So last night I borrowed my father’s F-250 to plow my driveway. I’ve driven it plenty before, and in fact, he’s had it for close to 10 years. But I was just thinking, hey I should do an Oppo review.
Now, this is just a google image search result. But my father’s truck looks about like this. To be fair, every summer he paints over the rusty metal in some fashion or other, in a classic “10 foot paint job.” The truck seriously looks OK from 10 feet away, at least from the front or sides. Compared to our old Scout which had no tailgate, vacuum operated wipers, no heat, and no brakes at all, this thing is LUXURY - power windows, power locks, sometimes working brakes, and a radio! A working radio, man!
The tailgate, on the other hand... we’ll get to that. Let’s start with the experience of borrowing this truck from my father. Every single time, it’s “oh and by the way, it’s been making a new noise...” or this time it was “see, this is where the seat belt mount, if I don’t have this clamp right here, will just fall to the ground. And the heater fan was making a weird noise, too.” The heat worked fine for me, but I didn’t bother with the seat belt.
But this thing is powered by the venerable Ford 351. I mean, this engine is indestructible in my mind. I worked at a marina for a bunch of years, and the 351 (or Chevy 350 if you’re a Chevy guy) is the engine of choice for every inboard ski boat from like, the early 70's through, well, now. If they can survive running under heavy load at high RPM for their whole life in a boat, they can handle truck duty. So it always runs. More or less.
Come to think of it, this truck replaced a 1985 F-150 that deserves its own series on Netflix. I’ll have to write up an Oppo post on just that truck because it was so amazing...ly terrible by the time we got rid of it. It had an Offenhauser intake manifold on its 300-I6, which made a mean growl. And I plowed with it until it quite literally broke in half. Then I kept plowing with it some more. But that’s a story for another time.
So what’s it like to drive? Scary. Scary because you never know when it might just spontaneously... do something. Like a few years ago when I was driving it back to my father’s house in a big snowstorm, and I went over a bump on the narrow, winding dirt road between our houses and WHAM the plow dropped completely down and the lights shut off. If you’ve ever driven a plow truck, you know that 30mph is like, way too fast if there’s 10" of light fluffy snow because it all comes back in your face, over the cab, everywhere - you can’t see a damn thing. Add to that NO LIGHTS and wow, I was lucky to come to a stop in the road, not in a tree or a ditch. That’s a good example, I think. Or hey, last night when I flicked on the high beams and ALL THE LIGHTS TURNED OFF - but at least the plow stayed up.
Oh and just last winter in nearly the same spot - about halfway between our houses on a sparsely populated back road: it spontaneously backfired and shut off, then wouldn’t restart. I’ve come to expect this. So I waited a few minutes before trying to start it again. Nothing. It turns over, but won’t fire. A few more minutes. Voila! Off we go, as if this is normal.
Otherwise, it drives like a plow truck. Completely useless except for getting sideways at low speeds while in 2wd, and then basically unstoppable in 4wd except for the, oh I don’t know 27 times we’ve had to pull it out of somewhere with one of our other cars because it was stuck. Because that’s the life of a truck that you drive deliberately into snowbanks over and over. I’d love to have a video of our Volvo pulling it out of a snowbank, but I’m always too focused on just solving the problem and never stop to take a video. I’m also always driving one or the other. I’m not kidding, one snowstorm a few weeks ago my parents came over and said, “sorry we’re late, we got the truck stuck THREE TIMES just now.”
Last year, it had a lovely issue where it wouldn’t start if it was cold and damp outside; you know, every snow storm. Or damp evening. The solution was to heat up/dry out some of the ignition parts, and vrooom off you went. But seriously. I was out there one night last year with a nice 15mph sleet/wind using my wife’s hair dryer to try and get the thing started so I could plow the 3" of slush out of the driveway before it froze solid.
At least this year the exhaust is intact* and it doesn’t wake up the neighborhood every time I start it up. All of last year it had some gigantic hole in the exhaust and was super loud, and not in a good way.
[*the catalytic converter failed, and to replace it, my father’s mechanic of choice (only for this truck) welded in some generic eBay catalytic converter that was probably totally inappropriate for this application]. Problem solved!
Maybe my favorite part of all this, is really the only way this thing is still on the road is because I introduced my father to a local guy who will inspect, work on, and generally limp along a lot of vehicles that no one else would even want parked in their lot. He’s awesome, but he’s also an enabler. He’s donated more than one part to my father from his own POS yard truck that he uses to plow and whose floor literally has a hole you could stick a 5 gallon bucket through. And it’s a different color. So when he donated the tailgate to my father, his (my father’s) solution was to paint it red (the color of my father’s truck) with a brush.
And yet, the tailgate won’t close unless you pull just right on the rope my father installed on the bed so you can bend the side just enough to engage the tailgate latch.
You know the best part? This thing has a remote start.
Good God, Man was this a review or a rant? Is anyone still even reading this?
10/10 it’s a classic shitty New England Plow Truck. And you better believe it will plow the shit out of tomorrow’s storm that’s bringing 8-12" to the whole gall-durned state. You betcha! Or maybe it’ll shred a belt or the brakes will completely fail. Who knows?