Sunday, July 3, 2016

The urban farm truck.

A farm truck is an old beat up but running and useful pick up or flat bed seen parked alongside the barn. Or standing alone in a field. Nobody is too concerned about how clean it is, or how shabby the interior is, or the few dents and scratches it has. Much of the time it displays the real patina of constant use, which gives it a quiet dignity. It is still called upon to do the dirty rough tasks that the modern farmer would rather not subject his shiny new King Ranch F250 to. These were basic trucks without the frills but they did the job, oftentimes carrying a heavier load then they were designed for.

Most DIY car guys will have some kind of  truck. Sometimes it is old and plain like the farm truck. Other times its one of these modern super deluxe jobs. Sometimes the truck is fancier and better engineered than the enthusiast's hobby car. Trucks have come a long way. Honestly you don't give up anything but fuel economy to a modern sedan, and not even by that much. A modern truck or SUV can do it all and that is why they are so many driver's choice. It's a vehicle that can do it all. I like trucks, but I like cars more. I had managed to reach the age of fifty years without owning my own truck.

Like many guys I really didn't need a truck because I knew a guy who had one, and he was glad to lend it to me.  My Dad. He was mostly a station wagon kind of guy while I and my brothers were growing up. Made a lot of sense, he needed that backseat for us kids and he managed to carry about anything he needed to in the back or on the open tailgate. He did buy an old '62 Suburban once. That truck was really clean and nice but it was really just a bigger station wagon. My Dad had a brief dalliance with a '59 El Camino which he found was unsuitable for his needs.

 In 1975 my Dad bought his last new vehicle and his first truck. It was a short bed stepside  Chevy.  Black with a red interior. Pretty sharp, it even had A/C. I drove that truck a lot in the 70's especially since I was often between cars. I was into motorcycles primarily, so at times it came in very handy.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I followed the mini van route instead of the truck route. Take the seats out and you can carry almost anything inside, unless of course the load is dirty or greasy. I knew my wife wouldn't appreciate the inside of our van being a mess. After having many kinds of old cars, for some reason I decided that I wanted an old truck. I had started reading Classic Truck magazine and I guess that had an influence.

I don't know why I gravitated to the Ford camp. This was strange because my whole family had always been employed by General Motors. I ended up with a 1966 Ford F250 Camper Special. It was orange and white, kind of like a U Haul truck. Because it had been a U Haul service truck for several years! The seller had worked for U Haul and purchased the truck from them. He mounted a cab over camper and kept it for thirty five years. It was equipped with manual steering and power brakes. A 352/auto had been replaced by a later 360 cid V8. It had a Weiand aluminum intake manifold, tubular headers, electronic ignition, and a Holley carb. It's kind of ironic that the only vehicle that I ever owned that had  aftermarket "speed" equipment was that old truck. I thought that it was good looking, fairly comfortable truck. The owner was honest with me, he told me it needed a new motor. By this he meant that it was quite worn out. No kidding. The first time the oil pressure light came on  I checked the oil level and found nothing registering on the dipstick! I added four quarts of oil.  I later found that the motor was using a quart of oil every fifty miles. Hard to believe but it wasn't laying out a constant smoke screen. Oil pressure was quite low when hot. The light would flicker a bit. I started using 60 weight racing oil instead of 10w-40w. I put in a new oil pump and saw only a minor improvement. There wasn't any lifter clatter and thankfully no rod knock. My best guess was that the cam shaft bearings were probably worn, in combination with the rings and valve guides. I think that the top end had been freshened up at least once without going through the cam bearings and lower end. A full rebuild was in order or a motor replacement.- Eventually.  Luckily the truck was smog exempt.

Cruising speed was a steady 60 mph. on the freeway. I would stay in the slow lane and let traffic pass me by. I named it my "urban farm truck". I drove the truck a fair amount, but just when I needed to haul stuff. I had the truck painted and I thought that it looked quire presentable. I did a lot of work to the truck. I even found a replacement 352 motor up in Santa Rosa. It was a 250 mile round trip. I used five quarts of oil that day. Still the trip was made without incident. I held onto that motor until I sold that truck. I offered it as a package deal to one of my co workers. I gave him a real good deal.

I started a used Datsun parts business and I needed to make lots of trips to the Los Angeles area for swap meets. I was going to do a lot of driving. I needed a good reliable vehicle. That's when I bought my 2007 Ford F150. I didn't have any pictures of my '66  but I just found had a copy of the Craigs List post.Yeah, I didn't get 3,500 dollars for it either.

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