I'm finally ready to retire my trusty Escort in exchange for something new, and I'm getting my criteria narrowed down for my next ride, but I've run into a dilemma: The vehicle I want doesn't exist. Because of that, I'm being forced to look in a few other directions, but I don't have a lot of experience with them, so I'm hoping I can get some input from y'all.

The vehicle I want: A 4x4 Expedition with a 5-speed manual tranny. Problem is, there never was such a thing.

The things I really need: 3 or more doors, seating for 4, with a backseat that a child seat will fit into. 4x4. A towing capacity of 6500 lbs or more. Reliability. A price tag under $3 grand. And, of course, a third pedal.

I know that most people insist that towing with a manual transmission is a bad thing, but this will be my daily driver as well as my towing rig, and I've had all I can take of automatics. The 3rd row seating in the Expedition would be nice, but it's not really worth the loss of the 5-speed. I've towed plenty with manual trucks before, and never had a problem with it.

A little background: I'm a diehard Ford guy, although it's really because I've had automatics in Chevys & Dodges leave me stranded. I've only lost one engine in a Dodge (it had a 5-speed tranny), and other than that all my trucks have had reliable engines for as long as the transmissions lasted. The only problem is that the transmissions have usually failed so quickly that I never really got a chance to see if the engines were reliable.

The real predicament is this: 5-speed post-'97 Ford trucks with 4x4 are hard to find. When you do come across one with an extended or crew cab, it's at least twice my budget, and often has 200k+ miles. I don't mind high mileage, but it at least needs to be affordable.


This leads me to an option: Switch brands. I'd rather have a crew cab, but an extended cab with rear doors would work, but that would mean '97 or newer for most of the trucks out there. I've seen a few Chevys & Dodges in my price range that would probably work, but it really begs the question; will they be reliable? Is it worth the premium to get a Ford, or would I be able to rely on a Dodge or Chevy? This will be my only vehicle for a few roadtrips, so it needs to be able to reliably tow 6500+ lbs without breaking down. If you are pro-non-Ford, what drivetrain would you recommend?

Have a picture of what I would like, if I could afford it.