The joy of old trucks

Builders,

There was once a time when the word “Truck” designated a vehicle that was defined by doing work. Somewhere along the way to suburbia and middle age  Americans forgot the simple joy of basic trucks, and went down the path of making them expensive, complicated, difficult to work on, and devoid of sensory experience. There is an aviation analogy of how we went from enjoying a J-3 as a great plane to discovering that a $200k euro-912 gps LSA is only a better experience in the eyes of an AOPA editor.

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I got my drivers license in 1978, although I have owned a number of Chevrolet Corvairs and two 1960s Buicks, the majority of my driving has been in Chevy and GMC trucks.  I have never owned an import, nor have I ever owned a new car or truck. Between payments, insurance and service I never had, perhaps a saved $250k. Not really a lot spread over all those years,  but I would argue the reward was the self reliance.

In 38 years of driving, I have only called a tow truck once. I have plenty of friends who always bought new, swore by import quality, never drove stuff after it was 5 years old, all because they “need something reliable” , and I am pretty sure these guys always had triple A and used it at least every other year. 

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For what it’s worth, I have caused exactly one accident since 1978. In 1992 I side swiped a parked car. I have been a passenger in a few others, but I have not even scraped another car in a parking lot, in spite of these trucks having no modern ‘safety ‘ features. Avoiding accidents has a lot more to do with the driver than the vehicle, but you could never explain that in s society where very few people ever see things as their fault. .

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Above, the suburbans dash after the western tour. Remember when a truck could be its own log book, tool box and trash can?  We have given up more than we have received, and that is the essential message of simplicity.

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Above, my ’59 GMC making a practice run at the actual Englishtown NJ drag strip in 1984. It was geared so low it hit terminal velocity (57 mph) in 600′. It ran 23.35 seconds in the quarter mile. Don’t laugh, it beat a stock Super Beetle that day. I used the truck  to recycle cars during the period of astronomically high scrap prices in 1983-84.

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Below is a selected list of  my old fleet. The number in parentheses is how old the truck was when I got it, followed by the price I paid. The second line is engine, trams and axle ratio.

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It’s ironic that people couldn’t understand why I drove a 17 year old truck in high school, and today my suburban is 23 years old, my pick up is 30, and my Corvair Convertible is 50 this year. It is a hard day when you suddenly realize you have become that “crazy old man with antique cars” you remember from your home town. 

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59 GMC wrecker (23) $400 

235 six, Muncie 420 4 speed, 5.57

Driven 40k, traded for Thermoquad carb.

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64 K-10 suburban (19) $600

283 v-8, Muncie 420 4 speed, 3.73

Driven 20k, sold for $600

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65 C-10 fleet side (17) $400

283 v-8, Muncie 420 4 speed, 3.73

Driven 75k , sold for $450. 

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77 Gmc K-2500 (6) $1,500

350 v-8, THM-350 auto , 4.11

Driven 100k, sold in parts.

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83 GMC S-15 4wd (3) $4,500

2.8L v-6 , BW T-5 five speed, 3.42

Driven 200k, sold for $400.

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86 GMC C-1500 blue (13) $1,600

350 v-8, THM-400 auto , 3.73

Driven from 160k to 300k, scrapped.

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86 Chevy C-30 white (21) $2,450

350 v-8, THM-400 auto, 4.11

Driven 70k, being converted to 3-53t

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86 Chevy C-20 red (26) $2,000

350 v-8, NV-4500 five speed, 3.42

Driven 60k, still in service

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93 Chevy S-10 4wd, 4dr. (13) $1,300

4.3 v-6, 4L60E auto, 3.42

Driven 40k, given away on I-95 , 12/24

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93 Chevy C-1500 suburban (20) $1,700

350 v-8, 4L60E auto, 3.42

Driven 55K, still in service

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.ww.

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Political Reality Check

Builders, 

In this political season, opposing perspectives will attempt to portray the other side of the aisle as nothing short of evil. Tonight I share a New York Times obituary and a disturbing souvenir from the Wynne family china cabinet as a reminder of what real political evil actually is.

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Above, a silver plate from Commodore Vong Sarendy, Chief of Naval Operations of the Cambodian Navy, presented to my father in the summer of 1974.  It was to express his country’s gratitude for my father’s extraordinary efforts to thwart the Cambodian Communists in his country’s civil war. It was a bitter presentation, as US support for the democratic government was faltering, in spite of JFK’s call to arms that we would “Pay any Price, bear any burden and meet any hardship to insure the survival of liberty.” Sarendy said to my father that the Americans could go home, but he and his family would stay and fight to the death. Within a year, they had perished, the Khmer Rouge owned the country, and the Satanic Pol Pot began a systematic genocide that took the lives of two million people, 25% of the people in the country. During the four years it took to fill up the 20,000 mass graves,  China was Pol Pot’s tireless supporter, supplying tens of thousands of soldiers to assist him. 

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Above, the NYT obituary of Sydney Schanberg from July 10th. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work attempting to warn the western world that the Khmer Rouge were as vicious as the Nazis. His writings were the basis of the 1984 film “The Killing Fields. ” Schanberg is in the center smoking. On the right is his assistant Dith Pran who went on to survive four years in some of the most brutal tourture camps of the 20th century.

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Today was a good day for my family. It was the first day my father was home in three months.  After dinner, where he was restored to sitting at the head of the family table,  we  reminisced over past moments with 3 of the 4 children present. We later put dad to bed, and the last thing he softly said was “I didn’t think I would make it home again.”

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It is now the middle of the night, and I sit a quiet watch at his bedside. My sister will relieve me at 6am. Through the long night I will type this and spend the hours looking for the words to express my father’s absolute hatred of Satanic totalitarian political movements and the carnage they have caused to humanity.

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From the time he swore into the US Navy at age 17, my father has been willing to give anything, including his life, to defeat   Evil regimes. Then it was the Facists and the cult of death Hirohito preached. Today it is ISIS, and somewhere in between, in the 1970s it was the Khmer Rouge.  The earth has supplied an endless stream of Satanic tyrants,  but in my father’s view, this didn’t justify accepting   the existence of any of them. 
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Tomorrow I could turn on any cable news station, or read countless Face Book pages, and within minutes I could see someone call their political adversaries Nazis, Evil or Satanic.  This might be just a sad joke, except for the fact there are Americans among us who know what real evil is.  I am not a blind fan of either party or their candidates, but I can discern between today’s crop of  ethically challenged  offerings and a purely evil  entity like Pol Pot. No matter who is elected in November, our country will go on, and anyone who suggests we are headed for the national nightmare Cambodia experienced is paranoid or emotionally unstable.

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A few miles from my house is a  simple convenience store called “Hwy. 17 Beverage.”  When I walked in ten years ago, the  owner and family patriarch was slightly stunned that I could tell is family was from Cambodia.  He mentioned that no other neighbor in rural Florida had understood this. He went on to say he had survived his country’s own holocaust, but had come to accept that the great majority of the  people born in his adoptive country didn’t have the slightest idea of how fourtunate the are. When I think of this man watching a national debate or reading extreme political opinions on Face Book,  I cringe, and harbor the hope he has a great sense of tolerance and a generous sense of understanding .

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.ww.

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