(first posted 6/25/2015) It was a warm Saturday morning in late spring or early summer. My ten year-old self was outside helping my father collect yard debris from an overnight storm. Knowing we would collect a fair amount, he had pulled his yellow 1970 Ford F-100 down to where we were, saving us multiple trips to the ravine at the edge of my family’s seven acre property. After collecting all the debris in that section of the yard, my father nonchalantly made a statement that forever changed my life.
“Jason, start the pickup and move it down to that oak tree.”
Dad had purchased his pickup new in 1970, a few years prior to his only son arriving and forever improving his life. Pickups could be rather spartan back in 1970 and his definitely seemed to be that way at the time. Equipped with the 240 cubic inch straight-six and a three-speed on the column, little did I realize he had actually sprang for an AM radio and a heater.
At the time this monumental day finally happened – yes, I was only ten but had been waiting for it since about the time I could talk – I knew this was a pickup that had been used as a pickup and never been spared from (ab)use.
Exploiting the product of Google Earth allows actual pictures of things; such a concept would have been complete science fiction when we moved to this house in 1976 when I was three. Soon after moving in my parents decided to build an addition, predominantly the area pointing to the right, doubling the size of the house.
It was a common occurrence to see the pickup parked where the white car is, its rear-end hunkered down from the weight in the bed. It was nothing for my father to get 4,000 pounds of gravel or sand and then stop for reinforcing steel, portland cement, or other building materials. My initial joy at bouncing on a rear bumper that was only five inches from the ground was profoundly ruined when I was so rudely yanked off and told to stop.
At this monumental turning point in my young life, the pickup was parked where the circular plot is toward the bottom of the picture. I hoisted myself into the drivers seat. Intending to go no further than the garden area in the lower left corner, I began re-envisioning all the exploits I knew it had been on.
There had been the trip to Minnesota prior to my first birthday when I rode in the middle of the seat for the entirety of the trip, unencumbered by any irksome child seat. While I don’t remember it, I began walking on that trip. Planted in the grass next to the pickup while the tent was erected, I was nowhere to be found upon completion. It seems my first steps were more of a hike as I had journeyed a couple hundred feet away. Being subjected to novice parents is the only downside of being the firstborn.
Later that night thunderstorms dumped rain in the area, causing a flash flood in the nearby river and a late night blast to safer lodging. As always, the F-100 fulfilled its end of the bargain.
My father had several uncles who lived nearby our home. One, a life-long bachelor who never possessed a valid driver’s license, farmed some property he rented from the railroad. Keeping his house in town, he would periodically need Dad to haul various items to the property. The road to get there was up a steep, grossly eroded affair made entirely of semi-graded dirt and forever in the shade so it was always wet. Frankly, most people currently would fear to tread there in a four-wheel drive, let alone a two-wheel drive.
Not my father.
With three of us aboard and the pickup loaded just light enough to keep the tires from blowing out, we would cross the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill and my father’s foot would go to the floor. We slipped, slid, bounced, and wobbled our way to the top, with his foot unceasingly on the floor and the old straight-six screaming in first gear. We always got there. Getting back was a cake walk.
With all these visions rushing around my then unpolluted head, I figured moving the old Ford should be a snap. Easing my left foot onto the clutch, and my right foot onto the brake, I hit the starter.
Sliding it into first gear, I carefully and slowly let off on the clutch.
Okay, Jason, I told myself, yes, you are worried about rolling but you should take your foot off the brake this time. I hit the starter again.
Again easing off the clutch, with my foot now off the brake, I could feel the clutch engaging.
It died. Again.
“Jason, just give it a little more gas this time.” My father can be a man of profound patience at times.
I hit the starter. The old straight-six didn’t seem too fazed, nor much care, what input you gave it as long as it received input.
I did not provide enough input. I killed it a third time.
“Jason, you almost had it. Here, let me get in with you.” Was this pressure or reassurance? It didn’t matter as I was getting aggravated and wasn’t about to let a twelve year old pickup get the better of me.
Hitting the starter yet again, the coordination of my feet was much improved – but not perfect. I dumped the clutch and fire-walled the accelerator. We took off quite nicely, and I sheared off the right half of a forsythia bush.
We did. I put my left foot on the brake and killed the engine instantaneously. We had travelled about thirty feet.
Ever since then I have had a soft spot for the 1970 Ford F-100. Later that day, I would sit on my father’s lap and steer it around the nearby cemetery since the residents didn’t care how I drove. Several times later I would do similar while traveling down the five to six miles of gravel going to my grandmother’s house, never leaving first gear and my not caring we were barely above idle speed. To me, it was driving and that’s all that counted.
The old F-100 would stick around until the Summer of ’85. Coming back home one Saturday morning from having spent the night at a friend’s house, the pickup was parked at a strange angle in the yard, next to the lane leading to the house. Walking into the house I learned the cancer on the old Ford had become terminal. The body had fallen in on the frame, putting the shift linkage in a bind and making it impossible to shift out of first gear.
So that afternoon dad did some backyard repairs involving a floor jack and some 2×4 shims before foisting it off on the Toyota dealer the following weekend. The one year old ’84 F-150 he purchased paled in comparison to the ’70 F-100.
Just yesterday I learned of a white ’70 F-100 for sale. I don’t need another vehicle nor a second pickup, but it sure made me pause to consider the possibilities.
That’s a nice old truck. It doesn’t have 3 on the tree though. I’d like an old 2wd F-100 shortbox with a 300six and 4 on the floor.
That was a floor-shift conversion. IIRC no American-built 1/2 ton pickup came with a 3-on-the-floor.
The truck pictured has had a top loader 4 speed swapped in. I have a friend with a 68 F-100, built 300 six, and top loader 4 speed. Fun truck, and with its 6 into 2 header and dual exhaust sounds like an exotic sports car at speed.
Jeep J-series could be had with a 3 on the floor up til the late ’70s. Tremec 150, and it was available in the CJs, pickups and Cherokees. Not sure about the Wagoneers…late 70s and newer were automatic only, but earlier Waggys may have had manulas available.
The blue truck pictured is not a conversion so it is most likely a 4sp.
American built 1/2 ton trucks did come with a 3 on the floor. All IH Scouts had floor shifters. Now you may debate whether that qualifies as a 1/2 ton pickup (though they were actually sold as 1 ton pickups at the end of their life), but that early Scout 4cyl and 3sp transmission made their way into IH’s loss leader full size truck sold as the 900 series in the US or the Compact in Canada and they were 3 on the floor. The trans they used has the shifter integrated into the top cover so they aren’t really adaptable for column shift.
Having driven a lot of four speed Ford trucks, the shifter in this one is in a very different position than all the ones I have seen. The levers for the factory 4 speed (granny low) boxes all came up quite forward, directly out of the top of the transmission, with the lever angled back towards the driver’s hand. This one is coming out close to the seat, with a curved lever. That clearly makes it a rod-actuated shifter, and most likely a conversion of the stock three-speed or possibly a swapped-in passenger-car four speed.
These were great trucks indeed .
I enjoyed the stories too .
I nearly bought a 68 F100 with an ambulance body 240 4 speed but the deal fell thru, wasnt a bad old heap to drive slow but it rode ok( heavy fibreglass body), Ive never seen a tree shift in one of these.
Or for that matter a 3 speed of any manual type.
Great story! Who can forget those early experiments in driving – certainly not me, and from about the same age.
In my teens, I worked for a place that had a 71 F-100, only it was a V8/4 speed. I loved that truck, which taught me the charms of a V8 with a stick.
Nice story, Jason. There is nothing like the memories of bonding with a parent over a first drive. I would expect other members to have some nice ones.
I don’t recall my first time driving, which I suddenly realize is odd for a motor head, but I have fond recollections of pantomining Dad’s driving style, while belted in at shotgun onto a couple of throw pillows requisitioned from the living room, and holding a Miller’s pretzel can lid from Grandpop’s store in my lap as a steering wheel. Many an hour passed accompanying him on summer business trips around New England in that style in his “Caribbean Blue” ’59 Plymouth Belvedere sedan.
59 Plymouths rule! 🙂
The shoe is now on the other foot as I’ve been teaching my daughter to drive since she was 10. For her age, she’s done very well having driven our now departed Buick Century, my pickup, and that insidious van of ours as well as my riding lawn mower.
She’s a natural so far.
I can definitely relate to your story as my driving days started in the same manner at the same age. Hats off to father’s like yours and mine who realize it’s their job to prepare us for the world and not keep us sheltered from it. Love those old Ford trucks.
Great story Jason. There’s a similar F100 half tarped in a driveway in town, It’s kind of interesting but I know better than to ask.
I am a second child, and my parents knew what to do with a toddler when setting up a tent. They would tie me to a nearby tree with a 10′ rope passed through the belt loops in my pants. I apparently got stares from passers by, but at least I didn’t wander off into the bush.
I love this body style of trucks so much that I have two. I have a 72 F100 Flareside with a 300cid inline six and also a 71 F250 Camper Special with a 390cid V-8. If you all want to learn more about these trucks, there are 2 great resources available. There is Fordification.com which has a website and a Facebook page. Also there is Fixem Your Way 67-72 F100 which is a Facebook page. There is a tremendous amount of technical data on Fordification and loads and loads of pictures and, quite frankly, a lot of good people with a lot of knowledge of these fine machines on the Fixem Your Way FB page.
You’ll also find plenty of these trucks for sale on both sites.
I leave you with pics of my two trucks.
I love your Camper Special!
Nice trucks! I have a 68 CS.
Another source of useful info is the Ford Truck Enthusiasts forum: http://www.ford-trucks.com/forums/forum39/
Great story, Jason. I learned how to drive in a 4 speed manual 1987 Escort station wagon on the service drives at the local general aviation airport when I was 11. One evening during these lessons, a cop started to pull in. It made me nervous, and I didn’t drive on public roads again until I got my learners permit.
Years later I nearly bought a 1972 F-100 with a 3 on the tree from my friend’s dad. Unfortunately, he was letting his niece drive it around the property just before I was to buy it, and she hit a tree with it. No injuries to any people, but the front clip of the old Ford was bent up enough that I decided I wasn’t interested any longer.
The poor positioning on the “Sport CUSTOM” badges on the bed are clear giveaway of a paint job with, I’m assuming, bodywork extensive enough to plug the mounting holes.
Or they upgraded a base F-100.
In the Northeast, these Stylesides were SO prone to rust at the seam just above the side spear on the bed. It was bad enough Ford was replacing beds under warranty. For many years, ’67-’72 Stylesides with ’73-’79 beds were a regular sight.
I remember looking at new F Series trucks on the Ford dealers lot back then. Most of them were plain F100s with 240 sixes and manual three speed shifters on the column. I don’t remember ever seeing a 2wd F100 of this vintage with a stick shift. I do remember the window stickers showing a price of about $2800. Who would have ever thought that one day, a new pickup could cost more than a Lincoln or Cadillac? How times change. The father of a friend had a white1976 F100. It was beautiful and I lusted after it. Years later, I bought it from him. By that time, though, rust had taken it’s toll on the bed, so it was replaced with a stake bed. It was still a good looking truck and I loved it. That was my first truck. It had a 302 with an automatic transmission, heater and AM radio. I spent a lot of time with that truck, hauling soil, sawdust or whatever. This story brought back a lot of memories. I tried to find a photo which most closely resembled that truck when I first saw it. If you took off the decals, this could have been the truck I lusted for so long ago. Steel wheels, white walls and all. I still have two of it’s hub caps hanging in the shed.
While I’ve never driven one, or even ridden in one, Ford F-series of this era are still common where I live. The central Virginia winters tend to be mild affairs and the roads don’t see a lot of salt, which probably helps explain the survival rate. I can think of four or five in my current neighborhood, a couple of which look like they’ve had some restoration work done, but the others look much more well-used. The following generation is also quite well represented (and weren’t they really an evolution of this model rather than a clean-sheet redesign?)
The corresponding late 60’s to late 70’s Chevy C-series can be found too, but the old Fords clearly outnumber them!
Nice story, and I find it interesting (as surely your daughter does as well), that nowhere do your refer to yourself as your father’s “spawn”…
That being said, nice truck, I’ve never had a pickup but like to look and am constantly considering one. After doing the Storage Lot articles I’ve become interested in the late 60’s, early 70’s style Ford such as this one. Who knows it I’ll ever get one but I like the idea and could actually use it semi-regularly as well.
Very good point. Perhaps I am Spawn and she is Spawn of Spawn?
Yeah Jim you need to find yourself an old pickup. You’ll find occasional use for it. Personally I’d recommend getting into the mid 70’s for the electronic ignition so you never have to worry about points and while there is some charm to a manual trans a 360/390/302/351W and a C6 is a hard to beat combo for a truck that will just go when you want it to and you’ll never have to worry about replacing the clutch, the linkage getting sloppy ect. With the smaller engines the C6 is virtually indestructible as long as you keep fluid in it.
Park it in the yard or the garage of the house you are working on and load the garbage directly into it, then when it is full take it directly to the dump. Much easier than moving it twice, going a renting something, taking it back ect. One addition that I highly recommend is a load handler. http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/NTESearch?storeId=6970&N=0&Ntk=All&Ntt=load+handler&Nty=1&D=load+handler&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Dx=mode+matchallpartial&cmnosearch=PPC&utm_source=google_PPC&utm_medium=MaterialHandling&utm_campaign=generic&utm_content=load%20handler&mkwid=sSj5j2z33&pcrid=74440276871&mtype=e&storeId=6970&langId=-1&type=search&gclid=CIKxh97dq8YCFURcfgodmrcB_w I’ve been able to unload a ton of debris and be back at the scale with the time stamp showing my round trip was less than 10min. It is also great for gravel, bark ect. Even better if you have someone to drive while you crank. Get it down and you can spread it where you want it pretty nicely. Even if you have to wheel barrow it it is nice just to be able to crank the load to the end of the gate and rake in and repeat as you empty the load. Saves climbing in and out of the bed so much.
@Eric: I mounted one of those on the back of a trailer and essentially paved my driveway with it. Dump a little, drive a couple feet, rinse and repeat. It is now pretty torn up but worth the (about) $100 I paid Northern Tool.
I got mine when they carried them at WalMart. The second one I got was when they were discontinuing them and it was only like $40 so I grabbed it for when the other one wore out. It has a few holes in it now so it gets the garbage runs while the newer one is used for things like gravel.
Thanks, Eric! I’ve got to get one!
Gee, I can’t believe that I talked about my first truck and not my Dad’s. Dad had a ’41 GMC, one ton truck with a dump body which he used for his garbage route. Every Saturday, he and I would make the rounds. I was about six years old when this began. Dad used to comment that I made more money than him because old ladies would give me a dime or a quarter because they thought it was so cute that I was helping him. I was also the helper whenever Dad worked on the truck. He’d be under the hood and I’d be behind the wheel. He’d say, “Okay, start her up”. I was so small that I couldn’t reach the pedals, plus my feet were too small to press the gas pedal and the floor mounted starter button at the same time. So, I’d pull myself down with the bottom of the steering wheel. With the truck in neutral, I’d put my left foot on the gas and press hard on the starter with my right foot. I can’t believe that he had me do that. Dad was a lot of fun, and he had a great sense of humor. After making the rounds, we’d unload at the town dump. He’d pull in and make a u-turn, then back up to the bank. He could tell that I was afraid that we’d plummet over the edge, so he’d rock the truck back and forth, looking at me with a grin on his face. One day, when he pulled into the dump and made the turn, I was ready. I jumped from the , slammed the door,and stood back. He looked at me and said,” You’re going to let me go over that bank all by myself?” That was typical Dad. God, I miss those days.
A friend’s dad had a similar truck, I think it was a ’69 or ’70. It was 2wd, had a 390 auto, ps and ac. It was well equipped. I rode as a passenger a few times, it had no problem spinning it’s tires without even trying. I was also about 12 or 13 the first time Dad let me drive. It was in his ’66 Beetle which would eventually become my first car. We were on the dirt fire roads in the Palmdale/Lancaster deserts of California. I had been allowed to shift for him when he was driving in town, and he explained while he was driving how to work the clutch and gas. I slipped the clutch a little too much the first start, but didn’t stall it. He joked that I must have been stealing the car at night because I was driving too well! This era of Ford trucks are really great. He later showed me how to shift without the clutch, which came in handy years later when a friends ’68 327 4 speed El Camino’s clutch went and wouldn’t disengage. The drive from Kern river to the LA repair shop went well. Only had to use the starter in gear a couple of times.
Great story Jason! My 8 year old Grandson and I have a collection of 1980-96 F-series. Last year we restored an 88 F150 4×4 for a plowtruck and now we are working on a 1980 F100. Interestingly the 1980-81 has more in common with the older generation of truck than those that followed. It has mechanical clutch linkage, kingpin front end and the old 9″ ford diff. We have upgraded our 1980 with power steering, power brakes and a Hurst Indy shift conversion, so it is 3-on the floor now. A fresh 300-6 and new clutch and motor mounts and it is a pleasure to drive. Going from a modern F150 to our ’80 F100 is like taking off steel toed boots and putting on new runners!
Great truck, not so great bumper stickers.
There is nothing regarding these bumper stickers anywhere in the article, so whether one agrees or disagrees with what they state, commenting about them is irrelevant to the discussion.
As usual, great story Jason! Theres just something about old pickups. And these Fords’ styling stands out as a high point, IMHO.
Did someone mention an old Ford F100? 🙂
Had a 73 with contractor toolboxes. Rust got to them and it became a flatbed for my son to drive. My personal “bought it new” truck was a 70 Chevy C10. Tough trucks, all of them.
Great story, thanks for sharing. Your dad is all right. I have informed my 12 year old daughter that her driving lessons will begin soon. I like your dad’s choice of a cemetery – very sensible. Woodlawn here we come!
I think David E Davis speculated that the good Lord most likely drove a Willys Jeep. If it’s not one of those it’s a Ford truck like this. It’s just right. I don’t think it was a random choice by Clint Eastwood to use one of these in Gran Torino as his daily driver. Clint’s the man and this is his truck.
Back in the late 60’s and 70’s my dad got a new company truck every year and I also learned how to drive on a 3 on the tree 6 banger, my dad had a 75 Ford with the 300 inch straight six. I smoked the hell out of the clutch on that thing learning how to do hill starts….my old man didn’t really give a shit because it wasn’t his truck 🙂
My father has an old Ford of this vintage, a ’67 F250. Power comes from a 390ci crate motor, coupled to a four speed on the floor and a New Process transfer case. It’s unique in that it’s one of the last of the highboys, meaning it is a four wheel drive drivetrain on what was in essence a 2wd truck. He’s owned the truck since 1988; its been around since before he met my mother! It was a beautiful truck when he first bought it, although it was a well used Montana truck, and the original motor was pretty worn out. He usually purposed it as a farm truck, and some of my earliest memories are of me riding shotgun in a car seat as we hauled two heavily loaded gravity type farm wagons to the mill. This was the very truck I learned to drive on at the age of fourteen. Though nearly thirty years of Ohio salt and a bad wreck when I was three have taken their toll on the old work horse, I can guarantee he’ll never sell it. I wouldn’t let him.
My uncle built a service station and started out with an old Willys 4×4 with a manually operated wrecker boom. Then, he bought a ’66 F100 highboy which was not turned into a wrecker. Later on, my best friend’s dad bought a ’72 F250 highboy. What a beautiful truck. When he sold it in the mid eighties, with it’s body rusted out, that truck didn’t have 40,000 miles on it. Both of those highboys were really tough trucks.
My first time driving was also when I was about 10, and I also stalled it a few times – but I was in a Datsun 1600 (510).
A lovely read, Jason.
My first drive was on the rutted potholed road where my grandparents lived. I probably had the same clutch issues as you did, or maybe it was the potholes, but I remember taking ages to travel from the corner to the house. That was in a ’62 Falcon, shortly before Dad replaced it with a ’67.
This thread has the memories rolling on back .
My Son was 7 or 8 the first time I allowed him to sit between my legs and steer my 1946 Chevy pickup , he loved it , was so excited to be driving my truck….
I’ve had dozens since that one , I was trying out different brands and styles , V-8s and so on , made a nice little side business buying old pickups and rebuilding them , driving for a while then selling and beginning over .
After 15 years or so I realized what I needed and wanted was some old base model Chevy i6 , bought my ’49 3100 and drove it for years until my injuries precluded me using a foot clutch , sold it and now have a 1969 Chevy C/10 step side .
My Son still likes to ride with me but his truck is *much* faster =8-) .
Love these classic pickups. Ah, the days of real trucks for real men instead of those metrosexual high class trucks for men who aren’t so real who try to make up for what they didn’t receive.
Articles about these old Fords seem to pop up here with some regularity. It’s always nice to see them. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have two F100s of this vintage. One is a 70, shortbed 4WD, very rusty, used for pushing snow, that I’m thinking of getting rid of in order to have fewer vehicles and simplify life a little.
The other is a 71, with a 70 grille, 302 engine, column shift. It’s on the road, used for hauling trash, firewood, lumber, anything else that won’t fit in the car. It’s rusty but usable, and the floor pans and cab mounts were replaced a few years ago. One of these days I’m going to pull out the engine and refresh it (keeping it stock) but for now I just chip away at smaller things as I go along.
I’m a little sad that my son, who is learning to drive, is not interested in it. From his perspective, the lack of modern comforts, safety features and soundproofing make it undesirable. Perhaps he will see the light when he gets a bit older.
Nice story, and very reminiscent of my first learning-to-drive experience.
Grandfather had a ’69 Ford F-250, in dark green, with the 240 six and 4 speed on the floor. Very long shift lever with a nice heavy round screw on cap.
This truck, according to those who drove it (Gramps, Father, Uncle) was underpowered, but it did the job most of the time. They got rid of it when I turned 15 unfortunately….so I never got to drive it legally anywhere.
You’ve again turned me into a guy finding the rationale for the purchase of some older Ford truck, Jason.
Entertaining storytelling, as always. I do think about getting a car with a stick (maybe one of the Fusions, etc.), but then worry that my reflexes and such will no longer be up to it.
Fantastic story Jason! You have such a way with words that it literally put me back into tha cab of my dads 52 International. I was 8 and certainly a contender of Richard Petti’s. I don’t remember the details like you do Jason but it was on our turkey farm moving from one feed trough to another. As I stated, I don’t remember the details vividly so I imagine lots of stalls and help from dad had to have happened.
Next was my grandpa’s 52 GMC I could drive around the pasture myself. But when these trucks came out in 1967 I was smitten beyond any truck I had ever seen. I have had at least a half dozen of these dent sides and almost as many bump sides.
I currently daily drive my 76 F150 4×4. Hooked for life I guess.