|'Bolters finding trucks ... Trucks finding 'Bolters ... 'Bolters needing counseling ...|
Rick Metcalfe is a retired Professional Engineer, with a lifelong love of old vehicles.
A true eclectic, Rick is an inventor, College Professor, welder, accomplished metal sculptor, customizer, etc.
Rick has a handfull of old Chev trucks, vans, Porsches and custom projects.
As builder and racer of a vintage '58 Porsche Speedster, Rick has collected a number of trophies and competition awards.
Living in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, Rick is now an independant appraiser of classic autos and trucks. He can be reached by email.
Toy ducks are crew and mascots for our team: TUBTOY RACING. They only go to work when it rains. (They float around - that's what toy ducks "do".)
Two ducks (Good Luck and Baby Duck) ride in the car when I am on the track in the 1958 Porsche Speedster.
The cars are know as "upside-down bathtubs" so -- what do you take in the tub with you if you are having fun and feel like a kid?
"Most fun you can have in the tub, with your clothes on."
|The Ballad of “El Gringo Loco”
A ’45 Art Deco leaves his guard post at the woodpile
By Rick Metcalfe
Parked and waiting
The rural scene opens in the back of a farm yard, some four miles outside a small town. The 1945 Art Deco 2-ton truck is guarding the woodpile, having served “The Squire” and his family for 65 years. The last 25-plus years have been an ignoble existence ... parked ... waiting. The decades had been hard on him. His windshield broken, well nature had taken its course. Raccoons had come and gone, leaving their messy droppings throughout the interior. Mice and other rodents had removed the vinyl, stuffing and horsehair from the seats. They built nests the size of a teenager’s backpack nearby. Rain, sleet and snow had built up both on and in him, melting away as the decades passed. Yellow Jackets and other bad boys called some of the corners home.
Out back, near the woodpile
One spring afternoon some five years ago, a friend Ken (a/k/a “Gringo”) and I stopped by for a visit to the Squire, when we noticed the truck sitting quietly in the back. Sneaking up on it, so as not to disturb its pleasant slumber, we noticed it was mostly intact. There was no bed, but all the wheels and tires held air and the doors opened and closed with ease. The vandals had not yet broken the headlights and the key was still in it. Country folk take some solace in knowing that no one usually wants to steal their old farm trucks. Mostly ‘cause they don’t have boomin' stereos and tinted windows.
The Squire informed us that the truck had been in his family since new. It was bought in the closing months of WWII. It was, at one time, fitted with a box and full dump bed. The seats were replaced in the 60’s, which necessitated taking out the in-cab fuel tank. A small frame-mounted utility tank was attached behind the cab. The engine was changed out for a 235 Blue Flame Six from a ’55 Chevy car. The dump had been parted out to some other truck owner in the ‘70’s or earlier. No one remembered when it was last plated.
Gringo remembered riding in it as a boy, being allowed to pull the levers to dump the box at the Co-Op grain elevators. In the days before Vee-Box wagons, it made the short trip to town to dump its precious cargo from the fields. The truck worked, but after some time, it was not economical or safe to drive it to town. The Squire’s father welded huge brackets to the front bumper so the tractor could tow it in. As the years passed, Vee-Box wagon trains did the same job, much more efficiently. The truck sat.
“Oh Sénior, feel my tires. Look at my sturdy frame. I long to go to another place. I am tired of looking at the woodpile for so many years. No one has taken me for a drive or a tow in so long. All my gas has evaporated from my tank. Por favor Sénior? ---- Por favor?”
"Who said that?" thought I. What was that mystical latin voice?
Gringo and I inquired of the Squire if this old guy was “available.” I was told that it was actually being saved for the Squire’s eldest son, the heir apparent.
Off we went, wishing the Squire well, and hearing the truck muttering in the background about being forgotten and un-loved.
Wait for it
Fast forward to three weeks ago (October 2009), when I gets a call from Gringo. Well, the Squire was tired of the old truck blocking the woodpile and he thought it should go -- for scrap if need be.
Blocking the woodpile???? He was guarding the woodpile, and had done so with honor for decades.
Well, what did he think was a fair price? Gringo, with mathematical precision, did some cipherin in his engineering head. He figgered it was worth about $200 for the scrap metal. I said "Sure! $200 was fine ... with the title. Ask the Squire."
A week went by and the answer came down from the Squire. He could not find the ownership yet, but I could have it for $100. He would help when the time came to generate the proper documents.
OK, says I, a buck it is, cash of course. (The only time I recall ever negotiating to buy a vehicle and the seller cuts the price in half, to counter the first offer.)
We needs a plan
How would I get it home, nearly 120 miles away? Gringo says “Just hitch up a tow-bar and tow it there. That’s how they did it in the old days.” Besides, the tires were all inflated and it rolled freely.
"NO!" says I, too hard on my little ole S-10 Blazer. “You could put it on your car trailer. It can’t weigh that much.”
With the retired, rusty steel trap of a mind, Gringo goes through the components one by one and comes up with 4,000 pounds as the tally. (*The Big Bolt Forum guys came up with 3950 lbs.) Still to heavy, and with that 160” wheelbase, the rear end would hang over my trailer by more than 24 inches. Nope!
“Well you could get it started and then you could drive it home.” After all it “ran” when it was last used (see right side bar -->). However, he couldn’t remember when, in the last 30-plus years, that "running" occurred. “It is a farm truck, so you don’t need plates. Just put an orange (slow / tractor) triangle on the back.”
I told Gringo he must be LOCO!!!! Drive that far through a dozen small towns, past what would be several police jurisdictions. I THINK NOT.
“Oh," he says, "You just use the key on/off for brakes and drive slow. Remember it ran well when they put it away.”
Well perhaps not. It may take four to six hours to clean plugs, carb, points, wiring, etc. not to mention the starter ... if it works.
Big stuff to move big stuff
Knowing I would need a heavier truck and trailer, I inquired with the neighbors about borrowing these. Neighbor #1 was too busy with the harvest activities. Neighbor #2 had a Dodge Ram 2500, V-8, manual trans and a big hitch. Happy to help. He would simply trade for my little Blazer when the time came. Neighbor #3 had the right trailer, but it was stacked high with 2x6 roof trusses.
More than a week was needed to deal off the trusses. In the mean time, I collected my trusty 12-volt “1500 lb. Superwinch” and charged up a surplus battery. Not knowing what to expect, I collected two six ton jack stands, a three ton jack, two bottle jacks, prybars, ropes, chains, rags, tie-wraps and of course four Vicegrips. We all know you can fix, attach, or modify anything if you have enough of those. (Gringo’s young engineer son used to marvel at my drawers overflowing with all shapes of Vicegrips. Gringo told him that I was a breeder and there were more there every few weeks.) Lastly, I included six two-inch yellow cargo straps and a box of tools.
The adventure begins when the Dodge Ram and trailer first shake hands (2 -5/16” ball). Coming from different sources, both the drawbar and the trailer coupling had a 6” drop to accommodate the needs of their individual owners. The net result was the trailer tongue was 4” off the gravel unloaded. YUK!!!
I’ll work that out later. The good news is it had a hydraulic surge brake system for all four wheels. Excellent! It will have a good work out with a Big Bolt on it. Off to the highway to get to Gringo’s that night.
With a coffee to go, on the way down the road, it occurred to me that the easiest answer was to buy a new drawbar and ball. I stopped at my local discount house (read Harbor Freight) and bought what I needed. Well, after an uneventful drive, Gringo offers up a glass of homemade wine, conversation and a quiet spare room to wrestle with my dreams. The next day, “Truck Day”, he was not available to help load this heavy truck onto my rig.
Lets make a deal
"Here, call this number," says Gringo. The Squire is expecting you. Off I went to the Squire’s and parked out back. Lo and behold, the ’45 Art Deco truck was now away from his guard post at the woodpile, AND pointed in the direction I needed on a gravel pad. What a treat! No muddy fields, overgrown bushes, trees or hills / streams to deal with. Flat, level, and all tires inflated! Hoo-Ya!
I stopped at the house to pay my $100 (cash of course) to the Squire, thanking him for moving the truck out. No, he didn’t start it, he towed it with his lawn mover, almost 100 feet out and around the corner. Holy Snappers, this big thing must roll easy. “Oh Ya,” says he “I cold push it too.” (Never underestimate the resolve of an old farmer with multiple serious health problems.) He couldn’t remember much about the history of it, but “Dad” had made all the changes to it over the years.
“Arrrghhh Squire, I gives you my gold. Now hows about you and me signin articles? Haaarrr Squire! You gives me your affi-davy for the truck, then. I gives you my affy-davy that I won’t harm no hair on that thaar truck’s head. I knows how much it means to your family.”
“Not now” says he, “I’m busy” says he. “Off to town to get me some blood work done”, says he. "Later” says he.
And later it will have to be, even when I’d used my best Wallace Beery (think Treasure Island) on him.
I maneuvered the trailer into position and I thought I could hear, in broken English, that gravely voice calling to me. “Hey Sénior, por favor? My tires they eeeech to go on your trailer!!!”
“What? I don’t even have a bill of sale or a title yet”, says I.
“Title? I ain't got no steenkin title!! You don’t need no steenkin title!!!!”
“Sénior, my tires they eeech to go on your trailer!”
" OK, OK, hold on here. Who said that??"
Yes, it was the truck talking to me agin. Y’all ‘member when a Bolt talks to you don’t ya?? Come on now, we’ve all heard them. Some sweet, some sour, some rusty and gravely, (and sometimes like bandito Alfonso Bedoya from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre).”
Line him up!
Not wanting to argue with a 2-ton talking Art Deco, I maneuvered the Dodge Ram and trailer into position to load him. I dropped the ramp near his front tires. You could almost see him quiver with excitement like a big dog waiting for that warm sausage treat.
Just a minute there big fella. I still had to change out the 2” draw bar and new ball.
That accomplished, I was sure the trailer tongue would not be plowin' gravel. I mounted up my electric winch to the trailer front crossbar and rolled out the cable. I clipped the hook to the monster. You could almost see him itch-in' forward. Blocking up the ramp and the back of the trailer with some chunks of firewood, I eyeballed the whole scene.
Ready, set, go. The winch groaned and whinned, not having pulled anything this heavy up hill before. The 30 amp circuit breaker popped and reset a few times. I must surely be exceeding the load limit. Every few feet I would stop and throw some chunks of firewood behind the duallies to keep him from rolling back.
Smilin' that toothless smile at me, the truck seemed happier and happier as he got up on that borrowed trailer.
“Hey Sénior?? Wherefore we are going, por favor??”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t have a big woodpile to guard. But, then again, he would be in good company with other Chevy trucks of different vintages and states of construction.
continued >> 1 | 2
If you enjoyed this story, you need to read Rick's other adventure:"Go big or not at all! A story about a 1949 MAGNUM Crew Cab in the making. ~ Editor