(first posted 7/11/2016) Half a century of work is a lifetime for most, enough to take a person born after 1960 to their full Social Security retirement age of 66, and for a truck it is more than a lifetime, decades past when most will be retired to rust away or for restoration. A 1966 pickup truck still at work like Paul’s Ford F100 is a rarity, so you can imagine my pleasant surprise at randomly running across its East Coast big brother waiting curbside in northern Virginia. It is in unrestored condition and still in the hands of its first owner, who himself just turned 66, and is parked within sight of Interstate 66, making it a remarkable coincidence of numerology as well as a remarkable survivor.
I call it a “big brother” 1966 Ford pickup because it is an F250, a ¾ ton with a 128 inch wheelbase, compared to the F100’s ½ ton rating, and which came in both 115 and 128 inch wheelbase versions. The F250 was rarer, with 79,345 F250s produced in 1966, including 58,489 in this configuration, Styleside 4×2, whereas Ford produced 260,873 F100s, including 224,497 Styleside 4x2s. (All figures are from www.oldride.com.)
This F250 has the optional Custom Cab that was accented with chrome inside and outside, in places where the base cab used paint – bumper, grille, window surrounds, dashboard. The door mirror that looks like the tail end of a finned aerial bomb appears to be an aftermarket accessory, with the original rear view mirror mounting point plugged above it. Otherwise, this old workhorse looks highly original, with small scars, some rust on the lower body, a slightly bent front bumper, and some impressive patina on the driver’s door from 50 years of driving with an elbow out the window – a necessity in the old days when air conditioning in a pickup was unheard of.
The Ford’s owner, Bill, told me about some of his 50 year history in this no-nonsense cab. He has been behind this wheel since the truck was new in 1966, when he was 16 years old and driving under a farmer’s license in New Jersey. He used it to deliver produce up and down the Jersey Shore for many years. He kept the truck when he moved to northern Virginia and still drives it on a regular basis, with no intention of ever letting it go. It is safe to say that they are inseparable.
The V8 badge on the hood indicates that this F250 has the top engine option in 1966. The F100 and F250 came standard with the 240 cubic inch six, and the 300 cubic inch inline six and a 352 cubic inch FE-series V-8 were optional, with 3-speed and 4-speed manual transmissions and a Cruise-O-Matic automatic all available in 4x2s. With the 352 cubic inch V8 and the long shift lever of the HD four speed manual (with extra-low first gear) stretching almost to the top of the dashboard, this F250 can easily haul to its ¾ ton rated capacity and more.
The business end of Bill’s F250 looks ready for another several decades of work. Ford’s steel bed, which motivated Paul to choose a Ford over a comparable Chevy with its old-fashioned wood bed floor, looks solid here. Not visible in any of the photos is a built-in tool compartment under the cargo floor in front of the right wheel opening, which was a Ford factory option giving the pickup additional utility.
The 352 cubic inch V8 gave an impressive roar when Bill started it and pulled away, courtesy of a worn exhaust. Having grown up in area with plenty of similar-sounding old pickups at a time when it was transitioning from a rural and agricultural area to a suburban bedroom community, I found its sound to be familiar and pleasant. Some people in a neighborhood of two-professional couples with BMWs and VWs may feel differently, but they should show some respect to an old truck that may have been at work twice as long as they have.
No disrespect to the red Ford F450 Super Duty and its owner in the background, hard at work in their own right, is intended by saying that the newer truck has a long way to go to equal its 50 year old ancestor. This 1966 Ford F250 already has had a full truck’s lifetime of work behind it and continues to haul away for its very-long-term owner. It is the sort of solid old truck that brings a smile to the face of anyone who genuinely appreciates automobiles, and I expect to see (and hear) it going about its business locally for many years to come.