Thursday, May 12, 2016

Miscellany: 2004 Toyota Tacoma review - A Priceless Pickup

You often hear people say "they don't make them like they used to," but in the case of my old Tacoma, it's true: Toyota simply does not make a compact, single-bench pickup truck like this one anymore, much less one designed by an American (!) and made in America (!!). My 2004 model is a strange relic of a bygone era, when people used pickups to pick up stuff, rather than as glorified SUVs.

At gas stations and banks, random people often stop to ask whether the truck is for sale, a mark of how valuable the Tacoma is in its own way. This is, after all, a working man's truck that has been unfailingly reliable, despite daily commutes, long road trips, and 12 years spent mostly exposed to the elements. The patina of rust on the bumpers just adds character (as well as subtle theft deterrence) to the vehicle.

The truck's interior is spartan. Audio is provided by late '80s technology: an AM/FM radio, a cassette player (yes, a cassette player), and poorly-insulated road noise. The hand-crank windows and manual door locks may not be luxurious, but they eliminate potential points of failure.

The Tacoma has subtle virtues that you only notice after a decade of ownership. The truck is tremendously hard to break into - I once locked my keys inside and watched an experienced smith take a solid 20 minutes to jimmy the lock loose. The single cab design makes it as maneuverable as a compact car, but with a full-size truckbed large enough to haul a lot of junk around. Driver visibility is excellent, thanks to the compressed cabin.

The truck has faults, some major. The wimpy 2.4L V4 engine makes highway merges an adventure, and requires literal pedal to the metal in order to climb a busy on-ramp. The middle seat is uncomfortable for anyone larger than Peter Dinklage. There is almost zero interior storage space - you are not going anywhere overnight with anyone else.

Still, when my folks reclaimed the Tacoma to use as their daily driver, I felt a pang of sadness. Then again, with only 137,000 miles on it, the truck is still a baby - I'll probably see it again...


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