My 1991 truck is no longer with us. It is gone. Gone to that great auto-dismantler on tenth street. It was a sad day but it was time. The poor old truck was having serious problems – coughing when starting up, body rusting, leaking oil, its bent bumper was getting worse and even I could see the smoke coming from the tail pipe.
Poor old faithful truck. How many loads of lumber have you brought home? How many rafting trips did you carry our gear to? How many tons of sand and flag stone did you carry for our new patio? Yes, you were a good, strong truck. Remember that day I bought that big fountain? I thought you were going to pop a tire when the forklift operator placed it in your bed. We all had a good laugh about that – remember I did buy you new tires after that. How you loved those tires…
Sorry about the rolls of wall installation. I know you itched for months after I had you bring those home.
Yes, for nearly 23 years I’ve had the same old Ford Ranger pickup. It was the first brand-new vehicle that I bought and fully paid for. From down payment to final payment, I was committed to that truck. I bought as I was coming out of a low time in my life, there was a recession in electronics and I was having a hard time finding work.
By 1991 business was better and I had a full-time job with extra cash in my pocket. I decided to buy a brand new car: motivated somewhat because my old car died and I was borrowing the company car to get around. The man I worked for was generous, but I knew he had limits, so after a week of driving his car, I went to the Ford dealer.
It was early January and I’d saved up enough for a good down payment. I’d been doing some research and had set my heart on a Ford Taurus. Likely it was because, if you squinted your eyes just right, it kind of, a little bit, looked like the Lincoln Continental the boss’s was letting me drive.
The salesman saw me get out of the bright shiny, Lincoln and likely saw “walking money” – an easy mark – because he spent a lot of time with me and let me drive everything on the lot – he even bought me sodas and gave me full color brochures. Then he did a credit check.
I was politely shown the door.
On my way home, I stopped at a used car dealer and checked the wrecks I could get with what I’d saved for the down payment. Depressed beyond hope, I went home and watched the “Muppet Movie” twice to try to cheer myself up.
Two days later the salesman called me at work. Car sales are really, really slow in January and he had a deal for me. He couldn’t get me the Taurus but he did have a few extra Rangers on the lot that they needed to move and he found a financing plan I’d qualify for. Well, I didn’t really want a truck, but I did yearn for a brand-new car. Car, truck – I just focused on ‘brand-new.’ So after work, I grabbed my checkbook, drove over, parked the Lincoln and let them show me pickup trucks.
They took my check, had me sign a bunch of papers and gave me the keys. The financing deal wasn’t great – the loan company looked like they were a bunch of loan sharks trying to stay just this side of the law. It was rough for a few years, but I managed to make most of the payments on time and did eventually pay the loan off.
It was great. I had a brand new truck. It had A/C, a tape deck and you could put a full sheet of plywood in the bed. The truck did have an effect on me though – within six months of getting it, I found myself listening to country radio stations and found a new love for honky-tonk and good-ole-down-home music. I’ll admit that I nearly bought a pair of cowboy boots.
By ’97 the poor old truck was having it’s problems. It had been rear ended twice. First time was about a year after I bought it. A small sports car smacked into the back-end on the freeway which folded the bumper under and racked the truck bed leaving it higher on the left than the right (I drove away, the sports car was hauled out by a tow truck and straight to the scrapyard). About a year after that a little old man in an old Cadillac smacked into the back of the truck on a city street and bent the bumper down slightly. After that, the A/C stopped working, the tape deck starting eating cassettes and even the little latch for the back window had broken off. It was time for a new car. I decided to keep the truck, since it was useful – helping people move, bringing home sheets of plywood, letting my brother borrow it, and for hauling things to the dump.
I’ve kept it around ever since. It’s been darned useful at times but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Some time around 2008, Heather and I decided that we’d stop maintaining the truck and would only keep it until it failed the next smog test. That was the year I had to spend a lot of money to fix a problem with the gas tank that caused it to fail the smog test. Here in California, cars are tested every two years so I figured I’d get a couple of more years out it.
It hasn’t failed a smog check since and every couple of months Heather and I think up a project that requires a load of lumber, or dirt, or plants, or rock, or other heavy messy items that won’t fit in our car. So, I’ll go out, fire up the truck and we carefully drive to the local big box home center and buy half a ton of fun. The last load was the lumber for our deck – that kept me busy and out of trouble for several weeks.
Lately the rust on the truck has become very noticeable and the smoke when I fire it up a bit alarming. I’ve been randomly thinking about replacing it or at the least sending it to the scrapyard. Then a couple of weeks ago I read about this buy back program for older cars being run by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). If you meet the right conditions they’ll pay you $1,000 to scrap an old car. I mentioned it to Heather and we both agreed it was a good idea – with the unspoken knowledge that neither of us would likely do anything about it.
Then we got the letter. BAAQMD checked the DMV records, noted how old my truck is and sent us a nice letter suggesting we might qualify along with a nice list of phone numbers and web pages for more information. All I can say is, thank God I have Heather, because on my own, I’d have done nothing about it, but she likes a good bit of cash and has plans for the driveway space getting rid of the truck would create.
Turns out the process was easier that I thought – although it did take a couple of phone calls on her part to get all the info and a bit of time digging through our records for all the documents they wanted.
We drove it over to the dismantler on Thursday. I signed the papers, turned over the keys and walked away from an old friend.
I know I’ve done the right thing getting that old pollution machine off the streets but some how all I can think of is that storage cabinet Heather wants me to make and the five sheets of plywood I’ll need.
Till next week,