QDear Tom and Ray:

I live in Denver. My father, who is in Iowa, is bestowing upon me a 1971 Ford F250. It has two-wheel drive with a 360 V-8 engine, and has gone less than 80,000 miles. This has mainly been used as a work truck, and it's in good condition. I plan to fly one way to Iowa, and drive it the 1,000 miles back to Denver. I know this is the longest journey this truck will ever have taken, so I want to do everything possible to ensure a safe drive. What would you suggest I get done before I leave, and what should I take on the road with me? -- Patrick

ARAY: What should you take with you? I'd bring a cell phone, a couple of credit cards and, just in case, a screwdriver to take off the license plates.

TOM: I would add a roll of duct tape, in case you have to take a hostage. But the key is to take care of the important stuff before you leave.

RAY: Right. You certainly want to have a mechanic check out the entire front end and all of the steering components. Things like tie-rod ends and center links can wear out over three decades of bumping through rutabaga fields. And since front-end failure can lead to wheels falling off, you want to make sure that stuff is checked out thoroughly.

TOM: I'd also have the truck tuned up before you go. And make sure you get a new set of ignition points and a new condenser, because those will be hard to find on the road.

RAY: If the spark-plug wires haven't been changed in, say, the past 25 years, change them, too. We recommend new ones every 80,000 miles or 30 years whether you need them or not.

TOM: Finally, have someone look at the tires. If they're at all questionable, get new ones before you hit the road.

RAY: Then keep your speed reasonable (I'd say 60 mph or less is ideal), and I think you'll have no problem, Patrick. In fact, I predict this trip will be something you'll tell your grandchildren about: "You kids won't believe how many times that truck broke down between Iowa and Denver!"

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a 25-year-old graduate student, and I am interested in purchasing an older two-door convertible car that is fun to drive, reliable and relatively inexpensive to maintain/repair. I am looking to spend between $5,000 and $6,000. My question is: Can you recommend a couple of makes and models that might meet my requirements? I really like MGs, but I read somewhere that they need frequent maintenance. I appreciate any advice you can offer. -- Noah

RAY: Well, my brother has an old MG, Noah. And I can attest to the fact that it never requires any maintenance -- only emergency repairs.

TOM: Actually, if a small, two-seat British sports car is the type of car you're looking for, you should set your sights on a Mazda Miata. That basically does everything a classic British sports car was supposed to do, except leak oil.

RAY: And it's a car that'll start for you every day. If you go back to the mid-1990s, you can find a Miata in your price range.

TOM: If you're open to something a little more offbeat, you might try to find a mid-'90s Honda Del Sol. That's based on the two-door Civic, so it's highly reliable. And the middle of the roof comes off, so it's almost a convertible. It doesn't have quite the same handling characteristics as the Miata, but it has more of a roof structure, and looks a little bit bigger -- so you're less likely to get run over by a Lincoln Navigator and have the driver not notice.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c)2005 by

Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman