Versus the competiton:
Getting to normal for many Americans means going shopping. But for my wife and me, it means dumping what was bought. Maybe, next time, we’ll buy less or we’ll buy smarter. But the task of the moment is to clean house, clear basement, empty garage and haul away.
It is a time of whacked serendipity, thanks to the appearance of pickups on the test schedule. I’ve written before about my little wife from Texas and her big addiction to trucks, especially pickups. She practically salivates when one shows up in the driveway.
I think: “Nice truck.” She thinks: “Hallelujah! We’re going to get some work done this weekend.”
That’s not the worst of it. She tends to buy trucks. She was controllable when she was buying Chevrolets. Now, she’s fallen in love with Ford, specifically the Ford F-150 with the optional 260-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine.
It happened this way: Ford shipped a special-edition 2001 F-150 Sport XLT for a week-long run. The four-wheel-drive truck had a regular cab and a 6 1/2-foot “flareside” cargo box. “Flareside” means the box was affixed with bulging fenders, reminiscent of a horse’s haunches.
There were steps on either side of the box. Like stirrups, they were designed to give a leg up to anyone climbing aboard, or loading the box. This made sense, as did the matte-black tie-down hooks in the box’s four corners. But I was baffled by Ford’s limited use of composite liner material to protect the cargo box from dents and scratches.
On the test truck, Ford used a composite liner on the upper edges of the cargo bed. But the bed’s floor and interior walls were left unprotected. My guess is that this was a fuel-economy move. Composite scratch-and-dent protectants, such as DuraLiner, add weight to vehicles.
Weight consumes fuel. Excess fuel consumption in new vehicle fleets leaves automakers vulnerable to penalties under federal fuel-economy laws. So, from a business viewpoint, it’s better to let retail buyers choose composite shields as add-on equipment.
But the lack of a complete composite liner did not stop us from loading up the cargo box. We hauled away an old dishwasher and lots of scrap metal and miscellaneous junk. We carried loads of lumber and tools for household repair.
To me, it was work. To Ms. Texas, it was a big-truck adventure, made even more enjoyable by the pull and roar of the F-150’s Triton V-8. She was embarrassing.
“Oh-my-God, this is a truck!” she exclaimed on one of the dump missions. “Oh-my-God, this is power! This is good! This thing can run!”
I reminded her that running too fast in a fully loaded pickup is not an especially good move. The F-150 is one of the tallest pickups, at 75.4 inches from ground to roof. Ground clearance on the test model was measured at 8 inches, ground to rear axle. Failure to load this one properly, or to properly inflate its Goodyear Wrangler tires, cou ld lead to rollover. Improper loading, combined with improper tire pressure and careless driving, is really tempting fate.
The 2001 F-150 comes with a short/long-arm independent front suspension system. The test truck showed the value of this design. It had easier steering, overall better handling and a smoother ride than older F-150 models.
But the rear suspension remained old hat. It was a non-independent, bumpy-under-light-loads leaf-spring design.
No matter. The three-seat regular-cab truck was ergonomically correct. Gauges and instruments were easily reachable and readable. The interior was spartan without embracing poverty, which truly pleased Ms. Texas.
“Does this come with a double-cab?” she asked.
“Supercab and Crew Cab,” I said.
“Whatever,” she said. “I want one of these.”
My heart sank.