19 March, 2014

Some Day I'll Have to Give Her Up

The day is fast approaching when I'm going to have to say "good bye" to my girl.  I ordered this truck from the Chevy dealer in 1993 and some nice people in Pontiac, Michigan made it for me.  At that time I was driving around in the first car I owned, a 1978 Malibu Classic, but my Dad wanted me to have a reliable vehicle.  Dad had already been battling cancer for some time and he wanted, as Fathers do, to make sure I would be OK.  He knew he wasn't going to be around much longer so he put some pressure on me to get a new vehicle.  I was working at the grocery store at the time and didn't exactly have a great income.  The only reason I was able to swing it was because I was still living with my parents.  I was still living with Mom when made the last payment.  I, reluctantly, sold my beloved Malibu to my best friend so I would have a down payment.  Dad and I went to the dealer and he helped me through my first (and only so far) new vehicle purchase.  I remember having to pass on some options because I couldn't afford them.  No air conditioning, no automatic transmission (I don't like automatics as it is), base engine (2.8L V-6), two wheel drive, short box... The "black out package" gave me a black grill, body color bumpers and black plastic wheel well trim.  I picked the color because it was similar to my Malibu.  I know there's other S-10s out there like mine but I've never seen one around here.  The first things I changed about this truck were the shifter (Hurst) and the push bar (Hooker Pro-Steel).  The push bar isn't one of those bolt together, bumper mounted pieces of shit you see on most trucks.  The thing came to me as one piece, welded together and mounted to the frame.  Some of the best money I've ever spent.  The Hurst shifter eliminated the shitty factory stick.  Both products have served me well for over twenty years.  There's been various lights, headlight covers, wheels, roll bar over the years but what you see is what has been around the most.  The factory wheels eventually went away and I had some simple chrome wheels on it for a long time.  I eventually sold those wheels and replaced them with the wheels from an '82 Cutlass that I had for a short time (should have kept that car).  Those wheels remain to this day.  The box, left door skin and left fender are replacements due to accidents, but the rest of the body is original.  It's also very rusty.  The power train is original and, believe it or not, the u-joints are still the original equipment.  The starter last until 235,000, the alternator, fuel pump and clutch all got replaced between 118,00 and 130,000 as precautions.  I was commuting at the time and couldn't afford break-downs.  The replacement clutch I put in at 130,000 is still in it.  I had to replace the fuel tank a couple of years ago due to rust.  I threw in a new pump and sending unit because it was a good time to do it.  The coolant pump also lasted until 238,000-ish miles.  The truck hasn't liked radiators though.  It's currently on number three.  The factory rear brakes and ball joints didn't get replaced until 2013.  Twenty years after I picked up the truck from the dealer.  I can't complain at all.

I cared for her over the years.  There's only been a few times that someone else worked on her.  I didn't baby her though.  She's spent most of her life outdoors, not in a garage.  On occasion I asked her to tow more than she was rated for, haul more than she was rated for and go longer between services than normal.  She's never let me down.  The only times I've been stranded with this truck were due to my own stupidity.  Running out of fuel (once), flat tires (twice), dead battery because I left the lights on... But I can't stop the onslaught of time.  Not long after I bought my house, the 'ol girl started rusting away like there was no tomorrow.  I realized it was  pretty bad as the rust blisters started popping up all over the place and the box floor started to bow quite a bit.  My first instinct was to start looking for body parts but I thought "Ya know, she's had a long, hard life.  I'm just going to take care of her and let her age gracefully."  I've heard people tell me I'm nuts for continuing to put money into her.  They haven't owned the same vehicle for over twenty years.  This truck has gone beyond being identified with me.  It has become part of me.  I have friends whose children were born, grew up and graduated high school since I've owned this truck.  I've lost a Father, Brother, two Grandmothers, two cousins, an Uncle and a best friend since I've owned this truck.  I've shown up at a whole lot of weddings, funerals, birthday parties, baptisms, reunions... with this truck.  Hell, I wasn't even of legal drinking age when I picked  her up from the dealer.  There is so much of me and my past linked to this truck that I can't help but be sad that I'm going to have to let her go.  The thought of it had me crying on the way home from work today.

'Round about the time I made the last payment of the loan (she was in the body shop the day I made the last payment) I decided that I was going to be the only person to own her.  Ever.  Well, technically speaking I co-owned it with the bank for the first five years.  But you get what I'm saying, right?  Right.  She's too old and too run down to even think of trading her in for something else.  I also can't stand the thought of someone else driving her and running her into the ground.  No, I won't let that happen.  I decided that when she becomes too weak to continue in service that I would decommission her and let her have an honorable end.  Her cab is becoming so rusty that she's having a hard time staying in shape.  I thought, briefly, about finding a new cab but realized it wouldn't be the same.  It wouldn't be "her".  No, when the day comes (she'll let me know when that day is) I'm going to have a decommissioning party for her.  I want all my friends and family at the party.  I want to hear their stories about her, I want to take them for the last rides, I want them to take a turn at the wheel....  Then I'm going to disassemble her.  I haven't decided how far I'll go, I just know it will be far enough that she can't be used in any other vehicles.  I plan on keeping a few pieces as mementos, but the majority of her will be recycled into new steel.  I know the day is coming, and soon, but I want to put it off for as long as possible.  I can't.  I can't ask her to continue on only because I'm afraid of not having her around anymore.  She's earned an honorable end to be sure, and I intend to give it to her.  At over 242,000 miles and starting her 23rd year of service... I can't complain one bit.  Maybe we can have one more summer together.

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