I freely admit to some weaknesses, some I will share with you, some I will not. Three that come to mind instantly are: 1. A cold beer on any afternoon with a friend, 2. Any single woman who smiles at me, and… 3. Old trucks.
Yes. I dearly love old trucks. Some of them are homely and useless and poorly built. And yes, we’re still talking about old trucks. As you know, I have two fairly good ones. They are dependable, serve me well, are pretty much trouble-free and are fun to bounce around the hills with. Yup. Still trucks. And when we’re lucky enough to get one more chance at a hot one, one that still stirs our hearts and imaginations, one that makes us feel like a kid again… well. Still trucks??! Maybe. And maybe not.
From the time I first saw Tiny’s ’59 Chevy parked with his other old cars, I wanted it. I’ve wanted a ’57 – ’59 Chevy truck since 1957, when they first came out. The math is, I’ve wanted one for 54 years. Is that patience, or what??
I first saw a ’57 Chevy truck in, of all places, Southern Peru. About a dozen of them were being unloaded from a freighter on the dock of Ilo, Peru, for Utah Construction upper management personnel. As Dad and I stood there watching the whole process and seeing them driven away, one at a time, I remember noticing how good their V-8 engines sounded, and how cool they looked, even in their utilitarian gray with a small black “Utah Construction Co.” on the door. Yes, I’ve always been way into cars, trucks and hot rods.
Wikipedia defines hot rods thus – “Hot rods are typically American cars with large engines modified for linear speed. The origin of the term “hot rod” is unclear. The term became commonplace in the 1930s or 1940s as the name of a car that had been “hopped up” by modifying the engine in various ways to achieve higher performance.”
My truck qualifies as a hot rod. It has aftermarket gauges & steering wheel, and has exhaust headers on the engine. The engine is a rebuilt 283 with a Holly 4-barrel. It has 3 on the floor with a Hurst shifter and overdrive. It has a tach. None of those things were standard on the stock ’59 Chevy Apache. Also has a limited-slip 3.96 rear end. It cruises at 75, turning only 2400 rpm. Red line is 4k.
The headers on my Hot Rod
I’ve seen ’57-’59 Chevy trucks around for years, but not so much anymore. I was never able to purchase one as the timing or the money was never right. ’57 Chevys new, used to sell for $2150 in ’57. Now, a nice stock, or rebuilt stock ’57 would bring a nifty $20,000. Tiny’s ’59 is a short-bed Apache 3100 Fleetside, a fairly rare version of the regular ’59 pickup, I’m told.
Tiny showed it to me, let me climb around in it, explained what had been done to it, and did everything but say “yes” when I told him I’d like to buy it from him. I especially liked it and wanted it because it had been modified all over the place, and was, to my mind, a classic old hot rod.
For the next four years, whenever I ran into Tiny or drove out to visit him, I’d give him some grief about the old truck… how it was sitting there just rusting away, with no one to give it the TLC it needed. Tiny would just grin at me and agree. Turns out the ’59 ended up sitting out there in the field for 8 years, being driven only once or twice a year, just to blow the dust & crud out of it. I understood why Tiny liked it, why he wanted to keep it. To my mind, it was one very cool truck.
So when Tiny called me a month ago, said he’d been thinking about it, and decided he could sell it to me, I was ecstatic. Except for the money part. But Tiny was ready for me, and he helped me strike a deal with him that works for both of us. What a guy… he had thought about it a lot, and figured he wanted me to have it, that I’d take care of it, drive it, fix it and improve it as I could afford to. And he’s right on all counts.
Up until now, my two trucks are both “he’s.” As I told a lady friend of mine last week, I should have known that the ’59 was a “she.” When Tiny first tried to start her up, a new battery in place, there was nothing… no sound, no starting up. So Tiny installed a new starter and solenoid, and then she started right up. See… we had to buy her something. Tiny drove her up to his shop and worked on her off and on for the next week… checking & often replacing all vital fluids, greasing her, finding and fixing small problems from time sitting without use. He even took out some rust around the body, filled it in and primered it. No, he didn’t use Botox.
I sat with him for several of those days, chatting, handing him tools and occasionally getting under there with him to do something he could trust me with, like checking the brake fluid reservoir, or the rear end. I noticed, during this whole process of making the old girl road-ready, that Tiny was always patient, always thought things through, always had a plan and was deliberate about it almost to a fault. Each time he moved on to the “next thing to do,” it was for damn sure that what he’d just been working on was really fixed. The more I watched him, the more impressed I was. He went through the whole truck, oiling, greasing, fixing, tightening. Through it all, the old girl sat in his garage regally, head held high, almost as if to say, “‘Bout damn time.”
Finally it was time to take her for a test drive. Tiny let me drive her to the top of the Norris hill and back. She purred like a kitty cat, albeit a touch too loudly, as both her glasspacks had holes in them. Like two nylons with runs, gorgeous legs underneath. After the ride we booked time at the NAPA in Ennis to get new mufflers installed and the front wheel bearings packed. Later, it was discovered we also needed to change out all the hoses and the fan belt. But the first ride was a total success, and two days later I came over, picked her up and drove her home.
Was there still any question that “she” might just have been a “he?” Well, sure. As
much as I respect Tiny and his intuition as to what is whom, still I can’t help thinking that a big, strong, solid truck is a “he.” My hang-up, obviously. I parked in the grocery store parking lot, did my shopping, came out, all full of pride to see my new ride sitting over there…… with a left front tire, nearly flat and going down fast. Was my new truck making a statement? Yes, I think so. It wasn’t sure it wanted to be with me, wasn’t sure if I was right for it… and so, a test. Of course. How like a woman.
So I drove it to the NAPA store, to my fave mechanic, who gave me a whole raft of shit about it, then aired the tire up and sent me off to Norris, 16 miles away, to get the tire repaired. The boys at JR Tire took great care of me, told me I’d picked up a screw somewhere. Told them that was news to me… did I enjoy it??
Later, had a good laugh about it with a special lady friend of mine. Told her the new
truck had to be female, because all the air went out of her “with one little screw.”
Is she testing me? Who knows. I drive her every day, finding our her strong points,
her quirks and her ailments. We’re starting to know each other. I’ve fixed a few things in her already… blinker lights, interior lights, prepping her for seat belts and a new
radio/cd player. Not sure, but I think she’s getting it…. that this dude’s gonna love her, care for her, make her better… IF she responds in kind. The jury’s still out.
But she’s definitely a “she.” And I love her for it.
As for Tiny, his insight, his unselfishness… he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s just
taught me the Zen of auto mechanics, the Zen of harvesting 60 acres of alfalfa,
and the Zen of honoring, and proliferating, a long and enduring friendship. And,
to my mind, he has built himself a ton of good karma in the process.