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Here's a tour of my $1,500 Toyota RAV4 [Video]

by Drew Johnson

$1,500 buys you plenty of oil leaks.

In case you haven't heard, I am now the proud owner of a 1997 Toyota RAV4. And the privilege of joining the first-generation RAV4 owner's club only set me back a modest $1,500.

Of course, $1,500 didn't buy me access to the premium tier of the owner's club. My RAV4 has all of the typical problems you'd expect from a used car that's traveled nearly a quarter of a million miles. But let's start with the good.

Not only does my RAV4 have four-wheel drive with a locking center differential, it also has the rare rear limited slip differential option. That feature was a must-have since I'm turning my RAV4 into a RAV4x4 -- without that key piece of hardware, my RAV4 would be absolutely useless off-road.

It also runs and drives just fine, which is amazing considering the engine appears to have just as much oil on it as it does in it.

Likewise, everything on the interior of my RAV4 works perfectly, despite the fact that it looks like a feral pig has been living in it for the last 21 years. The power windows, power locks, power mirror, cruise control -- it all works.

But there are a few things that aren't working exactly as the factory intended. The exhaust system has a big hole in it, so my RAV4 is quite loud. And after crawling around underneath my RAV4, I discovered that the fuel tank is being partially held on by a combination of a C-clamp and some string.

Most of my RAV4's original sheet metal remains, save for a small bit rusting off by one of the rear wheels. The paintwork is also accented nicely by a lifetime of dings and dents and, in some places, both.

But even with all those faults, I'm quite chuffed with my purchase. Yes, my RAV4 needs some work (OK, a lot of work), but it has good bones underneath the scratches and the container of flammable liquid being suspended by a shoestring. And, over the next few weeks, I intended to shine up those bones or, more than likely, give up trying.