner is underpowered, you're in for a shock because the 80 is worse *understatement*
-if you think the 4runner is good off road, you're in for a shock because the 80 is better *understatement*
-if you're looking to get back into doing some maintenance, do the knuckle rebuild yourself. Takes a weekend and about $150 worth of parts, or $800 for the shop to do it. Not hard, just messy.

For a 2nd/fun vehicle, I would absolutely make the trade and pocket the money made by selling the 4runner. If it were a dual-purpose DD/weekend warrior, I would think a little harder about it.
He's right on!
 
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$4k for that 80 seems low. If its as good as it sounds pick it up and and keep both for a while to evaluate. Compared to the 4 runner the 80 will be slower, use more fuel, require more attention and be older in every way but it will capture your heart and you will eventually sell the 4 runner. In ten years you'll still be able to get a newer vehicle similar to the 4 runner but there won't be anything like the 80, besides an 80.

Although I don't have kids yet we are expecting one this winter and I won't think twice about using the 80 as a family vehicle, even in my 94' without any airbags. A major plus of the 80 is no navigation system or other electronics to take your eyes off the road. Plus the visibility is great for a large SUV. You'll cruise instead of hurry, especially up steep inclines. Others will pass you and you won't care. When I need to get somewhere in a hurry I take the 00' BMW M Roadster.

I looked at 100's for a while and test drove a few. I still think they are great trucks but I was always set on an 80 and I'm glad I went that direction.
 

Brentbba

Former Golfer
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ZackR - love your comment about visibility in the 80. When I blew my HG at 204K I seriously looked at picking up new tech in an FJCruiser. Absolutely no comparison. 80 was sooooo much better. Sitting up there and you can see 360 with all the glass!!
 
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Brentbba - Its crazy how newer vehicles have such small windows and poor visibility. My first cars were older Volvos (240 turbo, 850 turbo wagon) with huge windows so thats what I've always been used to. A quick head check actually resulting in seeing whats going on vs seeing a huge C pillar.

My first drive in the 80 was great for many reasons but part of what sealed the deal was the huge windows. With the convex mirrors its even better. Photo courtesy of my wife.

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Slim D

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If you end up purchasing it - I'm local to you and can help you tackle that knuckle job! I'm going to be doing mine in the near future...
 

Box Rocket

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I haven't read everyone's posts but you need to decide how important it is to you to have a newer, lower mileage vehicle with less wear. The 80 you described sounds like a fantastic starting point that has been well maintained and not abused and the price is excellent IMO if it's truly in the condition you describe. But it's still a 20 year old vehicle and there are things that will be showing that wear even if they haven't yet.

All that said, I'm a huge 80 fan.

For size, the 4Runner is actually almost identical in size to an 80 so decide how much that bothers you.

4Runners are very capable and generally speaking are going to be a much more comfortable road vehicle than an 80, especially a modded one.

Neither vehicle is a powerhouse. I test drove the 4Runners recently since we were looking at one for my wife. I expected a much better feel of power than I have in my 80 but I was disappointed. There was not much difference IMO. If you mod an 80 and regear it appropriately it will feel pretty darn good, but never be a race car or feel like a 5.7L Tundra (unless you put the 5.7 in it. :) )

For durability I'd give the edge to the 80 with more heavy duty parts, however you are still dealing with 20 year old parts but in most cases it shouldn't be an issue. The 4Runners are tough but are just lighter duty than the Cruisers. There is good aftermarket support for both.

Parts are still quite accessible for the 80s but some are getting harder to find and/or might be discontinued so keep that in mind.

The repairs you listed are common and not surprising. Shouldn't take much to get those sorted. Be aware of soft parts like hoses etc. If they are original, you'll probably want to consider replacing most if not all hoses soon.

Having driven the 4Runners, they are nice and modern and I really like them but I still prefer my 80. That's just me.
 

Box Rocket

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Oh and I just did a full knuckle rebuild yesterday on my truck including all new bearings and seals. Rebuild kit from Cruiser Outfitters that includes all the parts will run you a bit under $200 and plan on ~$50 for grease, towels, brake cleaner etc. It's a messy job and takes a bit of time but it's not that difficult and is a job every 80 owner should be familiar with doing.
 
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You're asking a forum full of 80 guys if you should buy an 80? I think your mind is already made up. :)
 
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personally speaking I have a 1994 Fzj80 and if I had the choice to go back to new 4Runner like yours I wouldn't think twice. The reason is not because I don't like my fzj80 but, because it's an old car and it needs a lot of attention. I literally have one problem on it after another and every time the part that needs to be replaced is atleast $100+ the least let alone the labor, luckily I do the labor myself or my brother helps me. I had a 4Runner myself before not as new as yours but I never had to fix anything on it. In Conclusion, fj80's are very capable cars but keep in mind their old cars and they need a lot of time and money to keep them running. (My personal experience)
 
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I heard a story recently on the radio about how car vs. pedestrian collisions are on the rise. They kept citing distracted driving, which I'm sure is a factor, but most modern cars make it very difficult to see something that is practically right in front of you. Sloping windshield plus a 5" thick A-pillar and you literally need to crane your neck to make sure there's nothing at your 11 o'clock. My wife actually sold her newer RX350 for this very reason. I have also "not seen" entire vehicles when driving my newer Chevy--thankfully a few of those incidents taught me to crane my neck every time. You're definitely going to notice that pedestrian in a 90's honda or an 80.
 
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