Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ODE TO AN ’87 DODGE DAKOTA


A moment of silence please…

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
-          W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues


I have suffered a tremendous loss. The other day I came home and realized my blue truck was missing. My truck of seven years was gone. It had died an ignominious death just two or three weeks previous, but in true manners of the country, we let the corpse sit outside in our dive way for a good long time. I always had wondered why people did that…but now I understand. I did not want to let go.

I had bought the metallic blue, 1987 Dodge Dakota used, in 2006. It already had 150,000 miles on it. I bought it for $850. It has cancer blights of rust, and the ceiling inside the cab was falling down. The lights worked intermittently, and the windshield wipers sashayed back and forth like an old, arthritic stripper.

But I loved that truck.
 
In the seven years-plus that we owned that truck, it moved the contents of our house, of my grandparents house, helped remove two giant piles of cut down trees (each the size of a two-story house), helped plant the vineyard, carried home new furniture, lugged countless barrels, bore thousands of loads of trash and construction debris to the transfer station, trudged with tons of dirt, gravel, and mulch, innumerable loads of lumber, and oh yeah, one spoiled Dalmatian that absolutely loved to sit in the passenger seat like she was my girlfriend.

My friends and co-workers at the winery made fun of the old rusted heap. But in spite of all of it, in the eyes of this beholder, there was no better truck. It was a flawed piece of machinery, I will grant you that. But every time I asked of it, it come through every time…save the last.

I had loaded it up with the bits and pieces of our old roof, after a new one had been put on. It was piled high with sawdust, wood, tar paper, shingles, and crumpled flashing. But she could not crest the hill just 500 to 1000 yards from our house. Like an old horse, I had asked her one too many times to bear a load heavier than her capacity. In the past she had always responded valiantly. But the engine, now with more than 200,000 miles on it, could no longer rise to the task, and the exhaust coughed and sputtered. Realizing the death rattle, I pulled in a nearby drive way, and pulled a slow, slow K-turn, and glided back down the hill and into our drive way riding the break all the way. That truck had given me it’s all.

What is it about a truck? You have to ask?

The Dodge Dakota was a mid-size pickup truck from Chrysler's Ram (formerly Dodge Truck) division. From its introduction through 2009, it was marketed by Dodge. The first Dakota was introduced in 1986 as an 1987 model alongside the redesigned Dodge Ram 50. The Dakota was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2000. The Dakota has always been sized above the compact Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10 but below the full-sized pickups such as Dodge's own Ram. It is a conventional design with body-on-frame construction and a leaf spring/live axle rear end. The Dakota was the first mid-size pickup with an optional V8 engine. One notable feature was the Dakota's rack and pinion steering, a first for work trucks. Dakotas have been used by police and fire departments, as off-road vehicles, patrol cars, or even brush trucks.

The Dodge Dakota was conceived by Chrysler management as the first "mid-sized" pickup combining the nimble handling and fuel economy of a compact pickup with cargo handling capacity approaching that of full-sized pickups. To keep investment low, many components were shared with existing Chrysler products and the manufacturing plant was shared with the full-sized Dodge D-Model. The name Dakota means "friend" or "ally" in the Sioux language.

The first generation of the Dakota was produced from 1987 through 1990. It was slightly updated for 1991-1996. Straight-4 and V6 engines were offered along with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Four wheel drive was available only with the V6. Both six and eight-foot beds were offered. Fuel injection was added to the 3.9 L V6 for 1988 but the output remained the same.

According to truck expert David Zatz, “The idea behind the Dakota was to have most of the fun-to-drive aspects of a compact pickup, along with their fuel efficiency, while providing most of the utility and ruggedness of a full-sized pickup. The concept worked well, at leaset for the first two generations: in its first year, over 104,865 Dakotas were sold in the United States, neatly beating every other Dodge truck including the entire range of full-size pickups, diesels and heavy duty models included (that range came close to 100,000 units). The Ram 50 was the next best seller with under 77,000 units sold, and then the Ram Vans came in at under 70,000. Sales declined somewhat after the first year until 1992, the first-generation Dakota’s best year, with a massive increase to over 132,000 pickups sold. Then the second generation Dakota, with its “baby Ram” styling, took off.”

“At launch, the Dakota provided a range of options, with a 112 inch and a 124 inch wheelbase featuring a 6 ½ foot or an 8 foot cargo box; rear and four wheel drive were both available. Payloads in 1987 ranged from 1,250 to 2,550 pounds, with trailer towing up to 5,500 pounds. The long bed was specifically designed to carry 4x8 panels with the tailgate closed (unlike S10 and Ranger); it had provisions for stakes and tie-downs, and used heavy duty steel to prevent dents. The tailgate was easily removed for longer loads,” wrote Zatz.

But what I will remember most? Oh, so many things….

Driving the truck with my sons in the front seat, and easting cheeseburgers after running an errand or doing a farm related chore.

I remember beaming every time someone told me I had too much weight in the eight-foot bed, and simply driving away defiant and triumphant.

It delivered all the brand new kitchen cabinets for our home and our shop in its bed, as well as the farm supplies, and the plumbing supplies.

There was nothing better than driving with our Dalmatian Cinderella, who loved the truck! She would sit right next to me like she was my girlfriend, with her head on my shoulder…immoveable. I would put a cup of water in the cup-holder on the passenger side, and she would drink from it. She loved going through the drive through to get a hamburger as well!

I loved that after it died the first time, we brought it back to the living with press button starter from a lawn mower, because the ignition ring was shot; that we held a part of it together with a bungy cord; and that I used it to start our other cars when their batteries died.

It rumbled like an aircraft carrier from Freehold, NJ to Ghent, NY, back and forth, two dozen times. I drove it up and down the valley, into Massachusetts, and past Albany both north and west.

Countless hours were spent listening to the radio and stereo which always worked extremely well.

I will always miss the fact that it had an old fashioned vent!

And I will always remember the time Dawson and I stayed at the farm and watered more than 1,200 plants by hand, and stood on the crest of the hill at sunset and looked over the vineyard that we had all planted that weekend, and then got into our truck and drove back to New Jersey in the cool spring night.

It was my pet, my girlfriend, my draft horse, my office, my man cave, my mud room, my barge, my dump truck, my oxen, my shrink, and my toolbox.

It was dirty, grungy, beaten up, bouncy, dinged, dented, scratched, bumped, dusty, dependable, stalwart, and downright cool.  And it never complained.

I remember driving that ruck in the wee hours of the morning, in the hot sun, cold winter, and chilly fall. Even when the air conditioning died, I would leave the windows open and just ride.

It was a dirty old pickup. I will miss that truck.
 

THREE PREVIOUS TRUCK STORIES

The $850 Truck
http://www.hudson-chathamwine.blogspot.com/2007/03/850-truck-what-is-it-about-truck-why-do.html 

Planting the Vineyard Part 4
http://www.hudson-chathamwine.blogspot.com/2007/03/planting-vineyard-mad-rush-part-1-day-1.html

Joe and Connie Rue and the Clampetts
http://hudson-chathamwine.blogspot.com/2007/04/joe-and-connie-rue-and-clampetts-my.html

2 Comments:

Blogger Ultima Thule said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:22 AM  
Blogger JoeFed said...

I see that after 30 years, your automotive repair techniques have not wavered in style or content. I am, however, relieved to hear that no coca-Cola cans were harmed in the repairing of this vehicle... ;-D

9:26 AM  

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