Car Of A Lifetime: 1965 Chevrolet Pickup – Give Me A Brake!

So during this trying-on-a-new-lifestyle era, we were living in the leaky 1937 trailer which we had been pulling with the 1978 VW bus. Maybe that contributed to the bus’ smoky premature death. No wonder I was looking for something better to pull the trailer with. And yes, it did pull the trailer much better. There was just that minor part about stopping it again.

I found it in the classifieds for three hundred dollars. When we arrived to look at it, it was on a farm stuffed behind the barn. It was a white long bed step side with a 230 straight six and manual transmission. The man selling it told us that he had driven it last year and that it should start, but would need a radiator. He wasn’t exaggerating!

We got it running and drove it back to our current parking lot of residence. Or I should say, we tried to. It was about a five mile trip. We had taken several gallons of water on the former owner’s recommendation. It was not nearly enough. By about two miles down the road we had used up the entire supply. So I asked someone if I could use their hose and they were kind enough to oblige.

I should mention that we were not dumb enough to actually let it overheat. You could tell the water was low because the temp gauge would go cold, due to the the water not making it into the cylinder head and the the temp gauge becoming exposed to air. After the hose fill up we had to stop more and more frequently. Eventually we gave up and pulled over in a local auto parts store parking lot. While there we got new hoses and called around to junkyards to find a radiator. We did find one and by the end of the day it was fixed and hooked up to the trailer.

Even though it had the small six, it of course pulled much better than the old bus. But it was no beauty queen. It was rusted through in a good many spots. But it had one other redeeming quality, a genuine period spotlight on the driver’s side A pillar. And we put it to good use.

My friend’s dad was a private investigator for a law firm. So often times Derrick and I would get kicked down some menial work that he didn’t really want to do. This was usually something like serving court papers or staking out a house, or tailing someone all day, waiting for them to do something they told the insurance company they couldn’t do.

Derricks ride was an 80’s Jeep Wrangler with a soft top and doors. So during the rainy season (most of three here in Oregon) we took my Chevy pick up. That old spotlight came in pretty handy trying to track down addresses in the dark when we were serving subpoenas and whatnot.

Eventually Michelle and I got moved into an apartment and the truck and camper trailer sat in a deserted culdesac until the city tagged it with a towing warning. So I figured I should move it. It was pouring rain of course and I had to get the battery charged up just to start it. But it eventually fired up and ran just fine.

However, quickly discovered one important fact; the brakes were completely non-operational. I tried pumping them up, but to no avail, the pedal simply hit the floor. Well, I had already pulled into traffic, but I was in first gear, and the trailer was light, so it was not a huge problem. I tried the hand brake, it worked pretty good. So I figured I could probably make it OK. Yeah, I know, don’t say it…

I proceeded very slowly in low gear, one hand on the hand brake down the wet road. All was well (as it could be) though I was sweating bullets and the windshield wipers stopped working. Until I realized that I had taken my usual route and not the one I had planned. I was to go around downtown in order to avoid the lights and traffic. But out of force of habit I had missed the bypass and was now heading irreversibly into downtown. Heck I could not even stop let alone reverse! Luckily Salem has a very small downtown. I managed to make it through only locking the back tires and starting to fishtail once.

When I got to the apartments, and I do mean right when I got there, the brakes suddenly pumped up and started working just like they had never stopped. Yes kids, it’s another one you should not attempt at home, as an “amateur driver, on an open course”. Since I had stopped using the truck to pull the trailer, I sold them both. The man who bought the truck paid me almost three times what I had paid for it and was extremely happy to have it.

The one thing that really impressed me about that truck was the little Thriftmaster six engine. It had just the right amount of torque and got good gas mileage for a light duty pickup. You can’t buy a truck like that now; they are all behemoths with either huge thirsty power plants or over-revving over-worked little V-sixes that struggle to get the mileage and use I got in that old ’65. But the new ones do have much better brakes, and there’s something to be said for that. Unless you’re an adrenaline junkie.