From Marfa, Texas to Brooklin, Maine, two Chevy pickups become a kind of signature
By Peter Behrens
Many people—not all of them guys—share a passion for trucks. I’ve had truckaphilia since birth. Same for my 6-year-old son, H, and many of his pals. Is it the form-follows-function shape of a pickup that zooms straight to the hearts of little boys? Or the sonorous power and growl of a Chevy truck engine?
In our family, sadly, trucks were a guy thing. B, my wife, did not share the truck trope. B is a professional stylist who chooses the props, settings, models and layouts used in those clothing catalogues that arrive in your mailbox weekly. She has an eye for clean design and for handsome, simple objects. Her eye will pick out the right wallpaper, the classic motor launch, the understated English garden, the perfect linen slipcovers and the model who will somehow look elegant in those rubber boots being sold on p. 26.
But trucks? Not B’s thing. Too large. Too loud. Too…truckish.
We spend winters in the West Texas desert, where the highways and lonesome ranch roads feel like the American pickup truck’s natural habitat. And there we were, in our ho-hum rental car. My son and I started riding our bikes around town, scanning back streets and alleys for trucks. At home, we talked up how useful and practical a good old truck would be. And we waited until B flew to Northern California for a photo shoot before we made our move. Within three hours of her departure, we had found a 1976 Chevrolet pickup, the only vehicle for sale that morning in our town’s only (it’s a very small town) used-car lot. Purchased new at Casner Chevrolet in Marfa, Texas in 1976, the truck had been cherished by one owner and had really never left town. We closed the deal, drove home and awaited B’s return.
- Photo by JW Burleson
Bonding was a process. It did happen, but it took time. The 35-year-old truck was so…big. And loud: Dual exhausts and the glasspack mufflers gave it a booming snarl. The vintage brush-guard grill and aftermarket foglamps might be useful in desert sandstorms, but they amped the truck’s aggressively masculine stance a notch too high for B. Nonetheless, she started driving it around town, and it looked good on her. The truck became a kind of signature, and at the end of the winter we shipped it to Maine, where we live the rest of the year, and began to use it as our summer set of wheels. Photographers admire the clean lines and B has enlisted the truck on a couple of photo shoots.
It was great having a cool truck for Maine, but that left us truckless in Texas, so the following winter we scouted again. This time B, a convert, was in on the hunt. We zeroed in on a 1986 Chevrolet C10 (badged as a “Custom Deluxe 10”) with solid mechanicals and a quick, snappy style. B responded to the clean, bare modernism of that truck’s short-wheelbase silhouette. After being repainted from dowdy primer-grey to the linen-white that B chose, the C10 became her vehicle of choice. It has already been enlisted for one West Texas photo shoot and may get the call for others.
The truck looks good on B. But it’s by no means just a fashion accessory: What she really responds to is its soulful old-truckness. Good trucks age like fine leather, bearing the nicks and scars of time with style. We’ve taken it on expeditions to Big Bend National Park and to the Jeff Davis Mountains. It’ll handle a six-hour roundtrip across the blazing desert to El Paso with zero fuss. The C10 feels perfectly at home cruising those West Texas highways and faraway ranch roads under that big azure sky--somehow we never quite got that feeling from any rental car.
The Chevy is a West Texas soul-machine, a piece of mobile Americana, and after 26 years on the road, the truck owns a style that is starting to seem timeless.
For the latest version of our classic Chevy pickup, go to Chevrolet.com. Chevy style, toughness and character in a totally modern package.
Award-winning novelist Peter Behrens blogs about cars and trucks at Autoliterate.