Perfect Island Shlepper -- Advice on "Vintage" trucks/SUVs?



I have always bought very practical vehicles (all small and Japanese)… over the next 12 months or so I need to buy something to leave on Martha’s Vineyard year round (an island that is about 35 miles tip to tip) and I’d like to get something impractical and with some character (not the kind of character that breaks down every other mile though!) so reasonably dependable… I’m looking for something that will haul a 19-foot power boat, and be able to take people and their luggage a few miles back and forth to the ferry, it will rarely go long distances… I don’t even know where to begin to look to find an older truck/suv that has been well taken care of… Any advice on good vintages – years, makes and models of vehicles that have aged well and/or good places to look for that kind of vehicle?


Apparently you have decided that you already know what is small and practical. I happen to disagree with that; have owned small and practical German and US vehicles. If you can decide for yourself what is small and practical, then take charge of the rest of your vehicle choices and go with what you know.


“I’d like to get something impractical and with some character”… Why??

Ford Explorers are reasonably priced, bullet-proof, and MAYBE someone on the island can repair it if necessary. If you MUST “make a statement”, search the “classic” offerings for a “JEEPSTER”, a 60’s vintage “estate wagon” that normal humans can repair IF they can find the parts…A properly restored one should be pretty trouble free…It won’t be cheap, but if you live on The Island, that’s irrelevant, right?


I have no specific models in mind, but a general advice. Given the distances and the kind of roads on that island, you won’t be going very fast. Think low gearing with whatever you get. You can haul a lot with even a relatively small truck-type thing if you change out the differential gears.


How much do the boat and trailer weigh?


How about a surplus crew cab pickup truck from the road department, or forest service, or whoever? 4 doors so you can carry 5 or 6 people, towing capacity, probably 4WD. Basic Ford, Chevy, or Dodge motors are pretty reliable and well understood by most mechanics.

An old Checker Marathon would be another good one. Basically, it’s an old Checker cab sold as a private car. They used Chevy 350 engines and transmissions, so again pretty well understood by most mechanics. I think they stopped making them in the 1980s some time, but if you look you should be able to find one in good condition.

How about a 1968 Chrysler New Yorker convertible? I used to have one of those. Great car, big motor, might be hard to find a good one. I could probably think of a hundred more possibilities, but I think I like the Checker best so far . . .


Jeep Wagoneer there are dealers that specialize in reconditioning them


Go with an older Land Rover. It has the balls to tow and has the character of the island. I’ve got a 95 Range Rover - tow a 22 foot boat with it and it is the most comfortable vehicle I ever owned.


That’s exactly what I was thinking, but I really like the looks of the 60s rovers better. Your desire for character rules out anything asian and any late model domestics. The rover is probably the most affordable euro truck/suv, unless you happen to find a good deal on an 80s vintage g-wagon. Maybe a very early domestic 50/60s truck would be unique too. Make sure you verify the towing capacity of whatever you want to buy. BTW, how much are you willing to spend?


Now, now, Craig. A Toyota Land Cruiser has character in the same way that a Land Rover does. I’d look into an International truck if charater is important.

BTW, anything that tows your boat is likely to be a gas hog. Why not an old Suburban?


I think these are much cooler than the toyota or the international, but I don’t know about the towing capacity:

The OP should check out the toyota/international, too (how available are parts for old toyota?). IMHO, the toyota looks more like a jeep than a rover (much less cool). If the OP has a place on MV, I doubt he needs to buy an old suburban (not so cool at all).


I doubt that it has much towing capacity. I doubt that the Land Cruiser in the foreground has much, either, but it is cool, too.

jtsanders, who hates agreeing to the terms of service soooo many times each night (3rd tonight)


I’m not a big fan of old land cruisers. They appear to be cloned from jeeps, not from rovers, and I don’t really like the looks of the old jeeps. Either way, I would buy the original of the style I preferred (jeep or rover), not the copy.

I agree that neither one is likely to have the towing capacity he’s looking for, he will probably be stuck with a big, ugly truck (i.e., suburban, pick-up, etc.).


You’re very close. Toyota Motor Company was commisioned by the Japanese government to come up with a Jeep-like military vehicle in the early 1940s. They bought Bantam GPs and reverse engineered the first Land Cruiser. The Bantam GP was one of three in the running for the US Army’s Jeep, which has eventually produced by Ford and Willys.


I know a person who is still driving a 1977 Jeep and a 1979 Chevy Blazer he bought in 1979 and 1981, respectively. Neither of the vehicles have had major mechanical problems, and both are used to pull boats and trailors hauling mowing equipment. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase an older model Blazer that has been taken care of. And, by the way, this old Blazer has at least 300K on it.


There is a nice split windshield International P/U sitting on the corner of Rt28 and Camp St. in Hyannis…Character just dripping off it…