I am one of the thousands of Americans stricken with an all-consuming, time-devouring, nasty habit. Well, several actually, but the one I am writing about today is specific—a passion for four-wheel drive vehicles. Big, honking trucks. Love them like I loved my childhood Tonka toys.
We don’t really go four-wheeling much. My doctors all tell me that my bumping through the mountains, hills, mud and water days are pretty much over. But I still have a truck. Since about 1982, when I figured out that you could drive a pickup, Blazer or Jeep anywhere you could take a car, I have had at least one four-wheel drive at the house. Besides, you can’t take a car everywhere you can take a truck. That’s how I always defend my position, anyway.
After about three Jeeps, two Dodge Ramchargers, a K5 Jimmy, three K5 Blazers, and an International Harvester Travelall that have all come and gone in the past 30 or so years, I still have an old Blazer (the big one) that I picked up in Colorado a few years ago. It’s really just something to work on—a “project” as we disturbed truck enthusiasts call it. A labor of love, something to improve on as life matures.
I know lots of people who say, “There is no reason to own a four-wheel drive vehicle in Amarillo, Texas.” These are the kind of people I tend to avoid for their lack of sound reasoning. At one time or another, most of us go to the mountains, where there is snow. Some of us seem, strangely, to bring that snow back with us to Amarillo. In addition, we have the distinction of being in an area that can get a year’s worth of rain in two minutes. This equals flooding. When you need wheel clearance around these here parts, you need it BAD. Those little shorty-sporty cars do not make good boats.
Inordinate amounts of my time are spent scouring all sources available for trucks and parts. It’s a lot easier these days, with technology in every room. You can go looking for cars while seated comfortably in your recliner. Suits me right down to the ground.
So here are some tips that I have learned over decades of study (I can feel my wife, somewhere, rolling her eyes at my use of the word, “study”):
- Read ALL the print that is there. Do NOT look at the pictures first. You will be very tempted, but go directly to the written words. Ask for help if there are big words. If any or all of the words are misspelled, move along to the next truck. Trust me on that one.
- Don’t even proceed with your consideration if there is only one picture. If they don’t show all sides of the truck, you can rest assured they are showing a good side, possibly the ONLY good side.
- Keep moving if the only picture of the truck contains a trailer. Especially if the truck is ON the trailer.
- Beware of dead giveaway phrases like. “It ran when we parked it.” “We” may mean their grandfather, who may have parked it after the war.
- “Missing a few parts” means “missing all parts except what you can see in the photos.”
- If no odometer mileage is given, scroll on. The common variation of this is, “the odometer may have rolled over.” This means the odometer has rolled over at least twice.
- Anything that says “new tires,” forget about it. You can bolt new tires onto a decrepit fence gate. The new tires could very well be the only part of the vehicle that works, and they may not even be the ones you like. “New tires” are the least of your troubles.
- “Fresh paint” equals zero. See rule 7. Get a truck that has NO new paint. You will be able to see all its flaws, and to pick your own paint color, if paint is in its future.
- “Needs a little work.” Scroll with both hands away from this. Unless you are retired and plan to spend the rest of your life on one “project.” Some people do. Not knocking it, just something to consider.
- “Just testing the waters.” It may occur to you that this is a fishing term. Guess who the fish is.
- “I bought this for my (son, daughter, cousin, niece, nephew, ex-wife, grandfather who fought in the war … you get the idea) but then he or she decided to go to (college, medical school, law school, beauty school … you get the idea).” Way too much family history and not enough truck info.
- “Runs and drives.” Well, pop the cork. And pardon my presumption that was already the case.
- “Clean owner’s title.” Great, because I think most of us are tired of those pesky cartel trucks with all of those repo and law enforcement auction complications.
- And finally—“Has a little rust in the usual places.”
That’s another column.