By on January 14, 2010

how trucks were meant to be used

Pickup Truck def: a vehicle designed to haul cargo that the owner picks up and places into its cargo bed.

I may be in the minority, but that’s how I use my truck. I haul gravel, compost, dirt, and mulch, and shovel it out the back, which is the most efficient way to do it, short of a dump bed. I also haul junk to to the dump, and load loose items by tossing them over the side of my truck’s bed, and unload them the same way. I can readily lean over into my bed’s side and reach all the items in there. I easily tip large appliances single handedly into and out of the bed. That’s why I have a truck, and that’s what I expect it to be able to do. But there are times when I think I might like to ride in something a little more comfortable and safe than my 1966 Ford F-100. So I head down to my local Ford dealer and check out a new truck, starting with the business end:

useless to me

There’s almost a foot of difference (10″ precisely) in the load height on any new Ford pickup from mine. Old Yellow’s tailgate sits 26″ from the ground; the F-150 is at 36″. That makes all the difference in the world for how I use my truck. I can’t even reach into the bed properly over the side of the 56″ tall F-150 bed. And shoveling in or out of the back of the bed would be an ergonomic nightmare even for a younger man than me.

not for me

I intended to drive around to the other truck dealers, but a cold downpour sent me scurrying home to check the stats on their web sites. Only Chevrolet and Toyota list their maximum load height (Silverado: 33.9″; Tundra: 35.4″). Endless specifications on every other possible dimension inside and out is on offer by the rest, but not the bed height? Hello! There are actually some folks who still lift things into and out of their beds.

ready to unload, without a ladder

I can tell by looking at them that the Dodge (oops, Ram) and Nissan Titan are no better. I guess it’s a sign of the times when a person has to use a ladder, a powered lift gate or hire a day laborer to just load or unload their truck. But in these times of renewed values of simplicity, an interest in urban farming, and just plain economical DIYing, it would seem that a simple full-sized-bed truck designed to have thing picked up and placed into its bed just might have some value again.

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83 Comments on “Why I’ll Never Buy A New Pickup Truck...”

  • avatar

    Do you know if any of the compacts like the Ranger and Tacoma are better for loading and unloading?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      The two wheel drive versions probably so; but they don’t have the hauling space and interior room I need.
      That load of gravel in my truck started out as a full yard, which weighs almost a ton.

    • 0 avatar

      At the Ford web site for the Ranger, I found a “bed height” of 16.5″ listed under the category “towing”.  They must be referring to the bed wall height?

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2000 Tacoma 4cyl 5sp. 4×4. I have used it exactly as the author uses his ’66 F-100 and more.   Front end load it in and shovel it out.  Ten years old last month.  The only thing other than maint. & tires was a side marker light bulb and two bolts coming loose on an exhaust heat shield. Reliable as hell.  Of course this is the previous gen. The current one is a lot bigger. I’d like to ask the person in the picture climbing into the bed of the new Ford:  Does your husband like the truck also? !!

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      Paul, the Ranger may be too small, but have you considered the Dakota? The tailgate load height for the bed is listed at 31.9″, one of the selling points of the truck is that they did not raise the bed sides to inflate the hauling capacity, the bed appears to be roomy enough, it is available as a 4 door, and you can get a V8.

      My source:

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t have exact measurements, but I can easily shovel soils, bark dust, gravel, out the back of my 99 ranger 4×4.  Call it mid-thigh level on a 5-10″ guy until I can get home and break out the tape measure.

    • 0 avatar

      Paul, unfortunately in the current marketplace this may be your only option to get a pickup truck bed with the right size, load height and reachover hight.  You’re already past step 1:

    • 0 avatar

      Shane Rimmer

      @Shane Rimmer – Unless Chrysler figured out something since 2006, I wouldn’t recommend a Dakota. I just got rid of my after nine months back in November. SLT quad cab with the H.O. V8 and four wheel drive. Without getting into the details, the truck wasn’t ready for prime time. I have two friends with similar trucks (quad cabs, give or take a year) and they had similar issues. Not too good. 

    • 0 avatar

      heck yeah, I use a mazda b2300 (same as ranger) for usual vehicle for construction/maintenance. It’ll haul a lot but when I need it pull out the old Dodge. Mostly though, pull a ton in a trailer easy and often. Well, not easy but just gotta go a bit slower, keep the brakes good.
      Bed is low, actually works as a giant toolbox a lot of the time. With a rack I can haul plenty of wood.
      I so agree with this article, think all those high bed trucks are ridiculous, oughta be illegal for most as they use them as 6000-10,000 lb deadly commuter vehicles with giant motors and tiny brakes. Near useless because of the high bed.

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    A great point, Paul. The inflation of bed height over time tells me that the manufacturers of trucks have lost touch with the needs of truck USERs, and has instead met the needs of truck BUYERs.

    The problem being, of course, that many truck buyers over the past twenty years have not used their trucks as work trucks. Perhaps with the recent changes in truck market will lead to a drop in bed height.

    But I wouldn’t be surprised to find that most contractors buying new work trucks simply don’t care about ride height. Commercial users may have tractors or forklifts loading the truck, or their useage patterns may always include a loading dock.

    Bottom line, your yellow truck may lay so far off the beaten track that Detroit (or Tokyo) cannot hear your cries of anguish.

  • avatar

    About to ask that same question.  Had a 95 Ford Ranger 2WD that looked to have the same ride height as your old F100.  It appears the new ones are roughly the same height.  I know you could get one with a long bed a while back, but it appears Ford got rid of that option.  Still, could put a couch in the back of that truck, albeit with some of the couch going over the tailgate.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to dog the Ranger too much, but I had to look at when its last redesign was.  Wasn’t far long after 1995.  Only (true) compact truck on the market today, and I hope they keep it compact as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Last major changes were in 1998. Those are pretty much carried over to today, except for an amazing level of decontenting for cost savings.** But I like ’em. It’s a dinosaur, but I think it’s the last honest truck out there.
      **OTOH, Ford actually developed roll stability control for the Ranger for  the 2010MY. Side airbags and rear disc brakes, for the first time. Hard to believe that they’d invest in it this late in the product cycle.

  • avatar

    You know what else sucks about the sky-high sides on new pickups?

    How will farmers and workers be able to parley while leaning their elbows on the sides? Back when I was a farm-hand, we all used to stand ’round the half-ton and talk across the box, usually while kicking the tires. That was where jokes were made and decisions were arrived at. Try that on today’s trucks and you’ll look like Kilroy.

    I guess nowadays they just text each other, using the Sync system? 

  • avatar

    Not sure about Chevy but Ford quit making step-side beds on the f150 also which can be very nice if you use the steps. I picked up a 2000 f150 snd cab step-side from an a hole in the wall dealer for under 2000 bucks and love it to death. To deal with the extreme rake these trucks have (as well as my constant need to tinker with things) I am in the process of lowering the truck for both functional and visual enhancement!
    And NO lowering the truck does not limit its payload if you do it the right way!

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    There are drop kits.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I know what you’re talking about. The reason why I keep driving Citroens is similar (although I only haul garden refuse and dogs and Christmas trees and help people move, but I don’t shlep gravel dirt or manure). Using a simple lever, I can turn my car into a easy-loading lowrider. (Or into a high-riding snowdrift surfer). Why don’t other cars have this? I know, there’s air suspension and adjustable shocks but that stuff’s not as versatile or as durable.

  • avatar

    I agree 100% with the author if you use the bed new trucks suck.  Unfortuantly I do more commuting than hauling, so I still like my 1999 Chevy Silverado.  

  • avatar

    Well said, Paul. 

    Even though its a little on the small side, the Ranger is the only new truck with the work ethic discussed here.  Even the Taco has a stupid tall beltine. 

    The PR-blather for new trucks always talks about the customer-centric designs of their latest truck, but you have to be 7′ tall to load anything in a full size truck.  It’s shameful. So I’ll pass.  I’ll get a 1990s GM/Ford if I ever need a rig for my (future) property.

  • avatar

    And I have to ask:  why doesn’t someone sell a truck with built in ramps on the back?  I see it on concept vehicles but never in production.  Oh, it is because no one actually uses a truck to haul anything?

    • 0 avatar

      You can make your own or buy aftyermarket, but some OEM ramps would be nice, especially if they stored underneath somehow.

      Maybe I’ve rented too many moving trucks.

  • avatar

    My 1st generation Tundra, regular cab with no carpeting and 8′ bed is my current truck. I use it like you use that Ford, and I love the low liftover.  Even as recently as 2006, you could get a real, useful pickup truck.

  • avatar

    Yes, I want the stretch cab (not 4-door) and one level of interior bling over the base vinyl and rubber floor mats.  Said truck also serves as our car, long distance travel appliance (often with a vintage motorcycle tied down in the bed), and both the wife and I like being comfortable.
    Just the same, full size pickups are completely out of consideration because of the bloody height considerations.  Who are the manufacturers kidding?  It’s like pickup trucks got the full-scale case of SUV disease (gotta look impressive because my dick quit working).
    Thank God for the Ranger.  To a lesser extent, the Colorado and Canyon.  And I hope that interview with the guy from Nissan (no comments allowed?) is for real.

  • avatar

    This is why I’m keeping my ’98 Nissan Frontier 2wd forever!  It only has 70K miles, and is a simple, very reliable machine.  Crank windows, manual locks, mirrors, and bench seat.  4-cylinder, 5-speed manual.  I do have A/C and a 2-speaker radio (all of 30 watts)!   I average 26 mpg, overall.

    I see them at double the mileage on eBay all the time, and I have no rust issues, so it should last at least another 12 years.

  • avatar

    The only time I really needed and bought a pickup, I purchased a new 1985 Toyota SR5 Extra Cab. It was a great vehicle for hauling and commuting, and it did everything I needed it to do through two home remodels. It provided great resale value, too.

    This truck followed the long line from Datsun’s Li’l Hustler and Toyota Hi-Lux that stirred up the smaller truck craze up to the late-80’s and pre-dated the Tacoma.

    For many of us who need a truck “once in a while,” or who might commute in one if it were small, light and efficient enough, it begs the question: Why isn’t anyone other than Ford and Chevy making a truck of that size anymore (for the US)? And, that’s giving Ford and Chevy maybe too much credit, since even these manufacturers really haven’t invested much in these platforms in a long time.

    As it stands, I’d rather get a hitch on our older Jeep Grand Cherokee and buy, borrow or rent a trailer when I have dirty work to do.

  • avatar

    If the Holden VE Ute-based Chevy El Camino ever materializes, that could be an option. Of course, you’d need to buy at least two to haul a ton of gravel…

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I wonder if this is a function of an attempt to create a suspension that can take a full load and still provide some road comfort?  Your ton of dirt is a significant load but the truck also looks bottomed out.  Would a current truck of a higher bed height have the same squat issue?
    I’m not a proponent of taller trucks but just wondering if it’s a result of the race for bragging rights in commercials.

  • avatar

    There is nothing better for a homeowner (especially a rural one like me) than a beater pickup. My old Dodge is primarily used for dump runs, as there is no garbage collection out here in the boonies. But I’ll admit to having hauled a few tons of hay, yards of dirt, gravel, and bark around as well. The truck looks like hell, and it boggles my mind to see pristine trucks being used as commuters more often than not. Crappy MPG aside, commuting in a pickup is as logical as racing combines.

    The only NEW truck that might tempt me would be a compact 4-cyl Diesel with a long bed. The Mahindra looks tempting, but the price seems a tad high for the marketplace.

  • avatar

    I would tend to agree with you Paul, but I don’t think that is how many view a pick-up truck. I know in my southern locale, I see many $45K+ pick-up trucks, tonneau cover, 20″ wheels, etc. that have never done a day’s worth of work other than serve strictly as a daily commuter vehicle.  And I think that status or marketing trend is what has driven the stupendous increase in light truck sales over the last ten or so years.

    It holds no appeal for me but that’s OK if that’s what you want. It does seem to be a rather expensive way to go however.

  • avatar

    PN, what you’ve described is what a truck should be.  The evolution of the truck into a city/suburban status symbol closely tracks the growth of the SUV market.
    The Cadillac Escalade EXT and Lincoln Navigator trucks represent (to me) the pinnacle of truck worthlessness.  By contrast, it warms my heart to see an old beater truck that’s still in service.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the evolution of the 1/2 ton pickup from a strictly work vehicle began in earnest in the late 60s/early 70s.   The Chevrolet Cameo of the mid-50s was the ancestor of the Silverado, which came along in 1973.

      Ads from the time emphasized the ease of the newly available power steering units and carpeted interiors along with other carlike amenities.  Many people were starting to see a pickup as a useful second vehicle to park in their (now suburban) driveways. 

      You could even get an automatic transmission in trucks not long after they started to become common in passenger cars, although the uptake was undoubtedly slower.  

      Like with so many trends, however, it reached its logical extreme with the Escalade EXT and Lincoln Blackwood (the Mark LT was just a fancier 4 door crew cab) and now some rationalization has to take place.

  • avatar

    Living on some acreage, I drive a car on a daily basis to/from work and I’m happy with my 79 F-150 4×4 living out in the shop until its needed. Funny thing is that even though it’s basically an old(er) truck, it still seems to get a lot of interest out on the road. A hammer, flat/philips screwdrivers, pliers and some sockets pretty much fix stuff on it and a garden hose cleans the interior in a snap.
    It’s enjoyably uncomplicated being able to dump some hay bales, fencing, etc in the back and climbing into it with dirty boots without worry :)

  • avatar

    Trucks today have far too much towing capacity, payload capacity, and are too big because of it.  Would be great to keep the technology of the engines, or make the slightly smaller, but decrease the size of the big trucks.  I think that is the big problem with all of todays trucks, far to strong for the jobs that are needed.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    Guess that makes the Pontiac G8 Ute… err… El Camino… err… whatever they decide to do with it – that much more appealing.

  • avatar

    I remember a guy that frequented another website about old Chevy trucks had as his signature line something like, “If you can’t hose it out, it’s not a truck.”  Sounds like you agree.

    I’ve always thought that they could make a truly excellent work truck with todays engine technology.  Look to the past for sheet metal/body design and offer it with todays engines and transmissions.  A modern 4 cylinder engine produces just as much torque and hp as the 6 cylinder in my 58 Chevy, and a modern 6 produces more than the v8 Chevy offered in that year’s trucks.  Combine those engines with modern transmissions, and you have a truck that can put more power to the pavement than the work horses of 40 or 50 years ago while getting twice the mpg.

  • avatar

    Love your truck!  How much?   Still mad my cousins got my grandpa’s old purple 72′ F150 and let it go to rust!

  • avatar

    My grandfather had a red 1966 F-100 that he used for hauling things to the dump and for carting around lawn equipment and the like.  The fundamental coolness and utility of that truck feature prominently in my memories of childhood, and at 88 years old, my grandfather still reflects on Old Red with fondness.  Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Also, I have to agree with your assessment.  I bought a Nissan Titan new in 2004 and found that it wasn’t always an ideal situation.  It was wonderful to drive for a truck, and was very comfortable.  But the extreme bed height made loading and unloading my motorcycles a fraught experience.  Nor was it possible to easily reach over the bed sides and load/unload other types of cargo.  Also, the thing was so gargantuan that it was often too big to be really useful.  (Try pulling a full size truck down a Georgetown alley to help a friend move a couch, for example.  Not fun.)  Lastly, I was sometimes afraid to use the truck as it was intended because I had a nice, shiny vehicle that I didn’t want to bang up and get too dirty.  If I ever get another pickup it will be used, basic, and cheap to fix.  A RWD Ranger with the standard height suspension seems just about perfect.

  • avatar

    Paul: I assume your truck is a 3 on the tree with the 250 or 300 I6? Doesn’t get much better than that.

    I currently own a ‘ 01 GMC Sierra, one trim level up from the ubiquitous W/T (work truck) and it’s awesome. I’ve hauled 5 yards of topsoil, with 27 strips of turf piled on for good measure, a yard of  3/4 down gravel, more refuse than I should admit to, and countless other such trips. I even used it to go into a farmer’s field to remove as many large rocks as I could carry out in the truck, through the plowed but as yet unseeded field. Must have had about 2400 lbs of rocks in the bed, because I spent most of the ride back into the city staring at the sky from my lowered vantage point!

    What’s good about it is that I am the only member of my extended family that owns a truck, so when stuff needs hauling, or garbage needs dumping, my truck gets used, generally for the cost of fuel, and usually a few beers (more if I have to help).  So instead of 6 households buying a pick-up that will hardly ever get used as God intended, we have one that does all the work, and then I can justify it as a daily driver, because my fuel costs are slightly subsidized.

    Even though it’s regular 2WD, we’ve taken it into the bush, and next month are going hunting for deadfall firewood, me, my buddy Cliff, a couple of chainsaws and cell phones (just in case). I would never take a F150 Raptor, or an Avalanche because I’d be too worried about damage to the paint or undercarriage. My truck? Meh, who cares.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      240 six with three-speed and manual overdrive to give six gears total. All the details here:

  • avatar

    Personally, I miss my ’87 2WD Mazda B2000. There has to still be a demand for trucks that don’t rival Kenworths for road space…

  • avatar

    Paul, I so agree with you. Unfortunately the Maine climate and salt force me to get a new one once in a while. My base-model ’04 Silverado 4wd is way to high up for convenient loading. The last easy one I had was a 1982 Chevy K-10, 6-cylinder. I gave it away in December 2000 after the rust had infected it structurally too far.
    But I really miss the ’67 K-20 stepside. Now THAT was a truck!

  • avatar

    Enter the utility trailer.

    That’s what I’ve been using for 15 years for light to moderate hauling duty, including gravel, loam, manure …  Mine is good to 2000lbs, and can fit just under a yard of manure without overflowing too much.  It was $400 new .. way back when.

    Trailers are cheap to buy, can be hauled behind most vehicles (watch your tow ratings and GCVWR),  And the best part is you don’t have to endure the torture of driving a lumbering ill handling ugly pickup … nope, not biased at all ;-) … on a daily basis just to be able to do the occasional hauling.  Although the downside is hauling a trailer is a little inconvenient at times. 

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree. We bought a 5×8 Lifetime trailer from Costco last year and sold the pickup (’91 F150) soon thereafter. That trailer is so much easier to load/unload. What isn’t powder-coated is galvanized steel and the tailgate folds down into a loading ramp or swings open to the side as needed. Lots of tie-downs everywhere and it’s rated for 2,000 lbs.

  • avatar

    I would’n’a even thought about trucks, but an old one certainly makes sense, as well as being more beautiful, and, yeah, this is kind of why I like a 4-door car instead of a coupe. When  I go down to my sister’s for the month of Feb to get away from the cold and dark of a Massachusetts winter, it will be easy to put my office in the Accord for the trip down. Likewise going to the Cape in the summer.
    Is that your garden? ***Very*** nice. All that hauling pays off.

  • avatar

    I got a Dodge Dakota, its right sized and has a V8. I use it for towing a boat 90% of the time, about 200 miles a week on the highway at 65 mph getting all of 13 mpg. Unless something significantly better comes along in the size-to-power or power-to-mpg ratio I’ll be keeping my truck for a LONG time.
    Currently it has 75K and was new in ’02… repairs to date have been: headliner fell down (don’t all domestics do this?), bad timing module (caused the dash lights to blink), A/C compressor (I live in South FL so no shock here), fan blower (common Dakota problem) and a leaking exhaust manifold (new gasket and done). I’ve put on new tires, new brakes (twice) and a battery in it, but that is all. For an 8 year old vehicle is has faired much better then my wife’s VW Passat it terms of repair work (and costs).

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Good grief you can’t compare your old 2WD PU with soft and worn springs to a modern 4WD PU. Park it next to a new 2wd PU. Let’s do an apples to apples comparo here

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Not the case anymore; the load height on these new trucks is the same; 4 wd or 2wd. I know it didn’t used to be so, but it is now. Check it our for yourself.

  • avatar

    My Y2K Ranger was chosen pretty carefully for the qualities Paul underscores. High bedsides make for a useless truck, for me. Typical bulk cargoes include mulch, topsoil, gravel, and enough bagged fertilizer for a 40-acre hayfield. An occasional motorcycle. In the winter, it gets a molded carpet bedliner and an aluminum cap I can remove and install by myself. As a bonus, it handles and brakes more or less like a modern vehicle. It was cheap to buy and has been even cheaper to maintain, and I won’t ever worry about parts availability. The Vulcan 3.0 has had Mobil 1 oil changes every 10K and at 130K appears to be indestructible.  Hint for buyers: find a ’98 to ’03 model. Subsequent ones have been horribly de-contented; previous ones had less refined suspension.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I have to climb into  the cab of my 08 E 150. Must be  the same for for  the PU. I’m not impressed.   Keep your  F 100 is  my advice. Resist  the desire to “upgrade”  too.

  • avatar

    There  has been a lot of love for the Ranger on this thread but I recently evaluated small pickup trucks because I was looking to clunker my 87 Dakota for a newer small truck.  One workman like virtue where the 4 cyl Ranger is severely lacking is towing capacity.  And the gap is a yawning one.  The 4 cyl  Taco, Frontier, Canyon, etc, all towed in the  2500-3300 pound range.  The 4cyl Ranger tows 1570.  Not even close and a major deal breaker.
    To get a Ranger with decent towing, you have to buy the V6.  This may have been intentional market segmentation move by Ford, but not a good idea in this market.
    p.s. I still have the 1987 Dakota.

  • avatar

    I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, as the same problem exists with closed vehicles; most SUV’s and even many crossovers have much higher cargo floors than station wagons did.  The Jeep Liberty’s liftover height is so ridiculous that when I had one as a rental once, I lifted the floor to make sure no one was sleeping in the lower berth.

    Consumer Reports and other road tests used to give points to wagons with lower liftover heights.  Much easier on the back.  Guess America’s chiropractors like the current design trend.

    I think the champion of low liftover height might have been the 1984-96 GM A-body FWD wagons.  In Olds/Buick form these were pretty durable cars.  I had an Olds for several years.  It swallowed up an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA furniture including the mattress and bed frames, all with the gate closed and nothing on the roof rack.  It was such a low car that when parked next to one of those new F150’s with bed sides 56 inches off the ground, you couldn’t see the Olds.

  • avatar

    We ran those as rentals. Bullet proof bumper-to-bumper.
    The Chevys returned with most of the parts they left with.
    The Dodges broke down before they left the lot . After they finally got going, we waited an hour then sent a tow truck to go get it. Nothing about those was truck quality.

  • avatar

    I feel for the tradesmen who need trucks that are forced to pay for all the fluff demanded by those who use it for personal transport.  Some people need a large truck with big towing and carrying ability.  It used to be that one base model served a lot of purposes by just changing springs, brakes, wheels, tires etc.  With the inception of mini-trucks, some of that went away.  With the cost of trucks today, I go with “Plan B” which is my 4′ x 6′ trailer.  Works for me, but if I needed to haul every day, it would get old.

  • avatar

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I love trucks in general, and yet I hate new full-sized trucks with a passion. I find myself looking forward to the Mahindra release with the hope that they take enough market share that the real players have to respond. If it takes the death of a few established truck marques, I’m 100% ok with that.

    IMO the worst thing about the Chrysler bailout is that Jeep wasn’t sold off to a 2nd world truck manufacturer (Italy is close, admittedly). A Mahindra-like product backed by an iconic truck brand, with modern tooling and a recognizable grill? Scary for the domestics but good for me and mine.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t agree with you more but the truck manufacturers have latched onto a new market – yuppies.  They want a truck look but car comfort and feel that the bigger you are, the more successful.  You can tell they don’t use their truck as a truck – clean boxes and hard lids.    Ever try to move a frig with one of those hard lids attached to the box?  I once saw one guy with a F150 and a roof rack to carry his kayak.  The box – locked shut with a lid. 

    I tried to buy a plain truck from Kennedy Ford and they told me they don’t stock those.  But, they looked around and got one from a more rural dealer.

    Goodbye cheap working truck and hello expensive toy that makes you feel good with a truck that is getting more expensive every year.

  • avatar

    It’s funny; this purports to be a post (and accompanying thread of comments) about an old pickup truck. But all what’s here is more reasons for Ford to bring the Falcon Ute stateside.

  • avatar

    My dad had a 1978 f150.  It was blue and yellow.  The roof was a different color blue.  It had a black tailgate because the original was ripped off by a backhoe.  Regular cab long bed.  My dad was a carpenter.  He complains about this exact thing on the new trucks.  Did you notice that load height is a selling point on uhaul trucks?  He has a dodge dakota and much prefers it’s bed over the newer trucks.  I miss that truck a lot but it had some serious problems.  The rearend transfer case was always to weak even for the small v8.  The transmission had a ton of slippage too.
    My truck is a 1998 Dodge Ram.  Too tall for his tastes but it’s a v6 5spd and I hose out the interior.  I’m going to get some new tires soon and you can rest assured they’ll be the stock work-truck size.
    Funny this discussion does feel a bit like the e30 m3 versus e90 m3 discussions. However it feels more relevant as I don’t think a taller bed adds to the trucks practicality.  Trucks started out being practical and have strayed a lot further than the modern sedan.
    All think kind of makes me think that a classic pickup truck is a better purchase than a classic muscle car.

    • 0 avatar

      I sent a link to these two articles to my dad.  I’m sure he’ll like them.
      why i’ll never buy a new pickup truck raptor, the truck of my dreams

  • avatar

    You can’t compare the stance of a new 4×4 to an old 2x F100.   Besides, the old Ford has probably sagged a couple of inches over the years.  Funny how we complain about how new trucks have gotten so bloated, but we continue to buy them.    Detroit only gave us what we asked for.  I personally like the newer mid-size trucks.  If I need to haul anything real large, I just break out the flatbead trailer.

    • 0 avatar

      It was already said that the new 2wd trucks and 4wd trucks these days have the same stock bed height.  It is a completely fair comparison and a very real gripe among ‘working men’.  Most people like the big trucks… but anyone who lifts a table saw in and out of the bed twice a day would prefer a few generations back.

  • avatar

    Good article. I love old truck myself. Had a couple of S-10’s with the 4 banger. The first one was an used 86, with nothing but the basics. Had a small landscape business for a couple of years. Had to give it up and then switched careers. Kept the truck and loaned it out to friends who needed stuff moved. It came in handy when fixing up my house. Agree the new trucks are a joke. See more of them in office parking lots.

  • avatar

    The rise in load height goes back farther than just the new pickups.  I have a 1991 Ford F150 4×2 and even without the extra height created by the HD rear springs on my truck I don’t think the load height would be much different from the new ones.

  • avatar

    As it turns out, the admittedly high load height of my 2003 Silverado doesn’t bother me too much. Most of the loads are furniture for my wife’s craft show booth, and nearly all of that is chosen for light weight and easy loading/unloading. If I hauled gravel, manure, or anything large or heavy it’d be a different story.
    The low-riding 1971 Dodge pickup I had before easily hauled all the household goods (except for one moving van for the piano etc.) including a dozen loads of old license plates, the last time we moved. Very low load height there, about 4 or 5 inches lower than stock. That truck had a canopy on it when I bought it, and I couldn’t believe how much nicer it was to drive it after the canopy was gone even though the truck had good mirrors on both sides.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I currently have TWO of the pickups being discussed here, an 84 F-150 four wheel drive with the storied 300 straight six (seven, count ’em SEVEN main bearings) and four speed, and a 78 Chevrolet 3/4 ton with the equally legendy 350 truck motor, complete with the can’t kill them four bolt main bearings.  I just put a new bed on the ford that doesn’t match, so desperately hideous had the original bed become.
    I am cured of the new truck problem, realizing today’s  new fuel-efficient thin sheet metal just dents and scratches too easily for my clumsiness.  I get a new pickup and it stays nice for, oh say, about a day before I install custom brush pin striping or other love dents.
    I have a picture of the Ford, completely airborne verticle  with the rear wheels about six foot off the ground. Indestructible.

  • avatar

    I guess I’ll be in the minority on this one but I’m completely ok with the new trucks ride height.  I leased a 2006 F-150 4×4 that was as tall as they claim (and because it was an 06 that means no “man step”).  I loaded plenty of stuff into it both heavy, light, really heavy, you name it and never complained.  Maybe this is because I’m only 25, but I’m only 6 feet tall not 7 and I could reach over the side.  Not all the way to the middle but hey guys, climb on the tire or the bumper.  Or just try jumping all the way up like my brother and I did for fun (just don’t hit your shin on the open tailgate – it hurts).  For perspective, the only person who complained about the height were my grandpa and great uncle – both over age 80.  I’d be interested in the average age of construction workers.  From what I used to see its not that high and maybe that’s why the manufacturers haven’t bothered to change anything. 

    • 0 avatar

      Your knees will start to go sometime between age 35 and age 45.  This is unavoidable and it will be insidiously gradual. 

      At first, you’ll feel it in the evenings after a hard day’s work.  Some couple years later, you’ll start feeling stiff when you climb ladders, or maybe when you jump up or down from truck beds.
      Sometime in your early-to-mid 50’s, you’ll start bemoaning your high bed and even your house hunting criteria will change.  Everybody I know who’s in their mid-40’s and older will not buy a 2-story house.  They’re not fond of basements either.

    • 0 avatar

      I am a roofer who is only 5′ 10″ tall and let me tell you these new trucks are miserable to work out of. A 10″ difference in right height is drastic when you are trying to tie planks, pics and ladders on a ladder rack. That’s why I’ll choose our crappy worn out 1977 Ford f350 dump any day over the new Dodge 3500 dump. When I have 60 lbs of torn off shingles to throw in the front of the bed  (to keep the weight distributed) you practically have to lift it over your head to get it in the Dodge. Try doing that all morning and I don’t care if you are 18 or 60 you will choose the old Ford to work out of.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Blame the fashion buyers. Somehow it became fashionable to put massive ground clearance under even basic 2WD pickup trucks. I think it was Chevy who got this started with the “Z71” option package that basically put 4WD suspension components on a 2WD truck.

  • avatar

    I still remember my old F-150. Equipped with the mighty 300 straight six, heavy duty rear end and nothing else. AM/FM, hideous blue interior, 4 wheel drive and it’s previous owners (Workers at a mine water treatment plant) had removed the stock rear bumper and replaced it with a 1/4th inch thick piece of black spraypainted angle iron. I would haul things a half ton has no business hauling, and the truck never complained.  It only rarely saw roads, and spent much of it’s time going through snow and mud, usually with a back full of wire and tools.
    My dad still has it, and although the interior has disintigrated into nothing, the truck still runs well at 330k. It never was fast or refined, but it had as much torque as the V8 and surprising mileage. I’m pretty sure the redline was something around 9RPM, but that’s right where you wanted it.
    I paid 2000 for it with 68k miles, and I’ve never replaced it because no one makes a truck like it anymore.

  • avatar

    The best work truck is a van. Low load height, lockable.  Done.

  • avatar

    I did a lot of landscaping back in the day…I’ve moved tons and tons of crushed gravel, pea gravel, pavers, interlock you name it. And most of it in a humble chevy with a 292 and a 3 spd auto. The Big 3 marketing did a superlative job of convincing people that you need 300 plus hp and 450 plus torque to do anything worthwhile in a pick up.

  • avatar

    Just give me a ’51 Chevy pick up with a modern drivetrain. Torquey, economical straight six, body narrow enough to maneuver in city streets, tall enough to see over traffic, bed low enough to actually use for loading stuff, and side steps to reach into the bed from the side. If you need taller bed walls for cargo, get the optional wooden slats. Natural material and easy to fix. And Labradors look good sticking their heads out the windows, too.

  • avatar

    Re second picture: The inside of Old Yellow’s tailgate has FORD embossed in reverse. Was the picture reversed or is there some significance to that?

  • avatar

    That’s a nice looking old truck you have there. My dad had a 64 just like that one back in the day. It had the 292 V8 with the three on the tree.

  • avatar

    Looked at a truck on L.I. 17″ tires, 11″ higher than my 2001 Silverado. These designers have never lifted anything in their lives. Paul, I hear you, they don’t understand a “work truck”. Remember when U-Haul advertised low beds??

  • avatar

    I remember watching a 60 minutes episode or something like it ten years ago concerning the ever increasing size of the pickup truck. It’s all due to the reptilian-brained rednecks of the world. They don’t use the trucks to do any real sort of work with them and only want something big to feed their pathetic macho egos. So it’s a race by the companies to see who can make the most monstrous truck. I’d have hoped by now there’d have been a return to sensibility, but nope, not yet. Those of us who’d like to buy a work truck are left to suffer. Try loading a bag of cement into the beds of these new trucks without giving yourself a hernia. Bon chance.

  • avatar

    If you are looking for a truck that is low much like the older truck but is built for work and hauling and rather comfortable to ride in then as personal experience there is one truck I can think of.
    A Dodge Dakota 1987-1988 carbureted (as around 1988 and up went to fuel injected) long bed.
    The long bed edition is built to hold 4×8 foot sheets of plywood. That is the fact they set on the floor of the bed and in between the wheel wells. That does not mean they set on top of the wheel wells. They are rather very durable and there are dozens of Dodge Dakotas still running around in just my town alone.

    They come in a vary of engines but mostly a V4 and V6. Later models had the V8 thanks to Carol Shelby working on a Dakota to get it to fit. The trucks do come in two types of drive. 2 and 4 wheel drive was optional but all the early trucks were built to have 4 wheel drive installed. Since it is carbureted over injected they don’t have the problems that most don’t like to deal with. I got one of the few long bed Dakotas that is carbureted. You got to remember the fact when this truck came out it was at the top of the compact trucks and even had new features that were added making them shine even more above others.

  • avatar

    So glad to find so many people who share my feelings about these giant useless trucks made to carry egos and no work.
    My ’97 Mazda B2300 does heavy work every day and the bed is low enough to use as a giant toolbox while the rack carries my lumber and a trailer hauls gravel. So what if I go a bit slower pulling a ton? My ego isn’t on the line.

  • avatar

    12 years later it’s no better, if not worse. Many new trucks are brodozers that only need to haul an ego.

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