My father bought a used truck in 1970… and this is its story.
Our truck started life sometime in 1969 at the Ford assembly plant in Ontario, Canada. It was sold to its first owner at a Ford Dealer in the Atlanta, Georgia area but apparently wasn’t what he wanted, as it went back on the market in less than a year.
Dad and Mom had been through a string of different cars up to this point, including the ’59 VW Beetle in which I came home from the hospital, a Hillman Husky, Rambler American and Chevy Biscayne. The ’68 Country Squire LTD in this old home movie frame grab (not Instagrammed!) was bought used in ’69 or ’70 to accommodate our growing family—the ’69 F-100 joined the fleet not long after. I was about nine at the time and remember going to pick up the pickup when Dad bought it.
We were a Ford family for many years afterward, until a bad dealer experience turned Dad off, after which he became more of a GM man. He still drives a Buick to this day.
The F-100 was purchased in a day when trucks were tools, and my Dad made sure ours earned its keep. It was used to haul various building materials for several houses we either lived in or built over the years. I distinctly remember once going to get a bed full of cow manure for the garden – it was the first up-close experience my brothers and I had with cows. I had no idea at the time that I would be shoveling prodigious quantities of manure into the same truck nearly 40 years later…
Before moving to our little farmette in Winder, Georgia, we lived in a subdivision on the outskirts of Athens. I have a particularly vivid memory from those days that involves about nine grade school chums all piling inside the cab on a cold winter’s morning. Dad had gotten word the school bus had broken down so he drove us all to school (just a couple miles). I doubt the passenger-side lap belt was used yet somehow we survived the trip. My schoolmates and I thought Dad was a real hero that day.
The truck was a fairly basic affair. Arcadian Blue in color, it was a Custom Cab model with an 8′ Styleside bed and the “small six” 150hp engine displacing 240 cu in (3.9-liters), mated to an automatic transmission. Everything else was manual. Dad installed an aftermarket air conditioner (FrigiKing), which fascinated me to no end as I could see the coils frost over through the vents as the unit went through its various cycles.
Dad also installed an under-hood power inverter to run power tools out at the farm while we were building the house. Dad smoked a pipe in those days, and the painted metal dash over the ashtray and by the vent window gradually discolored from the tobacco smoke.
My brothers and I all learned to drive in the truck. That hood was SO wide! The first time I went over a bridge on one of our rural roads, I practically centered the truck down the middle, and still felt like I might graze the side rails! Dad was not amused. The speed limit on the highways in those days was 70 (note the “warning” bar on the speedometer from 70-100). I’m sure the truck could reach that when it was young, but in its latter days, it struggled to wobble up to 65.
Sometime early in our truck’s life, it was rear-ended and Dad had to have the frame straightened as part of the repairs. Whether it was from this, or the fact that the rear track on the F-100 was a bit narrower than the front, the truck always looked like it was going down the road slightly sideways.
If you can look past my goofy brother for a moment, you’ll notice a theme to these old family photos: I found no “beauty shots” of the truck anywhere in my collection. It always appears just as shown the photo above – patiently waiting in the background until it was needed.
That’s my youngest brother, tinkering with the little Honda
50 CL65 motorbike we had at the time. Our 12 acres was mostly pasture, and in the early part of the morning the grass would often be wet with dew. My brothers and I would take turns driving either the Honda or the truck around a predetermined course, timing each other to see who could make the best time. My memory (which I’m sure my brothers will correct in the comments) is that I often had the fastest times. I got pretty good at “turning right to go left” on that slick grass.
Notice the camper top on the truck? That’s an old-school version with a wooden frame and sheet aluminum skin. It weighed a ton, and came off and on the truck pretty frequently. Dad could do it himself but it took two of us boys to be able to duck-walk inside and lift it on our backs to carefully walk it off the back end. The 1973 Vega (our second of four – we were gluttons for punishment) spent a lot of time in this position.
Events transpired to move our family to South Carolina the summer before my Senior year in High School, and after making the move, the truck did less hauling, mainly being used by my brothers to commute to school. While this photo is fairly recent, it clearly shows a nice crease down the driver’s side rear fender. Seems my next-youngest brother used to go “mudding” with his buddies after class (they all had 4WD trucks), and put this and a few other dents in the truck during this time. We enjoy teasing him about it to this day.
Well sadly a divorce came: Dad moved out to Texas and Mom moved back to the farmhouse in Winder. I think we moved about eight times while I was growing up, so this was a pretty familiar scene, one which I would repeat seven times in my own marriage until we finally settled down on our Middle West farm over ten years ago.
Dad lived out West for some years, and the truck continued to be used for material runs as well as for pulling Dad’s 18′ sailboat down to the lake. Other than that, it mostly sat baking in the sun. That Nova (formerly my grandmother’s) will need its own COAL at some point—I think it spent time with all four of us sons as the family “backup” car.
Dad eventually retired and moved back to Georgia—I got to drive the jam-packed 28′ Penske pulling his Buick, and even with that substantial load, we had to let the old F-100 set the pace, as it, too was jam-packed in addition to pulling the fully-laden sailboat.
The truck was really showing its age by now, and mostly sat idle at Dad’s lake house while a utility trailer behind Dad’s Buick became the tool of choice for material runs. When a career change moved us out to the Middle West, I called my Dad and asked if he wanted to sell the truck. He was agreeable, and so the truck was retrieved and stuffed into the back of a huge moving van along with all our other earthly possessions.
That’s the first photo of the truck after we moved—we were in an apartment for a few months, and I spent several weekends sorting out the truck. A tuneup, new muffler and exhaust manifold gasket went a long way toward stopping every head turning when I cranked up. The light dusting of snow seen here was the equivalent of the conductor tapping his baton before starting Beethoven’s 5th… remember, I was a Southern boy and had never seen colder than 9°F (above zero) or more than 5″ of rapidly melting Georgia snow before (queue the ominous music).
I must have been too frustrated to take a photo, as our first winter on the plains was a real eye-opener. While we never got more than 9-10″ of snow in any given storm system, we learned all about this thing called “drifting,” and I am not referring to the “turn left to go right” kind, either. Let me just say that a two-wheel drive truck does not do well in the 4′ snow drifts around the barns. We dug that thing out numerous times before I finally learned my lesson. On a more cheerful note, we had hours of fun each winter “truck snowboarding” out in the hay field.
The old truck has worked harder its last ten years than all the years prior. I would typically stack 40 bales of hay (3/4 ton) on the truck and pull a rack with another 120-150 bales of hay (~3 tons) to the sale barn. Max speed with this load was about 25 mph, as the rack would whipsaw back and forth at anything over 30.
I have no idea what this load weighed, but I suspect it was a bit over the rated capacity.
The truck did occasionally see lighter duty, such as pulling my old Van Brundt grain drill the year I was restoring my 8N tractor.
I kept forgetting that two-wheel drive with no weight over the drive wheels wasn’t a good combination for driving in marginal conditions, such as in the hay field during Spring thaw.
Repeating the cycle started years ago, both my sons learned to drive in the old truck. Both have late-year birthdays, so a lot of our practice sessions were out in the snow-covered hay field, where they learned how to enter and countersteer to correct a skid at will. This photo is of our younger son driving me home in the truck after getting his learner’s permit.
The story behind this photo, taken the summer we re-roofed our farmhouse, is that I had asked my son to run the nail sweep (magnet) beside the front porch, and then pull the truck over and shovel the loose shingles off the porch roof into the bed. Guess which step he didn’t do? We hauled eight loads of shingles to the landfill that summer (three layers, including the original from when the second story was added in the 1930s), and I scaled out at or above a ton every time.
Having a little fun one afternoon… I used to do the same thing with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. There are fifty years difference between the two ends: 2000, 1969, 1963 and 1950.
Fuel economy was never really an issue for me – I was only putting 2-4,000 miles a year on the truck, and didn’t expect it to be a gas-sipper. Over the ten years or so I had it on the farm, it consistently got about 10 mpg, whether loaded or not.
By this point in the truck’s life, age and rust were beginning to win the battle, so I started thinking toward a restoration project. I bought a ’68 F-250 and a rebuildable 300 cid engine with a plan to refurbish the engine and chassis and transfer the F-100 body over, doing rust repair and paint along the way. I saved all the usable bits from the parts truck (already substantially disassembled in the photo) and everything else went to the scrap yard.
Before I really got started with that project, several (more) components in the old truck failed within a short space of time, one being a rear axle bearing which effectively took the truck out of service. I didn’t have bandwidth to tear into it at the time, so the truck got parked and was succeeded the next Spring by a cheap, low mileage (111K) 1995 F-150 4WD with a 300 six and advancing cancer in the wheelwells. That truck needs a separate COAL, but suffice it to say, it ended up being more work to sort out than the ’69 would have taken to make drivable again.
As time marched on, I realized I needed to do something about the old truck which was now simply taking up valuable space in the machine shed. After some cold, hard calculating, I realized that the financial “net present value” (NPV) would never work out in favor of restoring the truck. None of my brothers were interested in trailering the truck back South, either, although I think we all would have preferred to see it rebuilt and live on in the family.
The Next Chapter…
So I took stock of the other vehicle, house and farm projects-in-waiting; drew a line, and the old F-100 simply didn’t make the cut. I threw all the spare parts in the bed, put a gallon of fresh gas in the tank and taped a For Sale sign in the windshield before creakily driving it out by the road.
After a few weeks and a couple of tire-kickers (scrappers, mostly—I set the price high enough to discourage them), a young High School Senior stopped by and expressed a lot of interest. I explained it was a “project,” not a “gas-n-go,” which only seemed to make him more interested. After bringing his Dad to look at the truck (and gaining his approval), he agreed to my price, and soon after, I handed over the key and title.
So after a bit over 40 years in our family, our old truck is off starting a new set of adventures. She gave us good service during those four decades, launching two generations out on the streets and providing the context for innumerable individual and family memories.
Thanks, old friend, and so long…