For All the Trucks I've Loved Before

David Hester
by David Hester
for all the trucks i ve loved before

2001 Chevrolet Silverado LS with tasteful aftermarket NRA front license plate.

Car enthusiasts can be a fickle and judgmental lot when it comes to passion for things automotive. Certain types of vehicles are expected to be driven by a person who wishes to appropriate the label for themselves. Do you drive a Miata, S2000, or one of the original British sports cars that they echo? You can lay claim to the title of gear head or enthusiast without being challenged. Have a foreign car, especially a European one, that costs more than a Midwestern starter home? You probably won’t be called a poseur if you show up to your local cars and coffee gathering. Then, there are people who love trucks.

I yield to no man in my love of the sporting automobile. I’ve got a muscle car of my own tucked away in my garage. There’s nothing finer than a Saturday morning drive through the Kentucky hills, taking corners with more enthusiasm than talent, and feeling the wind buffet through the open T-tops as the V-8 drowns out the chorus of Springsteen’s Born to Run. But put a gun to my head, order me to choose between my Camaro and my 2001 Silverado pickup with the caveat that the vehicle I don’t choose will be set on fire, well, then I guess we’ll enjoy some F-body flambe.

Portrait of the author as a young man. Notice how far Mom kept me from the truck’s open bed, even when parked. Picture taken by Dad, November 1981.

Grandpa Lonnie Hester only owned three vehicles during his slightly more than four-score and ten on this earth: all of them pickup trucks. The first was a Ford Model A that was replaced in 1949, the year my father was born, with a dark green Chevrolet. Grandpa Lonnie was tight-fisted and the only option on the truck was a heater because my Grandmother Ruby believed that riding around during the winter in the unheated Model A had contributed to my Aunt Jean’s early death. Grandpa ran that truck into the ground until Grandmother convinced him that not only did he deserve a new truck, but that it would also be a great help to my dad if he passed the ’49 on. That truck stayed in the family until I was nine.

Grandpa’s truck was a ’73 C-10, but the color on this ’76 C-20 is spot on.

The first vehicle I ever drove was the truck Grandpa bought to replace the ’49: a powder- blue 1973 Chevrolet. I was eleven when my father took me out into the pasture behind my grandmother’s house. I jerked and lurched through the field as my dad instructed me on the finer points of working my way through a three- speed on the tree with the occasional reminder that I needed to steer right… steer right… GO RIGHT OR YOU’LL HIT THE (thump) hay bale.

Three years later, and I was introduced to the time-honored tradition of cruising. Still not old enough to (legally) drive, I rode shotgun with my buddy Paul in his black Chevy S-10. He had tinted the widows way past the limit, installed the fat double- bladed wipers all the cool kids had in the late eighties, and mounted an enormous pair of speakers behind the seat. We terrorized the streets of Oxford, Alabama, after Wednesday night youth group, hollering at girls, conducting Chinese fire drills, and alternatively blasting Tone-Loc, AC/DC, and Charlie Daniels at volumes that today would definitely get kids written up for violations of municipal noise ordinances.

The three-across bench seat was perfect when one or (Score!) two girls needed a ride, particularly since everyone had to crowd more towards the passenger side in order to be out of poor, lonely Paul’s way so that he could shift. If more girls needed a ride, there was always the open bed in the days before mandatory seatbelt laws. I would occasionally ride back there myself (to keep them company, you understand) even though it would have simply killed my mother to know that I ever went anywhere without a seatbelt on. Doing things that would cause your mother to die if she knew is part of being fourteen. (Sorry, Mom.)

Despite all of this early exposure to the advantages of a pickup, I never considered one for myself and chose a two- door Chevrolet Beretta for my first new car upon graduation from high school in 1994. A few years later, flush with a steady paycheck from my first full-time job, I again failed to consider a truck and bought a used ’96 Firebird Formula two months before my wife became pregnant with our daughter. If I needed a truck, my dad always had one. When we bought our first house in 2000, I borrowed my dad’s ’94 Ford F-150 for a couple of weeks so I could move odds and ends from our apartment to the house while he got to tear around in my Firebird.

The beginning of the end. Long- term exposure to a F-150 finally seduced me into the world of dedicated pickup truck ownership.

Over those two weeks, I came to truly appreciate a pickup truck for what it could do, besides haul girls and survive low- speed farm collisions without damage. The space. The view over traffic. The ability to just go and get large stuff on my own without having to bum a ride from a friend with a truck. My wife and I had been wrestling our infant daughter in and out of the back seats of two-door cars for over a year. With the truck, the car-seat was level with us. Sure, it was a tight fit in parking lots and it wouldn’t win any drag races, but a truck just made so much more sense than a coupe.

A few months later, the Firebird was traded for a lease on a new 2001 Sierra. I’ve had trucks, new and used, ever since. Sure, I could hitch a trailer to the wife’s Odyssey, but then my truck always has a trailer attached to it. It’s called a bed. If I want to go buy an $800 elliptical machine that some guy is giving away for $40 on Craigslist in an attempt to screw over his ex- wife, I can just hop in my truck and have it loaded it up before the other vultures, who had to attach their trailers or beg a pickup, get there. If my brother needs me to haul a load of mulch (and Black Widow spiders, belatedly discovered after we had spent about thirty minutes shoveling said mulch out of the bed) for him to his rental properties, I can do it. A truck of my own simply represents freedom better than my low- slung, totally impractical Camaro.

2003 Chevrolet S-10 LS.

A couple of years ago I let my daughter drive in a field for the first time. Coincidentally, her first time behind the wheel was also in a blue Chevrolet pickup truck. In another couple of years, she’ll get her permit and I plan to make her learn the basics of car control in my Silverado so that she’ll never be intimidated by large vehicles. Kids today don’t cruise the way my friends and I used to, gas prices and graduated driver’s licenses being what they are. It’s just as well. I can’t imagine letting her go riding around at the age of 14 the way I did. But if she ever has the opportunity, I just have to ask her to do one thing for me:

Don’t ride in the back of any pickup trucks. It will simply kill your father.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Apr 01, 2013

    In that case , you're seat isn't right ~ I have a broken back & wear a brace but no pain when driving my truck.. Such vitriolic tirades ! very amusing to read . -nate

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 01, 2013

    Dr Nick--In case you have been asleep or possibly not paying attention to the world around you we now live in a global market and higher demand from developing countries has cause rapid increases in food and energy costs. Many consumers have switched to more efficient vehicles and as the price of energy rises more will continue to do so. Now if you really want to make energy so expensive that many people will not drive then fuel taxes should be raised to the level that we will have $10 a gallon gas and that will solve all of our problems. Then any services that you pay for will go up dramatically and create higher unemployment thus increasing the cost of unemployment benefits and food stamps. Maybe then we could go to an 80% tax rate and redistribute all the wealth. If that is what you want then I will quit my job and go on the government dole. I would be most appreciative for your contributions of additional tax revenue and look forward to not having to work again. I would prefer for the global market to cause any increases to the cost of fuel and then have people out of necessity become more energy conscious. I have become so even though I am one of those evil truck drivers who is causing global warming everytime I drive to the park and ride and take the bus to work. I am so evil I even combine my trips not to waste additional time and energy. I am for more efficient vehicles and energy conservation and using all forms of energy. I am not in favor of just taxing things to change behavior. Believe me if fuel prices continue to rise to say $5 to $6 a gallon many will either park their V8 trucks or will trade them in, but that will happen inspite of the government. You still have not answered my question. Do you or have you ever taken mass transit? I do agree that oil companies or any other business should not be given special tax breaks. We should not subsidize any industry.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂