What makes a truck?

Image from Topspeed.com



Unless you are an auto enthusiast, you might not know how bizarre and convoluted the classifications of vehicles truly are.

I knew about this weird world of government vehicle classifications from various resources, but quickly set it aside to maintain my sanity.

Take for instance the question posted above:  What makes a truck?

Define it.

I bet you could rattle off the names of trucks without trying.

F-150, Silverado, Ram, Sierra, Tundra, Titan, Ranger, Colorado, Tacoma, B-2000, Frontier, Dakota… It’s as easy as looking down the street or in your parking lot. (For those outside the U.S. let me throw in HiLux, Amarok, and G-Ute trayback.)

image: Fourwheeler.com

But what about vans?  Do they count?  They do if you ask plumbers, florists, electrical workers and water technicians.  These people own vans to help earn their living and usually treat them as such.

image: Ford.com

How about SUVs?  Are they a truck or are they an amped up station wagon? A Cadillac SRX argues the case for station wagon, but what about a Nissan Xterra or Jeep Wrangler? Some would argue that their body on frame construction earns their membership into the truck club.

Image: Cadillac.com

The truth is that the “truck” classification by CAFÉ and the EPA is very broad and diverse group.  Did you know that the Chevrolet HHR and Chrysler PT Cruiser are listed as SUVs and thus in the truck club?

Image: motortrend.com

How about Subaru’s medium sized wagon? In 2006 this vehicle was listed as a wagon and an SUV depending on model.  If you picked the Legacy, it was listed as a station wagon.  If you chose the Outback version (Basically the same thing with an inch or two more ground clearance, different fog lights and plastic cladding on the bottom of the sides) according to the EPA and CAFÉ, you bought an SUV.  The Baja is also classified as a SUV, but I was half expecting it to be classified a small pickup given that Subaru cut the back of the roof off to make an open bed for it.

image: Carbl.com

image: Jasononcars.com

image: Norcalcars.com

See, I told you it was bizarre and convoluted.  (Ok. The Baja is an earlier design, but you get the point.)

One of the reasons it is so are the lobbyists and the EPA itself.  The government mandates that vehicles get a certain amount of gas mileage per class.  The problem is that for some companies their best-selling vehicle in that class is also the one that has the worst fuel mileage.  You might see a lot of SIlverados running around hauling nothing heavier that their owner and maybe their dog, but there are also a lot of them running around packed to the gills with heavy, bulky equipment or pulling trailers around.  These vehicles are designed to carry heavy loads and the strength and power needed to do it safely comes at the cost of mileage.  These trucks also have one of the highest owner loyalty groups ever.  That’s something these companies will almost kill for.  (Not including my wife and I.  Together we have own both the small and large versions of pickups from every member of the big three.)

The problem comes with trying to balance out the poor mileage truck sales with good mileage truck sales.

“Just sell more small trucks like the Tacoma and Colorado.” You say.  It’s not so simple.  See, because of all the safety regulations put into these trucks, their weight has gotten so high they are almost comparable to full sized trucks.

“Make them lighter.”  Easier said than done.  Ford is the first company to risk building a pickup with an all-aluminum body to save weight.  The metal costs more that standard steel, the build process had to be completely rethought.  (Welded aluminum will actually cause electrons from one atom “shift” to another until the entire weld breaks.), and every single Ford dealership that deal with bodywork had to learn how to properly fix damage to these panels when accidents happen and buy special equipment to fix them.  Guess where all that extra expense is going.  Yep.  Right into the sticker price.

“Well, offer engines that run on things other than gas.”  They do now.  It’s just not cheap.  You can get flex-fuel, hybrid, diesel, and even compressed natural gas engine for trucks… at  cost.

Hybrids usual cost about $1,000 to $1,500 more than a standard gas engine.

Diesels used to cost $2,000 more but with the new smog regulations the price has raised upward to $4,000 over the price of a gas engine.  (Plus diesel fuel costs roughly 50 cents more per gallon than 87 octane gasoline and you can’t use veggie oils anymore since it will clog up all the new technology.)

Compressed Natural Gas in the latest offering to help the EPA ratings.  Not being gasoline at all, it really boosts the numbers up and at roughly $1.50 per gallon to fill-up, the compressed natural gas option looks really good.  Until you see the price tag of $9,500 for this choice.  And that’s down a thousand from last year’s price!  CNG also has the wonderful challenge of dealing with safety in crashes.  Remember the press GM got over its Volt electric car?  People were shocked that the batteries ripped open when the vehicles were crashed so hard into walls that the frames ripped apart.  (Something that happens to all the cars tested when doing the offset crash into a giant, sharp block of concrete.)  Imagine the sheer terror when one of these trucks is hit so hard that the compressed gas tank ruptures.  The reports will have you think a nuke went off!

Because people want real good mileage in a class of vehicle that is designed to do heavy work, we have odd things like station wagons and minivans listed as trucks.

So I ask, what is a truck?

Let me know in the response section.

Ebb and Flow

Welcome to my 300th post. Tonight we dine in hell. Nah, that would require liver stuffed mac and cheese, drizzled with olive juice.

300 shouldn’t be special, yet for some reason it keeps shouting to me that it is. Isn’t the usual big moments, 10, 50, 100, 250, 500, ect.?

The fact that this is number 300 added to the complexity of this post. The car guy in me wanted to make it about the Chrysler 300 series and the forgotten, semi-fake Chrysler 300 of the late 70’s.

It was an optioned up Cordoba.

I’d do a review of the movie 300, but except for commercials, I never saw it. (Why is it in these movies the men have full beards yet somehow have the technology to have the rest of their bodies cleanly shaven? What were they afraid of, razor burn?)

I could talk about the probably 300 jelly beans my wife and I have eaten over the last month, but it’s almost Easter and who hasn’t done this?

I’d love to boast about the 300 creative ideas bouncing around in my head, but I definitely don’t have anything close to that number. (but I do have a few I’ll be sharing.)

Nope the real reason why this 300th post is important is you. If ti wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be motivated to do this many posts. It’s seeing the likes and reads that encourages me to go on.

I had a real strong case of “stuckitis” and I think I’m finally breaking free. I just needed to get myself to sit down and actually tap theses keys again. (Ok. It’s more of a slam/pound than tap. I’ve never been gentle with mechanical things.)

300 is a big number because it represents a commitment. Continue on or turn the corner. For me the adventure and discovery still go on, so now that I’ve crossed the field of limbo. I can continue.

Let’s see what’s over that next rise.

Ketchup with us #39: Ten minute challenge

And go!

This challenge by Michele and Mel is to take the next ten minutes and write whatever pops into your head.  No rehearsing, no cheating.

So here are my thoughts.



Why do I have to punch these keys so hard?  I’m sure they can hear it two rooms away!

How should I end my Pony Express story?  Daniel is going after the bear to get the mail.  How does he get it?  It is spring?  Does he find it in the cave?  Are there cubs?  Does the bear circle around and hunt him for food?  How do I do this properly and keep it realistic?

I love my new truck but hate the mileage.  Why did Dodge have to make it run on Midgrade?  Trucks are supposed to handle third world 80 octane garbage, not need fancy gas to run right.  Stupid idea Dodge!

I must be the only one who thinks this though.  The Ram pickup outsold Chevy this month.  A feat that hasn’t happened since 1999.

I need to take more pictures.  I need to find time to take more pictures.  I also need a good app for my android phone that will allow me to crop these pics.  This blog needs more picture posts.

I really need to go camping soon.  I have all this great gear that I can blog about, but I have to test it first.  Any review is useless without even trying the equipment first.  I need to hurry up and do it too, before the summer heat and humidity comes.  This is our Northern summer time of year.  Nice and cool in the morning and pleasantly warm in the afternoon.  Soon it will be 80 and muggy when I wake up and get unbearable from there.

It’s good to do these challenges again.  I miss linking up with these ladies.  They are a lot of fun.

Not ten minutes but not bad.

What are your ramblings?



2015 Jeep Renegade – Have we met before?

Jeep Renegade

Jeep is screaming at the top of their lungs about the new Renegade.  Oddly enough, it seems familiar.

It’s not the full independent suspension.  That’s completely new and going to cause all sorts of revolts from the Jeep purists.  (It is based off the Fiat 500 after all.)

It’s not the size.  It’s roughly the same as the square head-lighted, YJ Wrangler, but the four doors changes the feel dramatically.

It’s the look!  I’ve seen that look before.  No.  Not on a Jeep.  I’ve seen it somewhere else.  Oh, that’s right.  The International Scout II.


The Scout II was International’s attempt to compete against the popular Jeep CJ-7.  They made it a little bigger to carry people in the back more comfortably and give a little more storage space behind them.


Never heard of them?  They started out making competitors to the Chevy Suburban and worked there way down in size.  They never had a lot of sales, so they eventually went bankrupt in the Eighties.

Now Jeep brings out this little runabout and I can’t help  but notice the similarities.

Same round headlights


Same upright grill

Same boxy look

And same kick up in the bottom of the rear side window.

It’s a modern Scout  to me.  Possibly getting a diesel option for it doesn’t separate the idea either.  International threw diesel engines in the Scouts back in the day as well.

But then, Jeep doesn’t really have to worry about people like me noticing the look. They aren’t aiming this at me.  They aiming at the people who have Soul.  Kia Soul that is.


Yep.  They built this to go after Kia.  I didn’t know the urban commuter was so important to Jeep.  You sure wouldn’t know this from their commercials.


To compete against the Soul, The Renegade will have the same interior mood lighting and techno gadgets galore.  To one up Kia, Jeep will offer a double sunroof as an option.  It’s called a sky roof and will let a lot of sunlight in to wash out the touch screen on the dash quite nicely.


As you can bet, the hardcore religious Jeep worshipers are going into hysterics over this.  They are crucifying the Renegade and anyone who defends it with a passion that would make any political party envious.  “Ugly” and “Fiat Panda wannabe” are among the few comments I can repeat here.  Most are far worse.

There is a chance for Jeep to get a marketing win out of this though.  The know it’s not a Wrangler.  They don’t want to try to sell it to Wrangler buyers.  They want to sell it to Kia owners.  So they need to make their commercials for this market.  This give them a chance to spoof themselves.  Using an overly dramatic voice they could talk about conquering deadly potholes, splashing through the torrents of the neighborhood sprinklers, and narrowly avoiding the rampaging large SUV wildlife on the road while snagging the tight parking spot right next to whatever hangout is popular at the moment.  Don’t think it will work?  It did for Suzuki (until Consumer reports killed it)


Now if Jeep wants to get crossovers from their own brand there’s only two ways of doing this.  Camping and Ralley.


Mini Countryman mud

Either way it’s going to be an interesting time for Jeep – even with a 30 year old style.


Daniel’s Lion – Part Three

The trail wasn’t hard to find.  If anything, the climb back up the hill caused more effort; at least physically.  Daniel stared at the gaping hole of broken branches and flattened earth before him.  It was if a road to hell had been paved specifically just for him and that certain death waited at its end.  Shivering in the cold rain, Daniel hesitated.  A flash of light, followed closely by the clap of thunder, forced his decision.  Daniel hurried into the false shelter of the forest canopy.

“What are you doing?”  A voice whispered inside his head.

Daniel ignored it as he trudged his way forward.

“It’s just the mail.”  The voice continued.

“It’s my job.”  Daniel said aloud.

“Your job?”  Taunted the voice inside.  “You saw the telegraph poles being installed along the trail.  Your job won’t be here for long.  Maybe six months, if that.”

Daniel’s foot slipped on a loose rock.

“Damn it!”  He cursed aloud.

“Why go on?”  The voice continued.  “There’s nothing there.  You know the bear ate all the mail.”

“No I don’t.”  Daniel argued.  “It’s my responsibility.”

The branches grew lower as the path broke left and up the hillside.  Soft muddy soil slowly gave way to hard rocky ground.

The voice seemed to grow louder.  “Your responsibility?  You’re supposed to deliver the mail, not die for it.”

“There are important documents in there.”  Daniel thought.

“Sure there are.”  Said the voice.  “Love letters from politicians to their mistresses no doubt.”

Daniel grabbed a broken sapling trunk for support as he climbed higher.  “No.   There are contracts, payments, and deeds that need to be delivered.  People’s homesteads are at stake.”

Lightning flashed to reveal a cave roughly fifty yards away.  The drag trail of the horse’s body led right to it.  Daniel stood there and stared at the inky black abyss.

“Looks like you’re about to find out.”  The voice teased.

Daniel’s Lion – Part 2

Lightning lit up the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder.  Daniel’s steed bucked in response.

“Easy!  Easy.”  Daniel soothed, trying to calm the beast.  “Just some noise.  Ain’t nothin’ to be scared of.”

Steady streams of water flowed down the muddy hillside in miniature rivers as they struggled against the flow.  A second flash lit up the sky.

“Oh yeah.  We are right in the heart of it!”

Thunder roared so closely that the ground shook.  Daniel flew through the air as he felt the horse buck him off.

“God damn it!”  He yelled picking himself out of the muddy trail.

A piercing cry grabbed his attention.  Daniel’s eyes mirrored the horror of his horses as his mind relayed the true event.

His horse cried out again in a mix of pain and primal fear as it was dragged violently on its side.

“No!”  Daniel screamed while yanking his Colt from its holster; firing three shots in rapid succession.

A roar from behind the horse echoed the roar of the shots as a large paw clawed across Daniel’s shoulder and chest.  The force of the impact knocked him down the hill.

Daniel lay against the trunk of a large Pine, clutching at his shoulder as he heard his horses last muffled cry off in the distance.  The pain held him hostage and he sat there as the rain pelted him mercilessly.  Slowly, his mind and body reconnected.  The feeling of hot lava ran down his shoulder as his blood mixed with the mud on the ground.  Daniel’s good arm shook rapidly as he assessed the damage.

Five cuts dug deep into his shoulder, scraped his collar bone before continuing their journey diagonally across his chest fading to an end just above his belly.

With shallow breaths, Daniel struggled to take off the scraps of cloth that was his coat and shirt.  Useless and heavy, he let the coat fall to the ground.  His hand shook rapidly as unbuttoned the few buttons on his shirt.  He screamed in agony as his body twisted while trying to take off the shirt.  Failing at the effort, Daniel took out his knife and tore at the fabric until his injuries were free and exposed.  Using his knees and teeth, he cut the fabric into smaller pieces and let the rain wash over them.  He then bound his wounds as best as he could before trussing his left arm up with a mix of ticks and cloth. Daniel cried out again as he slid his arm into the sling.  Sweating from the effort, he paused for a moment then struggled to his feet on wobbly legs.  Slowly Daniel made his way back to where he last saw his horse.  Nothing was left but a large mark where the bear had dragged the body away.  Daniel walked around the area, looking at the muddy ground.  After what seemed an eternity, he stopped near a large puddle.  He dug his hand into the soft mud and pulled out his revolver.  Wet and filthy, he pulled the hammer back until he heard two clicks.  Spinning the cylinder, he counted the primer caps.  One.  Two. Three.  Three rounds were left.  His reloading powder was gone and the powder in the gun was questionable at best.  Silently, Daniel set the gun back into its holster.

There was nothing for it.  Daniel looked up at the sky and with a deep breath; he started his walk down the drag.  He had to find his horse, or what was left of it.

Daniel’s Lion

Image from nps.gov

The wind tore through Daniel’s hair as his hat pulled violently at its stampede string around stretched around Daniel’s neck. No cries of joy escaped his mouth as his steed flew down the trail. The sting of heavy rain pelting his face and streaming down his collar drained any hint of happiness before his first whip of the reigns. The Mochilla he sat on repelled the rains onslaught with a mix of oil and beeswax rubbed heavily into its fabric.  The hard leather pouches sewn fore and aft of the rider protected the treasures inside. Daniel squinted his eyes tighter, trying to squeeze the rain out as he charged his horse forward.  The mail must go through.

Lightning flashed followed by the roar of thunder close by.  The horse cried in protest.

“Keep goin’ you nag!” Daniel yelled to the horse.  “I don’t want to be out here just as much as you!”

Daniel kicked his heels into the horse to emphasis the thought.  The horse snorted its protest in response.

“Yeah. Yeah.”  Daniel agreed as he tried to sink his head further into his coat. “Damn Desert!”

Spring in Utah brought with it not only the melt of the mountain snows, but the icy rains along with it.  This combination along with the narrow path brought to Daniel’s mind the bad luck his fellow rider George had.

It was in this very stretch between Wheaton Springs and Mountain Dale where George had lost his horse.  It had been winter and a storm came up so strong and heavy that George’s horse pulled up lame.  George knew that breaking trail in those conditions would be tough, but he overestimated the strength of the mustang.  He had been reduced to cutting the pouches open with his pocket knife and stuffing the mail in his coat before trudging his way through the deep snow to the station at Mountain Dale.

Daniel vowed not to make the same mistake.