I would rather have a medium-duty truck than a Ferrari for Christmas. A Ferrari is sporty, but I get my fill of sportiness from motorcycles. A medium-duty truck opens up new dimensions of functionality, fun, and enchantment. If you don’t believe me on the latter, please read Enjoying the Long Haul, my account of driving cross-country in a rented moving truck.
When I was a kid I loved every sort of motor vehicle, from International Metro step-vans to Ford Model T street rods, but devoted an inordinate percentage of my time to staring at trucks. Not only were they awesome symbols of power, but each one differed from the other in its awesomeness.
Back in the early 1960s, the average truck running up and down Omaha’s streets still had a split windshield (like spectacles) and a snubbed nose from daily brawling and a mouthful of steel bars for a grille, not so different as I supposed from the men named Hassenstab and Siedlick and Tomacek who sat around Omaha’s taverns drinking shots and beers. The average truck’s only missing element was a half-smoked stogie sticking out above the bumper. Its colorful cab carried creative graphic designs, the lettering being hand-painted. And the choice of bodies was as varied as one nation from the next. There were cargo vans, flatbeds, tankers, utility and service bodies, wreckers, drilling rigs, pickups, and cranes.
In particular I loved stakebeds. Trucks with fences! Wood and steel together! The wood moved and rattled, adding a more human touch. A stakebed brought together the industrial and the natural. Nothing else for sale at your local dealership could quite match this, not even a woodie wagon.
Santa should bring a medium-duty stakebed truck down the chimney. He has mastered the technique of wriggling in with enormities. The question is whether I can drive my gift out through the patio doors.
An International DuraStar with a mid-length wheelbase and turbodiesel engine from Santa would be excellently received.
Here are some advantages this truck will evince over a supersports car that probably wouldn’t be driven more than 3,000 miles per year:
- Fun to drive in its own way. A 650-horsepower car is not made for the streets and is little fun to drive in ordinary circumstances. But a large truck with an immense amount of slack in the steering–aim for the mountains, aim for the shore–demands a whole different level of precision and, even without exceeding 60 mph on a straightaway, is still a lively driving experience.
- It has the right kind of looks. Whenever I step out of a Ferrari, I suppose that most onlookers are asking, “Who’s that cotton-picker think he is, anyway? Out slumming in his Eye-talian hot rod. See how he’s just wearing Levi’s and a University of Nebraska sweatshirt!” But if you’re driving a truck, the person who does make a comment–“Hey, Bud, that’s sure a good-looking rig!”–obviously has superior taste.
- Supersports cars aren’t really so different from one another. They’re computer-designed for a narrow, if heroic, task portfolio. There isn’t more than one answer. But a truck is designed for any number of heroic tasks. A dual-cab truck carries a crew as well as cargo. Trucks bear great burdens of goods or livestock or tools. Some trucks crawl over impossible terrain. A DuraStar can easily tow a trailer laden with twelve portable toilets, which you will never see a Lamborghini Murciélago doing. As the towing capacity is very high, the toilets need not have been emptied before being loaded onto the trailer. There may still be people using them–no matter. Because of the widely disparate capabilities, trucks all look different from one another. Some forward-control tractors are fitted with stakebeds. There are even weird, alien, single-cab trucks made for hauling steel–like a Lamborghini Egoista supersports car with dual rear wheels.
- No color is wrong for a truck. A green Ferrari is a flash flood in a Kentucky hollow, a safe falling from a Manhattan skyscraper and hitting a taxi filled with Girl Scouts. But a green truck is OK if that’s your company color. An orange truck won’t raise any questions–“What’s wrong with that guy? Is he queer?”–while an orange mid-engine coupe may prompt laughing and pointing (unless it’s a vintage BMW M1, in which case you’re a connoisseur).
- My stakebed truck will probably have lower repair costs than your Maserati Bora. A cracked cylinder head on the Bora would entail a federal bailout, whereas the DuraStar’s 6.7-liter Cummins six-cylinder diesel might need to have its variable-geometry turbocharger’s vanes unsmudged every third Ides of March but otherwise needs about as much care as an iguana. Yes, a medium-duty stakebed truck would entail a bevy of unusual costs. For instance, once I remove it from my hearth, the neighbors would object to my parking it at the curb (and, besides, I wouldn’t leave it in the sun). Renting a large garage would be necessary. Insurance and licensing are also dear. The DuraStar’s fuel economy of around 5 or 6 mpg is half a Bora’s. But if the truck were loaded with boxed liver-and-onions dinners for homeless people on National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, the fuel could be justified. And a Bora would look ridiculous with my company’s name on the doors. Or with liver and onions on the roof rack.
- My passenger will find it easier to seat herself while wearing a miniskirt. Or more conveniently in a bikini. As the DuraStar’s interior is as grimly basic as a barracks, there will be no real need for her to sit on a beach towel. Seats are upholstered in soft vinyl, and the floor is rubber-covered. Drip at will! All this is assuming I refuse to let her drive. It is well-known that nearly everybody wants to take the wheel of a stakebed truck and no special license is required. Every consideration will be made. As the benefit of my saying yes, drivers wearing bikinis are waved through checkpoints, too.
I flatter myself with the thought that a stakebed truck would allow me to be useful to people.
Yet the first time the friend of a friend files a damage claim because her cheap pine bedroom set got scratched up while I voluntarily moved her stuff after eviction, the next load for my medium-duty stakebed truck would be scoops of gravel to be dumped across the driveway of her new abode.
However, I hadn’t bothered to tell Santa my truck should have a hydraulic dumping mechanism. So the whole project is misbegotten.
A supersports car is sounding better and better.