The Secret Realm of Men and Their Trucks
By Peggy Payne
Ahhh! There's nothing like the smell of diesel exhaust in the morning. Welcome to the tenth anniversary celebration of the Ford Power Stoke Diesel. Yep, seeing large groups of men and their Power Strokes is like watching school children getting out for recess. Their eyes light up, but they don't know which direction to run first. There are all kinds of interesting things to do and see.
If you get up early enough, you could take a plant tour. Why not wander through the show and shine with all the dazzling chrome and paint. There is always the Dyno with the roar of horsepower and rumbling exhaust pipes. Shopping's not for girls at one of these events. There are many of ways a working man can spend his wife's hard earned cash. There's a booth by International with a variety of goodies in it. NASCAR fans will find plenty to cheer about and the seats are filling up so you had better hurry. Maybe there is still time to get a pit tour. Hey, there's Bigfoot!" You wonder if you can get some autographs for the kids. So many choices, so little time.
At an event like this they seem to speak in a secret dialect that only those on the inside know. Everyone is talking horsepower and torque. Mumblings about hitch receivers and pyrometers are overheard. Conversations of payload and towing capacity are surrounding you. If you don't recognize the lingo, they just look at you as if you are lost or in my case, someone's confused wife. They smile at you, and patiently try to explain things in words your obviously deprived brain can comprehend. I learned all about the unique fuel injection system on a PSD. I also learned that there is a special plate that sits on the block that makes the engine run quieter.
Seeing the plants was a real treat. Especially exciting was the International engine plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a rather high tech facility with many computerized systems and remarkable quality control measures. The precision of the automation is amazing. One of the machines called a "piston stuffer" actually places all 8 pistons in the block. After every set of meticulous assemblies, the engine goes into one of 15 Integrated Quality Assurance Station to be examined for everything from pressures to the torque. If anything does not pass, it goes to a technician for examination, repair and retesting. Every engine is cold tested and start-ability tested then a number are selected for audit testing where the engine is actually run for three minutes and tested for three minutes.
The plant was also remarkably clean. Having been around a few engines, I expected to see more grease and oil. This plant provides all the diesel engines for the Ford Louisville Kentucky Assembly plant. We also toured this facility, but we did not have an opportunity to see much or ask many questions. It was enjoyable seeing the vehicles being built and the skill of the workers making them into the powerful and unfailing trucks we and our families have come to depend on for 10 years.
The pride each man takes in the truck he drives is also apparent. Whether the truck is 9 years old and has duct tape for seat covers, primer and rust for a paint job and an American flag hanging off the back; or a brand new custom job, lowered, fancy tires, exhaust, flame job and interior, they all love their trucks. They will tell you or anybody else why too. I saw a couple that really impressed me. Mr. Charles Myers of El Paso Texas had an outstanding example of a superbly customized machine. Everything from the chrome under the hood to the custom tailgate, and all the distinctive designs in between were striking. All of the mods were completed by the owner with the exception of the upholstery. This is a truck to be proud of.
The next one that impressed me was Mr. Sean Driscoll's 1997 F250. His truck is a daily driver and work truck on his family's hundred acre farm in Missouri. Even so, this truck is a real looker from bumper to bumper. With the addition of a 90 horsepower Superchip, it's also a beast to be reckoned with. I also saw a sleek black 2001 F350 with a custom grill on big knobby tires. I was looking eye to head light with this one. It was a bit disappointing when I was told the tires were all for show, and the vehicle had never been off road.
There were all kinds of trucks and even a few bumper stickers. My favorite said "real trucks don't need spark plugs." There were quite a few gentlemen there from fire departments across our nation with their trucks too, and I'm not talking about the big red noisy trucks. All in all, there were many stunning trucks to see and each one had a story behind it.
One of the wonderful things about an event like this one is seeing the truck owners interact with each other. Everyone is like family. There is a great deal of kidding and ribbing one another. One man can walk up to another he has never met, and strike up a conversation as if they were long lost friends. These conversations fascinate me because generally, they don't end up being about trucks at all , especially if there are pretty girls around - and sometimes will lead to friendships across the miles. It also works in reverse, where people having met on the web are finally get to meet in person at an event. That too is very exciting to be part of. As the day progresses and every one "loosens up" all kinds of interesting things go on. I've seen grown men do things I would be embarrassed if my 7 year old son did. The funny thing is they take pictures. I see blackmail in someone's future.
I had never really been a race fan until I went to the Power Stroke Diesel 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Indianapolis. For one thing, I never had anyone to root for. While there, I had the opportunity to hear Terry Cook, driver of the number 10 Ford Power Stroke Diesel truck, speak a few times and spoke to him once. He is an incredibly funny and delightful person to be around. I was excited to watch the race and cheer him on. We didn't win, but it still was great to be there. Massive engines fed on pure adrenalin, covered in a thin layer of decals and paint tearing around a track a phenomenal speeds just make you want to get behind the wheel of the most powerful thing you can find and give it a whipping. I felt sorry for anyone driving a Honda or a Hyundai within fifty miles of the track that night.
What it was all about was the Power Stroke that many of us have driven for years. Whether it is used for a five man work crew or to pull a fifth wheel across the country, we have come to rely on our Ford trucks for every imaginable chore and enjoyment. These vehicles were once purchased solely for their hauling and pulling capabilities. Now they are being seen as more than that. They are family vehicles, retirement vehicles and pleasure vehicles. People are discovering their versatility and attractiveness. Let's face it, why not have good looking vehicles with plenty of power, which will accommodate a family, their work needs and their toys? The PSD really has it all. With the improvements made to the new 2005 model like the integrated trailer brake controller, new front suspension and larger brakes, there is even more to love.
Yes there is nothing like the smell of diesel exhaust, whether it's in the morning or not. To me it symbolizes many things; everything from the farm house where I came from in Iowa many years ago, to the busy streets of Atlanta a few miles from me today. The PSD community is a cross section of America that stands tall, waves a flag, helps their fellows and even has a kind word to say to a slightly confused southern girl who asks a lot of questions. I'm talking about the executives, workers, owners, and families. Everyone I talked to was informative, friendly and proud of what they were there for. These were people truly energized by the PSD. It spreads like mist on a morning breeze. That is what it was all about to me.
The race, the show and shine, all the awards and raffles; when the show is behind you, and there is nothing left but the drone of the radio not quite picking up a station from the distance, I was left with one thought. It all came down to the pride of one man and one exceptional machine. Like modern day cowboys, these men patiently tend to their trucks like something sacred. They know that this vehicle somehow connects them to their job or their capability to care for their family and they respect it. Some will spend months on the road with it and rely on it for their survival. For some it's a big investment and worth too much to let fall by the way side. Whatever the case, these trucks almost take a personality of their own and these men love to love their trucks.