The Legend of Ol’ ‘Yller, 1961 Ford F-100
In the fall of 1960, Dad purchased a new bright yellow 1961 Ford F-100, 292 cu. in., custom 4-wheel drive with heavy duty springs and 17” wheels. He bought it from Heater and Heater Ford in Thompson Falls, Montana. I was a senior in high school and my friends and I were happy to test its capabilities. I could fill pages with the adventures of this truck and can testify to the toughness of Ol Yller, but will relate just a few.
Thompson Falls is a small town in western Montana and in the day received copious amounts of snow. The snow would be plowed in berms on the side of the streets, and four or five of us would pile into the cab and go berm busting! We would cut across at street corners, plowing into the snow banks (snow blasting over the hood into the windshield). Looking back, it is fortunate we didn’t smack a fire hydrant. We did our share of jumping in open fields and ditches. After a session including one particularly hard argument with a ditch, I returned the truck to its customary parking place on Main Street. The next day Dad asked where I’d been with the truck. “Why?” I asked. “Because it looks like a road grader,” he said. Sure enough, the front wheels were tilted top in-bottom out. We had broken the front differential. Thankfully, it was under warranty and soon back on duty!
East of town, on a ranch, was a watering hole that we fished occasionally, and knowing it was only 3 to 4 feet deep, we had the bright idea to see if we could make it through the pond. We hit the pond at about 60 MPH (with four in the cab). Instantly, all four of us were plastered against the dash and windshield! It was like hitting a brick wall. It was about 40 yards across and Ol Yller hopped, bucked and spattered its way through with water coming in the cab until we came out the other side (to our relief). The truck was an absolute mess- covered with mud and weeds. Eventually the engine smoothed out and we spent a couple hours cleaning inside and out. Once again I returned it to its customary parking spot. Again, a day later, Dad asked where I’d been with the truck. “Why?” I asked. “Because,” said dad, “when the service station checked the oil, they found seaweed on the air cleaner.” We had neglected to clean the engine compartment!
We did our share of climbing (4WD-low range-compound) and after climbing a logging cat trail up to a spot where we could turn around, we headed back down, only to have the oil light come on; it was so steep that all the oil ran to the front of the pan. So we shut the engine off and with white knuckles skidded back to the bottom! During one of those climbing episodes, we had to chain up all fours on dry ground to get out.
Go in the snow? dad was an avid elk hunter and took the truck to some ungodly places. His driving skills far surpassed my own in knowing what the truck would do. A friend of dad’s bought a new 1972 pickup with 4WD and he frequently hunted with Ol Yller in the lead in serious snow-covered logging roads. There were times it was particularly tough going, even chained up on all fours with the grille making imprints in the snow. We would back up and go forward a little each time. One time, Dad and his buddy got the idea to chain the two trucks together and we had little trouble pushing the snow to the top. When we unhooked the trucks, Dad drove ahead a little, but the other truck wouldn’t move. The automatic transmission was so hot, we had to let it just sit until the snow cooled it.
Dad passed away in 2005, and now the family has completely restored the truck, including a 1966 box, power steering, A/C, and a few performance goodies on the 292 (300,000+ miles). Every bolt and screw is stainless. The truck was completely disassembled. Thanks to LMC for the quality parts, great service and expertise.
Ol Yller will never leave the family, nor will the cherished memories of its exploits, way too many to mention here. Did I mention stranded in slide rock with the right wheel hanging in mid-air 12’ above the creek, or driving one mile-plus up a creek to retrieve an elk? To any doubters, I have home movies and pictures documenting many of these adventures.