Trucks I’ve Had
I wish I’d taken more pictures. A part of my heart is still with each of these trucks. I remember dragging a chain out of the bed and leaving a big gouge on the bed rail of one. I remember loading a piano into one of the tall ones, in the sun, when I wasn’t sure I had gas money to get home. I remember a dog I picked up one day to get it a little farther down the road, and how it kept biting me and biting me. I remember pulling over in the ditch to write. I remember working through the night, trying to get them running again. I remember watching fireworks from the bed of the blue one with my wife, then, when the radio came on with its song to match the explosions, two-stepping out through the grass with her. I remember my daughter putting a tarp in the bed of the yellow one and then filling it with water, for all the kids on the block to have a swimming pool. And I wish I had pictures of each one of these. But you never think to get a camera out, do you? At least I never did. So, some of these are my trucks, and some are kind of stock photos—stuff I searched up.
And, this is a pretty selfish post, finally; all I really want is to be able to come here, click through all these trucks every now and again. As more pics surface of the actual trucks, I’ll be replacing. And, as more trucks happen, they’ll get parked here as well.
My first truck. My dad drove up from Austin for my sixteenth birthday, and on the way he found this truck parked in a field, bought it for nothing and change. It was orange and tan then, with what a high-school sophomore considered old-man hubcaps. I’d hardly had it two nights before it was in my friend’s shop. We wet sanded it all night, filled all the little dents with bondo and some red stuff, then his dad sprayed it shiny black, and we cheated all the already-bent chrome back on, somehow got the door panels to hang in place. This truck had the big 460, too; once I got chrome wagon-wheels and some proper sixties on it, it would stand still and smoke em, and it would take me up over a hundred, though it was a shuddery, near-death hundred. The carrier barrier that keeps the drive-shaft true was bad on it, but an old-timer showed me a trick: take a ball-peen hammer and wail on the housing for that bearing, and it’ll keep things tight for a while. Another trick a different old-timer taught me: a single drop of brake fluid in the transmission will make all the rubber seals in there expand enough to keep the transmission from slipping. And, man, I had some times in this truck, definitely. The one I’m proudest of is, taking a date to a dance or prom or homecoming—we were really dressed up, and had to be in Odessa—I blew a heater hose. Instead of missing the dance, I used a Coors can, a water balloon, and some duct tape to build a new heater hose. It got us to the dance, where I payphoned my uncle, I think, told him what was up, and, bam, by the time we got out of the dance, my truck had a good-enough heater hose, and it held for the rest of this black Ford’s life. Last I heard, it was down in Mexico, living a different life. Maybe not so different.
This is my high school parking lot, and my Michael Jordan ball, and my friend Randy Howard:
This, below, isn’t my 76, but, as the pic above only shows the inside of the bed, I figured to cheat a bit. Be warned, though: I had no red pinstriping on mine, and my bumper was peeling and showing some rust, and I had different (better) mirrors, and my dash still matched the truck’s original colors (tan, cracked). The grill, though—you always know your own trucks by the grill, don’t you? Like you hear at the end of a certain novel, I’d know your hide in a tanyard.
69 Chevy half-ton flatbed
This wasn’t my truck, it was the truck I drove a lot when I was working for my uncle. And, since you don’t take pics of work-trucks, especially with cameras you haven’t brought to work, those cameras also being cameras you don’t own, you’ll have to use your imagination some. But, trust me, halfway between these two trucks? There was a faded, not-at-all-tired, perfect little four-speed Chevy:
It just had a six-cylinder, couldn’t really get it, wasn’t much good for pulling, but, of every truck I’ve ever driven, this was the one truck I couldn’t get stuck in. Was it the 16×5 wheels, mated up with those tall skinny lugged tires that looked like they went on an old Willys Jeep? Was it the low-gearing that you have to have when your engine doesn’t have any real torque? Was it the light weight? I don’t know; I’ve never figured it out. But, this little truck, man, I could take it into whatever slop, and it would just chug right through. The secret, I think? Heart. Some trucks just have heart. I miss this truck a lot. I’d guess it wore it out twenty years ago already, is probably parked out in the tall grass, rusting into its second self.
My uncle had this truck, bought off a friend. He just kept it parked by the side of his house, as really, on a farm in West Texas, what use is a play-truck? When I moved to Colorado Springs for my junior year of high school, though, I traded my uncle some cash and my black Ford for this. He still came out shy, was doing me a kindness, and I’m still thankful. This Bronco hooked me on 79 Fords. I mean, Uncle Jesse is where that really started, probably (in later eps, I’m fairly certain he upped his 73 to a 79). But this truck helped. It had a 351-Cleveland, a big four-barrel, headers, a lift kit—everything a junior in high school needs to get in trouble. And I did, over and over. The MPs on Peterson AFB knew me quite a bit better than I wanted them to. I never wrecked it, though. I did get rear-ended in it once, coming home from Air Academy High, but the tailgate popped back out pretty well. The biggest problem with this truck, really? It had these magnesium (I think) wheels on it, which had the lug-holes all wallowed out from running 33s, which meant it was always popping studs, which meant I was forever taking apart the 4WD hubs to rebuild everything. My last couple of months of having this truck—I was back in Texas—I finally lucked into some chrome wagon wheels for it (as lucked onto in the pic below), at which point it became much more trustworthy. My stupidest memory from this truck is a Friday night party in Colorado Springs, where all the parking places on the road in front of this house were taken, so I just walked the Bronco up onto the lush green Rockrimmon lawn. Was all good and fun—got a lot of attention—until it was time to go. The grass was a touch wet, evidently. And my Bronco, for all its size and 4WD and glasspacks, all it could do was spin on that slick grass, until everybody came out from the party to push me back to the road. Last I heard, this truck was a hunting rig in Central Texas. And, no, this isn’t it, but this is just about it—except for the white hood; I’m pretty sure mine was blue. This color scheme, though, of all the color schemes ever, on anything, it’s the best. Metal-flake blue and Ford white. There’s nothing prettier.
And, looking at it now, my right arm kind of wants to twinge. Reaching in for a can of dip on the dash one day—reaching in kind of over the cowl, when I’m bellied up by the front wheel, my arm snaked between the open door and the cab—one of my brothers jumped in the driver’s seat to blast off into the afternoon. Only, when he went to slam the door and it didn’t shut, he slammed it again, harder, and madder, over and over, only realized after a few times of this that the reason the door wouldn’t close, it was my arm. Now broken, way high up. And the day before basketball try-outs. I still made the team—varsity, a team that went undefeated, won state (all this after I got kicked off for truancies)—even set a free-throw record shooting with my left hand, but, the moral of all this? A pinch of dip is never worth a broken arm. I’m quit now for twenty-plus years. And my arm, it only hurts when I think about 79 Fords. To be honest, too, it’s worth it. I really like thinking about 79 Fords.
Another truck I drove a lot that wasn’t mine. This was my junior year. And this truck, man, it would have eaten my Bronco for lunch if I’d let it. It was all kinds of tough. I mean, it was the kind of tough that didn’t even want me to drive it; it had the single most cantankerous 4-speed I’ve ever had hold of. That’s why I drove it so much: the guy I was working with—we were delivering firewood all over Colorado Springs—he couldn’t make the truck move in any kind of dependable way, so I had to. And, no, this isn’t it . . . quite. But this is ninety-percent that bad Ford:
Not to bad-talk my coworker, though. Dude named Cole. Every chance we got, he’d take me up to the avalanche chutes to scree. A lot of those times, we were in this truck, too. Which is to say, a lot of the time, there was blood on that steering wheel, and blood in the floorboard. But it always got us back to the .$.39 Hamburger, for a bag of healing.
67 Chevy Stepside
My grandfather co-signed the loan on this truck for me. A guy named Tom in Midland, Texas built it over a year or two. His first love was 442s, and he had a stable of them, but he wanted to see what a truck was like. And, for him, living with a truck the right way meant having the engine spread all over his kitchen and living room—his wife told me—and using fingernail paint to detail it out. Then hundred-dollar-a-quart airplane paint to put a nice hard shell on it. And, that engine? It was a 455 Hardin-Marine, lifted from a drag boat. A friend (Steve Woods) and me once loaded thirty-seven parking curbs into the little bed of this truck, to try to keep those fifties from spinning, but the rubber still broke loose. This truck would seriously get it. Except where Slowpoke was concerned. That was the name of the baddest truck in town—nearly the same year as this one, but a fleetside, with its name airbrushed on the tailgate, and a couple of nitrous tanks sitting back there at the proper angle, like the rockets they were. Guy named Eddie Vasquez drove Slowpoke. And of course I had to try to run him, up on Bluebird Lane (in Midland, Texas), before it got developed. He sucked me up. However, I won my share, too. Best race? It wasn’t even at night, but in the daytime, when some suit in a shiny-new 300Z pulled up alongside me on the loop. He popped the nose, I nodded sure, and then, for once, all the HP wrapped up in that Hardin-Marine found its way to the asphalt, and I was gone. Reason why? Blacktop’s sticky in the daytime, and I was running low-pressure. But, the races I lost: to my friend’s 64 Impala with a blueprinted 427; to my friend’s 67 (I think) Nova with a Vette engine in it; to my friend Scott’s gold Trans-Am. Scott’s job was pumping gas at the doctor and dentist airport, so, on weekends, his big 455 was always pumping high-octane airplane fuel. And he had a cam in that car that made it lope in a way I can still hear in a quiet room, if I remember jut right. It was the same way this white truck loped. Every 7-11 I would pull up to? The clerks would wave for me to kill the engine, kill the engine. Because my truck had enough bass in the exhaust to make that plate glass at the front of the store shudder and tremble. It was a serious ride, and more people knew that truck than knew me. Even had cops stop me in it—for all the usual reasons, of course, over and over, but sometimes just to look at it closer. Anyway, yes, there’s pics and pics of this truck. It was made to be photographed:
The shirt I’m wearing there says “Bloody Mary.” I’ve never in my life had a Bloody Mary.
And, 1989, this was back when having a Pro Net was a pretty new thing:
However, when I went off to Texas Tech to study Philosophy, I did that thing you do, and left my friends behind. This one spent a few years in one of my uncle’s yards. And, yeah, those are a couple of Diamond T’s in its background. Diamond T is a beautiful ride. A lot of them were firetrucks in their day. That red-bed truck looks like a Studebaker, yes? Could be. Studebakers are some cool old trucks, though the Dodges and Internationals from that decade are pretty sweet as well.
Anyway, my 67 didn’t die in that pasture. My brother Scott rescued it, rehabbed it. Here it is in-process, a frame-up do-over:
And here it is still in process, with different rims. Not quite a patina truck, but somehow cooler, I think. It’s been in the magazines—I even got to do a write-up for it in Street Truckin‘. It’s a truck that I’m pretty sure will always be in the family. It’s one I’ll never forget, one I’ll always be looking for again.
79 F-150 shortbed
My second 79. I bought it for $600 in Lubbock, Texas, and, driving it back to my girlfriend’s apartment on 4th—she’s my wife now—I wrecked it up. Rear-ended a Jeep, which folded the brush-guard back into the grill and hood. But, I did what you do: chained onto a utility pole or something, reversed slow until the guard eased back out to where it had been. And, that guard, like the headache rack, like the rear bumper, like the toolbox, it was bright harsh utility white, and looked completely stupid. That was goal, though: I’d spent so long babying my 67 that I wanted something I could just bounce around in, never worry about. This was that truck. It was even a shortbed worktruck, which really doesn’t make any sense. Worse than that? Six-cylinder. This truck was a joke. And I’ll forever love it. It got me all the way through undergrad—and, the night I asked my girlfriend to become my wife? My rental house wasn’t safe enough to stash the ring in—always gunshots, people running across the roof, strangers in the living room—but this Ford, it had the driver’s seat blown out, so what I did was stuff that black-velvet ring-box deep unto the foam, so that she was sitting on it as I drove her to Red Lobster. It was the best secret ever. And that green Ford, it kept that ring safe for me. I don’t remember selling it all. I think it just became part of me, somehow. And, while this isn’t it, this was the color mine was, except more sun-faded, and no chrome, and—of course—factory rims (white . . . ),mismatched tires, and a kind of crunched-in nose that always made me think of the truck as a parrot. If only it could talk.
88 Blue Ford
Headed off to grad school in Denton, Texas, I decided I needed a grown-up truck. So I bought this 1988 simple basic stock no-frills four-speed. It had air-conditioning, and power-everything, and no holes in the seat. And this isn’t it, but this is pretty much it:
It was a handy little truck, too. Just a half-ton, but it could pull a utility trailer pretty well, if not a horse trailer, and it had some get-up-and-go. Finally, as happens, the ignition went (my keys chains are always heavy), so I had to wire in a push-button starter, mounted on the dash. When I posted the truck in Thrifty Nickel the truck, a girl showed up from Plainview, and, without even driving it or opening the door, stuffed a wad of cash in my hand. I explained to her that this was actually more than I was asking, and counted $800 back to her. She was pretty flustered. Reason: that morning she’d wrecked her boyfriend’s truck while he was at work, and he was going to be so, so mad. So she was trying to buy him a new one before he got off work. And this wad of cash, it was all her savings. I explained to her that this was a push-button truck she was buying. I don’t know if she ever understood, really. I hope her boyfriend wasn’t mad.
So many of the trucks I buy, I buy off kids who say they need to grow up, get something reasonable. This truck wasn’t remotely reasonable. I had some book-money burning a hole in my pocket, though (ATBS & 7SPN, and NEA as well), and in that state, I’m a completely dangerous human being. This truck’s claim to fame, according to the seventeen-year-old seller who I’m pretty sure didn’t listen to Bob Seger, was that it won Best Truck at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas. And, no, this isn’t exactly that truck (pictured: a 94). But it pretty much is, down to the 37s, even—which, I had to replace one of those, coming back from Carlsbad Caverns, when I’d had the truck maybe two months. Cupping? I’d never heard of a tire cupping before. It’s a terrible feeling, both in the pit of the stomach and the wallet. First thing when I got home, after paying $600 for a single tire, I put the truck on eBay. It sold fast; it was a pretty ride—it deserved to win Best Truck. Last I knew, it was in Pennsylvania-land. This is still the only diesel I’ve ever owned. Having two batteries under the hood, it kept me in a constant state of completely freaked-out. I doubt I’ll ever have a diesel again in a truck.
79 Red 3/4 ton 4WD
My kids still talk about this truck. It could do anything, and did. Chrome bumpers front and back, a diamondplate toolbox, and I always carried an extra solenoid, as this truck ate solenoids like no other truck I’ve ever known. But, man, was it pretty. Parking it all around Lubbock, I’d often come back to find notes on the dashboard and balanced on the steering wheel—people wanting to buy the truck, they’d break in just to prove they knew this year-model, then leave the note, with a phone number, and lock it back up. Used to have a jar I’d keep all the offers in, for a rainy day. I’d bought this Ford out of Arkansas, when I was living in Little Rock, and, on the move to Lubbock, dragging a horse-trailer, I’d come across a semi ran off the road, mired in the mud, a state trooper waving us all past. I offered to hook on, shift into four-low, and drag that big truck up. The trooper just looked at me with his humorless-eyes, told me he didn’t need my bumper laying on the road, fouling up traffic even more. And, yeah, dude was right. You’d have needed a tank and a stout chain to get that rig out of that ditch. My clearest, scariest memory with this truck is Boy Scout camping in Post, Texas with my son, when the skies just opened up, slammed a lake down on us a sheet at a time. I remember spinning my truck through all the slick up to our tent and just hauling the whole thing in—all the other dads were doing the same—then booking it home at two in the morning, sure the whole way that, in the storm and the blindness and the hustle, I’d ran over some other dad’s Boy Scout. It still keeps me up at night, that feeling, that almost-guilt, kind of like this life I’m living now, it’s just a shade away from the one the other me’s living, the one who did crunch over some kid in his sleeping bag. This isn’t a set-photo either, obviously; it’s a screen-cap from a random snowball-fight movie I found, from when we were living in Shallowater, Texas. I’ve got a set of photos of this truck SOMEwhere, though. When I sold it (via Thrifty Nickel) to move to Colorado, the kid who bought it off me was all of nineteen, said he needed a truck to get him from Lubbock to Dallas every other weekend. I explained to him that this was a 3/4 ton 4WD, that it had a big block 400, that—look at those tires, dude. This truck maybe gets eight miles per-gallon, going downhill. But the kid insisted. Like me, all it took with this truck was seeing it to fall in immediate and forever love with it. So I took his money. And then, when he couldn’t figure out how to start the truck, I walked back over, did it for him. I’ve never seen the truck since. I wish the kid well.
Bought this off eBay—my first time doing that—and it was a wash. I mean, yeah, this was a Turbo (one of 600 left on the road . . .), had the factory ‘Turbo’ seats, the special steering wheel, all of that, but, c’mon: it was a four-cylinder. Which I knew. It was right there in the ad, like a stop sign. But so many people drive these Toyotas, right? And don’t they all swear by that little 22r? How they can all be wrong? Even with the turbo spooling up, though, this didn’t even come close to the bottom-end of an eight-banger. Not even a six-, to be honest. I did a lot of work on this truck—scariest bit was shop-building some coil-spring clamps—but, in the end, I never even took the top off. After putting probably the same amount in it I’d bought it for, I sold it for exactly what I’d bought it for. And the guy who bought it, the sole bidder, he didn’t really even want it, told me that he never imagined his opening bid would be the last bid. I said, yeah, sometimes things suck like that, and tossed him the keys. Just the other day in the garage I found the first title I had for this, too—the one I sold it with was the replacement. I threw it away. This was my one flirtation with a not-full-size truck. Definitely my last. I hardly fit in it, which my wife had warned me about. But some things you have to learn yourself, I suppose. For the same money, I could have had a pretty killer dirt bike. Except I’d still be in the hospital from that. So, all in all, this was a good experience, I suppose. And those seats were pretty cool.
I love this truck. I still, for the moment, have this truck. My son learned to drive in it. My daughter always begs me to pick her up from school in it. It’s completely dependable. It sounds healthy, it rides strong. No power-anything. Huge crater in the bench seat. Leaks oil. A four-speed that’s pretty contrary, all told, and exhaust that backfires all up and down the street, makes all the porch lights comes on. I couldn’t love this truck any more than I do. It’s not that green flatbed work truck from high school, but it’s close, anyway. And, the lines looking down along its side in the right light, they’re beautiful. I’m going to miss this truck. I can already feel it. I never go anywhere in it that it doesn’t start a conversation. I’ve made sounds about painting it a time or three, but everybody always shouts me down, says it’s already perfect. I think I’m starting to believe them.
2001 Jeep Wrangler
I’m not a Jeep dude, but some mornings in Colorado, the snow’ll be cresting right about your door handle, so you need something that can climb out of that, with attitude—the scene I forever key on is this one:
I haven’t been buried THAT deep in the action yet, but I have been in a few holes, anyway, and only got stuck once in it, in deep Montana snow, going after elk. But the winch yanked me right out. Finally found a 35″ spare yesterday, too, to go with the 35s it’s running (I’d been sneaking by with a 33″ spare). When the top’s off, it’s pretty fun, and it’s a dream to park (turning radius + line of sight), but it’s terrifying to ease through a parking garage (you want to duck, and then duck again—you’ve practically got to pole-vault to get into the driver’s seat). Wanted to post a post-mud, hunting photo I thought I had from this last year, hunting in Colorado, but I guess I don’t have it anymore. This pic is just from the original craigslist posting, with the soft top on. But I usually run the hardtop, just because I don’t have anywhere else to stash it BUT the Jeep. Anyway, I may keep it a while—it’s yet to let me down—but my heart, it’ll never really be in Jeeps, no matter how modular they come apart and go back together, no matter how much of a culture is associated with them. Rock-crawling like everybody does up here? I can’t understand the fascination. But, unhook the swaybars on this, and, yeah, it’ll flex pretty well. Main thing I’ve done to it, I suppose, is mount a 60″ jack on the hood—which is 12″ longer than makes sense. I don’t know why I always buy the tall ones instead of the short ones. But, as to why I got a Jeep in the first place, when I’ve always been trucks trucks trucks: it’s because I know if I go 4WD with a truck, inside of a year I’ll have it jacked into the sky, all manner of bumper &etc crusted all over it, and I’ll probably even try to put a Lone Wolf McQauade supercharger on it, if not two. So, I figured with a Jeep, I’d build it up, sure, but a Jeep caps out pretty quick, too. At least when it’s trucks you really care about. Next up for it is some of that plastic-paint to black the wheels out; my brother-in-law has had excellent success with that stuff, and I’m anxious to try. And, that cross on the side: I bought this Jeep off a guy ten, fifteen years newer than me. I don’t think the cross necessarily means I’m a Templar. But who knows. Maybe the sang real is stashed somewhere on the chassis.
How to know you’ve married the right woman? I’m doing what I do in my study—that is, pretending to write but really scoping out trucks on craiglist and ebay and just image-searches—and she comes in, looks over my shoulder, says that one’s pretty, I should buy it.
Twenty minutes later, I had. Out of Alabama, as it turns out. And, check out the options—ALL of which are still there, right down to the old-man sun-visor things:
I’ve NEVER had a truck this tricked out. This will be my first one with a headliner, I’m pretty sure—unless that Tahoe had one. But I hated the Tahoe. This truck, this truck, I love. Only plan for now, aside from general mechanical upkeep, is to swap out those old-man “full wheel covers,” as they’re called, for some proper dog-dish hubcaps I picked up at the junkyard this weekend (they were stashed in the back of an old station wagon). The hubcaps currently have the usual yellowy-gold accents, but I’m thinking I’m going to find a way to paint them proper blue, to match. And I’m not disallowing the possibility of putting some 16″ wheels on there with beauty rings and clean centercaps; that’s what a a lot of people do with these trucks, and, for a reason: it looks sharp.
For I don’t know how many years, my dream’s been a 72 Cheyenne. These are the only ones from 67 – 72 with disc brakes, I mean. But they still preserve those lines. Such a sweet, sweet truck. I want to put it in a bottle, save it for forty-three more years, except, you know, it’s a truck, and trucks belong out in the world, hauling stuff, getting scratched up, pulling through mud, hooking onto trailers they should know better than to hook onto.
All I’m waiting for now is a license plate: