Monday, July 28, 2014

The Day I Lost My Marbles: 1965 Ford F-100

For a long time now, one of my dream cars has been a '65 Ford pickup.  I tend to appreciate low-cost, easy-to-work-on, old American cars more than exotics and imports.  I figured that if I was to work on cars and build stuff for myself when I grew up, I'd need a good tow vehicle.  Having been a Ford fan all my life, I naturally had an eye for the F-series trucks, one of the best-selling vehicles in the world.  After many years of gathering knowledge, I realized in middle school that my favorite was the curvy '56 model but that quickly changed to the more capable, more powerful '65.

I sometimes look for cars for sale just for fun.  I can spend entire nights just clicking links and drooling over things I won't be able to get.  One night, I came across an all original '65 Ford F-100 that was red-orange with a white roof, had a 352 c.i. V8 engine, and was slightly weathered.  It really struck a chord in me and even though that particular truck was sold years ago, that image was cemented into my mind as my dream truck.

Fast forward to college.  Last September, I was walking the streets of Ann Arbor when I saw a spitting image of the truck driving around.  It was as if it materialized out of my brain!  Every detail of the appearance of this truck is what I envisioned mine to be: red-orange and white, aluminum side trim, and light patina indicating a well-cared-for, yet unrestored workhorse.  I was so excited that I stopped in my tracks and watched it pull away from the red light, wishing I had a chance to give the owner a thumbs up.  I thought I'd never see it again.

6-cylinder badge on the hood and "Twin I Beam," the first independent front suspension ever produced for any truck.  

In November, I was waiting at the bus stop with a friend in the rain when the truck appeared again.  By this time, I actually wanted an F-250 instead of an F-100 because the frame would be more stout.  There was a traffic jam and seeing the chance, my friend said "Jay, go!" and I ran to the truck to talk to the owner.  He said it had a 240 c.i. straight six engine and was all original.  I noticed that while almost all '61-'66 Ford trucks I saw had a "Custom Cab" badge on the door, this one didn't.  I'm still not sure what the difference would have been.  Anyway, I pretty much had a fanboy moment just talking to the guy .  (EDIT: After looking at the interior photo again, it looks like the truck has the '61-'64 dashboard so maybe only the Custom Cab models got the update in '65-'66.)

This truck does have a Michigan plate on the back, but I'm guessing that there is such little rust because it's spent most of its life in the south.  I saw this truck again in April, this time parked at the loading dock at the Hill Auditorium.  I seized the chance to take a bunch of photos, shown here.  The truck has a 3-speed manual transmission with the shifter on the steering column, known by car enthusiasts as a "3-on-the-tree."

So, besides the fact that my ideal truck would have been an F-250, I wanted to drop a 460 c.i. big block V8 under the hood to utilize its rock solid dependability and torque reservoir deep enough to move mountains.  I'd be battling single-digit gas mileage but it wouldn't feel right running a modern mill.  That's just my preference; I'm okay with other people doing that.  The 460 was offered in the F-series from 1973 to 1996, so there would be plenty versions to choose from. A 4-speed manual transmission would put power to the wheels, maybe with overdrive or a 2-speed axle to improve highway gas mileage.  I was also thinking of getting a 4x4 or converting a standard model into a 4x4.

Seen in June in Ann Arbor, helping to set up for the Top of the Park fair.  At the far left of the photo, there is a reverse light rigged up and sitting on the bumper.  I like that.  

I lose my marbles every time I see this truck.  The F-100 of Ann Arbor is still hard at work after 50 years - judging by the shape it's in, it looks to me that it has never sat rotting on a lot.  The bulletproof straight six engine has probably never missed a beat.  It's the all-original, hard working daily drivers like this that make me proud of American vehicles.  'MERICA!

I'm thinking of buying a '90s F-series truck with a 300 c.i. straight six and a manual transmission soon.  Architects tend to drive trucks because they're often called on to pick things up, but I'm first going to work as a contractor to get to know the other side of the profession.  The truck would be decent on gas, good for most tasks, and would likely keep running for many years.  I could carry my junk to and from apartments, bring supplies for whatever, and go on road trips.  I've already found many of these in good shape and for sale for mere pennies so I know I'll have no problem finding my own.