A Proud 68 Lives On

My dad bought his new 1968 C-10 half-ton pickup when he and my mom lived in small town in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. He paid $2,400 for it. Gas was cheap then, and it didn’t matter that the V-8 engine with a max 287 HP got a paltry 18 miles per gallon. A no-frills vehicle, it has no A/C, no power brakes, no power steering and three on a tree which seems to mystify today’s teenagers.

That part of the world is off the beaten path so my folks didn’t put a lot of miles on it. When they retired a few years later they moved to the Sacramento Valley and farmed a pistachio orchard. The truck went with them and its low mileage life continued, where it mostly sat between infrequent errands.

I bought the pickup from my dad in 1986. Because I was working in Silicon Valley, I didn’t particularly need that kind of vehicle, but Dad was ready to sell it and I wanted to keep it in the family. On graduation night in June, 1987 it was parked on the street. A celebrating grad who had downed a few beers careened into its rear end. There was a lot more damage to the kid’s car than to the truck, thanks to a sturdy Barden bumper. The insurance company totaled it, but the only real damage was to the bed, so I had it replaced. The DMV now considers it salvaged. I haven’t related that news to the pickup because it would be insulted.

When my wife and I retired in 1996 we relocated to the Napa Valley and the pickup was finally put to honest work on our vineyard, hauling wine grapes (a half ton at a time, naturally) and supplies, and going on dump runs. The truck didn’t seem to mind its dusty, unsophisticated existence. When we sold that property and moved into town we took the pickup with us. It was now approaching the age at which it might be considered a classic. I’m often asked if I want to sell mine, but like most of us with vintage trucks, the longer we keep them, the less chance there is we’ll let them go.

A few years ago I penned a book about a man living his life as described by the cars he owned. The cars tell the story. Although it was a work of fiction, the vehicles were based on those I’ve owned. The pickup is featured throughout as the wry observer and the one with the most wisdom and the fewest ego issues. I believe that if autos were capable of thinking and communicating (and who says they’re not?), such a description would capture its personality.

After 53 years the pickup deserved a makeover so I took it to the local body shop. The owner gave me a quote and said it would take about a month. It took six and the estimate was substantially lower than the final number. The more he worked on it the more care he took with the details and the end result was well worth the added time and expense. We finally brought it home and it now is the proud star of the neighborhood. It has 106,000 miles on it, no dents and brand new paint. We should all look this good at that age. May it live for another half century!