2018 Toyota Tacoma Limited vs. 1996 Toyota Tacoma: A Tale Of Two Tacomas Duking It Out In The Deep South

By on February 22, 2018

My neighbors are attacking me!

“How much is it?”

“Wow, this is quite nice color. What do they call it?”

“Can I open the door and look at it a bit?”

The verbal barrage was all my fault. Like an oblivious Yuppified fool, I decided to park my brand new Toyota Tacoma within 50 feet of their front window. About three seconds after I opened the Tacoma’s driver door, my neighbors were trampling over their sodden lawn and hovering around the brand new truck.

Bob and Linda are in the deep of their 60s, very happily retired, and when they are not helping me drive vehicles from the auto auction back to my nearby car dealership,  they visit local thrift stores and the mom and pop restaurants that rabidly overpopulate the Deep South that hits the tip of Appalachia.

I rattle off my answers to them in a quick deep drawl that you only get by becoming an auctioneer who lives smack dab on the Georgia-Alabama border.

“Forty-kay I reckon, Linda.”

“They call this color here, ‘At least it’s not gray… beige'”

“Sure Bob, here are the keys. I gotta head out to Tallapoosa. Wanna drive?”

Tallapoosa is about an hour away, and I already know Bob sure as hell won’t drive, and I’m going to be very late even if I can find the courage to be mildly rude which isn’t in my rolodex of emotions at that moment.

I needed this pause. Earlier that afternoon, half of my lunch had been spent pacing a back alley next to a Greek restaurant where I had taken my family that afternoon. I spent nearly all my time and at least three miles of back and forth pacing, listening to a tenant who was dealing with an over-the-hill redneck. The local yokel apparently drove up in a Chrysler PT Cruiser with a busted rear window, and leered at her for several minutes.

Dumb move. Diana had a two-year-old and a pistol. She was also married to a really big fella. If you ever want to make a Southern man find his inner Jersey, harass his wife. Brad grew up in Tallapoosa, played football at the local high school, and had no problem handling a mean little old redneck who picked the wrong fight.

One verbal altercation later, Brad walked back to his property and decided to offer his neighbor an authentic gun salute. First, he fired a few gunshots off his porch. Then Brad  fired two more shots into the woods and contacted the local Sheriff’s Deputy who also happened to be one of his football teammates.  When the officer walked next door he discovered about 15 starved dogs along with an old sink and copper wire that looked suspiciously like it had been ripped off from one of my property’s outbuildings.

That’s when handcuffs came out and I got the call.  My evening would be spent handling the assurances that my tenants needed to remain comfortable at their new place, and figuring out whether a twenty-year old sink would be worth keeping or trashing. It would take an hour long drive in the Tacoma to weigh it all in. I thought about running out to the Habitat ReStore in my neck of the woods afterwards since the short bed would probably be the perfect fit for the sink rejects that I often find to be the perfect fit for outbuildings and manufactured homes.

But for now I was in an isolated two ton throne going at about 75 and a little change. Why not enjoy it? And so I tried. Really, really hard.

The first thing I noticed about the new Tacoma besides my radar detector’s silence was what young people call the infotainment system, and what middle-ages people like me still call a radio. It’s a bright luminescent blue, and almost Lexus-like, with the buttons all spelling out the exact functions in large caps – “AUDIO”- “APPS” – “HOME”. The system can apparently do everything except phone E.T and I was half-wondering if Toyota would ever consider adding a button on the top called “CAPPUCINO” so that I could finally learn how to tolerate metro-Atlanta’s third-world roads and daily traffic jams.

Thank God I was going in the exact other direction – away from the airport and Waffle House restaurants and into a wilderness loaded with quiet and furry woodland creatures. I quickly sped down the winding one lane road that led to my battle scarred five-acre property in Tallapoosa and ignored the AUDIO. the entire way I wanted to listen to a new truck that cost more than most doublewides in Deliverance country.

This Tacoma has a virtuous rumble that makes you think more of a full-sized truck with a V8 than its real-world, mid-size V6 powertrain. It’s fun, taut, and tight, but not quiet as quiet as you expect. When you go up big hills, the V6 will downshift once and sometimes even twice if, in my particular case, you’re driving a bit too fast and constantly cresting 20 degree inclines while driving with lead in your foot.

But even with that occasional second downshift, the truck wasn’t ever hitting north of 2500 rpm thanks to a stout 278 horsepower engine that more importantly has 265 lb-ft of torque that hits the heart of the mid range. This truck is not an overpowered cruiser, and it trades quiet for fun.  Those were two smile inducing realities I would ponder as I started comparing this 2018 Tacoma to a 1996 model that had been across the street from me for well over two decades.

This 1996 Toyota Tacoma is Bob’s truck. One owner. 22 years. 326,578 miles.

When he first bought it for thirteen grand flat, the local Toyota dealer had added a bedliner, alloy wheels, and a rear window slide-out to make this truck a keeper for Bob, and boy did he ever keep it.

It was garaged, waxed twice a year which kept the paint jet black, and every minor mechanical issue was quickly resolved before it ever became a major one. Sometimes it was on the cheap. Bob regularly used high-mileage oil for a leaky rear main seal that luckily swelled up for the last several years. Other times Bob paid for a full dress-down of filters, fluids, and small parts that kept the engine and transmission in good working order.

Bumps and bruises were a different story. Bob traded a front fender bender and a whiskey lick behind the driver’s door about 10 years after he bought it for two checks totaling $1100 and $2100. That, along with a $2300 selling price, meant that Bob’s truck only cost him $1 a day in depreciation over 22 years.

That truck was the perfect tool. When my wife and I moved in, Bob and a couple of neighbors helped us haul off a cheap nearby refrigerator into our kitchen. While the new Tacoma seems to be a solid three feet higher than anything else on the road when you’re in the driver seat, this twenty-two year old Tacoma is always eye level, which makes it far to get anything out of that pickup bed, most notably seventy pound refrigerators.

On the road the Tacoma wasn’t anything special compared to today’s dial-up-the-horsepower smorgasbord of powertrains. The four-banger with the 1990s automatic didn’t make it fast which was fine for Bob. He was never in a hurry to get to work, and local traffic always made him play the automotive version of the game, “Follow the leader”.

What else? Fourteen inch tires were dirt cheap.  Maintenance was breathtakingly simple, but there was a fashion catch. This wasn’t a looker for the young unlike the brand new Tacoma, and also unlike the 278 horsepower, five seat, and 6400 pound hauling monstrosity in leather trim, this 1996 model could barely haul itself, has one plain bench seat, and isn’t quite cheap given its limitations – $20,500 in today’s inflation adjusted dollars.   That new Tacoma is twice as much, but it also does triple the duty as a a family vehicle and a hauler of anything that is three tons or less.

As I pulled up to handle the emotional maintenance that comes with becoming a good landlord, my eyebrows flew off my head at what I saw in front of me. There were no fights or guns drawn between these southern Hatfields and McCoys. It was the fuel economy counter on the Tacoma which registered a shocking 25 miles per gallon. Maybe it was momentum that was pushing that truck along because it certainly wasn’t aerodynamics or my lead foot driving style.

The old Tacoma was rated at 22 city and 25 highway. This two-ton version with a front fascia that looked like a brick puncher could equal an old four-cylinder truck that was about half its weight class – at least on a highway style jaunt. When I jumped down from the throne that was the driver seat, Brad and Anna began to immediately talk about… the truck.

“Wow! Is that yours?”

“Nope, I’m just writing about it”

“That thing is four-wheel-drive ain’t it?”

“Yep, but it’s too fancy to go mudding.”

“We could have used that last month when it snowed!”

“This county has zero plows. It would have been flipped in a ditch, which I frankly wish had happened to your dear neighbor, Ronnie The Redneck.”

“You would not believe what that dang moron tried to do Steve…”

Yes, I sure as hell would. This part of America has some deep problems that range from meth to Mountain Dew, and this particular fellow was apparently on at least one of those substances when he decided to make his presence known to Diana.

Before bothering her and stealing the wiring to a small cottage on the property, he decided to steal a chain that was attached to an open gate which belonged to a neighbor who lived right across the street from Diana and Brad.

You may laugh, but a good heavy chain isn’t cheap to buy and the neighbor had experienced an attempted break-in to his garage a couple of months earlier. That break-in and the recent spat is what led the Sheriff’s Deputy to the property of the drugged out neighbor. Inside the trunk was the neighbor’s chain, and in the backyard they found the old sink along with a heaping load of copper wire and a slew of starved dogs that were gated up.

My tenants and I talked briefly about having Diana take some target practice and possibly taping up her shooting talents onto a tree that faces the front of the property. This would hopefully be a dirt cheap way to get the message across to the local horny kleptocrat – if he ever made bail. The three of us also did a walk around the property, and it looks like I’ll be tarring up the roof in the next week or so due to a small leak near an old furnace that has recently been replaced.

As I hauled myself back onto the driver seat, I realized that sometimes in life you need a certain tool to get things done the right way. These folks were planning on using the law and their skilled marksmanship. I was going to use a long-handled paint roller and a bucket.

The question I now had was which truck would be the better companion for tarring up the roof on an extended double-wide.

Old? Or new?


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There Are 5 Comments Comments On This Article

  • Andrew Steere | 2018-02-22

    Diana or Dana? Says the guy who edited copy briefly many moons ago.


  • lee wilcox | 2018-02-22

    I’d keep the ole one until it made certain I knew it was done. In fact that’s what I’m doing. 95 Toyota 4Runner with no signs of slowing down.


  • Steve Lang | 2018-02-22

    It depends on her mood.


  • Steve Lang | 2018-02-22

    Keep it. They’re not making any of those in quite the same way.


  • Dorthe | 2018-03-06

    I am so sorry for your lost I didn”t know Brad but I know his brother Brett and his family. May God bless you at this time and bring peace and comfort to you. Rest In Peace Brad and I know Brad will watch over all of you and remain you He is right there with Heaven Father watching and protecting you


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