Thursday, December 13, 2012


Unlike the Dixie Chicks song with a similar title, I'm not saying goodbye, but hello, to Earl in my life.

Earl is the name of my mother's 1965 International Harvester pickup, named after the first owner in our family, my great-grandfather.

It's a D1200 model with a V8 and needs some serious TLC on the interior. Battling the old-car cancer known as rust, Earl's been passed down the line for generations and I recently found a soft spot in my heart for the beat up old rig. About six inches deep in mud, an inch for every year it was parked in the same spot in the pasture, this truck has become my winter project.

I mean, how can you say no to that face?

Amazingly enough, with a bit of coaxing the truck fired up. Gotta love American-made pre '70s vehicles. Cast iron? Yeah we got that. Who needs catalytic converters anyway? We did end up having to use the tractor to push it when it wouldn't start again, and I got my first taste of driving with no power steering. Which was awesome.

My father and I did a full inspection of the truck and made a huge list of everything that needs to be done. It's in good shape, especially compared to his also sunken pasture-mate, a '58 Bel Air. (If you want to read a piss-your-pants hilarious story about an IH that was not in such good shape, go here.)

You might take a glance at the bed of the truck and ask, "What in the hell is all that?" The answer my friend can be explained in two parts. Firstly, "I don't know," and secondly, "just shit." The big brown box is a fridge made circa the dawn of man, and you know how I feel about old fridges. After we dropped that off at the biggest, yet most organized junk yard I have ever seen, we moved everything from the IH to our Dodge for a dump run. 

I wanted to make sure before I started throwing shit around that I couldn't really cause any damage to anything. To which my dad supplied the quote of the day, "That's the nice thing about a dump run, there's not a lot of subtlety involved." Ah, touché Pops. So I donned gloves and got to work. 

(The whole time we were at the dump, I kept expecting to find some partially disintegrated human corpse. Weird phobias from watching too much Bones? Check.)

What did we discover in all that garbage? A Easy-Bake oven paddle. Not the oven, just the paddle. This is a toy my sister hadn't looked at since she was probably eight. We found the greater portion of our old front porch, which was remodeled at least five years ago, the cage of my guinea pig who died when I was still in elementary school, a patinated penny from the '70s, about 20 pounds of gravel, and also this beautiful, miniature, Japanese garden. So zen. 

Now that the eye-sore of a garbage heap in the back was gone we could concentrate on other aspects of potential maintenance. Upon further inspection we found the muffler was basically rusted in half, which I didn't really think was possible. Maybe corroded is a better word? I actually did a Google search for "corroded muffler" and this was the most dramatic image I could find. Which is just precious.

Pulled all the spark plugs to see how the motor was running and the answer was: dirty. So we drained the fuel tank and made a list of parts to get at NAPA. Opaque is not the color you want fuel to be, apparently. I have virtually no upper body strength so watching me pulling the plugs was painful for my dad. He mentioned that they made pullers for... then he paused. I filled in the word he wanted to say, "pussies", at the same time he said a much more acceptable group title of "women". Pretty much.
Sorry I don't have vice-grips for hands, dad! But I did manage to get them

Went to our most amazing local gas station/grocery/everything-you'd-ever-need-store, Jim's Market, and picked up enough Sta-bil to let the truck sit for another six years and some carburetor cleaner. We didn't dilute either of these to the specified amounts. Doing which, being involved in a medical field, almost killed me.

We bought out a significant portion of NAPA under the keen direction of the manager, who happens to be a school friend of my dad. They went to this sketchy logging camp together as teens, which, as far as I know, was supposed to be for reforming juvenile delinquents, not a fun summer camp. We got a new fuel cap there too. I'm not sure if you'll be able to tell from the picture, but the top one is the new one.

The oil was black. Which is bad. So we fixed that and changed the filter, the biggest canister I have ever seen. Also changed the fuel filter and got the right threaded rod set-up for the air filter. Because the part I'm holding here was not the original part...

Then I got to work cleaning out the bed. I'll spare you a lot of details but I have terrible circulation and I still can't feel my hands from the cold hose water. But look at it, totally worth it!

The interior was full of rope, receipts, and rust. Here's kind of a before and after.

There's so much moisture in the cab I could swim in it. Turns out rust loves that shit. I can see the ground through the floorboards. We got some rust stopper, but we're going to have to scrub in and do some major surgery and repair on these pups. 

This is the original registration to my great-grandpa, I don't think it has ever been moved. The truck doesn't even have 95,000 miles on it. It's pretty hilarious, because my little 2005 everyday driver has the same number, almost to the mile, as this 1965 beast. 

Lots more to do, a couple items on our list are: welding new floorboards in, making a new seat cover (I'm looking at Sunbrella now, I'm thinking this would look pretty sweet with brown accents), fixing the door panels, getting a new muffler, installing new headliner, and finding and replacing sundry broken and/or missing parts like a turn signal lens, door handle, shifter knob, horn button, and arm rests. Et cetera, et cetera...

I feel like I've already learned a lot, and it's super entertaining comparing parts to human anatomy. Definitely a fun project to do with my Pops and you'll be getting updates as we get them done.


  1. I had a pretty good day, but this really topped it off at the end. Love this piece!
    "Earl" will look just fine with you driving.

    Too bad the camper isn't still around. It was all real wood paneling. I remember sleeping on the "couch", dining seat with the table leaned up against the refrigerator. We made all those trips to Imnaha, elk hunting. I remember trying to stay together, our car and the camper, through various gasoline stops, without benefit of cell phones.

    Then there was the time in '85, when Keith and I, came down from Alaska for a vacation and ended up trapped in the back whilst my father drove like a maniac down Hyway 49, "the meandering foothills of the Sierra's historic gold mining country", to get to grandma Helen's for a fried chicken dinner. Yeah, last time we ever signed on for that kind of "sight-seeing". I also remember visiting Grandpa as a kid once at International Harvester, he worked there a while, I think.

    1. Very cool! Thanks for reading. Always love hearing stories with the truck. I drove it around Dee the other day, I was so gripped; my legs are still sore from pushing in that clutch, love it!