COAL: 1981 Ford F-100 Custom Stepside – Slow Ride

Old trucks get in your blood.  Having a father that always had an old pickup for running around left a big impression on me.  Hauling firewood home from the forest, brush and garbage to the dump, scrounging the back roads looking for parts for his old car – it still brings back good old memories of weekends gone by.

My father had bought the truck a bit before I had gotten my license and I’d helped with repairing it – doing some bodywork to it, repairing the cab mounts, fixing the brakes and mirrors, some paint and it was all set to drive.  It was pretty basic – Forest green and white, a 300 six, rally wheels, four speed with overdrive, power steering but no power brakes.  The truck was mine to drive, as mom had a Toyota 4Runner and dad had a company truck.  It wasn’t terribly peppy, fast, or good on fuel, but it was reasonably reliable, given that it was 12 years old.  Issues I recall having with it was it would pop out of second gear, it would flood if only driven a short distance, and it would wander all over the road.

Dad often said that they all drove like that, and it was the nature of the Twin I-beam setup.  I don’t know about that – I’ve driven a few and some were, some weren’t.  It was probably down to the kingpins and radius arm bushings being worn out.  It would do almost 40 KM/H in first gear, and wouldn’t do much more than 120 KM/H or so wide open in 3rd or overdrive.  Fuel mileage was dismal as well, 10 gallons didn’t seem to go far.  To pay for the fuel and such, I hauled refuse and construction materials from houses and renovations my father’s construction company had on the go.  One one occasion, I had the bed full to the top with wood paneling.  After crossing some train tracks, I heard a noise scraping on the pavement.  A cross member had fallen out of the back, held on by a hair, and was dragging.   I pulled it off, and continued home.  Upon further inspection, we found that the frame had also cracked on each side where the front spring hangers were at, and the hangers themselves were all that were holding the truck together.

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The F-100s of this time had many holes placed in the frame.  It was supposedly done to make the trucks lighter and better on fuel – but I couldn’t imagine it made much difference.  A sturdier frame out of a newer truck was welded in, and the truck was better than it was.  I spent a lot of time exploring dirt roads after school – seeing how far I could go before I’d get stuck.  One day in early May, I made the mistake of driving too close to the shoulder of the dirt road I was on, and buried the truck up to the bumper on the passenger’s side.  A passing bucket truck pulled me out – no harm, no foul.  However, shortly after that, I had the itch for something – anything else – so long as it was better on fuel.  The truck was duly advertised, and a buyer was found.  With the money, I found something I could afford, and was better on gas – but was a true penalty box of a vehicle to drive.