I had only owned the 1996 Tacoma maybe four or five months before determining it wasn’t for me. I began to look around for a more suitable truck once I made up my mind to sell it. Not long after that, this truck popped up in a major city east of here and I liked the looks of it.
Not only did it look to be very clean and rust free, the 2wd configuration wasn’t going to give me any of the fits the Tacoma did and there were only ~110,000 miles on the odometer. The 2.4 liter 22RE four-cylinder and 5 speed combo would return good economy and be a good pairing for me. I liked the idea of the topper for camping and/or keeping bed contents dry as I’d never had a truck with a topper before. I offered my Tacoma as a trade but the seller was looking for a cash sale, so with that info a buddy drove me over to Cedar Rapids early one Saturday morning.
The truck displayed well and drove decently, if not oddly somehow a bit harshly. It had one heck of a loud exhaust leak which I was a bit perturbed to learn about given the seller’s asking price. You’d think he’d have sorted that beforehand. The five-speed shifted well enough but some gears were notchy. There was no power steering or cruise control, indeed it was a very basic truck but I was really OK with that. The only option I could see it had was AC. After checking it over with my buddy (who had an ’89 Toyota Pickup himself at the time) I paid the seller’s ask ($3,200, I think it was) and drove it home.
The honeymoon period ended pretty quickly when I first noticed a puddle under the truck later that evening. It was leaking gear oil out of the rear differential up by the pinion seal. Not sure how we missed that when looking over the truck… Oh well, I guess I’ll have to top off the gear oil frequently I thought – not that big of a deal aside from the smell of the stuff. Later that week I took the truck into the shop to have the muffler replaced. That went smoothly but now a new noise was much more apparent than before. I was familiar with the sound of timing chain slap from my first Hardbody – which would make that sound only for a few seconds upon startup. This truck was making timing chain sounds at certain RPM ranges while driving. We pulled the valve cover off the engine – the plastic top guide was missing (probably was in the oil pan) and the chain had begun wearing a notch through the metal in the timing chain cover. Super. In the meantime, I had ordered tune-up parts, new shifter bushings and GL-4 trans fluid to address the notchy shifter and preventative maintenance, just as I had with the ’96. I contacted a few shops around to see about addressing the timing chain issue as that was certainly above my capabilities, but the independent garage never contacted me back and the Toyota dealer quoted me $2400. Ugh.
So I continued to drive the truck locally but I was pretty discouraged by all this. So much for my plan to have a reliable and efficient funtime/camping rig. Seeing how things were unlikely to get any better without a major investment I threw it up for sale. I was forthcoming about the truck’s issues and being a 2wd truck around here, of course, there was little interest. After a few weeks, a distant acquaintance of mine found my number and inquired on the truck. I was leery to sell to him as he was a college student likely without the means to address the issues but he insisted his local uncle was a Toyota expert and he was not concerned. I explained how to fill the gear oil periodically and he paid me my ask – a good bit less than I paid but I guess that’s life. Last I heard the truck was treating him well and he moved out west with it after graduation. I have no idea if he ever addressed either issue…