Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick
mckitterick

my truck-fetching adventure

I finally have a few minutes after having caught up on grading, so here's a report about the weekend:

The KCI RoadRunner van service picked me up at the Lawrence Holidome shortly after I had extracted cash from an ATM... and left my debit card in the machine, still PIN-numbered and ready to use. Yikes! After a quick call to UBank, they canceled the card and are sending a new one. The van driver was a nice older fella, and we talked about our classic cars much of the way to Manhattan, KS, home of Kansas State University and the enemy sports teams to KU.

The Manhattan Holidome was being demolished or remodeled, couldn't tell which, so it took a while for Marla (the pickup's former owner) and I to find one another. We did, then she gave me a ride to the auto-parts store to buy me some new wiper blades (those on the truck then were cracked) and a gallon of radiator coolant, just in case. I had brought along some oil, misc. chemicals, and a pile of tools, also just in case. Do not pick up a 44-year-old vehicle and then expect to drive it for hours afterward unless you are prepared for things going wrong! The van driver was happy to see I had come prepared.

Marla and her hubby drove me out to their farm house where the pickup was parked, along with another couple of old trucks and a herd of giant but sweet dogs. Bull Mastiffs are as tall as human children, and when they stand on their hind legs, taller than a grown-up. And their heads are like watermelons full of teeth. Yet as sweet as hope_dog.

The pickup was not in restored condition or anything, but I was getting it for a super price; the hood had some rust that will likely require me to replace it if I want to restore the truck, so they knocked off another $100 and I was satisfied. We took it for a little test-drive to a gas station, and the ancient, cracked tires made it vibrate rather dramatically. The first thing I did on the way out of town was stop at a tire place and have four new tires put on it plus have the oil changed. It took about 15 minutes extra at the end to get the hood closed because the oil-change monkeys had pushed it up too far and the hinges had popped backwards. Well, after fixing that little drama and finding a simple way to lock the hood in place (using a screwdriver to flip the lever), I was on the road!

The drive to Beatrice, Nebraska, was uneventful - just what I had hoped for! I learned at what speed (about 60mph on the flat, 50 on a hill) the engine began starving for gas, so I just kept it below that and all went well. When I pulled up in front of Joe's house (the guy whose engine I had bought), however, the truck stalled and wouldn't start again. Joe helped me push-start it - being on a hill helped! - and I drove around to his garage and backed up his STEEP driveway. I'm pretty sure it was my own fault for driving through town in 4th gear, bogging the engine and loading it up with gas (smelled a bit of gas after that). Why top gear at 20mph? Well, wow, but does an old F-250 have SERIOUS torque! You don't use 1st gear unless you're towing, say, a building, and reverse is geared only slightly higher; I left black marks on Joe's driveway from spinning the wheels. Second isn't much higher, and third winds the engine speed around town at about the same speed as 4th does on the highway. This is a real working truck!

We loaded up the gorgeous, hopped-up 327 Chevy engine (with Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads, aluminum Air-Gap intake manifold, and 600cfm carb; roller rockers and lifters; Comp Camps Extreme Energy cam; and lots of clean black-and silver paint with chrome covers) into the pickup, during which time we discussed his tiny Jeep from which he had removed the 327. Seems he bought another rebuilt engine, an old Chevy 197 straight-6, to use in place of the over-powered 327 that was causing his Jeep to wheelie unexpectedly... only the 197 was too long, so, "I don't suppose you know any guys who could use the six? It's got less than 2000 miles on it, completely rebuilt."

Hmmm. How much? "Well, I wanted to get $250 for it, but we're moving next month. How much would you give me?" Hmmm, I don't really need an engine, but.... "How about $50 on top of what I'm giving you for the 327?" Deal. I began thinking that I might use this newer-style straight-6 in place of the splash-oiled six that's in my 1951 Chevy right now, and sell the 327 for some profit... or sell the six, or... well, something. I mean, heck, $50! So then we loaded up a SECOND engine into my newly acquired 1962 Ford pickup truck.

Those two engines, combined with the five spare wheels and tires for the truck and the wood side-rails probably added about 1500 pounds to the gross weight, which made the truck drive much better and prevented it from loading up on gas. I filled 'er up at a local gas station, where I checked the oil (didn't burn hardly any, and this was in the time of atmospheric-venting of engine gases, so the engine is about as good as new; seems that fresh paint on the engine DOES signify that it was rebuilt, yay!), the radiator fluid (also didn't use much, and back then they didn't use catch-cans as now, so the same story there), and cleaned out the oil-bath air-cleaner. A note here: The air-cleaner had a surplus of oil in its fiberglas-filled basin, probably part of the bogging problem. I spent 15 minutes or so wiping and soaking that up, then shut the hood and headed home.

Another uneventful drive, and I discovered that this truck much prefers a heavy load than riding empty. The suspension was much more comfortable with all that weight (it had bucked and bounced over railroad crossings when empty), and the engine ran smoother towing so much weight. Huh, real work-trucks are different from cars.

Now it was getting dark, so I learned that the headlights work well. I stopped once more for gas (with all that weight on board, it only gets a little better than 10mph, but about 15mpg empty) and drove until 1am.

The drive was so pleasant, and much-needed. I had been feeling the urge for a road-trip for a long time, and this was my opportunity for such. I was on the road for about 14 hours, driving for about 9 or 10 of those hours, with no radio or companion to talk to, accompanied by the steady humm of that lovely old straight-6 engine, the rolling countryside of the Midwest starting to sprout with corn and wheat and whatnot, hawks and flocks of starlings, lots of other trucks on the roads, and mile after mile of two-lane road rolling uphill then downhill and so on. Clouds reduced the sun's glare, and the temperature was in the 70s, so I was physically comfortable. I got to know how the engine liked to run: Just a touch of gas on the downhills, lift a bit on the straightaways, wait until the speed drops 5mph on a hill before giving it a little more gas, and so on. It was such a zen experience, restorative. I think I need a road-trip every so often.

On Saturday, amjhawk helped me unload the engines after I had rearranged the garage to make room (the components of the carport-to-be kind of fill the second stall). We played some Chthulu 500 and then Magic pretty much all day after that. A fine weekend. Then I dove back into grading, and finally got caught up yesterday, yay!

This afternoon I meet with my local SF-writer's group, then the last SF class of the semester (with student presentations!), and then I get to read dozens of final projects... and then start gearing up for the summer programs.

I hope you are well!

Best,
Chris
Tags: life, vehicles
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  • I've started Patreon!

    ...where I post the kind of original content l post on my blogs (primarily Tumblr at the moment, keep meaning to visit here more!), plus a bunch…

  • Aliens!

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