In Praise of Older Trucks
by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

This was another one of those bone-chilling mornings.

The thermometer dropped below zero again and the windows were all frosted with ice around the edges where winter tries to ease its way inside. Only the woodpile and baseboard electric, it seems, are holding back an ice age.

Ford F100 Poster Outside, the frigid air made my whiskers stand out straight. The snow underfoot was crunchy, like Rice Krispies, and the bucket seat of the Oldsmobile was stiff and unforgiving. I tried the ignition.

Is there any sound so unwelcome as the empty clatter of a starter on a dead battery? The dentist's drill, perhaps. Or a wailing infant at 2 a.m.

As the Olds sat in dumb silence with its impotent power steering and frozen fuel injectors, I turned to my old truck parked nearby. Two twists of the ignition and it sputtered into action. BRMPH...BRMPH... BRMPA-RMMMMMM.

So much for high technology, I thought.

What is it about old trucks that bring out the best in any auto part? I mean, you can take the same exact battery and put it in both an old truck and a new car; in the old truck, I guarantee you, it'll last longer.

Old trucks are possessed of a kind of spirit, I think, that infuses every lug and plug with added longevity. And if something does break down you just let the truck sit awhile and, more often than not, it'll fix itself.

My own truck is a 1966 vintage Ford F100 with more than a quarter million miles on its V-8 engine. The first gear isn't much good anymore and there's some rust in the bed, but she runs reliably and her body's in fine shape for 30 years of hard labor.

What wonders this truck has performed! Dragging an overloaded trailer back and forth across two mountain ranges. Hauling load after load of firewood. Climbing along rugged backcountry lanes to remote fishing holes.

And moving hundreds of bales and beds and boxes without complaint.

I could be driving a town car with front-wheel-drive and air conditioning, but it wouldn't be the same. Folks wave at you when you're driving an old truck with your windows rolled down to the smell of the fields. It's hard to feel as friendly toward a glassed-in driver pushing the speed limit.

I could save gas if I drove one of those minitrucks made out of recycled beer cans and equipped with wind-up motors. But if I have to make six trips to carry one load's worth of my Ford am I still saving anything?

And I could get a new truck with an extended cab, perhaps, and four-wheel-drive. But I'd still want an old truck around to give the new one a jump start on cold mornings.

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