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Old Trucks Vs. New Trucks

1979 Ford Pick Up
Fred Williams
| Brand Manager, Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off Road
Posted June 1, 2012
Contributors: Harry Wagner
Photographers: 4WOR Staff

Bench Wheeling

Old Is Awesome
I am about to go to the bank and discuss buying a new truck, and what will I come home with? A fancy new truck, with A/C, a gazillion-channel radio, ’lectric butt-adjusting seats and window upper-downers, and a reliable engine that I can’t afford to drive because I have to pay some outlandish bill each month to purchase and insure my new truck. Sounds great! And what if I should take said pretty new 4x4 off-road and dent or ding it up. How is that going to make me look and feel? Like an idiot.

Now my ’79 Ford may require a bit of investment to keep it running each month, but not as much as a new truck payment, I can assure you, and not for as many months in a row. Plus I’ll have a little cash left over to upgrade the old beater and make it reliable for daily driving and off-road prowess.

New trucks aren’t all bad. Fuel injection seems to have come around to being pretty reliable, as have ignition systems and power windows that don’t jam up from playing with them like they did when introduced (not that there’s anything wrong with a crank window). However, there are other aspects of new cars that I could do without, such as electronic brake-based traction control, tire pressure monitors, and cross-polluting computers that get very mad should I swap in a solid-axle or geardriven transfer case. And don’t forget the hidden government vehicle tracking and disabling devices that allow Big Brother to know how fast I’m going, where I’m going, and if I’m driving without pants (that last part may or may not be true depending on who you ask).

The next issue is maintenance and repair. Have you looked under the hood of a new 4x4 recently? First, the engine bay is usually covered with a big plastic cover to hide … what? The unsightly engine? Or all the wires and sensors and hoses and stuff that monitor, calculate, recalculate, adjust, and re-monitor what is going on under there? High-tech and neat, sure, but what do you do when you nose it into a mud hole? “Does not compute! Does not compute!”

I appreciate the handheld scan tools to tell me what is wrong with my new 4x4, but isn’t that just devolving us into idiot slugs who can’t figure out what is wrong with our 4x4s? “So the scan tool is telling me that the sensor that monitors what is wrong with my 4x4 isn’t working and I need a new sensor?!?” Yeah, no thanks. Everything breaks down, so how are you going to fix it when it does?

Few new 4x4s have the robust parts that we all drool over—solid axles, geardriven transfer cases, removable tops—three things I enjoy having in my trail rig. Less important for trail duty is the alphabet soup—IFS, GPS, ABS, SCABs (side curtain airbag)—that seems to get more common with each passing year.

What about the style and adventure of driving an old truck? In the past year I drove a 1-year-old truck and a 38-year-old Jeep across America and back. No one cared about the truck, but the Jeep got people talking at every stop.

“You drove that with no doors?”

“It’s so rusty!”

“How many times did it break down?”

Many couldn’t believe it, but it really wasn’t that hard. After all, it is only a 38-year-old rig, and people have been driving trans-America for over 100 years. Our forefathers managed to get around just fine without a bunch of electronic nannies. Only recently have we felt we need to be encapsulated in a cocoon while we drive so we can hear all the channels on our radio. Just give me a steering wheel, manual transmission, and three pedals on the floor and I’ll figure out the rest.

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