If This Truck Only Had AC, Power Steering…

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It started as a vague notion of my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s. “I want an old beat-up farm truck,” she said wistfully on more than one occasion. So I began keeping an eye out for something that would fit the bill.

Our truckShe had very specific requirements. Nothing completely restored and shiny. A four-on-the-floor stick shift. I commenced to looking last summer. Once I did a u-turn on Hwy. 31 to snap a cell phone photo of a 1968 Ford partially restored and nearly flawless, but it was deemed too expensive. And shiny.

Then I found a 1961 International Harvester on a side street in Longview. It definitely fit the “beat-up farm truck” requirement. We began to get excited, though the price was more than we planned to pay. We called on a buddy who has restored many vehicles to come take a look.

Our friend is an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to vintage vehicles. I, on the other hand, am a blank book. I retired from changing the oil in my vehicles in 1980, after draining the transmission instead of the oil pan from a 1978 Toyota Corolla while a poor graduate student in Austin. The transmission fell out in Taylor as we attempted to travel to Longview for a visit. I had idly wondered why the dipstick seemed to be overflowing as I added four quarts to an already full pan. That is when I swore off doing anything more complicated than putting gasoline in vehicles and airing up the tires.

Our free expert was not enthusiastic about the Harvester and started looking online. By the next night he had emailed a link to a 1965 Ford F-100 in Iowa for sale on eBay. The seller had included a video of the truck tooling down the road, with a musical soundtrack of Steve Earle singing “You’re the Best Lover That I Ever Had.” (Google the song. It is an instant classic.)

The truck is bright red. The interior is nearly perfect. We were hooked, and I began bidding. My BMC and I would go in 50-50 on the truck.

We have a history of going halves. Not long after we started dating more than seven years ago, we bought a Mini Cooper convertible together, also red. We shared that car for five years before deciding it was too expensive to maintain. A fellow from New York City bought it on eBay and had it shipped to him, where I presume he is tooling around the Big Apple in it.

We won the bid for the truck for less than I expected and were ecstatic. I arranged for shipping and it arrived a few weeks later.

Then matters became a bit complicated. Turns out the truck really needed an engine overhaul, and the old-fashioned drum brakes were pretty sketchy and needed to be upgraded to disc brakes. Our friend recommended a local fellow with a sterling reputation for this type of work but warned it might take a while. He was right. Two months later, the truck was road-worthy. As always, this cost more than expected since it needed a clutch as well. But the engine and all the fixin’s are spotless, restored to its black-and-gold original appearance. And with a 352 V-8, 208 horsepower engine, it has more power than anything I have driven since my parents’ land yacht Mercury Marquis.

But here is what we discovered. My BMC is tiny but tough and has been driving a stick since she was a kid. But she has a hard time driving this truck, which has no power steering. In fact, I have a hard time negotiating sharp turns and quickly learned to anticipate a corner. Further, there is no air-conditioning, so besides wrestling a giant steering wheel, running through the granny gears and a springy clutch, sweat pours off you this time of year.

I drove the truck from Longview to Mount Pleasant to burn off the old gas in the tank, which was making it hesitate. It smoothed out after a few miles and has purred like a rather large kitten since. But I was soaked in sweat by the time I got home that evening and my arms were sore from steering and shifting.

So this beast doesn’t fit us, lovely as she looks in the driveway. I am partial to power steering and air-conditioning. My BMC is hesitant to drive it because it takes so much muscle to maneuver. And she likes air-conditioning as well.

When the weather cools a bit, Big Red is going up on the auction block. I am confident somebody will eagerly buy her, fulfilling a dream of owning an old truck with a perfectly restored engine. After that, we’ll keep looking for that perfect beat-up truck — just one with AC and power steering.



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