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Pickup trucks remain strong on the American landscape

Motor Musings: A Column by Doane Yawger

Generally trucks are rough-riding and known for their rattles and poor fuel consumption. But some modern ones ride like a Cadillac and you'd never know there are any bumps in the road.
Generally trucks are rough-riding and known for their rattles and poor fuel consumption. But some modern ones ride like a Cadillac and you’d never know there are any bumps in the road.

One of the largest and most thriving segments of our old car hobby revolves around pickup trucks. It has been said the best-selling vehicles on the road today are pickups.

Much like chili or burritos, trucks come in mild to wild form. Some are down-and-dirty plain Jane work vehicles that have never had a bath in their “lives.” On the other extreme, many of today’s trucks are luxury-laden cruisers with four doors and every comfort option imaginable.

Trucks, of course, were conceived for their utility. They were meant to haul stuff in their beds, from a single sack of fertilizer to a load of crushed rock for the backyard. Generally trucks are rough-riding and known for their rattles and poor fuel consumption. But some modern ones ride like a Cadillac and you’d never know there are any bumps in the road.

Still I think you’ll find many trucks rarely ever haul anything or work up a sweat on any kind of job. The truck just fits the persona of many folks. And it’s not just guys, either.

Domestically, Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and GMC are the predominant pickup choices. I am a little bit surprised some of the other domestic car brands didn’t field their own pickups. But they probably would only have had the badging or trim pieces placed on the parent Ford and Chevrolet body shells and not be unique standalone vehicles. Ford trucks produced in Canada had the Mercury nameplate for a number of years.

In years gone by, Studebaker, Jeep, Hudson and International Harvester also produced trucks but most of those are long gone now.

Now the crowded truck market also includes a number of pickups made by foreign companies. Trucks come in all sizes, from compacts up to one-ton duallies with four-wheel-drive. I hear an all-electric pickup and maybe even semi trucks may be on the way.

My interest lies mainly with antique and collectible pickups produced from the 1920s through the 1970s. These trucks are very collectible and some summon healthy prices on the resale market.

Many folks love the 1947-54 Chevrolet and GMC Advanced Design pickups. They look charming just like they  drove off the dealership lot but also benefit greatly from mechanical and cosmetic upgrades. Modern V-8 engines and suspension packages often are adapted to earlier pickups.

One could build a 1950 Chevy pickup now totally with modern reproduction parts and that speaks to their enduring popularity.

But don’t forget the Fords. The 1940 Ford pickup still gets a lot of looks and the 1956 Ford F-100 is a favorite of many aficionados. I especially like the 1961-66 models of Ford trucks. Dodge trucks have been around for years and they too have a following.

There’s an adventuresome, rugged aspect to riding in a pickup. You feel outdoors when you are in a truck. The elements buffet you more than if you were in a conventional car. You feel like you’re working when you are just loafing.

People don’t expect you to wash a pickup regularly. Faded paint jobs and knobby off-road tires splattered with mud are perfectly acceptable. Still lots of folks seem to take pride in their trucks’ appearance.

A friend of mine owns a brand-new truck with heated, adjustable seats, power steering, power brakes, automatic  transmission, towing package, tinted windows, cruise control, air conditioning, pearlescent paint, entertainment system, backup cameras and leather upholstery. I’ve probably left a few features out. I would expect my friend to visit the carwash just about every week.

Then I have ridden in an old weather-beaten mid-1970s Chevy truck all over the remote dirt roads of a sprawling farm complex. That was just as much fun as being in the new truck.

So trucks can be an all-encompassing hobby. Some of the early trucks are very popular in collector circles and thus quite expensive. Others are more reasonable and the owner is free to leave it like he found it or maybe dress it up a bit. And I admit it would be nice sometimes to be able to haul some big item home without borrowing a friend’s truck.

Trucks are a fun element to our old car hobby. They blend down-to-earth elements with a touch of sophistication. That’s a magical partnership that’s here to stay.

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