As you probably heard, there was some smoke in the air this spring in Minneapolis. It was not all from my truck.
This is my first day story with my 1966 Chevy C10 LWB Pickup.
Leaning into the Punch
This Minnesota winter was getting old, and I was looking forward to spring and wrenching
on an old truck in my driveway. The missing element is this dream was the truck; I didn’t
have one. I decided it was time to invest some time in this dream, and I began to shop.
Living in Minneapolis, arguably the buckle on the rust belt, we seek old trucks that have
spent their useful life elsewhere, far away. The truck that caught my eye was a 1966 Chevy
C10 LWB Fleetside with a 292 big six engine and four speed transmission. It was from the
Oregon High Desert, a climate easy on old truck metal.
Not a lot of old vehicles change hands during a Minnesota winter, but the seller was building
a war chest to supercharge his modern Mopar in the spring. The old C10 would provide him
with half of that of cash. We made arrangements to meet at the storage yard on a cold
February morning, and I did a couple 2nd gear cold laps in the snow. I liked the truck; it
was complete, bone stock and unmolested, with minimal rust and a developing patina
peeking through chalky white paint. The original and functional Delco AM radio centered the
big steel dashboard. The box was loaded with snow. It fit my specifications and budget, and
I was charmed; I could see beyond where it was to where I could take it. I swallowed the
hook; cash was exchanged for title, and we set the date that I would transport the truck.
Pete, a good friend with dually pickup and flatbed trailer, agreed to help. The day I first saw
the C10 was cold, but this day was bitter cold with a stiff northerly wind. Early that
morning, Pete called with the bad news that his daughter was sick. Because heavy snow
was forecast for the next day, I chose not to wait and I downshifted into Plan B; my wife
Jill. I wouldn't normally refer to Jill as Plan B, but she doesn't have a dually pickup and a
flatbed trailer. However, she is a good sport regarding my old truck interests. She
volunteered to take me to the truck and follow me home on the 25-mile journey.
The previous owner had the C10 running when I arrived. He hopped out of the cab and I
hopped in. After a short trip on secondary roads, I was on the main highway, and I shifted
into fourth gear. At about 40 MPH the engine began to produce a thunderous cacophony
with an unsettling shake. Trailing behind me was a tremendous cloud of smoke, ranging
from dense black to gray. Jill followed from a distance, or so I assumed as I could not see
through the opaque cloud I was producing.
All of my senses were fully engaged, struggling to understand all that was going on. The
exhaust cloud was considerable; a toxic cocktail of motor oil, unburned gasoline, punctuated
with a measure of coolant. Through the colorful saddle blanket seat cover, I could feel a
broken spring. What have I gotten myself into? This is not a question I expected to be
asking myself in the first minutes of ownership. Should I stop, should I press on, should I
change routes to avoid the attention of the state patrol? Which offense might they find more
egregious, the savage assault on the Earth's atmosphere or the faded blue 1998 Oregon
license plates? Would they take notice of the rear window rifle rack? I felt uncomfortably
I reached Minneapolis and downshifted onto a ramp to exit the highway. The engine killed.
Since I was rolling, I let the wheels crank the engine, but she would not fire. There was no
shoulder, just a bank of snow about ten feet wide, flanked by a chain-link fence. I jumped
the curb and came to rest just clear of traffic. Subsequent efforts to fire the engine killed
the weak battery. I was but two miles from home. I considered bringing the battery home
for a charge, but it seemed that the engine had bigger issues. Jill suggested a tow. Though
an attractive option, it was not the triumphant arrival narrative of the story I wanted to tell.
She called the tow truck.
It was a busy day for wreckers, and I attempted to wave down two that were headed to
help other unlucky motorists. The wrecker driver really liked my truck; he told me a
childhood story of riding in the box of his father's C10. He delivered me and the truck to
my narrow alley, and skillfully backed it into the spot that I specified. I snapped a couple
pictures as the C10 came to rest in front of my garage. I texted a picture of my C10 on the
tow hook to my friend Corey who is restoring a 1966 pickup built by another manufacturer.
You see, I like to lean into the punch.