Chevrolet C20News

1978 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale, Goodnight.

This is a eulogy of sorts, for my old truck. It has taken me a while to write this, work kept me busy, and processing the whole deal also took some time. On August 1st, 2017 I was hit while driving this noble machine to work. Someone in a 1993 Dodge Shadow decided that stop signs and speed limits didn’t apply to them. They failed to stop at an intersection, and at well over the posted speed limit of 25mph (the damage to my truck has attested to the force of the impact) they t-boned me, striking my front driverside wheel. After the impact they spun and the rear of their car hit the bed of my truck. I was forced off of the road, over a curb and some landscaping, and into a parked car. In hindsight I think this went as well as it could have. By that I mean if I had slowed more I would have broadsided them, in a glorified Dodge K-Car with over two tons of steel. All involved parties wouldn’t have walked away in that case. As it was I had a concussion, and a totaled truck.

Just before the impact I was on a normal drive to work. When I was approximately a truck’s length (211.4” or 17’ 7.4”) from the intersection I saw and realize the Dodge was speeding and not stopping. I had enough time to push in the clutch and start to apply the brake. The impact itself was surreal. I watched the Dodge drive into my truck, I saw the line, I understood the trajectories. The moment of impact was violent but somehow not. I am used to crashing motorcycles off-road where every bit of violence is felt. In the truck it was different, I was belted in, I was just along for the ride. I recall seeing my sunglasses that were perched on top of my head fly through the air, I know I hit my head on the door jam. I remember the first impact, then the second when the car spun and hit the bed of the truck. It was like receiving a one-two combo boxing. You realize you have been hit and are instantaneously hit again on the other side. Finally it ended with the impact with the parked Toyota Corolla, that stopped my mighty Chevy from further movement. I had to turn off the Chevy myself, my foot had stayed on the clutch though out the crash. My hands had been ripped from the wheel, and I think my foot, with it’s measured pressure on the brake, had also been thrown out of place, but the clutch pedal stayed firmly to the ground.  In retrospect the whole incident is like watching a movie. All of the above happened in less than a second, but the mind is hyper sensitive in these moments. I know that, I have replayed it countless times in my head now.

My first thought was “My truck is dead,” the next was to shut the beast down. It took me a good moment or two to process and execute the above. I saw the car that hit me driving away, I was trying so figure out what I was going to do about that when they finally stopped. I know they would say that they were just riding out the impact, but I suspect since they made it half a block, they tried to run before their Dodge proclaimed itself dead. When I tried to open the driverside door it wouldn’t open. Later inspection reviled the latching pin had ripped though the sheetmetal of the doorframe. I gave the door a few good kicks to try to open it, then exited though the passenger side door. After that it was the normal accident things, insurance, talking with the police, dealing with the mess. I must have looked bad, since multiple people asked me if I needed medical attention (I probably should have gotten some, but concussions are not new to me). I am sure it was the combination of head trauma and adrenaline. I recall the driver that hit me asking if I was ok and if I had insurance, because they didn’t have any. I guess they didn’t understand how insurance works. My insurance company (USAA) took care of me in a manner second to none, but they are still going to pay for it.

As I said earlier it turned out as well as it could have. I honestly believe that if somehow I was able to brake slightly more, slightly sooner, things would have been far worse. If my 1978 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale had broadsided a 1993 Dodge Shadow in the passenger door at around 30 mph, the passenger would not have walked away. I have given this much thought, I know there is no way I could have braked hard enough to avoid impact altogether. A full on broadside might have left blood on my hands, not even of my own wrong doing, but blood none the less. I consider myself lucky everyone walked away. Even if it cost my an awesome vintage Chevy.

Onto the 1978 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale itself. Even after the brutal act against it, it was still able to drive itself onto the flatbed truck. I drove itself into my garage to have it’s guts removed. I relish these final acts of defiance. The “I know I’m dead but will still walk to graves registration myself” acts of retard strength, pride, and old fashion build quality. One of the engine mounts, made of 3/16” or thicker steel, was ripped over an inch. A bolt broke out of the cast-iron engine block at the same mounting point. The driverside frame rail hit the long tube headers that normally sit 2” away. You could with the naked eye see that the front and back wheels were at least 2” out of alinement due to frame damage. It’s heart remained strong to the end, and will be strong again when it’s engine it stuffed into a different truck. This truck was bought new by an older man in 1978, to put his Alaskan Camper in, and go out into the woods and camp. It had one-ton rated suspension and helper airbags installed for this. It rode like a dump truck when empty because of this as well. After his death his son used it for the same thing. I was the first owner, in 2015, not to be of the same family. I swapped in a hotter 350ci small block a year later when the main seal started to fail. With just over 112,000 miles on the odometer it was living a nice retirement when it died. An easy life of hauling my dirt bikes places, and a 10 mile round trip commute.

So pour a little 10w30 on the ground for a dead hommie tonight. After almost 40 years of labor was killed and dragged to the scrappers for a check valuing $15. It always did what I asked, got me where I needed to go, and took care of me in it’s final road-going action. Goodnight sweet prince. I have already used some of your stripped parts in my next truck, now you’ll live forever.

-Eric Archambault