It has been said that the vehicle we drive is a reflection of our personality. Well, if that be the case then the people I have been are a very confused lot.
If there were a common thread to link the people and places I have been over the years, it would be vehicles that do not require wrenches with metric designations to repair. I suppose this stubborn grip on American built steering wheels is merely a vestige of red neck roots carefully nurtured during my youth. Perhaps it is simply a manifestation of an outdated type of patriotism that has been swept away by the Walmarting of the nation in our quest for cheaper and more plentiful stuff.
I am painfully aware that the lines have been blurred in recent years and as a result a Toyota is as American as Chevrolet, that vehicles built by foreign manufacturers are as good or better than their American competitors, and that few people even really care anymore. Moreover,  it is not prejudices rooted in the treatment of my father during World War II that keep my butt planted in American seats.
After all, my son has and does grace my driveway with Honda’s. Now, he has turned his attention toward a Datsun Z.
Still, after all these years it seems a shame to mess up my track record or start having my tools share drawers with metric cousins. Most of them are older than I am and all of them are veterans in regards to my efforts of keeping vintage wrecks operational.
The first vehicle I ever purchased with my own money was a 1964 Rambler American station wagon with a flat head six, three speed transmission, and overdrive. Powder blue with an odd black and white checkered seat upholstery framed in black borders, and seats that folded flat from tailgate to steering wheel were among the most noticeable features on that relatively nondescript automobile.
The Rambler was ideal for camping trips, and with fuel economy in the 23 and 24 mile per gallon range, it was also great for road trips. Oil consumption made manifest in puddles and the faintest haze of blue smoke was the primary issue.
I traveled many a mile in that Rambler before deciding that Jim Hinckley needed a pick up truck. So, I parted ways with the wagon and purchased a very well used ’42 Chevrolet pick up truck, the subject of a previous post. 
That old truck met with an untimely end, the result of the narrow curves on the pre 1939 alignment of Route 66 west of Kingman, a bit to much throttle, and a broken tie rod end. Sliding it on its side over the old asphalt gave it a nice shine but it also bent the frame.
The next acquisition was a big 1964 Pontiac Bonneville sedan, for the princely sum of $125.00. With that car toured much of northern Arizona, parts of Nevada, and both sides of the Colorado River Valley. 
It too met an inglorious end on Route 66. I was on my way to a Christmas Eve Party when a drunk in a Ford Pinto, traveling at an estimated speed of 75 miles per hour, ran the redlight at the corner of Fourth Street and Andy Devine Avenue in Kingman and nailed my land barge at a point between the front tire and the front bumper.
The Pinto spun down the street like a top spewing parts as it went. The Pontiac shuddered like an old Ford with a worn clutch but I was able to drive it to the side of the road and, later that evening, drive it home.
Frame damage, a broken radiator, and other ailments were cost prohibitive. So, I honed my skills as a horse trader and in one week was the proud owner of a new 10 speed bicycle and a .30/.30 Model 94 Winchester.
It took another two weeks to parlay that trade into a very nice, but terrifyingly powerful, white on white 1965 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 with rare four speed option. After a summer of near misses and a constant battle with temptation in the form of challenges from drivers in Firebirds, Camaros, and Mustangs, I returned to my first love and swapped the Pontiac for a 1956 Ford F100.
With the luxury of hindsight I know now that Ford was a very rare bird, as was the 2+2. The truck had a very bad case of desert sunburn but it was a one owner Arizona truck with a 292 c.i.d. V8, Ford-O-Matic transmission and the wrap around back glass.
The Ford proved itself time and again as a loyal and dependable work horse but age took its toll and the following spring it developed a pretty healthy rod knock and so the search began for a replacement. With my adgae of I will drive most anything that is cheap or free as the guiding principle, the search took me through want adds, countless yard sales, and the hunting down of countless leads.
The hard work paid off. The Ford was sold for $900.00, and for $500.00, I purchased a very nice 1969 Ford Galaxie that needed a starter. With the extra jingle in my pocket, I christened the new car with a maiden voyage east on Route 66 to Flagstaff, on to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and home again via Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, and Las Vegas.
In those early footloose years, I tired of the same dashboard rather quickly and when presented with an opportunity to trade the Ford for a 1941 Chevy stake bed truck and $400.00, little thought was given. A man with a truck is never broke and will always have more friends than money can buy, and as I learned with this truck, a stake bed ensures both and in spades.
The Wayne associated with the Drake Incident drove a ’49 GMC stake bed. Together we hatched an ingenious plan worthy of the most ardent capitalist in the Republican Party to tide us over until a real job could be found.
Wayne knew a fellow down on the Nevada side of the Colorado River that had property he was hoping to develop. It was mostly scrub brush, cactus, and rocks but there was also a large area of scorched mesquite thickets.
Now, Wayne also knew a fellow on the Arizona side of the river down near Topock that hauled landscaping rock and firewood into southern California. I had access to about ten acres of rock off Oatman road just south of Cool Springs.
In our mind all of this equaled a big package of opportunity, even if it was summer and the temperatures along the Colorado River often exceeded 120 degrees and our newest truck was thirty years old. So, began THE BUSINESS.
We would roll west from Kingman on Route 66 before sunrise and be at the rock fields by the time light was breaking in the east. We would back the trucks into the wash and up against the bank. Then we would load them down till the wheels were about to rub and the springs were flat. 
On the days when things went according to plan, which was about every third day, we would slip the gear box into low, pull out the throttle knob and crawl back to the highway, Route 66. On the other days we would loose an hour or so getting one or both of the trucks out of the sand. 
Like living time capsules we would twist and turn our way to the top of Sitgreaves Pass over the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 hoping we made the summit before the temperature gauge pegged. There we would pour water over the radiators, wait a half hour or so for them to cool down, and start them down the other side in a manner similar to the ballad of Wolf Creek Pass by C.W. McCall.
Unloading in Topock was relatively fast work and then it was off to Needles for lunch, and up the river to the mesquite thickets. We would cut wood under the blazing sun until we again had the old trucks loaded tot he hilt.
Now it was close to sunset. So, we would roll into Laughlin, trade the coupons obtained from the tourism office in Needles that morning for a free beer and hot dog at the Riverside Casino, drive back to Topock, unload, get paid, and drive back through the empty streets of Oatman and over Sitgreaves Pass in the dark.
A day of rest and repairs was followed by a repeat performance. In our heat fuddled brains fortunes were just days away. The reality was that the cost of tires, fuel, food, and oil meant we were busting our hump in the blazing heat 12 and 14 hours per day for just a little less than we could have made a McDonalds.
But we had something money could not buy. We had the unbridled freedom of independence that can only be savored for that brief moment in time when a man is to old for childish things and to young to be encumbered with family and their needs, or the worries of retirement. It is that magical time when harmless stupidity does not come with penalties other than blisters, sunburns, skinned knuckles, sore backs, and elusive dreams.
The seeds of my passion for vintage trucks were sown long ago. That amazing summer they burst forth in full blossom.

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