I hate the word “adulting.” As far as I can tell, it’s a term that came to prominence with my generation and is used to triumphantly describe doing things that would otherwise merit little fanfare because they are so mundane and universal. Went to bed early because you had work tomorrow? Adulting. Cooked yourself dinner rather than have a meal of cookies? Adulting.
That’s not to take away from life achievements such as paying off one’s student loan debt or buying a house. Hell, a lot of us adults haven’t managed those two things yet. But I suppose that the real annoyance is that when adulting is applied as a descriptor, it implicitly links the folly of youth and its faceplant into the cold, hard pavement of reality. I don’t want anything to even suggest a link between what I’m doing and modern day teenagers and college students, thank you very much.
But there’s no denying that adulting has put a name to the timeline of “growing up.” College, marriage, house, babies, all Disney all the time, big honking SUVs and minivans, bratty teenagers, college tuition, retire, die.
There is a similar timeline for racers as well. There isn’t a term like “adulting” to describe the timeline of a racer, but a timeline definitely exists. (Motorsportsing?) And I’m fighting against it. What am I fighting against? Currently, the notion that I need to have a truck.
I should get a truck
Almost everyone has a truck.
Much like how buying a house is seen as a major milestone in a young person’s quest to “grow up,” buying a truck in amateur motorsports circles is seen as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, even in the autocross world. Buying a truck allows one to support and race extreme machines that are not even close to being legal to drive on the street, though there is definitely a wide spectrum of “race car” that is carted about on trailers. (This is especially egregarious when strolling through the paddock of any big autocross or HPDE event, where one can see any number of perfectly streetable cars — right down to completely stock cars — arriving and departing via trailers.)
Undoubtedly, a truck in the fleet would be very handy. If I had a truck, there’d be no need for a second car and driver to come pick me up after dropping off a car somewhere. I could tow a broken car back home. I can load the bed with stupid things, from parts to wheels and tires, in support of my fleet of stupid cars. I could be that friend that is constantly contacted by his buddies to help move shit or tow cars. And I could stop being that friend that is constantly contacting his buddies to help him move shit or tow cars.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the Ford AXZ website configuring a sweet truck that would fulfill all my vehicle support needs for years to come. And since I get employee A-Plan pricing, I could get a very capable truck for $30k that would more than do the job, or splurge for all the fixings and still come in at under $40k.
You might guess that my occasional lunchtime daydreaming for a truck stems from a desire to tow my just-bought-back STR Mazda Miata back. You guessed wrong. Such daydreaming comes from the unjustifiably stupid idea that I’d autocross the Morgan and tow it around, with the car probably supplanting most of the local and National autocross time that a sane person would ascribe to a fully prepared (and one of the best developed, thanks to Shane) STR car. But no.
There’s only one problem.
Trucks are boring
Gosh, I hate driving trucks. They’re too good these days — riding high in a quiet leather-lined throne while towing 6k pounds in air conditioned, cruise controlled comfort — so there’s no excitement or adventure in driving one. At least if you’re smart, you get a tow rig that makes things uneventful and as comfortable as possible.
This is where it all breaks down for me. What I’ve discovered over the past couple of years is that I demand that every vehicle in my fleet present a sense of occasion. I have never been able to keep any sort of vanilla car in my fleet for very long before getting bored and dumping it for something more extreme. Every vehicle in the fleet has to be fun to drive in some way.
The sensible option would be to replace my daily driver with a new (or newer) truck that could also pull double duty as a tow rig. But most of the sensible options are boring as shit to drive around town. I’ve test driven Ford F-150s and Chevy Colorados, some vehicles multiple times over the course of three years, and every single time I go on a test drive, I’m reminded that while I can stomach the 10 or 15 minutes in the truck for the test drive, I’d eventually go dull and numb trying to drive these things every single day.
Of course, there are other options outside of the usual sensible ones. I could get a Ford Raptor. Or maybe a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. They would be fun to bomb around in, at a cost of towing capacity and utility. The same could be said of vintage trucks — fun to drive when unladen, with their thirsty engines and definitely-inadequate-by-modern-standards braking systems, but those are two characteristics that don’t make for a particularly robust long distance car hauler.
It’s a slippery slope between useful utility and a boxy toy. And that’s before we get to the cost of having a truck.
Trucks cost a lot of money
Friends have asked why, if I was unwilling to pay $30-40k for a brand new truck, wouldn’t I go and get a gently used truck for $20k? I would respond, have you looked at what $15-20k buys for you in a used truck?
Trucks hold their value very well, which is good for their owners. Makes sense, as trucks are useful. But for a cheapskate like me, it doesn’t work in my favor. If I’m buying a vehicle purely for utility purposes, I don’t want to drive it every day, and I don’t want to spend more than $5k for it. My pipe dream is to find a late model pickup truck with less than 100k miles, no rust, and working cruise and air conditioning for $5k. Why spend more money if the truck is just going to sit all the time, only to be awoken from it’s slumber for towing duty maybe half a dozen times over the course of a year?
Then there’s the cost of parking the truck somewhere, sky high insurance rates from companies who don’t understand that a single man can’t drive five vehicles simultaneously and hide behind Michigan’s no-fault rules when handing out sky high insurance quotes, not to mention Dearborn’s (and really, and most suburbs’) intense determination to make it difficult for trucks and trailers to live in harmony with the “proper” cars of suburbia.
Put all of that together, and at every price point, there is an alternative to a truck that I’d much rather prefer. Why by a $40k truck when that gets you a really nice C6 Corvette? Why buy a $30k truck when that buys you a brand new ND Miata? Why buy a $20k truck when that buys you a brand new Fiesta ST? Why buy a $10k truck when that gets you a driver quality Model A Ford or a really nice Corvair?
Just so you know who you’re talking to here, consider that I sold my Focus ST at fire sale prices in order to raise cash to replace it with a Morgan Plus 4. My ND Miata then stepped up to be my daily driver and winter beater. I sold arguably the most reliable, most practical, and probably the most water tight car in the fleet for a car that most would presume would become the most unreliable, most impractical, and definitely not water tight car in the fleet. (Well, joke’s on you! The Morgan has been fantastically reliable, save for all of the things that I had to fix, and that one time I needed to call a tow truck.)
So yeah. All my vehicles have to be fun. They can be exciting to drive, or exciting because I don’t know if I’ll make it to my destination without needing to call for a tow. Idiosyncrasies are to be cherished and relished. Having fun driving a crappy car is better than being bored driving a problem-free car.
If buying a truck and towing your competition car is the equivalent of eating your steamed broccoli, then my philosophy of “fun cars all the time” is probably akin to eating cookies for every single meal. Every one else is adulting, and being proud of that and announcing it to the world, but I’m just wolfing down chocolate chips at an insatiable rate, content with my childish behavior and bouncing off the walls with a sugar high, up until the point reality strikes me down with diabetes and I acknowledge that I have to make some gestures towards common sense and practicality.
At least a little.
So if the time comes and I’ve transformed my Miata from nice STR autocross car to a time trials or hill climb car (or I’ve decided that the Morgan is the best competition car ever and that I need to autocross or vintage race it all the time) and I need a tow rig, I’ll go get one. By the time I need one, I think the new Jeep Scrambler will be out, and I’ll probably buy one. Nothing screams “great tow rig” like a four door off-road biased convertible Jeep pickup truck — just my kind of jam.
My parents accuse me of having not grown up. They’re not wrong…