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Video | Can You Still Get a Good Car For $400? Lincoln Navigator Edition

Hailing from the era of weekends at Blockbuster video and disposable cameras, there’s little doubt that my latest purchase, a 2001 Lincoln Navigator, hauled a Beanie Baby or Furby during its prime years. While it’s well past its glory days now, I bought this relic of SUV history for only $400 — and surprisingly, it’s still a very functional and somewhat attractive vehicle.

This is the fifth car I’ve purchased in recent years for less than a week’s stay at a Holiday Inn Express, and this is the first sub-$500 vehicle I’ve purchased that feels almost as large as a hotel room. Unintentionally, this is also my third Lincoln in this series as well, but so far, it appears to be the most mechanically solid. Instead of driving this one directly to the junkyard, like the last Lincoln I purchased, it appears this Navigator could still provide a family of seven reliable service for many more years — which is exactly what this Navigator was built to do.

As Doug DeMuro pointed out in his first-generation Navigator video earlier this year, this Jabba the Hutt of SUVs deserves a footnote in history for being the first large-sized luxury branded SUV built with zero intention of going off-road. Unlike the Range Rover or Jeep Grand Wagoneer, no thought was given to fording streams or climbing rocks with the Lincoln Navigator. With a ground clearance barely higher than a minivan, and a full time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system without a low-range equipped transfer case, trying to conquer anything more challenging than a dirt road would be disastrous — but Lincoln realized virtually nobody cares about off-road prowess.

Instead, they offered a Lincoln Town Car level of luxury experience on a Ford Expedition body, with shared equipment like rear air ride suspension, 32-valve Intech heads from the Lincoln Mark VIII and loads of bling. This was something no luxury car maker had ever offered before, and it was a massive success — which started the trend of huge ultra-luxury SUVs that dominate shopping mall parking lots today. So I managed to buy an important piece of history for a POS price — and surprisingly, it still offers a very satisfying luxury experience.

I found this Navigator at auction a month ago, but didn’t give it much attention. It had a cracked front bumper, and was sitting on a full-sized spare tire — and the battery was dead. This caused the rear air suspension to collapse, which added to the impression of a very abused vehicle near the end of its life. After failing to sell at auction for 3 weeks in a row, I decided to give it a closer look, and was surprised to find how clean the interior was. Even better, after a quick jump start, the 5.4-liter V8 quickly came to life, along with the air pump — which slowly raised the suspension. Additionally, there were no lights on in the dashboard, and everything inside seemed to work.

After snagging this surprisingly sorted Navigator for only $450, the first drive was even more impressive. After 190,000 miles, the suspension still felt soft and relaxed, and the entire chassis was free of squeaks and rattles. The heated seats even still worked, and the Alpine stereo had no problem blasting Mariah Carey’s Christmas hits on the radio. This Navigator was way too good to destroy in some stupid way for YouTube views, but I can’t keep it — since I already have more aging luxury SUVs than a YMCA parking lot during a fifth grade soccer tournament.

So instead of hoarding a perfectly good Navigator that I don’t need, I decided to embrace the holiday spirit and give away a hooptie to someone in need. My mechanic, the Car Wizard, mentioned that his office manager’s truck is on its last legs. He’s also a big Ford/Lincoln fan as well, so I know he’ll appreciate a clean old Navigator way more than I will. Find a Lincoln Navigator for sale

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