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March 2009 Off-Road Rant

Posted in Features on March 1, 2009
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Telling girls that you've had the same truck since high school just doesn't impress them the way it should. And that's too bad. After all, the fact you've been able to keep your truck running since Grade 12 is a feat to celebrate, and it probably means that you have a pretty cool truck; so cool in fact that you've kept it well past the average new vehicle life span of 8 years.

And why wouldn't you keep a truck that is so cool? Most trucks have good frames and bodies that can be used as platforms to rebuild several times over the course of your lifetime.

My high-school sweetheart is a '94 Dodge Ram single cab that I got just two weeks before graduating in 1996. It had 20,000 miles on it, and the previous owner had already upgraded to Mickey Thompson Classic Alcoa wheels and big (back in the day) 33-inch BFG tires. I couldn't even believe 33s would fit on a stock truck back then. It drove like a brand new truck and was spotless, save for a couple dings on the door that I still haven't fixed.

After my dad helped me bargain with the owner for a better price, hands were shook and the few days came in between the time I'd get a cashier's check to pay for it and the previous owner was ready to let it go (what a rube!). In those few days, I converted from a hardcore Chevy fan to a diehard Dodge fan. And I freely admit it: I am a Dodge fan. I think Dodges are the absolute most fun vehicles to drive, and you'd have a hard time changing my mind on that.

But this is just a personal preference. I'm guessing you have a favorite too, whether it's a Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, Jeep, or even Land Rover. And I'm guessing that you have a model of your favorite's craftsmanship sitting in your driveway, representing for all to see. Assuming you do, is it finished (are they ever finished?) the way you want? I'm guessing not. And that's okay: mine isn't either. And it probably never will be. A labor of love like your favorite truck should not be something that is rushed, and it can take years to perfect your truck the way you want it to be. Some might argue that you should just do what you can, and then drive it until the wheels fall off and go get another one. But I disagree: many trucks have more of a bond with the owner than just as some hunk of metal easily replaced. I've had mine for 13 years now, and I can't imagine getting rid of it. It doesn't matter that it has spent that past 8 years basically sitting in a garage waiting to be finished. My truck and I have been through so much together that I'll likely never give it up. All the other trucks, my '67 Firebird, my motorcycle, even my house can all go away before I'll let my beloved red Dodge go. In fact, there's only one thing I'd give up my red truck for, but I don't even want to mention that in fear that she'll use it against me someday.

Unfortunately, my job has really taken a neglectful toll on this poor truck. You'd think there could be nothing better for your truck than working at a truck magazine, but magazine issues ship every month and we constantly need to have new content all the time, so when a truck stops running correctly it is sidelined for other projects that can be finished up more quickly. I know for a fact that editors of your other favorite truck magazines have similar stories of the rides they have in their garages that will someday be finished when they quit their job and have time to work on it.

But I got a bug to break into mine a few years ago when Dave Schlosberg of Poly Performance sent me this picture of my red Dodge and me back in the 1990s, stuck in the seasonal river that crosses the Pismo Dunes entrance. Dave and I did not know each other back then, but a friend had forwarded him this image that he snapped years ago of some nut in the river standing on the hood of his truck. Dave recognized the truck (and the nut) and forwarded it on to me.

Right then, I knew I had to get this truck back out of mothballs and finish it once and for all. And it only took me another three years to actually start the finish of it. Will it be everything I once dreamed it would be? Probably not, but I have more sense than I once did and I think this truck will turn out to be exactly what I need more than what I always wanted.

This Month:

The March 2009 issue is our "Tow, Chase, and Haul" special, and we found a few trucks more than capable of handling the intense workload they're given. We also found a few fun things that can really make your towing experience more fun, like twin turbochargers!

And I highly recommend checking into what Kevin Blumer has to say about the new Cornay/ J.E. Reel driveshaft technology that will be ready for you to upgrade with by the time you read this.

Special thanks go to Kevin Dill who snapped our cover while I was airborne in a brand new lifted Dodge Ram 1500. Yes, I was supposed to be the photographer on this trip, but all his shots came out better than mine

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