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THE ART OF THE PICKUP, Part Two

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Once I realized that a new Toyota Tacoma was off the table,

I started giving Dodge a good hard look.

A 1950 Dodge Power Wagon, staring back.


It was a painful process, but once I realized that Toyota was no longer a viable option, I suddenly felt oddly free to explore the rest of the current pickup market. Now, I'm kind of hard to shop for, because 1.) I'm very picky about everything from wine glasses to chainsaws; 2.) although I wouldn't say I have expensive tastes, I definitely recognize and appreciate quality; and 3.) the things that I like almost always turn out to "unicorns," i.e., limited-production, special edition, and/or discontinued.


As a trucker with a perfect perch for viewing thousands of vehicles every day, I engage in lots of theoretical car-shopping. While doing so, I've developed some strong observations: the physical size of those wonderful 4-cylinder mini-pickups of yore has been steadily growing like well-nourished schoolkids every model year; and the full-sized Chevys and their GMC close cousins are always the most attractive, most perfectly-proportioned versions of the full-size trucks. My privileged perspective allowed me to also ponder thousands of Fords (the vintage F-150's are gorgeous!) and various formulations of the Ram. In my down time I did lots of homework, and I eventually settled upon the parameters for my next ride:


I WANT A TRUCK THAT LOOKS LIKE A TRUCK.

In other words, TWO doors, not four. Hard to say why, but I just can't stand the look of 4-door trucks, like it just ain't natural. I don't even want the flimsy-looking half-doors in the back that provide access to a midget-sized back seat. I'll happily sacrifice the second pair of doors for more cargo space, as in...


WE'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BED.

Pickup truck beds have been shrinking to the point of uselessness. I want a truck bed that will accommodate a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood. Let me know next time you see one that big.


FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE IS FOR RICH COWARDS.

I plan on driving on paved roads, not through cornfields and forests. And if I actually need 4WD for my weekly 200-mile Thruway commute to start my workweek, then it is unlikely that said Thruway will even be open to 34-wheeled truck traffic. I feel no need, therefore, for the psychological security blanket afforded by the additional traction. (And, BTW, 4WD is also way more expensive... like $11,000 more.)


V-8 IS FOR GAZPACHO.

I don't plan on racing my new truck or hauling things heavier than the truck itself, so I don't need a huge-ass V-8 engine. The modern V-6 has plenty of power, and a V-8, for me anyway, would be wasteful overkill. (HERE is my basic Gazpacho recipe, lovingly made with V-8 juice.)


With these parameters in mind, I scoured all the available ratings and reviews. I thoroughly educated myself about all the current models. I produced "build-your-own" vehicles on the manufacturer's websites and spoke with several dealers. My image of exactly what I wanted slowly, steadily came into focus.


And what I wanted, of course, turned out to be unicorn-rare... A 2023 Ram 1500 Classic 2WD Regular Cab "Tradesman" w/ 8' bed. First we de-code the lingo:


RAM spun off from DODGE in 2010 to become a stand-alone brand within the multi-national STELLANTIS brand portfolio. The "1500" vaguely refers to carrying capacity– in the old days, pickups came as 1/2-Ton, 3/4-Ton, or 1-Ton. Ram and Chevy/GMC trucks now come as 1500, 2500, or 3500, while the Fords appear as F-150, F-250, and F-350. These numbers no longer correlate to specific carrying capacities, and so one may simply think of them as Small, Medium, and Large. And the "Classic?" This is what truly captured my heart. When the Ram underwent the dreaded "New & Improved" re-design for 2010, they somehow had the good sense to lock in a series of old-tech trucks for people whoGASP!– just want a basic and inexpensive workingman's truck. "Regular Cab" means two doors and two seats. The "Tradesman" refers to the trim package, which is quite spare; the alternative trim, called "Warlock," is more expensive, more macho-looking, and less useful. And the 8' bed is, sadly, an increasingly rare feature that is often partially sacrificed to make room for a second pair of doors and a full back seat.


The search was on, and I started locally. A nearby Rochester Ram dealer informed me that none of these models ever come to the northeastern United States, because no one wants a 2WD in a model when 4WD is available. But I kept looking, expanding my search radius 500 miles. (I am a hunter, after all, and I can be relentless when I know what I want.) That Rochester dealer was mostly correct. Foss Motors in Exeter, New Hampshire– 425 miles from my home– had not one but TWO such vehicles on their lot... and one of them was inexplicably, ridiculously discounted another $5k.


A $1,000 non-refundable credit card deposit got them to immediately put a "SOLD" sign in its windshield. I felt like a big game hunter who had just dropped a charging cape buffalo in its tracks.


THE DEAL AND THE DETAILS

This transaction would be a multi-faceted, multivariable, multi-automobile, multi-state affair. I would be buying and partially financing a new motor vehicle nearly 500 miles from my home while keeping my old vehicle, i.e., I wasn't trading it in; rather, I would be gifting it to my daughter as an early Ph.D. graduation present. For her part she would need to have it shipped to Seattle for around $1500; she would be covering this tab with the proceeds fro selling her beloved but aging 1994 Ford Ranger.


For the sake of simplicity I opted to generate an original NY State registration and plates rather than transferring mine from the Toyota. Sometimes simplicity– even if it costs a little more– is the preferable path... especially when conducting business from such a distance. I spent hours lining everything up– insurance, financing, and transportation. I booked a very inexpensive flight from Rochester to Boston (by way of New Jersey) and then a $12 train ride north to Exeter. My Boston BFF AndyS. volunteered to shuttle me from the airport to the train station.


The two-hour delay on the Rochester tarmac proved to be a blessing... the rising sun provided a spectacular aerial view of the Finger Lakes, and my hang time between the later connecting flight to Boston and Amtrak's departure to Exeter was shortened by two hours. (It was surprisingly easy to re-book my connecting flight, and I even reaped a $20 refund in the process.) An especially gregarious Uber driver took me from the Exeter train station to my hotel, which was directly across the street from Foss Motors. After an hour of paperwork, I was piloting my new vehicle through the gorgeous mountain foliage, first across New Hampshire and then Vermont, on my way to Amsterdam to begin my work week. As I drove, I formed what felt like an intuitive or dare I say emotional bond with this piece of machinery. It glided more smoothly than any pickup I'd previously driven (Rams are famous for their sedan-like suspensions) and the slightest pressure on the accelerator prompted it to gallop like a racehorse eager to please.


Women give names to cars they like; I'm going to do the same, in part because I'll be treating her like a mistress, regularly pampering her with gifts like a grill-guard, protective undercoating, a spray-in bed liner, a custom-made fiberglass truck cap... stuff like that. But I'm feeling stumped for a name, so I'm going to leave it up to our readership to come up with suggestions.


Here is a photo of the two of us on our first date–


* * * * * * *


NOTES:


HERE is a brief but comprehensive summary of the evolution of Dodge pickup trucks, from the pre-WWII 4WD farm truck to the wartime “Power Wagon” workhorse to its civilian successor to the current Ram series.


I was amused to learn that this Ram 1500 Classic 2-door model (and ONLY this model) is completely made in Ram's Mexico factory... which is also their highest-rated factory for quality control and manufacturing excellence.


Buying this vehicle from Foss Motors in Exeter, New Hampshire was the most positive car-buying experience I've ever had in my life, and I would happily recommend them to everyone I know.

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