I feel certain that among the many Curbevore owners of older – and longer owned – daily drivers there are some who “relate” to their vehicles on a level that may be considered a bonding, a feeling of care-taking, a member of the family kind of thing. I’ll take care of you and you will take care of me. The vehicle does exactly what you want it to do. The depths of personification are being mined to a new level of irrationality. Once in a while, when just driving along, you feel happy for no particular reason except perhaps for the continuing confirmation that you finally, years ago, made the really right choice and the feel-good-dividends are still rolling in.
I’ve got a very bad case of it. If there were a cure I would be in complete denial.
For more than eighteen years it’s been my daily driver. We’ve been on some very long trips together. We’ve commuted to work some very short distances – hardly long enough to get to operating temperature. We’ve worked together and retired together. It’s taken me places to which I thought I would never go.
It was sometime after 5 PM on a weekday late in the first week of October, 2000. I was driving my then five-week old pick-up truck on the first of a two-leg trip from Houston, TX, to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The sun was beginning to set and I was traveling due west on I-40 in New Mexico somewhere near Santa Rosa, buttes and tall cactus presenting scenery that only New Mexico can. Glancing in my rear view mirror, I was surprised to see that no vehicles were in sight behind me.
Ahead, the setting sun was very low and very bright in a cloudless sky and I could clearly see that there were no vehicles in front of me in either the westbound or eastbound lanes. I was apparently totally and magically alone on an interstate highway in one of the most beautiful places in our country. I turned off the stereo, rolled down all the windows, and took in the fresh air and the sound of the diesel engine. It was at that moment that I knew that my truck and I were going to get along very well together for as long as we wanted to.
The second day of my two day trip began by turning North on US 550 and enjoying its’ long slow climb into Colorado. Turn left at Durango, right at Cortez, through Delores, Rico, and Ames and stop where Route 145 forms a “T”. You must turn right. Yes, you have a choice but you must turn right. When you do, the San Miguel River is your companion in this scenic and deep valley until, after a couple of miles, you drop over a rise and, as Route 145 becomes West Colorado Avenue, a small town is revealed – nestled in the narrowing box canyon ending in a 12,500 foot high snow covered mountain – that was obviously dropped from the sky after having been perfectly made. The absolute scenic magic of Telluride, CO, makes it perhaps the most beautiful small town in the US. My new truck had taken me to a magic place two days in a row.
My truck turned 18 years of age on August 15, 2018. Born in Louisville, KY, as one of the first model year 2001s built in 2000, it was shipped to Alvin, TX, to the then fifth largest multi-brand dealership on planet earth. Alvin is a small community (2016 population of 26,164) located in Brazoria County south of Houston and west of League City. It is best known as the hometown of Ryan Nolan who excelled at the game of baseball.
I had flown from North Carolina (home) to Alvin (OK, actually Houston) using a one-way ticket as I was unsure how long the consulting work that I was doing for the several dealerships in Alvin would take. Three weeks later things began to conclude and I made one of the biggest impulse decisions I’ve ever made. I decided to drive home, a distance of 1,189 miles…… but first I was going to buy something new to drive..
In front of the Ford store in which I was presently working there were new Super Duty Ford pickup trucks parked three long rows deep. Most were extended cab, a few were regular cab, and several were crew cab models, beds both long and short. For the 2001 models, 9 exterior colors were available: the ones I remember among the on-the-ground inventory were Oxford White, Black Clearcoat, Red Clearcoat, Harvest Gold, and maybe Island Blue Clearcoat. Engine choices were 5.4 liter gas V8 and 7.3 liter diesel. I had made up my mind to pick one, buy it, and drive home. My choice was a 2001 Lariat Crew Cab, black on tan leather, 7.3 liter diesel, 61/2 foot bed and, intentionally, 2 wheel drive with the anti-spin differential.
I thought I knew a lot about cars and something about trucks. Pick-up trucks have always been of interest to me relative to style and utility. On that very hot, clear September day in Alvin, TX, I had no idea what I didn’t know. I just got very, very lucky.
What I didn’t know then that I found out along the way:
I did know that the 7.3 liter Navistar diesel V8 was a good solid engine with a good reputation. I didn’t know that it was then and still remains highly preferred for diesel pick-up truck lovers and that, if fastidiously maintained, would last for about 500,000 miles. During the first couple of years of ownership, I heard “nice truck” a lot. It was common to be approached at gas stations and be asked “where did you buy that truck”. As recently as two years ago, I had a perfect stranger walk to my truck from his large “service” truck in a bar-b-que joint parking lot in Burlington, NC, to ask me if mine was a two wheel drive 7.3 liter with an anti-spin differential. When I answered “yes” to his several questions he stated “don’t ever sell that truck”.
I didn’t know then that it has neither timing belt nor chain but timing gears, takes 15 quarts of 15W-40 oil per oil change, and has a turbocharger the size of a small torque convertor that redefines turbo lag as an event for which one plans rather than just a random inconvenience.
I didn’t know that diesel engines produce far less vacuum than gasoline engines and, because of this, the power brakes have no vacuum assist. The brakes are powered by the power steering pump.
I didn’t know how comfortable the front seats would be on very long trips – like sitting on a nicely bolstered dining room chair. I didn’t know that the engine could be heated electrically during a very cold night providing for quick and warm starts on very, very cold mornings.
I didn’t know that an F-250 is not just a larger F-150 but that it is a whole different truck that is the beginning point of the Super Duty line of trucks that go all the way from 250 to, seemingly, 1.3 million.
I didn’t know that I would eventually be getting 21+ miles per gallon at highway speeds (it took awhile for the engine to “break in” and loosen up). I didn’t know that 18 years into ownership it would have no squeaks or rattles.
I didn’t know that it would be as hard to park in standard parking lots as it is. There’s a reason that one sees pick-up trucks parked together usually 100 yards or so from the big box point of entry. Mine has a 156” wheelbase (yes, that’s 13 feet) and overhangs front and rear which yield an overall length of 20 feet. You don’t back it out of a tight space without making a 12 point turn.
Repairs have been few given the number of years and, presently, just over 165,000 miles. I’ve replaced the original water pump, a cam position sensor (under recall), a rear pinion seal, a tensioner pulley, the original A/C compressor, batteries four times (it takes 2), had the interior overhead console information system repaired by Module Masters (a great little outfit in Moscow, Idaho), replaced two windshields, a broken parking brake cable, the original alternator, and a very pesky-to-replace turbo pedestal back pressure actuator gasket that was allowing oil to leak from that part of the system.
Oil changes are done every 3,500 miles (my choice). Fuel filter is changed every 7,000. It tends to go through rather expensive “E” weight rated tires (I run Michelins) sooner than than the tire manufacturers think it should even though they are rotated on schedule, wear evenly and pressures are checked regularly.
Oh, and it rides like a – well – truck. If you like that kind of ride, then you and I will get along just fine. My wife thinks it’s great and two of my three children are anticipating my eventual demise so they may fight over truck inheritance.
What it doesn’t have that’s OK with me: It doesn’t have adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning sirens, blind spot intruder radar, those things that tap the brakes if the computer thinks you’re over or under steering, remote start, heated and cooled everything, cameras that show me what I’m backing into, heads-up display, tailgate opening dampers, push button start (my father’s 1946 Plymouth had push button start so, for me, it’s nothing new), or one of those big LED screen things in the center of the dashboard that provides un-needed web-based information and hours of very attractive distraction (AAA provides me with nicely detailed paper maps that require no batteries).
What it does have that I like: An engine sound (cacophony) that, once you get used to it, instills a great deal of confidence, a boatload of torque which will keep the truck in overdrive even while, for example, driving up Black Mountain (NC) on I-40 at a seriously enforced 55 mph while all the other pickup trucks are down shifting like crazy, 4-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, clear lines of sight out of the cab in all directions, a really big trunk, a really very nice quality factory stereo, and the ability to go almost anywhere while taking almost anything with me.
Do I ever tow anything? No. I could tow my house across the street if I wanted to, but I’ve never had a reason to tow anything.
Am I going to keep it a while longer? Yes. I’m a believer in buying what you really want, taking good care of it, keeping it completely stock, and keeping it as long as possible. It seems to like me and I sure do like it. Not uncharacteristically, I do have a back-up car and it’s 47 years old.
A story for another time.
Author’s Note: In the interest of clarity, no acronyms (except T.O.A.L) have been used in this offering. As well, no peaceful, loving and relatively helpless nouns have been turned, against their will, into present tense or past tense verbs. I took all the pictures and I’ll get off my own lawn now.