The story of the trucks that have been the background of my adult life was intended to be more of a series, in that months were not supposed to go by before the next installment. As they say, sometimes life gets in the way. The 1972 F100 was the first, followed by the 1986 F150 4X4 which brings me to the next Ford truck in the story.
The 1986 F150 was a great truck but high mileage and a hard life was starting to show. I painted it and parked it then sold it quickly. In the summer of 1997 a 1995 F250 Heavy Duty 4X4 Regular Cab was located on a local used truck lot. This particular truck had accumulated 30,000 Kms as a lease truck. It was in great shape for a rental, clean and tidy and seemed to have mostly easy living.
With a bank loan secured, it was mine. Bright red with XL trim got me a cloth seat and an automatic to back up the 351 engine. That was it for options – no tow package, no Air Conditioning, no cruise, no power anything, just an AM radio. It even had painted bumpers originally. So your basic rental spec truck. The F250 HD spec got you an 8800 pound GVW with the full floating Dana, with a standard limited slip rear diff. The E4OD 4 speed automatic worked well, and I was very happy with the power of the 351. It returned a consistent 18 MPG Imp (15mpg US), not quite as good as the 300-6 it replaced, but similar to the 302 before that. It, however, had enough power to pass on the highway which was a pleasant change. I added a new Kenwood CD player in the dash, for the first of many, many road trips I did with that truck.
It’s difficult to describe what a great truck this was for me. I read many accounts on here of people who were making payments on vehicles they didn’t truly enjoy, or were mechanical nightmares, but this truck was and still is, the best vehicle I have owned. With the years gone by I can no longer remember everything I did to it, but it wasn’t much. Brakes, tires, oil changes. The only part it seemed to be fond of was rear driveshaft U-joints. There were no catastrophic failures, but relatively regularly it needed a new U-Joint or two.
2001 or so, with a “new” $200 camper in the background
I did a lot of customizing to it over the years. Aluminum box cap protectors which were the fashion back then were first. Box liner and mat, rear window tint, fender chrome, K&N Air Filter and dual exhaust followed over the years, when money allowed. I acquired a winch bumper and 8000 pound Ramsey winch which after some welding and fabrication fit quite nicely. This meant another battery to run the winch, and the resultant weight gain meant I needed another leaf in the front spring pack.
However when hauling my double snowmobile deck with two machines on it the front end got a bit light, so I swapped my rear spring pack lift blocks with a set from my Dad’s 2000 F350 to bring the truck back up. Curiously enough, the U joint problem went away immediately and I don’t recall changing another after that. No doubt something to do with drive train geometry. Custom wheels later on, a sun visor, chrome rear bumper and cab steps rounded out what turned out to be a very nice truck. A 10 disc CD changer (anyone remember those?) then a security system and remote start made it a lot easier in the winter.
With a load of firewood in the back
I kept it scrupulously clean including doing an annual detailing myself. Despite that, I really used it. It was my only vehicle for a long time and it was long before I had an ATV or dual sport bike to pound around on the logging roads. It was used for fishing, camping (hauling an every larger selection of free or cheap camper shells and campers), snowmobiling and just exploring. I used it a lot when joined our local volunteer Search and Rescue unit and it was my daily driver, 80 Km back and forth to work every day.
There were the obligatory annual trips out to Manitoba for school every winter at 1900 km each way, and once school was done there was a little more time (and money) for some traveling. There were many trips in the southern half of BC, to Vancouver, the USA, and in 2002, an 8000 km month long trip to Yukon Territory and into Alaska. With the two of us, a Rottweiler and food and gear for a month the 8’ camper weighed in at 2900 lbs when we left town. 29 days later and with absolutely no problems we returned, showing a steady 11 mpg for the entire trip. And yes, that’s a raised-in-the-80’s Canadian thing with the weird mixing of Metric and Imperial units.
We were trying to get home early that day
I still continued to do nothing other than regular maintenance. I changed the alternator brushes before we went north (you could still do that back then) mostly just because. They were fine, but for the $5.00 why not. Virtually nothing else went wrong with that truck. Prior to buying my first house, the landlord’s son in law smashed in the side of the box while I was sleeping after a night shift. Our body man friend repaired it courtesy of insurance and you couldn’t tell it happened when I got it back. I see by the pictures it also had a re-painted front fender but I cannot for the life of me recall why. Around 2003 there was a quick succession of three fuel pumps in the two tanks. It was discovered later to be due to contamination from the national chain store’s gas bar where I purchased all my fuel to take advantage of their in-store “money” rewards. Switching gas stations cured the fuel pump problem.
I liked the idea of a newer vehicle, but I just couldn’t justify it. It was that time in a person’s life – increasing work responsibilities, tools to buy, a first house and resulting bills and in short, many other things to spend my money on. 2005 went by in a blur with huge expansion at work and very long days. The end of that year brought news that there was a baby on the way, and the regular cab wasn’t going to work well for a new addition. I suppose it could have worked just fine, but in the end it was the excuse I needed after 9 years to find a new truck. At 355,000 kms on the clock the truck had given me 330,000 kms (200,000 miles) with no trouble at all. There was literally nothing wrong with it, other than what the odometer said. The first two dealerships declined to accept it as a trade so I kept the insurance on it, and parked it in the summer of 2006 for a while to find the right buyer.
My seven year old Rottweiler was not fond of change of any kind and he predictably did not take well to the new truck. How his dog brain was able to piece that together, I’m not sure. However, when I brought the new truck home with the old truck to switch over all the stuff inside, he was very unhappy. He jumped in the back of the ’95 where he had ridden for all 7 years of his life (properly restrained of course) and refused to leave. When we went to take the truck to my in-laws for storage and for better visibility for sale, he would not leave the truck. Coaxing, pushing, pulling and dragging were needed to remove him from the box. He registered his displeasure for some time afterwards by pointedly refusing to guard the new truck at all. His all-bark, no bite method of scaring pedestrians and potential car thieves away was shelved for several months as if to say “I don’t care, take this stupid truck”. Those who know this breed will not be surprised at this stubborn behaviour. It wasn’t until the new baby arrived that he grudgingly decided the new truck may be worthy of his guarding services.
I believe this was the first vehicle I sold online.
After a few months of back up duty and being moved around to various spots a buyer was found, for a decent price. It owed me nothing at all. It still had the original starter, water pump, radiator, all engine electronics, sensors and bearings. It was hard for me to sell it even after a few months of getting used to the idea.
It was driven away to a nearby town where it lived a somewhat less pampered life than I gave it. Nine years, many miles and no trouble at all in a busy and sometimes chaotic time in my life was exactly what I needed from this truck. Last I saw this one it was relatively rusty, faded and dirty and missing the winch and tailgate. The now-second owner since me reported 500,000+ kms and that he wondered why it never broke down.
The next one was with me for an equally long time through possibly a busier, and even more chaotic time in my life and it too was mostly exactly what I needed.