When it comes to my ability, or willingness, to adapt to change, a few friends have noted I am almost glacial in regards to speed. I realize the fact that the eight track tape player was updated to a cassette player in 1996, the rotary phone to a push button in 2000, and the general use of vehicles manufactured during the era of the Nixon presidency or before for primary transportation may give that impression.
If you are out of style long enough, you will be in style. This one serves as a milepost of just how many years I have wandered this earth, especially in regards to my love for vintage trucks.
It wasn’t all that long ago that a vintage truck seemed to be the bastard step child at the family reunion when it came to respectable car shows or auctions. For me the love affair with the simplistic styling and the rugged dependability of old trucks has been a very long one.
My first clear memory of a truck was somewhere around 1963. I remember it as a washed out blue thing streaked with rust and what appeared to be an over sized dog house on the rear.
From pictures, I later learned it was a well used, 1950 Ford F100, a victim of the tin worm spawned by the ample salts applied to winter roads in Michigan. Perhaps the reason I remember that old truck so clearly is that my dad had built a padded playhouse/storage locker on the back and that is where we lived for two days on a family adventure that went wrong.
See, my dad came home on leave and decided the family needed a small vacation. So, the truck was loaded, the kids were made comfortable in the back, and off we went on an adventure to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
We were deep in south Ohio when something very major went wrong. I can still hear my dad cussing, smell the hot engine, and feel the sweat roll down my back on that hot summer afternoon as mosquito’s and flies tormented us.
Dad managed to get the truck off the road and on to a shaded side road on a ridge above a creek. I am not sure about the details but that night we camped out in the back of the old Ford. The next morning I stood in the tall grass and watched my dad walk off down the highway with something very big and greasy in his hands.
He came back that afternoon and began tinkering under the hood but we were to busy to notice as we splashed about in the creek. That night it was another camp out and then the following day we began the long drive back to Port Huron with what seemed like ten thousand stops for my dad to look under the hood.
Between that point in time and the fall of 1977 when I acquired my first pick up, a well worn, very battered 1942 Chevrolet half ton model, old trucks seem to have served as a stage or back drop for most major events in my life. In the summer of 1966, dad purchased a one owner, highly optioned 1953 Chevrolet 3100, a truck that would later be the first I drove legally, the first I wrecked, and the first I learned to tune up.
There was a 1949 Studebaker stake bed, the first truck I drove over Sitgreaves Pass. Now that was an adventure!
When I close my eyes the vision of white knuckled hands grasping a monster steering wheel and a road that seemed to have shriveled under the onslaught of the searing heat seen through a dusty, sand pitted windshield is so clear the terrifying sensation of that over loaded truck leaning into the curves can still be felt. To this day I don’t know how I got that truck to the top of Sitgreaves Pass nor do I recall how long I sat next to the skeleton of the gravity feed pumps at the ruins of Snell’s Summit Station shaking as though it was twenty below instead of one hundred and ten above.
Added incentive for my appreciation of old work horses came in the guise of the fact they were dirt cheap to buy, parts were even cheaper, and even with my limited mechanical skills, and box of swap meet acquired tools, I could keep them on the road.
From the acquisition of my first old Chevy there have been a small herd of these old plow horses in my stable. There was a 1949 Chevy panel truck that I envisioned as a camper before trading it for a 1956 Ford Fairlane. A 1946 GMC provided transportation from the job near Chino Valley to Kingman on weekends when I came to town to see my dearest friend. I introduced my wife to the wonders and majestic beauty of the Colorado Rockies in the cab of a 1970 Chevy.
A ’64 Dodge was the truck I drove to the church that wonderful day in September 27 years ago when we became man and wife. It was a ’74 Ford F100 that carried my family on our first camping trip to New Mexico.
A small heard of Advance Design Chevies, a series of trucks built between 1948 and the first part of the 1955 model year, served as my primary focus. Of course, a few years ago people began seeing these trucks as collectors items and my discovery was that I had been out of style so long that now I was in style.
Anything in style or perceived as trendy equates to being overpriced and my old trucks were no exception. So, with reluctance, I bid adios to the loyal old trucks that had provided us with transportation to our favorite camping spots, hauled the materials to build our home, and that kept the drive way well oiled this past quarter century.
Then came Barney, the newest addition to the stable, our tried and true 1968 Dodge Adventurer. In my world Barney is a new truck but the good Lord knows my heart and that veneer of modernity is a thin one with this old work horse.
We have a straight axle in front and an oil bath air cleaner under the hood. The rear view mirror is an off the shelf, 1950 era component and cooling is of the old 50/50 style – roll the window down half way and drive fifty.
But somewhere out there is the 1931 Ford, a truck I have sought for more than a quarter century, a truck that will take us on the grandest adventure of all, a journey to 48 states and Canada.
That, however, is a chapter yet to be written.