14 March 2013

Old Friend, New Flame

The Family Ford F-100 Finds a New Family

 

Daniel Edward Newton and I have been friends for 50 years. We met in kindergarten in the fall of 1962. We later went to the same college, roomed together, attended who knows how many sports car races and have never had a cross word.

A few months before Dan and I began terrorizing the playground at Valle Vista Elementary School, his folks bought a new 1962 Ford F-100 — a longbed half-ton with the 160-horse, 292-cid Y-block V-8 and manual everything. Dan and his father converted the original three-on-the-tree to a granny-low four-speed so the modest V-8 could tow better.

Dan and I took this truck camping and on countless road trips with our 10-speed bikes or motorcycles in the back. I’ve known the Newton F-100 its entire life, which equals about 90 percent of my own. When Dan’s parents passed away, they left him the truck. For some years, he drove it every day, then only once in a while, finally mothballing it in a desert storage lot to bask in quiet, sun-drenched retirement. A few summers back, in a semi-weak moment, I bought it from him for $300.

Now what? I borrowed a one-and-a-half-ton Dodge truck fitted with an articulated Jerr-Dan tow rig on the back and hauled the F-100 home.

Even though the truck’s basic bones were good, the original eggshell white paint was battle-scarred, the interior was shot and who knows what evil had fermented in the fuel system after years of sitting. I decided to begin with a straightforward mechanical recommissioning, saving cosmetic issues for later. My do-it-all local mechanic friend George Beall accepted the task: A new gas tank, battery and master cylinder, new front wheel cylinders, brake lines and motor mounts, fresh fluids and a carburetor rebuild got the Effie back on the road. Not pretty, but my new old truck was running, functional and safe. So I began ordering stuff, including a new interior, new exterior rubber and window seals and myriad small bits.

I have no immediate plan to replace the well-worn factory paint, as people love “patina” these days. Plus this way I don’t have to worry about a nick or scratch now and again or sweat parking places so much. That said, the roof was pretty rusty, so I had it painted to match the accent red in the “Custom Cab.” But other than that, the plan is to drive it another 200,000 miles, just like the Newtons.

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