In 1936 Eugen Herrigel wrote a 20 page essay about his experience using Daishadokyo to learn archery (under the direction of a master), or more specific, kyūdō (Japanese bow). He later put those writings into a book called "Zen in the Art of Archery". It was published in Germany in 1948 and in the U.S. in 1953. He was interested in how the skills used for sports could be improved by using Zen (meditation), repetitive motion, and less concessions thought. Don't think; let the subconscious do the work. He felt progressive learning was to be practiced until the skill needed was effortless. The title of his book has been used, in variation, extensively. Most famously for the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was written by Robert Maynard Pirsig in 1974. A great book about individuals who looked at life form opposite ends of the spectrum, with the main character attempting to find the middle. They rode for a time across the country, from Minnesota to Northern California. "Sutherland" would represent the romantic character of the story (Zen). He believes all will be alright in the modern world without his help. His is the new motorcycle that needs no care, no maintenance. And if it does, others with the technology will fix it. He lives for the moment. "The Narrator" is the character who rides the old bike, maintains it, knows when something isn't right with it, and fixes it (Mr. Maintenance).
Left Brain vs. Right Brain, the Artist vs. the Engineer.....
This is where I find myself in the world of my “old truck”. My truck hasn’t died; it will live longer than I will be remembered. But its built from parts across several generations. The term I hear most is Vintage Mod. It looks like it was just pulled out of the barn and put on the street, but really, the original steel is hiding the present day technology. I can feel the conflict in my heart. I love to meditate on the history of my 1950 truck and where its been, what its seen, and where it may end up…..but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna drive 25 miles per hour all the way to town! The first book had put Zen into the art of learning Archery, the second put Zen against the world of mechanized technology. I want to be the guy who enjoys both worlds. Zen can mean to “live in the now” and preventive maintenance could mean the opposite, to think ahead and plan for the best or worst outcome. It’s during the PM work on my truck that I lose my Zen. There is no romance and no apparent reward when it’s done. It’s work, nothing more. Sometimes I drive it with my senses tuned only to the bad sounds and not the good. There is no perfection, and there is no definable “quality” is there? So I ignore the romance of the “old truck” and get the work done.
… when its sitting perfectly still…..not making a sound….Zen finds its way back to my heart. Not touching a door, a handle or a steering wheel….I stare. My thoughts run deep into how I feel about something that could take me far away, and maybe even bring me back. I wonder if I will ever be able to feel that way when I’m actually driving the thing. Maybe not. Maybe it’s not supposed to be that way for me. I demand performance from my ride, not beauty. But man, is she a beauty. I could never say that too much. I wonder about the guy who first bought her. My truck was saved from the crusher, only 7 vehicles away. They had stopped crushing that weekend, and I bought two trucks that day. Two 1950 trucks, side by side. They were owned by the same guy, who put them directly in line, ready to be crushed. When I was driving on the highway, one truck on the trailer, I had Zen. When I drove the highway again with the other truck, I had Zen. Those two trucks made one good truck. A fast truck, a truck that needs lots of stuff other than Zen.
Herrigel and Pirsig are good guys. They both studied philosophy and took the time to write books I enjoy. I read what they are saying, but question if I understand it. I strive to understand myself, but not too much…..I don’t want to miss the things that matter. The stuff that has nothing to do with me. The stuff I keep around the place to remind me “cool” was happening long before I was even thought of. Stuff like my truck. She’s been here awhile, she is here right now, and will be here when I’m gone. I want to find the patience, to give my truck the care it needs and the love it deserves. That part, I do understand.
I have created an art to impatience. I need to change that, I want to slow down and let "it" in.
I’m working on it…..I’m driving my old truck and working on my Zen.
I find that guys like me, on the DIY sites, never seem to think anything is rare or as valuable as stated on Craigslist or EBay. It might be guys like me are not the ones to ask. I can fabricate, paint, tweak, locate or trade whatever I need when it comes to the 48-53 dodge trucks…I got friends too. So maybe it just seems easier for me, which somehow translates to cheaper? Maybe less valuable? I have to look at a recent event that made me think about my attitude.
Why pay a mechanic 500 bucks when you can do it for 20? This just happened to me. I fixed Mom's 2004 Grand Marque for 12 bucks. The Light Control Module had failed.....the dealership wanted 650 bucks (replace the LCM), the other shop (2nd opinion) wanted 560 bucks. I was like "What??? Let me look at it" I did the research on the internet, found the common problem disscussed on a forum, and fixed it with improvements recommended by the thread starter. A failed relay needed replacing; 12 bucks in parts....took me maybe an hour. It’s not original, but using wires to relocate the relay that has problems, outside the module, makes it easy to replace when it fails again. The price of a new Light Control Module ranged from 100 to 400 dollars.....the relay was 3 bucks (wires, etc made up the rest of the cost). Of course this was Mom, but I got to thinking.....why don't I see what I did as valuable? Did I just want to prove those wrench heads are overpriced???? If it wasn't Mom, would I have charged 90 bucks for the time and 12 bucks for the parts? I don’t know, I did take a free lunch and the satisfaction of knowing I saved my Mom from the wolves. Or did I? The shop was charging for the part and the labor. It seems my default is to undercharge based on some moral dilemma I created in my head based on the fact I personally can do things cheaper for myself. I paint cars on the side, but do it cheaper because my overhead is lower etc….but how is that my fault? Again, I think it’s a Do It Yourself mentality that’s skewed my interpretation of value.
Looking at Craigslist, I see 48-53 trucks that are clearly over priced….uh….that I think are overpriced. And the crooks on EBay that have NO idea how to price a damn vintage fender….err…I FEEL are uninformed of a reasonable price for classic steel. It’s there that I wonder if I should take a closer look at how I’m applying said worth to the stock pile of parts I sometimes give away or sell cheap to fellow vintage truck owners to help them out. Not that I want to change my practices (I know you’re reading this Mike aka Trampsteer, lol) but maybe bring myself into the 21st century and give the guys who are charging possibly the “right” price for these trucks and the parts a break from my attitude, and maybe give myself a bigger pat on the back when I make a what I consider a good deal.
Okay….so maybe this is where it really started. It’s been a few months since I fixed Mom’s car, when she calls me and says she received a notice in the mail. Ford sent her a letter stating that her year car has been having troubles with the LCM. They would like to extend the warranty to have the problem fixed. If it has already been fixed by a non dealer, etc… to provide the bill to Ford and they will reimburse the money…….damn. Ford owes Mom 12 bucks and a lunch, lol.
Paul joined the forum in 2006. He had bought his bluish gray truck for 250 bucks. He was planning on giving it to a friend, but was told he should keep it and restore it himself. He had always wanted to do something like that and retirement had given him the room to do it. To learn what he could and enjoy it along the way. Paul is a good natured fellow and carries a huge smile where ever he goes. Through the years on this forum he has ask 4 million questions about the complicated and the simple tasks when building a classic car or truck. His desire to keep it within budget and still enjoy it has been quite an experience as a reader of his travels on the forum. Things really picked up speed when he decided to put his heart into the build. 2012 was a monumental year. The years leading up to '12 were interesting like engine, king pins, and the discovery of the word Patina while using solvent and sandpaper to find his trucks true color in '08. In 2013 he picked up his nickname to describe his "paint job", since most had considered his truck more sanded than patina. So if you have sanded the orginal paint and left it, cuz it looks cool, you have a "Patina Paul". He has embraced his nickname like he has embraced the friends he created here over the years. Always remembering to thank anyone who helped him learn something new. His simple approach to life and his love of his family always present in what he writes. But let me not forget 2012. Paul made a mad dash though every component of his truck that year....he posted thread after thread of his finds and questions. He did the brakes, rear-end, turnsignals, wiring, steering wheel and more. His work on the Cherokee rear axle seemed to be his greatest victory, next to his patina. By January 2013, he had the project rolling downhill, getting his final registration in March! I finally got to see his truck in person. I had met Paul before and wrote with him on the forum for many years, but this was the first meeting with his truck. It wasn't the finished product that struck me, but the man who was proud of what he had learned. He was an "old" dog who had learned a new trick. He drove it to the top of the hill to the Sequoia Nat'l Park, drove it to the BBQ where he won the Tough Trucker award for just making it there, not letting coolant and bad connections keep him home. With the victory complete, Paul moved his energy to the next challenge. Cars. He bought two, a 53 Plymouth Cranbrook Convertible, and 54 Plymouth Suburban. His adventures continued, and his knowledge grew. But........sometimes life has a way of happening while we are making other plans. Paul's detached garage....along with his truck...were in a fire. It seems the shop is a complete lose, and the truck damaged but still standing. The family cat was lost as well....We here at the forum are like most people, we care about our friends. But I also realize a lot of new people here are seeing the thread "Fire" and may not appreciate the back story. That shop became his "space" while working on the '52 Dodge Truck, and it was his first shot at giving some life back to an old tired truck. And it all happened while he was here on the forum, the place where I met Paul. My heart goes out to his family, and sharing a snap shot of his story is my way saying thank you for taking me on the ride so far.
I like to race. The 1950 Dodge Pilot-House Truck I built for myself allows me to do that. I took a stock frame, gave it a 1985 Dodge Diplomat front-end, a 1997 Ford T-bird IRS, a 408 stroker with a 850 dbbl pumper with mechanical secondaries, a 904 tranny, and a rollcage. It's a fast old truck.When I dust it off and check the equipment...I sometimes wonder why I do it. Why does anyone like to race? And I'm not talking about those who make a living at it, or those who make money off of others. I'm talking about the guy who spends his "free time money" on going fast. There really isn't anything heroic about it. It's hard work and when things break, it gets even harder. In my case, it's not a bucket list deal, I've raced plenty. It's not pride, or a need to get back on the horse. So maybe I'm asking myself a deeper question? I have always believed it's Fear. When I get to that point whenI feel like I can't control it anymore, I get afraid. It's not a vehicle anymore, but a place to challenge my nerves and self-preservation. I respect my truck. It can kill me, and it can kill others. It is not a toy. Any vehicle has that risk attached to it. But when you put yourself in a position to "see what will happen"....it seems different.I've asked other racers why they do it, and the standard joke is, "it's a disease." But I've found lately, that the best guys to talk about speed and fear with are vetern war pilots. And that's really what I wanted to share.
I've been fortunate enough to work in an area where a lot of pilots trained during WW2, Korea and, to a lesser extent, Viet Nam. My favorite pilot is my Uncle of course. I remember speaking with him about his experience as a fighter pilot for the Air Force. He flew a F-104 Starfighter. A fighter jet capable of going Mach 2...twice the speed of sound. He told me the most fear he ever experienced was not even during a flight, but rather sitting on the runway, ready to end the world during the Cuban Missle Crisis in 1962. He had been a pilot for 2 years and was 25. He liked flying, but wasn't concerned about the speed so much as getting his job done right. We talked about a lot of things, but when we talked about racing, he said it's amazing. He didn't know how I could do it, because it looked so dangerous. I laughed and said, "I've never gone Mach 2," and he replied, "I don't know...a hi-tech jet vs. a chopped up car with roll bars..." We laughed, I got his point. He gave up his wings in 1984 "to let the younger guys handle it". He retired as a Colonel. Another pilot I spoke with was a radioman/bombadier/gunner of a TBF bomber, who fought in World War 2. If you don't know the TBF/TBM Avenger, it has 3 in the flight crew. The radioman sits on a bench in the middle with the navigation/radio equipment, and would crawl through a "tunnel" to operate the rear "stinger" gun. The turret gunner and radioman had no access to the pilot. Talking with him I said, "diving out of the sky, getting shot at, and having no chance to recover the plane if the pilot got injured?" Now that's scary. He said two things that stuck with me. First, being in the TBF was realitive to his stituation. At his hieght of 5'7, he was worried he'd either be put in a tank or a ball turret of a B-17. He was more than happy with his assignment. Second, he entered the war at sixteen....no one checked his age. In his words, "Through the whole war, I was to stupid to know I should be scared." He is a vet of the Guadalcanal Campaign, and many others. Both those guys shared kind words about my love of racing, and I thanked them for preserving the freedom that allows me to do so. The thing I learned most from my uncle is that fear is an excellent co-pilot, and should be respected. And my friend who flew in the TBM? He cherishes the long life he's had so far, and studies philosophy as a hobby, to find maybe even a little bit more to the meaning in life. What he shared with me, was his understanding of balance and perspective. Something I try and do everyday now. So why do I race? Maybe I really don't know why, and maybe I never will....but lately, I've used the question to start some really great conversations, with some really great people.
I have often said women love big dumb animals. You know, like horses, and see men pretty much the same way. In the begining, for me, trucks were like that. A tool a guy needed to move the real vehicles in this world, muscle cars. And I mean real muscle....1/4 mile muscle....straight liners and roundy rounds...cars you didn't drive on the street, but cars that tested your ability to deal with fear and become one with the machine. In 2001, I came across a 1948 Dodge truck sitting on the side of the road. It was for sale. I was surprised how much I liked it, considering how rough it was. I don't want to focus on the passing of my wife, so much as how she brought me into this wonderful world of old trucks.
I love muscle cars and the power they demand, but my wife wasn't so interested in that. She liked things a little slower. She never liked the idea of racing and looked forward to when I would stop fooling around with it. I decided to buy the truck in hopes of narrowing that gap between us. She didn't exactly see it that way, but humored me.
She passed away in 2004 of pneumonia in a matter of 3 days. The truck sat a few years after that...
I believe it was 2006 that I decided that I had bought the truck for myself, and had I been the one to pass away, she may have only kept my helmet. I was her big dumb animal, that's what she bought into. So the truck was going to be my project, with a hint of my past somewhere in there. As I dug into the truck with a surprising passion, I eventually found this website I love so much. And as I found friendship here, I also found a need to bring together those of like minds in a celebration of the old Dodge trucks. I'm so thankful for the Clements Tailgate BBQ, its one of the things I look forward to every year with great enthusiasm.
That first truck. That one on the side of the road. She slowly became a parts truck and lost much of it to a 1950 truck that would become "The Brick", the one I race at Bonneville. But as many things do, the truck found a niche, a place in my life, and my friends too. That old truck on the side of the road became the B-1-BQ.....a beautiful old parts truck, that turned into the best BBQ ever.
I've never written a blog before, but I do have the ability to share what's on my mind to those who will listen. So I guess this is the same thing, only different. To be a blogger, I can see a need to be somewhat entertaining as well as informative. In other words, make sense and don't turn it into a dang lecture about what I think is right or wrong. Yet, to do that, it might be helpful to have an artist's "eye" to create something people can enjoy, without feeling patronized. Lord knows I'm not starting my entries out with opening lines like "Dear Diary" or "You know"....I just can't put that kind of pressure on myself. I will do what I can with "the writer" I might be, "the thinker" inside us all, and the artist I actually am. I can only share how I see things.....really....that's it. I'm not an analyst, reporter, or anchorman. I am the man on the street who never got his interview. So here I am. This is my marker. I'm gonna go think of stuff, try and create an idea, then write it down.......should be fun.