The most popular vehicle in America, and I got to drive one.

At the beginning of my senior year in high school, my dad moved from his carpentry job to an administrative position. As you know, being in carpentry practically requires a truck... well, it certainly does if you had your own business for a while, as my dad did. He bought this F-150 brand new in 1986 and had driven it every day, typically around 70 miles round trip each way to work and back, for over ten years when he got the new job. Since his new position required a lot of driving, he used his mileage stipend to buy a car (1996 Eagle Vision: more on that later) that would be more fuel efficient than his old F-150.

So, with my dad driving his new Vision and my sister taking our beloved 1983 Chevy Caprice off to college, bing bang boom, I began driving my dad's F-150.

Most people, especially high schoolers, think a pickup truck is pretty cool. Unfortunately, I think my dad took it upon himself to make this truck not cool (if you read the Caprice article, you know my dad's un-cool automotive preferences). The F-150 was basically a stripped-down model (the "XL" package as opposed to the "XLT" or "XLT Lariat", speaking of which, did you know that lariat is another word for lasso?). It was a strange, strange hue of red-orange that my dad liked because it reminded him of his previous F-150, a 1970-something orange F-150 he called "old paint." This truck he referred to as "new paint" and the red-orange paint job was in fact new; he had it re-painted sometime in the early 1990's to make it look better. Strangely, it had 2 beige pinstripes running the length of the truck. Beige pinstripes on a red-orange truck? Frickin weird.

It was a crew cab, which was unusual at the time. There was a rear bench seat and a front bench seat. The front bench seats hinged to allow access to the rear.

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(note: this picture is representative, not the exact vehicle)

The color wasn't the only oddity.

Transmission: My dad likes strange things like having a granny gear in order to hypothetically tow something massive. To clarify, we didn't own a huge boat or trailer or anything. He just wanted this capability, "just in case." So he had his truck mechanic friend (who was also my baseball coach) install a 4-speed with a granny gear, which really made it a 3-speed because you started in 2nd (1st was the granny gear and it was just too small of a gear to be useful for anything but rock crawling or towing something massive). Third gear was still pretty small and the truck couldn't reach its federally-mandated speedometer maximum of 85mph. Perhaps that's exactly what my parents wanted once I was driving it.

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Gas tanks: 2, one front, one rear (you can see them in the photo). A switch on the dash allowed the driver to select which one to use. In my particular vehicle, the rear tank leaked so I used the front tank all the time.

High beam switch: On the floor.

Drive: Rear-wheel. Living in Minnesota, this was a tricky proposition in the winter. We'd throw a few 100-lb sandbags in the bed in the snowy months.

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Windows: It had triangular mini-windows mounted on a swivel next to the A-pillar in front of the roll-down main window. I'm sure there's a name for these, not sure what it is. My dad LOVED these little windows.

Topper: Beige. A beige topper on a red-orange truck. My dad liked it because it matched the beige pinstripes. Needless to say, I took the topper off whenever I could.

Bedliner: a sheet of plywood.

We drove this thing all over the place, waaaay back in the woods on hunting trips, in some dodgy situations and beat it up. I thought it was pretty cool driving a pickup truck to school, and the bed was perfect for throwing my skis in. The truck was amazingly reliable. We finally traded it in with the odometer at somewhere around 325,000 miles (it had turned over 3 times) on a 1993 Buick Regal GS (more on that later) in the summer of 2000. I still see 1980s F150s on the road from time to time. Plenty of them still out there. It was a good truck! I can still hear the "tick-tock, tick-tock" of its turn signal. Very old school.