Celebrating Ugly Truck Day!

The “major” national holiday, Ugly Truck Day is fast approaching, July 20. While it’s always a good time to remember with gratitude the Ugly Trucks in our lives, this tongue-in-cheek holiday gives us clear opportunity. Strangely enough, the holiday doesn’t seem to have a beginning, at least a documented beginning, it’s a holiday that just “is.”

The website UglyTruckDay.com, created and maintained by car enthusiast Jason Lancaster, explains that it’s also known as “Ugly Truck Contest Day” and offers visitors the chance to participate in selecting a national winner.

The site goes on to explain Ugly Truck Day as the celebration of hard-working trucks that’ve been beat to hell. SecularSeasons.org apparently gave the holiday its July 20 date. The love we all have for ugly trucks gives it its life.

“Ugly trucks have dents, scratches, bizarrely repaired damage, and makeshift modifications of questionable quality. But all of these ugly scars add up to a quintessential characteristic worthy of a (still unofficial) national holiday.”

Having owned several quite unattractive trucks in my lifetime, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss and observe this holiday. The difficulty is choosing the “most ugliest” among the several seriously awful trucks I’ve owned.

I’m most fond of my first Ugly Truck, a 1950 half-ton Chevy, a truck from my youth. It was definitely a wreck. Between college terms I took a job framing houses. Being a normal starving student in 1970, I was without wheels and independence, having to rely on others to get around. My boss on the framing crew was beginning to enjoy some financial success and was able to buy a new Chevy pickup, but the dealer had no interest in his trade in, its condition being what it was.

The dealer said “no” to the trade-in option upon its description, sight unseen. She had refused to start at the end of the work day, and it wasn’t the first time. The boss threw quite a fit. I vaguely remember much swearing and throwing of things. He called his wife for a ride home and the next morning, he drove up in a brand new pickup. He shamed his now old truck even further by parking right next to it.

There were no longer brakes on the truck. Well, technically, there were brakes, but the brake pedal had less resistance than the clutch. The fuel pump, because of condensation in the gas tank, sporadicly delivered fuel to the carburetor, and the distributor had a short that showed up at the worst possible times. The body was remarkably free of dents for being on construction sites for most of its working life. The paint carried the fade of 20 years of hard work. Construction work is just not very kind to on-site vehicles.

Knowing I was without wheels, my boss offered me the pickup for $25 as it sat immobile on the jobsite. That was his starting offer. By the end of the day and after a few cold beers, he offered a new deal. If I could actually drive it all the way home without breaking down he would give to me. I didn’t give him a chance to reconsider, home was only a dozen miles away. So, I figured no problem. Brakes are highly overrated anyway.

I almost made it. The old homestead sat at the end of a little hill, a hill the truck just couldn’t negotiate. She died halfway up. I ran and got the tractor and my little brother and drug the truck the last couple hundred feet, a $25 fact I never bothered to share with my boss.

A brake job, a new “old” distributor from our local junkyard and some gas additive brought new life and willingness to the old girl. Working on cars seemed so simple then, especially compared to the terror that fills my head when I look under the hood of my 2018 Subaru. When did things get so complicated?

My high school auto shop teacher instilled in me the understanding of the importance of fuel, compression and spark, and how to easily troubleshoot problems. I sometimes long for the simplicity of the ’50 flathead Chevy, but then I realize the remembrance is flush with romanticism and devoid of practicality.

Anyway, I’m now addicted to the electric windows, seats, wipers, a reliable heater and air conditioning that doesn’t involve opening a window. The Subaru tells me when I’m wandering out of my lane, when the car in front of me has moved forward, and keeps me under the speed limit with cruise control. It makes me a much better (and safer) driver.

My first Ugly Truck offered none of those amenities, but she definitely did her part. She gave me a great summer. She got me where I needed to be, when I needed to be there. She asked so little in return, a buck or two of gas, $5 when I was flush. I kept her happy, moving and with the new brakes, stopping when it was appropriate.

Do you have your own Ugly Truck story? I hope you’ll share it with us here or at UglyTruck.com.


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