For the $$$ you want to spend, you could find a decent 1st or 2 gen trooper, although they will probably have a lot of miles on them. Neither shine in the MPG Category (although my 1st gen with a 2.6 and automatic gets about 23 on my daily commute). The 2nd gens with a 3.2 have better performance. (My 2.6 has to get a head-start to pass someone) If you are looking to buy a vehicle AND do some mods for $3500, go find a 1st gen! You can usually pick them up for $1500 or so. 31" or 32" tires/wheels/lift-kit/shocks for another $1000 and you still have some change left-over.
I'm surprised you're having trouble with the Monty. My daughters 97 has 161,000 miles on it and runs as strong now as it ever has. Only issue with it is the blasted "o" rings in back of the heads and it needs valve-stem seals. That is a Saturday project coming up real soon.
-------------------- 89 Trooper (Red) , 2.6 with Automatic, It's got accessories!
89 Trooper (Blackie), 2.6 with MUA5. It also has accessories!
98 Acura SLX - Youngest daughter's car - TOTALED on Fathers Day. Stay tuned for the rebuild
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