Mid Week Match-Up: Road Trip Time

It is Wednesday so that means it’s time for another Mid Week Match-Up (TM)!  Last week, we featured a request from a reader who wanted “insanity” for about $1500 and many good suggestions were added to the comments.  Today, we are looking for a turn-key vehicle that can be picked up for around $5000 and used for a long distance road trip.

What do you suggest?

A specific request comes from oppositelock reader surgeslk who writes:

I’m returning to the USA
mid July after a year volunteering doing clean water projects in SE
Asia. My gf (who is a teacher and is returning with me) and I want to
drive cross country to visit old friends. We’ll be flying into LAX and
heading home to N.C. (no rush) so we will need to get a car in L.A. that
will fit 6 pieces of luggage, is fairly good on MPG, reliable yet fun
and should be able to be a DD once we get home. Just to make things
difficult, the gf hates the idea of a station wagon. I’m thinking a
2000-ish 5 series or maybe a Volvo S40/60 or perhaps a Jeep Grand
Cherokee. Price $4000-ish.

For that price range we think a first generation Ford Taurus SHO with 5-speed manual would fit the bill nicely, like this 1989 SHO offered for $3,950 in San Rafael, CA via craigslist.  It has a few miles on the odometer, and is an ugly turd, but would be great for a long distance trip with plenty of room for bags.

Have a better suggestion for a road trip car that could be used for daily driver duty once home?  Comments below.