Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trucks VS. “The Truck”

Power Ram

In 1987, my maternal grandfather bought a silver, 1986 Dodge “Power” Ram 150 Royal SE. Little did he know he would be buying his grandson (who was not born yet) a lifetime of memories, junk, and vegetables. I have grown up around cars but never SUVs or trucks.

Generally speaking, my grandfather and I don’t have a tremendous amount in common, except for “The Truck.” And my parents raised me with the thinking that owning a truck was a waste of time.

I can remember one hot afternoon in June, sometime in the late 90’s. For family bonding, my grandfather suggested we take The Truck out. He said he wanted to see what it could do.  Mind you, I did not think much about it but he wanted to take a small adventure. In a few years, his eyesight would be starting to fail, so he probably figured he should enjoy the time he had left with The Truck.

And his grandson, of course.

We used to like going to the 84 Auction but we always just referred to it as “the auction.” We looked at the junk people brought to it, and since he liked vegetables, we looked at those too. He bought tomatoes he claimed were very hard to find in western Pennsylvania.

Okay, Pap. Whatever you say.

I didn’t mind tomatoes, but I hated other vegetables. I was ready for a nice, home-cooked hamburger from their café.

In a county park, he decided to step on the gas to see if we could make it up this side-trail thing. Yep, that is the best way I can describe it: a side-trail thing. I was a kid – that’s what it looked like to me. There were a lot of leaves on the ground for some reason, I remember; weird for a summer day in Mingo Park, Nottingham Township, Pennsylvania.

I think here is good to say The Truck had a smoke problem. “It was just the valve covers,” or something to that effect he used to say. He still smiles about it to this day. When he turned the key to “start,” a small cloud of blue smoke would emit from the truck’s only tailpipe. While the tailpipe was fine, it was the blue smoke that would make some people point and laugh. I remember getting excited, because it was different, and because it meant we were leaving to go somewhere – although on this day, we didn’t get too far.

He stomped on the gas a bit, but backed off quickly. The Truck’s old-school, few-geared automatic allowed for a little bit of torque to roar from its Chrysler 318 in3 V-8 engine. I think we hit all of about 8 mph, but up a decent side hill it felt faster of course. Not that The Truck was fast, but it felt fast for going up a hill.

This is where grandpap’s eyesight started to misguide him a little bit. He got too close to a branch on the side of the “side-trail” and took out the cover for his running board.

“Oops,” he laughed.

He didn’t exactly treat this like a Mercedes E-Class owner would treat a car but I think he cared a little bit. He put the mighty Truck in reverse to pick it up.

“Oh well,” I think he said.

I felt bad he broke part of his vehicle, but started laughing at the silliness of it all. At least the drive-train was fine and the transfer case seemed to be working all right. The V-8 rumbled on and the dull “4WD ENGAGED” remained lit.


This was the moment I realized I did not hate all trucks, despite what my parents may have thought. I did not hate trucks, in the very least. While I never ended up owning a truck, I did end up having a lot more respect for them – as long as they were worked and not Mercedes-babied like a lot of trucks are nowadays.

No, there are currently no fully-bred luxury manufacturers who sell a truck. But how many trucks do you know were luxurious when equipped with a bit of wood trim, red velour bench cloth seat, and power windows and locks? If I remember correctly, The Truck was so old that Chrysler dubbed them “electric” locks.

No kidding.

My grandpap liked the idea of nicer trim and red velour seats, especially since he bought The Truck used and could still work it pretty hard. He was always hauling stuff, including concrete blocks, our basement’s recliner, and many other things like that.

He was just about 50 when he bought it. I do not know the age of the average truck buyer today, but I can say that although they are now socially acceptable to drive, they sure do not have “electric” locks as options. If you have ever checked out a current truck, and I mean any truck, they have features fit for the wealthy. Air suspension, power running boards, cylinder deactivation, heated/cooled seats, navigation, satellite radio, and even twin-turbocharged engines highlight the many features of these trucks.

These bad boys sticker between $50,000 and $60,000!

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 F-150 Kansas City 2016-Chevrolet-Silverado-LT-at-Restaurant-005

Are you starting to see a pattern here, from older trucks to the current generation? I certainly am and they definitely have shifted paradigms. My girlfriend’s grandfather bought a new truck earlier this year and guess what it is? A Hemi-powered, Ram 1500 Express.

But, while she and I have driven it a few times, and it has a lot of off-the-line acceleration, I would probably not appreciate this new truck if I were a kid today. Speed? I didn’t care about speed, I just liked the sound of the old engine and its “valve cover” smoke – if that’s what it really was. I would not understand nor care about the optional air suspension system, given that pneumatic science (or any science for that matter) bores the daylights out of me.

My girlfriend and I joke that our grandfathers appear to have a good amount of interests, opinions, and values in common. They both like steak and potatoes, American vehicles, but more specifically, Chrysler Corporation trucks. But these two trucks –’86 Power Ram 150 and ’15 Ram Express — represent different ideas of how to do a truck. I think the most my girlfriend’s grandpap has hauled was a little bit of wood for a campfire we had at the end of the summer. That was it. He, like a number of today’s truck buyers, buy trucks as a novelty item.

“Well, we might use it to haul, but it has a really nice ride and a great radio” is something I could hear a lot of truck buyers saying today.

I didn’t care about The Truck’s radio. Having it on would have prevented grandpap from talking about those tomatoes we could only get in Pennsylvania.

from Tumblr

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