Shopping For A Truck

As many here already know, I am not a fan of full-sized trucks. Even  today’s mid-sized models are bigger than I really like (see TTAC’s article about the ’83 D50 for further details.)


However, this past weekend I got the opportunity to check out all the available pickups, full-sized and mid, at a local auto show. The reasoning is that I now own three vehicles and I need to pull it down to two, which means the Jeep SUV has to go and one of the other two, either the Fiat 500 or the Ford Ranger, to be replaced by some vehicle that can serve both purposes. The Jeep offers seating for four, a decent interior load capacity and 4×4 for foul weather and off-roading (not sport but in particular muddy fields and driveways.) Her car offers extreme fuel mileage and is easy to maneuver on small-town streets and heavy traffic. The Ranger offers good fuel mileage (rated 27mpg on the highway and has done so) is still reasonably maneuverable and gives me a 6′ bed for hauling whatever. But no 4×4 and the standard cab makes it impossible to carry anything inside when I’m carrying a passenger. So the options are either to get a more economical SUV OR get a compact AWD pickup. The final issue is the transmission, as the wife as yet does not know how to drive a stick and our current Jeep and Ranger are both manual transmission models.

Yes, there’s a reason behind this exposition; as I said up front, we looked at trucks (and SUVs but even the ones we’d been looking at before show unexpected issues that would require possibly illegal modifications.) I and the wife sat in each one and studied their layout and their stickers for fuel economy and other data. In each case, the full-sized trucks were complete failures due to their size, layout and in most cases their poor economy (not really any better than the Jeep’s.)

That brought us down to the mid-sizers and similar to the testers’ scores, we ended up with two choices that came closest to what we want. The truck had to be able to seat both of us comfortably behind the wheel, which killed the Toyota as while it fit me just fine, her 6′ height and long legs had her thighs rubbing the underside of the steering wheel with the seat in the last notch on the track and the wheel in its highest position.2017-toyota-tacoma-blogspot(Photo courtesy

The Nissan did reasonably well, but there were too many ‘small’ things that just couldn’t bring it up to what we wanted.2017-nissan-frontier

The Canyon fit most of our wants and needs, though its slightly higher price and oversized grill didn’t really appeal to us the way the Colorado did.2016-gmc-canyon_steeringnewscom (Photo courtesy steering

The Colorado made #2. chevrolet-colorado(Photo courtesy Chevrolet Trucks)


The Honda Ridgeline however, made #1 on our list.

2017 Honda Ridgeline
2017 Honda Ridgeline


It was a tight competition between #2 and #1 but it came down to features and convenience for the price. Both the Chevy and the Honda were priced around $35 thousand and the Honda simply had more on board for the money outside of towing capacity which, to be quite honest, was not a major factor. We don’t ever expect to even want to tow more than 5,000#. The other factor came down to, believe it or not, attention to details. Very bluntly, the steering wheel controls on the Chevy consisted of a thin membrane covering microswitches which just felt like it would wear through in short order, eliciting an inconvenient and potentially expensive repair compared to the Honda’s more robust buttons that felt as durable as the old Nintendo Game Controllers. Finally, the floor of the back seat was FLAT–as in only a single bar running from side to side in which to rest the seat front supports, leaving the floor clear for carrying boxes, golf bags, bowling ball rollers, etc. where they’re easy to access without having to rig some sort of box rig or deck over the Chevy’s plastic, partitioned support that simply wastes space and makes loading more difficult.

The rest now rides on what comes out within the next year or so in smaller trucks. The Hyundai Santa Cruz and Fiat Toro (Ram 700?) are still strong contenders because they could cut as much as two feet off the overall length and still provide sufficient carrying capacity to meet our needs.

How a Road Whale is Properly Used

(Photo courtesy of gallery)

You’ve seen me complain about the huge size of today’s full sized pickup trucks and to be quite honest if you’re not going to use that big thing as a bloomin’ WORKING truck, why even have it?

That said, as my wife and I were driving home from bowling last night, we came up on a car hauler with two full-sized trucks and a car on the top rack and two cars underneath. The trailer itself looked just like the same style trailers you see on the road all the time; typically pulled by a big Peterbilt or other Class 8 over-the-road tractor rig. This one, however, was being pulled by a Ram 3500 in a deep red paint job and corporate lettering on the doors. That’s right, at nearly ¼ the size and probably 3x the fuel economy, this Ram 3500 was basically performing a Class 8 task, admittedly one of the lighter ones, but still towing roughly twenty thousand pounds of payload and another seven- to eight-thousand pounds of trailer (weights estimated at 5500# each for the pickup trucks and 4000# each for the cars.)

My point is that these newer, bigger pickup trucks do have value for those using them as part of their business; the ability to carry and/or tow heavy loads is an advantage with them. But to have a truck nearly the same size that can’t even carry 2000# of payload and only 7000# of towed weight? Why? We’ve got governments all around the world trying to reduce carbon output (and other pollutants) and yet the single most popular vehicle type in the US is a pickup truck so large that a heavy-duty version can basically carry three of its twins plus two other vehicles over the road? We’re talking a vehicle now over 25 feet long in its crew-cab configuration (the most common sold today) that won’t even fit in most garages and is a notorious road hog when trying to manage tight maneuvering even in suburban areas. My ’97 Ford Ranger can do a U-turn on a Maryland rural highway (two lanes plus 10-foot-wide shoulders) without setting a single tire on dirt and without the need to reverse in a three-point turn. Even on a divided highway I watch these big trucks try a legal U-turn (where permitted) from a turn lane onto two-lanes plus shoulder and still need to reverse unless they’re willing to risk a steep ditch as they still need more road than what’s available. That ’97 Ranger doesn’t even encroach onto the farther lane.

Last night I was happy to see a full-sized pickup doing what it was built to do. But it consistently makes me shake my head when I see a similar truck all dressed out in chrome and bling with a tonneau cover over the bed, looking like it’s never done a minute’s real work in its life.

Would I call it an Orca or a Dolphin?

A little over a month ago, I’m sorry to say my step-father passed away at age 92. He was an ideal companion for my mother and his passing will be felt dearly by her. I can’t claim to have known him all that well, but at the same time he was an attentive and caring person. He also liked to do nearly everything for himself rather than hire work to be done. As such, he owned a compact pickup truck to make all of his supply runs for lumber, tools and materiel. With his passing, I inherited that truck.


Continue reading Would I call it an Orca or a Dolphin?

Is Ford really losing its mojo?

I see a lot of commentary about how Ford is losing sales, etc. and some of it just doesn’t make sense. There’s no logic or understanding of how businesses work, just emotional noise that doesn’t do anybody any good. Big Al from Oz at least shows a modicum of understanding when he says:
“Ford has an issue with the new Ford, as I have pointed out in many previous comments. The cost of developing, designing, refitting factories, new processes, etc, makes it harder for Ford to reduce costs to be comptetitive with the other manufqcturers. If the new aluminium F-150 is offered at a comptetitive price Ford will have little or no profit. Oh well, Ford has made a poor decision or more correctly the aluminium wonder truck is premature in the market.” Continue reading Is Ford really losing its mojo?

On the Hyundai Santa Cruz (In response to a comment on

The Hyundai Santa Cruz concept — image courtesy Hyundai Motors
A commenter on pickup trucks dot com stated: Stuck between giant rigs used as “lifestyle vehicles” and cute toys like this, there must be room in the market for a real work truck stripped down for contractors and farmers that is not gargantuan.” Continue reading On the Hyundai Santa Cruz (In response to a comment on