Well, if you read the previous article, “You’re Riding to Alaska?” you’ll know why I’m currently almost halfway through reading John Steinbeck’s book, “Travels with Charley”.
It’s an account (a somewhat stretched account) of the famous author’s journey around the outskirts of our nation in 1960 via a pickup with a massive camper perched upon the bed. Not a cab-over design, just a big clunky camper box that likely acted as an immense sail as he traveled the highways of 1960 America.
Many have disputed how much of what Steinbeck wrote in the book was really factual. Pointing out that his account of a conversation about Nikita Khrushchev pounding the tabletop at the United Nations with his shoe occurred in the book a week before the subject content occurred in real life. So what, I say. Maybe Steinbeck got the date wrong, or maybe he made the conversation up. It was well told, and that is all I want from his work, well told stories about things that are or could be real.
And he delivers.
But as I read his account and description of the pickup truck he named Rocinante, and the brief mention of it’s V6 engine, I knew immediately that he wasn’t stretching the truth about this. I know the sound of that V6. I know the iron twisting torque it possessed. I know exactly what Steinbeck meant when he said it went leaping joyously down the road at times.
Regardless of how much wind pushed against that big camper shell there is, was, and has been only one V6 engine produced that could pull and push like a tractor at 80 MPH, and it was that massive V6 that General Motors typically only bolted into large construction vehicles and dump trucks. But for special orders they would slap one in a half or three-quarter ton pickup.
And I know of one other person who special ordered such a truck. My Dad in 1966.
That truck was an all time favorite, and I did my best to destroy it as my brothers, sister, and mother will attest. But it held up through pulling contests that ruined the transmissions of lesser pickups on the high school parking lot; it recovered from a flight over a railroad embankment at nearly sixty miles per hour, Dukes of Hazard style.
And it morphed from a fleet side to a step side as it went through various incarnations, but all the while that heart, the one that was identical to Rocinante’s, beat beneath the hood.
You won’t find such a V6 in this day and age. They all have pistons less that a third the size, and they are built for economy, not the hydrocarbon depleting 8 miles to the gallon that that massive six cylinder achieved.
How I would love to hear that thundering engine bellowing through those dual exhausts and cheap glass-pack mufflers again.