Some time ago, I wrote a post complaining about my then reasonably new Toyota 8ft. bed pickup. My complaints had to do with its size (except for the 8 foot long bed). It was simply too big. But since I still have it, it must have some good points, so in all fairness.I figure that I should mention a few redeeming virtues to it.
I first experienced pickups when I rode around with my dad in his 1939 Chevrolet. Eight foot bed, but smaller machine. Eight feet is a magic number, since building materials, single mattresses, and all sorts of other things can be put into an eight foot long space, and if there is a closable end (the tailgate) they will stay there. He drove the truck for over 25 years, before losing it in an accident, and then acquired a 1966 Chevrolet pickup, which he drove until he died, at which point it went to my oldest son, and now I am restoring it. All eight foot long beds. But pickups have grown.
At one point, I needed my own pickup, and bought a new small Toyota truck (six foot bed). It was a wonderful machine, and passed through the hands of two of my children before it was finally sold. My older son is into his second small Toyota (Tacoma), and has had terrific luck with them, but they all had shorter beds. I meanwhile went through an 8 foot bed blue Ford F150 (wrong color for California’s central valley), and a white one (more acceptable to the culture). Both of them served me well, except as the bells and whistles increased in number and complexity, although the drive trains in both of them gave me no problems, I had increasing problems with failures of remote control features, electronic ignition systems, etc. So I decided to buy another no frills Toyota, and go back to the smaller model because of its convenience in parking and driving around cities. But as I tested the new Tacomas, I realized I had somehow gone from a large person to an extra large person, and I couldn’t easily get my knees under the steering wheel, my head under the top of the door opening, etc. Perhaps less flexible?
Also, I have always been an ad-hoc camper, and had shells on my Fords, enabling me to sleep in the 8 foot bed in the rain, and my wife to ride in back on a mattress and read books and listen to music when we took long trips (probably illegal, since there was no seat or seat belt back there). So I bought a white Tundra, even though it had the shortcomings I mentioned in the earlier post.
- Too high off the ground, demanding a running board for my wife to get into it, and making it impossible to reach objects in the middle of the bed.
- Door too wide to be fully opened in tight parking situations.
- Turning radius too large due to wheelbase of the truck, in turn partly due to an overly long cab. I wanted a single seat, but the “conventional cab” has room behind it, presumably to put things. But the space is such that things put there will disappear forever, because it is a high and narrow space, and how many of us are going to remember what we stuff into a space such as that?
- Too “car like” instead of “truck like”. Large body panels with little structure behind them which dent easily, lavish and expensive rear light enclosures that are difficult to change when the break (it is a truck), etc.
- The step on the back bumper enabling you to easily get into the back is covered by the tailgate when it is open.
- And more
My previous experience had taught me much about ordering a pickup. I knew it was important for me to:
- Order the minimum of bells and whistles (remote control devices, TV cameras, luxury upholstery, etc.), since over long usage, they would be likely to fail. If you lose your manual key to open the cab and start the engine, you probably have another one, and if not, the nice people from AAA can solve your problem. But if your digital “safety system” fails, you probably better hang on to your wallet and take it to a mechanic.
- Go for the smallest engine available. It will have plenty of torque and speed for me and I don’t plan to race my pickup.
- Go for two wheel drive. Four wheel drive obviously has more traction, but tempts one to try to attempt overly heroic feats. There is nothing more pathetic than a stuck four-wheel drive vehicle.
- Get an eight foot bed. The two extra feet are worth the extra move needed to get into a parking space in most lots, and the worry about whether you are going to make the U- turn at the intersection. Besides, your friends and family always want to move eight foot long items. Security is a load of plywood sheets and other building material with the tail gate closed. And you can sleep in it.
- Get one that is easy to get in and out of, because that seems to be a primary activity with a pick up.
- Unless you have a dog or very small kids, forget anything behind the main seat, but make sure it can seat three people. I seem to do quite a bit of moving for young perhaps newly married couples, and they both want to go along, so stay away from fixed central consoles.
So what have I done to now be much more fond of my truck, than when I initially bought it? I have not done the major modifications I had planned, like lowering the body and beefing up the springs. But other things have happened.
- First of all, I have accumulated the various dings and scrapes having to do with normal usage of such a truck, so I don’t have to worry about it. The truck and I can curse together when we find a new scrape in a parking lot, which makes us closer. (Incidentally, when people ding your pickup in a parking lot, they tend not to leave you a note—I guess that’s reserved for cars). I once had the unsettling experience of observing a farmer friend of mine drive a new pickup home, only to attack the inside of the bed with a crowbar, since he did not want a bed liner, and did not want to have to worry about the shiny new paint and bumpless interior. He wanted to put it to work immediately. I understand that, but can’t bring myself to do it.
- I put running boards on it, just like in the 1930’s
- I built several fine sturdy yet light weight boxes that I could stand on to reach material in the center of the box, and use to easily get in the back when the tail gate was open. But after the boxes were repeatedly stolen by people for storage containers (especially my wife}, I shortened an old rake which I keep in back to help me reach things. And I learned to climb in the back, using the bumper step, before I open the tail gate.
- I have learned a set of skills associated with the truck. I have a plastic removable bed liner in the back, because I frequently load and unload heavy objects and it is somewhat slippery so that objects slide more easily on it. I have become quite good at moving things where I want them while en route. I can move them forward by an usually abrupt stop. I can move them backward by accelerating up the hill to my house. Just a few hours ago I had three toolboxes, some old tractor parts, and a bunch of just-bought loose groceries in the back, and I was able to use the uphill road to my house, my brakes, and my steering wheel to arrange everything in the order I wanted them—sophisticated swerving adjusts things sideways.
So I now love my Tundra. It has just taken fifty thousand miles for us to get used to each other. | It is still too big, too far off of the ground, and too fancy. But now it is looking older and more used like I do, and I am looking forward to the next fifty thousand miles.
Do you suppose people become more fond of products that they use a long time, both because they become more skillful at using them, and because they become “old friends”? I sure do. What does that say about constant new digital equipment and continual new “upgrades”?