With the death of my 1978 Chevrolet C20 I had a void to fill. Within too few days after the crash I was on the road for work for the better part of two weeks. This gave me plenty of time to figure out what I wanted. I was really thinking that I would get another Chevy/GMC Squarebody (1973-1986) truck. The thought of a Jimmy or Blazer spurred into looking at Suburbans. A manual transmission and V8 also must have items on any potential replacement truck. Luckily I was trapped on the other side of the country, with the insurance pay-off pending, then the same chuck of change burning a hole in my pocket. This could have played out many ways, honestly, even weeks later it could have played out better.
After a week or so home I was still franticly scouring Craigslist for a new truck. I even test drove an almost new Nissan Frontier. A manual transmission was more important than the big engine, a very new truck did hold some enticement with a warranty and all. Sadly the last full-sized truck with a manual transmission left the factory back in 2010, and was an odd duck by then. These days only Nissan and Toyota even offer manual transmission trucks, and generally only in base model of fully loaded trim packages. Both of my former Nissans I enjoyed, a 1984 Nissan 720 4×4 King Cab with a 2.4l I4, and a 1994 Nissan Hardbody 4×4 King Cab with a 3.0l V6. Test driving a 2014 Nissan Frontier with the I4 reminded me of my old Nissan trucks, but without either of the old trucks charm. I was also reminded of how much I enjoy a warmed over small block Chevy V8 with a manual transmission, and the space in the cab only a full-sized truck can offer. I was back to looking at old trucks. The hard part was beyond my mechanical specifications, I wanted something special. That isn’t to say it was special, I wanted to smile when I looked at it. I really wanted another 1973-1978 GM Squarebody with the round headlights in separate bezels, or a 1982-1986 GM Squarebody with quad square headlights. The earlier GM “Action Body” trucks drew me in on looks, but I really wanted the gas tank out of the cab, shoulder belts, and front disk brakes.
So what do I go look at, a rattle-caned black 1968 GMC 3/4 ton pick-up truck with a cowl-induction hood, that has “Fast and Loud” in the Craigslist description. My buddy Iain drives me down with his dog Riot and my faithful freak beast Dunkin, we arrive at dusk. As we all know dusk is the best time to look at a flat black truck. As it turns out “Ten year project” really means “it has sat in a garage for 10 years.” Overall it is still a cool looking truck, the body and frame look good. The cab has some floor patch panels, and the doors were reproductions, but solid bones. The engine bay was super clean (this is always a BIG red flag). Honestly it looked cool, it sounded good, but red flags were flying. I consult Iain and decide I am going to walk away on it, it is a drivable project. I know the problems mechanical things suffer from a decade of sitting, every rubber seal is going to fail in short order. I don’t need that on yet another vehicle in my life. Somehow when I go to tell the guy I am going to pass I end up buying it for slightly less than the asking price at $2,800. I have always been better at regretting doing than not doing…
I get the title, he gets the cash, I go to drive home. I make it less than a mile and the carb sticks wide open. My first reaction was to turn around, give him the keys, and get my money back. For some reason, probably stubbornness I don’t do this. I unstick the carb and drive it home. That is the short version of the story.
After getting home, and in the harsh light of the next day, to be honest by the time I got home, the reality of what I did hit me. I married the rebound chick. My clean survivor of an old truck was totaled and gone, and I bought a rough project with potential. We’ll see how this all turns out.