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Tales of a Hay Hauler: “Still plays with trucks”

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Columns - Brad Nelson
Thursday, 28 October 2010 00:00

In 1963 Ford made a red one-ton truck. The engine was the 292 cubic inch “Y” block V-8. This one came with a five-speed transmission. I became its proud owner in 1969. It had a covered utility body on it and with just my young bride and me in the family, it worked for an occasional camping trip.

The marker lights on the utility bed seemed to be too bright. When they started burning out and I went to replace the bulbs, I found them to be 6-volt bulbs. That told me that the utility bed had been on an older truck and that the person who put it on the ’63 had not bothered to update the lighting to the 12-volt system.

The first modification I made was to unbolt the seat from the floor and place a wood two-by-four between the floor of the cab and the seat. That gave me much more leg room. The next summer the utility bed went away in favor of a flatbed Elli’s dad helped me build.

I mounted a pair of 15-gallon drums to the frame of the truck, one on each side between the cab and the rear wheels. I plumbed these to the fuel system on the truck and could run from the main tank, which was inside the cab behind the seat, or from either of the 15-gallon tanks. This helped since the truck got all of 10 miles per gallon, loaded or empty, uphill or downhill.

The next summer we got a 1958 Ford car, and the truck towed all our plunder and the car nicely when we moved back to college in the fall. On the way from Nampa, Idaho to Provo, Utah, the generator stopped working. We made it in by dim headlights, and the next morning I had to hustle to get the driveshaft put back in the car so I could drive in to register for school.

The only brand-new vehicle I owned in my life was a 1971 Ford one-ton that I ordered in about the time my tenure as a college student ended. It was the long wheel-base model, and I built a ten-foot-long flatbed for it. It had the 390 cubic inch V-8 engine and a four-speed manual transmission.

The seat height was quickly altered by adding 2x4’s under the seat, then an auxiliary fuel tank and then dual exhaust. This one did better on fuel. The average was 12 miles per gallon, and it was a lot more fun to drive. Just to show how little the dollar is worth these days, the 1971 truck cost just over $3,500.

When I needed a truck to haul hay to my dairy cows some time later, I got a good deal on a 1958 Ford C-600 tilt cab. I got it cheap because the engine just barely ran. The engine was the big brother to the 292 – the 332 cubic inch V-8. It ran poorly because the rocker arm assembly on one head had starved for oil, and the valves were not opening adequately for the engine to run well. A trip to the used parts store and a couple of afternoons and the truck became worth ten times what we paid for it, since it now ran well.

Next came a 1964 Ford F-800 that had been retired from a potato hauling fleet as the fleet moved on to diesel power. The power was the 391 cubic inch truck engine, with a 4-barrel carburetor and the power got to the road via a close-ratio five-speed transmission and two-speed rear axle.

Next I acquired the first “big” truck, the 1962 Freightliner with the 220 Cummins engine. The 1968 Mack followed the Freightliner, and it was followed by two more Freightliners, both altered to do what I wanted them to do and to fit my over-sized carcass into the cab.

My current “ride” is the 1997 Dodge diesel one-ton I’ve had for the last eight or nine years. The air ride driver’s seat was such an improvement that I added another on the passenger side, also a custom shift knob, a C.B. radio, a scanner, a radar detector, the muffler went away, the power is up to 340 from the stock 215, plus the sliding tool box cover I made. The kids tell me that the only thing about the Dodge that is the same as when I got it is the title.

The other day I parked it near where the second generation hay hauler was working on some new lettering for his Freightliner. Some time later I noticed that the back of my Dodge was neatly lettered, “Still plays with trucks”. Who raised that dang kid, anyway?  PD


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