Apr 27, 2006

Life Takes Compromise

What a hard lesson to learn, but restoring an old truck to almost OEM condition while keeping it usable really, if you'll excuse the pun, drives that point home.

All I wanted for my truck for the longest time was an OEM bumper. It's round, smooth, and matches both the front bumper and the truck's body lines. It doesn't do a lot to hide the spare tire if you have the OEM spare tire sling in place like I do, but that's part of OEM restoration. The drawback of an OEM bumper? It has no trailer hitch, nor a place to put one. And naturally, the truck parts suppliers I deal with sell two kinds--the OEM, smooth style, and a generic step bumper with holes drilled for safety chains and the hitch ball of your choice. So which did I go for? OEM looks or usability?

You got it. Vanity, thy name is Irrelephant.

'Tut tut,' thought I, 'You can always buy a receiver and have it installed, thereby giving me an OEM look with only the slight visual distraction of a 2" square black steel tube chunk of steel thingie hanging out in the breeze. No problem.' Well, okay, small problem.

I ordered mine from U-Haul, thinking they were the most reputable. They had the same price as everyone else, but they were going to throw in the pigtail free. Sold American! I order the part, it arrives, I go by this morning at the arse crack of dawn (7am)to have it installed, only to find out that the installer isn't in until 10am. Blast. Not to be thwarted, and interested in saving $40, I gamely load all 75 pounds of the black steel behemoth into the bed and go on to work, telling myself that I'd install it after work.

See, I'm officially a Jack-Leg Mechanic, or at least I am in my father's estimation, were he still alive to estimate me. I've surpassed the Tinkerer stage, being able to hold a wrench AND chew gum at the same time, and am firmly ensconced at Jack-Leg. If I keep it up I might be elevated to Shade Tree Mechanic, and if I were to go to Vo-Tech I could possibly get as far as Grease Monkey, but I really don't like engines THAT much, and I like clean hands too much.

So, I prepared. I read the instructions first (I learned that in Jack-Leg Mechanic School,) gathered my tools, and set to. And found out that I would have to drill four of the necessary six holes in my darling's frame. That hurt. BUT, it had to be done, so I can carry trailers and such, so after about an hour's worth of wearing myself out with a dull 1/2" drill bit I finally scored a sharp one, previously hidden from my questing eyes, and set the holes.

And realised another important life lesson--"There's nothing quite like red hot, razor-sharp steel shavings falling down your shirt and all over your hands and bare arms to reassure you that you are, in fact, a Jack-Leg Mechanic." After I put out the conflagaration I got the bolts settled in and tightened, used the spacers as provided and as intended, and the install went perfectly. I even stayed behind to sweep up the piles of red-hot gleaming razor-edged death steel slivers and picked up all my tools, returning them to their respective places in my shop. (That's one of the testing standards for elevation to Shade Tree level.)

And when I went to rehang the spare tire sling, I realised that Life, Itself, had gotten in my way again.

Compromise reared it's many-optioned head.

The instructions, vague as they had to be, since they covered Chevy and GMC trucks from 1962 to 1998 said something about maybe having to release the exhaust brackets (not needed on my model) and perhaps maybe having to relocate the spare tire sling entirely. Turns out that would be me. *raising hand* My prized spare tire sling, OEM equipment on every 1971 GMC Sierra 1500, as ugly as homemade soap but necessary for flats and other tire emergencies. Seems the receiver takes up some space under the license plate frame that is ordinarily occupied by the spare tire's outer edge. By a good four or five inches. That's a lot, even in Jack-Leg terms.

Reinspection of the instructions told me in the vaguest, most general possible terms that I'm going to have to somehow move the sling backwards some, while avoiding mechanical hazards like the:

  • exhaust system

  • brake lines

  • driveshaft

  • rear differential

  • shock absorbers

and most anything else down there, and quite frankly they don't suggest it because U-Haul does not want to be held liable if their mechanic messes something up and if you're doing it yourself and are rated as anything less than a "Mr. Goodwrench SAE Gold Level" you shouldn't even be under your truck, let alone working with their equipment.

So, compromise. I've left the sling in place, bolted up tight underneath the bed because 1) I bought the damned OEM thing and 2) one of it's bolts is now an integral part of the receiver's attachment to the frame, and I guess I'm going to have to sign up with AAA Road Service or carry my spare sort of casually tossed in the bed (minus fifteen Cool Points right there.)

Ah, Life and Antique Vehicle Restoration. Always about the compromise.


Nancy Dancehall said...

Oh! Ah! Oooph! Ouch! Yipes! %*#@!

A little hot-metal sympathy there.

My ideal vehicle is a 1937 Chevy Pickup. Though a '38 Chevy pickup street rod would do me just fine too. '39's fine, too.

Swing low sweet chariot? Mine's a pickup for Olympus.

Irrelephant said...

I think the cussing was more accurate last night. *lol* I started with a few eye-opening in surprises and then went straight for the cussing. Those things HURT! *lol*

I'd love an Old old truck, but I've learned very quickly that any sort of major restoration has to involve a few things:

and more money

And the older the vehicle the more money gets thrown at it. I call my truck "Rainy Day Rita" on good days, on bad days she's "My Money Sink."


I don't think that the truch was ment to have a hitch, well self respecting ladies wouldn't think of having such. Rita is the self respecting type... she deserves it.


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