A growing young family soon dictated a VW Dasher station wagon, followed
by a full-size, gas-sucking GMC van and later a more fuel efficient Dodge
minivan, which I drove until I joined the staff at AutoWeek magazine
and suddenly discovered the joy of driving cars with manufacturer’s
before I left AutoWeek for the Arizona desert,
driven a Frontier crew cab from Michigan to Nashville, where my son was
going to college. I hauled much of his worldly goods in and on the truck
on the way down, and was impressed on the trip back how the back end
of this truck didn’t bounce like a basketball when the bed was
A few months
later, I moved to Phoenix. Not knowing the condition of the local press
fleet, I decided to buy a car, which turned out to be my truck.
you hate pickup trucks!" a former AutoWeek co-worker
shuddered when I told him I’d bought my Frontier.
buy a pickup truck," I responded. "I bought a lifestyle vehicle."
He was right:
I was the AutoWeek staffer who least liked
driving pickup trucks. But I also was right: I was buying a vehicle that
fit my new lifestyle. I also was buying a new house and needed a vehicle
that could haul gravel and other stiff, that could take me out to explore
the desert -- and bring me back safely – and that was comfortable
on the highway, and not only for the driver but for anyone sitting in
the second row.
the truck in January 2000. It turns out the press fleet here in Phoenix
is much better than I’d anticipated and the truck got
to spend a lot of time in my garage – at least until my son borrowed
it. He’s probably accounted for a third of those 100,000 miles.
His miles were rolled up commuting to various jobs. My miles included
some wonderful drives through the desert and on mountain trails as well
as cross-country trips to Seattle, Minnesota and Michigan, sometimes
for business, sometimes with the truck bed full of stuff that got moved
to Arizona but needed to be moved to one of my daughters’ houses.
the record, and I’ve kept a notebook recording every fill
up, I can report that my Nissan – V6 and automatic -- has consistently
averaged between 19 and 20 miles per gallon over the course of its first
the truck has become sort of the neighborhood hauler, with friends
and neighbors borrowing it for everything from moving furniture to
runs to big-box home improvement stores for remodeling materials. By
the way, I have good neighbors; they always bring the truck back with
the gas tank filled and usually they’ve had it washed as well.
I guess I should amend my previous statement about not imagining life
without a pickup truck. You might be able to live without one as long
as a neighbor has one you can borrow.
haven’t been diligent about keeping my truck clean on
the outside, I have been faithful about trying to keep it clean on the
inside – the inside of its powertrain, that is. Oil has been changed
every 3000 miles, and so has the air filter. Not long after I bought
the truck, I was at a press event at General Motors, which was introducing
its new inline five-cylinder engine by staging an engine-building competition
involving teams of engineers and journalists.
was led by the head of the laboratory that does engine durability tear-down
and examination for GM and when she heard where I lived, she explained
"Arizona dust!" I asked her what she was. She explained that the Sonoran
desert has perhaps the most abrasive and invasive dust in the country,
so abrasive, she said, that GM engineers worked a long time to reproduce
it in the lab so they could incorporate into all engine durability
tests. Be sure, she said emphatically, to change your air filter every
time you change your oil. You’re engine will last much longer.
That’s the plan. A hundred grand down. A hundred grand – or
more – to go.