10 February 2014
1968 Chevy C/10
From Scotty :
On the last day of January 1968, North Vietnam launched its Tet Offensive. In March, Senator Robert Kennedy announced his decision to enter the 1968 Presidential race. It was in April of 1968 when the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. In July, Arlo Guthrie sang “Alice’s Restaurant” and in December, Apollo 8 launched on a mission to orbit the moon.
All of those events marked serious milestones in our Nation’s history -- some would sadden our citizens and others make them happy.
A lesser event also took place, hardly noticed by many but certainly noticed by enough ... Chevrolet manufactured and sold a well-made stepside pickup truck. It was an historic time when Americans had their focus on the greater things that took place in our country, certainly things more important than the making of a two-wheel drive truck with just the basic necessities to get it on the road and working.
Nevertheless, the truck was produced, with no amenities to its name, yet it still sold from a Chevrolet lot to an oil company in North Carolina intending to use it for work.
So off she went, the truck, in its boring color of worker orange, no radio, no air conditioning, just a 250 engine commanded by a three- speed column shift.
The people who drove her were employees, not owners, and they valued the truck as a miner would value a mule. If the mule were to die they would simply replace it.
In this case the truck did not die and it continued to be one of the service trucks that made rounds in North Carolina, serving as a maintenance rig for the larger oil trucks carrying petroleum for the company. If the big rigs broke down, the maintenance crews threw some tools in the back and went on out there to get the trucks back on the road.
Of course, nothing stays the same. Change is constant. Change can be depended on. The orange Chevrolet truck began to get old, and the owners of the company the truck supported also saw their years expanding.
The Company peaked at some point in the early 70s, but eventually peaks on business graphs started to smooth out more and more until the Company itself mothballed and the old truck was parked, its service forgotten. The only thing protecting the aging truck was a thin overhead cover, and the fine North Carolina weather.
It was there the truck sat, facing rain or even the occasional snow that would bless North Carolina in some of the years. Mice saw the old truck as a home, and they moved in just as soon as it was safe, modifying the seats and matts to their liking while creating massive and sophisticated tunnels throughout the trucks heater system and dash board.
The floor matts cracked and the heater core gave in to boredom, rupturing in some small areas causing corrosion to eat through the dashboard.
In solidarity the battery also decided to leak and make way for a new hole in one of the fender’s front area. But not to worry. These happenings would prove to be a small, insignificant changes in the old truck, as the rest of the body did not show much wear or holes or even a care that she was left behind.
So there she stayed until the paint found a nice worn down orange hue, unmatched in character or richness across the whole United States of America.
It was 39 years later when the old truck was noticed again and sold by some really fast talking man holding a gavel. He talked fast and pointed and when his gavel made a hard thug ‘swack’ on his makeshift podium, a very happy paying customer made a new claim to the old truck and he vowed to make her live again.
A friendship quickly formed. The new owner took it home and gave the truck a good going over. The head had more than one crack in it. The water pump and heater core leaked as well as the radiator. The front brakes didn't work and the back brakes were missing a part.
The exhaust system had holes in it and the starter complained when the truck was started.
Despite all of those character flaws, she did run -- but there were many needed things that would have to be applied in order for this truck to be capable of road travel.
That contradiction had him looking for an engine that still ran on 6 in a row, but more modern, and he did find one. An inexpensive Inline 6 (1977 250) that had an electronic distributor. So, armed with a little money and limited time, he had the newer engine installed. He changed the heater core, the radiator and the carburetor and he put the old truck back in traffic.
She was mobile, but simple. The old transmission worked fine as it sang along with the engine and the truck proved to be a good choice.
The brakes were fixed in a short time and Pack knew he had plenty to do on the old nag to keep her headed in the right direction. Being mobile felt good and time was needed in order to purchase the truck’s future.
The faded paint proved to be a strong point in the truck’s character. It represented her age well and says to everyone that sees it “I’ve been there and done that.”
The bed boards are strong and original and they match the seasoned body. No rust, no holes and no metal corrosion exist on her, even the old cross members supporting the short bed are original and intact.
Pack named her “Orange Crush”, a reference to her avoided fate which should have been the crusher years ago; the fact that she was Orange; and well ... also ... the fact that he had a crush on the old truck. She was on the road, but she had quite a bit of mending left to do.
With all of Pack’s household goods (active duty U.S. Army) sent ahead of him, he had three friends left to move: two dogs and Orange Crush (which he affectionately shortened to OC).
It was in June that Pack, OC and his two dogs pulled out of Fayetteville, NC. He gassed up the old rig and headed West. Lucy, the Beagle, rode shotgun and Blacky, the Boxer, chose to ride center for the adventure.
A 1,000 mile shake down run taught Pack and his two canine friends quite a bit. OC ran fine. She shifted fine and she didnt lack power. However, she was slow in modern traffic and was restricted to an average 60 mph.
Her cab was noisy and hot. OC doesn't have air conditioning and the old 3-speed transmission in its performance sent loud humming sounds into the cab. There wasn't much to hear in the cab anyway with no radio and the windows down for air. Lucy occupied her trip with occasional looks outside the truck window while Blacky sat next to the driver panting contentedly.
All four of these elements were enjoying the trip, noisy and hot as it might be. After stopping for fuel and some well-earned cheeseburgers, they made it about halfway before they saw a storm headed right at them. All three were tired. They found a roadside rest and parked.
They tried to sleep. A large and powerful thunderstorm attacked them and rocked the truck for about four hours. Call it bonding, or call it survival, but what Pack chose to call it at the time was insanity, for he had never been locked in a small truck cab in a thunderstorm with two nervous dogs ever before.
Every lightning strike that took place sent the dogs into nervous shakes and whines. He had them positioned on the floor boards with blankets to lay on, one on the passenger side and one on the driver side, while he laid across the old truck bench seat.
That quickly changed when thunder sounded off and both Blacky and Lucy decided to join him on the truck seat. Pack never realized just how big these dogs were until they both clung to him in trembling fear. Not too much sleep was found that night. But soon enough the storm ended and they headed West again. They made it home and found their driveway.
After fixing the starter, he blew up the transmission on a hunting trip, leading to a new modern 700R4 to mate up with the new engine.
New door seals, installing a new floor matt with sound deadening paint, a modern radio that looks old, and a really cool Mexican blanket that he used to make a seat cover.
The new transmission and engine keeps up with new traffic just fine at speeds in excess of 70 mph and the cab is now quiet -- quiet enough to hear the music.
OC’s future will see a better stereo, new tires and window felt, better seat belts and a possible gas tank relocation. The old paint will remain and the old rims with Baby Moons will stay as well.
As Alabama would sing “She’s close enough to perfect for me.”
If it’s up to me and my two dogs, it will stay that way. As a veteran, I doubt that my soldiering capabilities will ever reach the greatness of our Vietnam veterans. As a human being, I doubt that I can ever contribute to society as much as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did for our great country. OC and I may not put an Apollo in space or run for President. And I doubt very much that I can sing “Alice’s Restaurant” like Arlo Guthrie did. But it is a quiet history that OC and I are making and I appreciate Chevrolet for producing a fine, no frills, functional, well made, stepside pickup truck painted worker orange in 1968.
Thanks for reading fellow Bolters, and I hope to see you on the highway.
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