top of page
  • tim5229

The Road to Writing About an Old Truck

Moving from Singapore back to the U.S. necessitated that I decide on what type of vehicle I wanted to own as a daily driver. However, it was also much more than that. It was also an opportunity to "start fresh" with a vehicle that appealed to me in multiple ways.

Before moving to Singapore, my daily driver for ten years was a 2004 Ford Ranger "Edge" model pickup truck that I bought new and literally "babied" during those 10 years putting on a mere 70,000 miles. It was bright red with a large front end to give it a bigger truck appearance and was powered by a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

I added a bed liner to it for added protection and got cross-eyed whenever a neighbor or friend asked if I would haul mulch or gravel for them to save a few bucks.

Armed with a Haynes manual on car detailing and maintenance and one on the latest Ford Ranger models, the only work I ever had to do on it aside from keeping the engine and engine bay nearly spotless, and washing and waxing the body regularly, was changing the oil and filter every 3,000 miles and the transaxle fluid at 60,000 miles. I never had a problem with it the entire 10 years.

When it came time to sell it before moving to Singapore, I sold it to a teen boy and his mom at its Kelley Blue Book price with a clean conscience and the secret hope it would be well cared for. Like I indicated, it was my baby.

But, I wasn't always like this.

Teen Years Working on Cars

Prior to that 2004 Ranger, I went through several beater cars while in the military and throughout college. Partly because it was all I could afford, but mostly because I had had my fill of working on cars as a teen.

My old man took on the hobby of restoring old vehicles that started with a 1927 Model T Ford and progressed from there to a 1932 Ford truck, a 1947 Packard, and a 1956 Chevy sedan. Since I was a teen at the time, I was the one who did the work no one wants to do: sandblasting rusty parts in a makeshift sanding box without lights or air filter; washing parts in a bucket of gasoline; scraping old road dirt and tar coating from the frames using a propane torch and drywall spatula; and other tasks a little more hazardous---like pouring homemade Babbitt bearings into a block.

In one instance, a drop of sweat fell from my nose onto the Babbitt as I poured it resulting in the molten Babbitt exploding in my face. At first I thought I had lost my left eye, only to discover that by sheer luck I had blinked at the right moment and the Babbitt had sealed my eye shut by the eyelashes and did not damage my eyeball.

Only promises of "Some day, these cars will be yours!" made it all seem worthwhile back then.

The 1956 Chevy was my High School car, which is not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it was 22 years old...and a sedan, but Bugtussle, Missouri was an automotive if not human evolutionary anachronism where everyone was in denial...except me of course. Which is why 4 days after graduating High School, I was on a bus to Lackland Air Force Base.

While away from home, all those cars were sold.

A Spotty Automotive Education

What I learned as a teen was not just the fundamentals of car restoration, but more importantly the wisdom of never using the wrong tool for any task. Which my old man excelled at. That and jerry rigging.

Throughout the military, college, and first few years of marriage I drove old beaters without shame. Cars held no luster for me and were just a way to get me from one point to another. To save money I bought used tires that still had some life to them at $20 a tire; learned to keep them running with a Haynes manual and some misplaced "can-do" attitude; enrolled in a couple of Community College automotive courses and learned more about how not to repair a car.

Oddly enough, it was earning my doctorate in Molecular Biology that led to becoming a better mechanic. That and two books I blame for starting me on a writing career:

  • "Writing to Learn Biology" by Randy Moore ISBN 0-03-074189-0

  • "Writing to Learn" by William Zinsser ISBN 13: 978-0-06-272040-5

Pursuing a Ph.D. taught me critical thinking skills, but not how to express those ideas on paper. The two aforementioned books taught me not only how to write clearly (most of the time) but that writing is crucial for learning.

"Writing is thinking on paper; Anyone who thinks clearly should be able to write clearly---about any subject at all."

William Zinsser, 1989

The end result is that I eventually became a science writer and topic content expert having written a broad range of articles for business communications, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. Writing topic experience includes articles covering:

  • Parenting

  • Health

  • Science

  • History

  • Government

  • Educational and technical copy for both lay and expert reader audience.

  • Monthly articles for Cincinnati Gentlemen magazine.

  • Weekly articles for McGraw-Hill Publishing for 3 years as a subject matter expert in multiple fields.

As a topic content expert I was praised by editors as a writer who can write about anything; Possessing the writing skills to turn complex subject matter into articles that are clear, informative and entertaining.

"Tim, I know without a doubt that many, many students have learned a great deal from the expertise that you shared with your readership over the past several years.

​I personally have also benefited from our association in several ways, not only because of your constancy and professionalism, but in the knowledge I've gained in reading your column each week. Your constancy and dedication have been exemplary."

Joe Offredi

Developmental editor

McGraw-Hill Publishing

Back to Today

Twenty-five years since the my first published article, today---as I've mentioned before on this website----I am semi-retired and have been writing for Torque News for about two and one-half years.

The owner/editor of the automotive site is someone I've had the pleasure of working with in the past who approached me soon after I returned from Singapore asking if I was interested in writing for him once again...but this time about cars instead of health and science news.

This was fortuitous because it was also about the same time I had began considering rebuilding a 1973 Ford F-100 I bought two years earlier that was now leaking oil rather badly and a good candidate truck for restoration and rebuilding.

I believe that I bought the truck because I've entered an age when the past does not seem so bad after all. The equivalent of a time-lapsed memory gravitational pull for what I remember as a simpler time. A time when anyone could (and did) repairs on their car or truck. A time of carburetors and a forgiving V-8 design that required only some fuel, a spark, reasonably close-enough timing and enough compression to make a car chug along if not roar down a road.

This opportunity and a reborn interest in working on cars coupled with my research and writing skills became one of those rare moments when the planets all appeared to be in alignment and I would make a surprising discovery:

Sometimes it is possible to go back home.

86 views0 comments


bottom of page