First things first; I’m not anti-pickup truck. I once owned a big ol’ Ford F-250 supercab diesel, and though it had all kinds of annoying problems, I rather liked it. Nor am I against customising your ride to suit your own taste; whatever makes you happy is what you should do. And for the record, I positively love the Dodge Lil Red Express Truck pictured above; that was factory-built awesome back in the 1970s. Consider it a template for how to properly customise your truck.
But how many times have you seen pickup owners making fun of ricers with their big rims and exhaust tips, only to climb into a ridiculously lifted pickup with ugly post-apocalyptic wheels, blacked out grille guards, and even bigger chrome exhaust stacks running vertical through the bed? Yeah, there’s just a little bit of hypocrisy going on there. Being a South Dakota resident I’m pretty much in the truck capital of the country and I love ‘em. I just absolutely hate what some people do to them. Here are a few things I’m talking about.
Let’s take a solid piece of metal that’s designed to conveniently open for access to the bed and close to secure contents, remove it, and replace it with a net that things can slide through. Ah, but having air flowing through the net instead of hitting the metal tailgate increases fuel economy and performance! No, Jimbo, it doesn’t, and numerous scientific tests have shown just the opposite happens—drag and turbulence increase, thus reducing mileage and performance.
Nevertheless, I love listening to pickup truck owners feverishly defending the idea of the tailgate net because they once drove an extra two miles on a tank of fuel with their tailgate down. I guess that trumps all the aerodynamic studies done by engineers, and the millions of dollars spent by manufacturers to make their trucks more efficient. Skip the net; it looks ridiculous.
Getting a bit more ride height from your truck is cool, and I love off-roading. Raising trucks to the point where you need a ladder to gain entry is just as ridiculous as the stanced crowd slamming their cars to the point where they scrape over manhole covers. I suppose I struggle with both because I tend to prefer customisation that enhances performance to some degree, or at the very least, doesn’t reduce performance.
Ask any legitimate off-roader about common mistakes people make with their trucks, and right at the top of the list is big body and suspension lifts. It ruins handling, it moves the vehicle center of gravity dangerously high, it overstresses driveline components, and frankly, it gives the impression that the driver is, shall we say, overcompensating for something? Ferrari owners know what I’m talking about here.
I hate big wheels. Is there anything stronger than hate? Can I revile big wheels? They rob horsepower, they make otherwise attractive vehicles look like a Hot Wheels car, and the stylistic trend with truck wheels in America seems to be going towards some kind of post-apocalyptic, Mad Max design that combines matte black paint with chrome accents, chunky spokes, and more chrome rivets than you’d find on a Lancaster bomber.
I know, it’s supposed to look tough, but I highly doubt people who plunk down $3000 for wheels and tyres are anxious to go smashing down trails or swimming in the local mud pit. In reality, these guys are trolling the local mall in suburbia USA, and in that environment, the whole tough truck thing just doesn’t work.
Rather than devote a paragraph as to why this is the stupidest idea since the Mark II helicopter ejection seat, let me just take this opportunity as a duly designated representative of the United States of America to apologise to the world. We’ve done truly wondrous things, for example we developed the telephone and television, built the SR-71 Blackbird, and we currently have robotic rovers exploring other planets. Unfortunately, even the best of us occasionally get drunk and decide to affix genitalia to our vehicles.
I’ll admit that I’ve seen this done rather tastefully on a few trucks; notably on that sweet, all-American Lil Red Express Truck at the top of the page. Sadly, most attempts by pickup owners to mimic big-rig styling these days falls woefully short in the cool factor. I don’t care if you have a one-tonne pickup truck with a mean turbo-diesel engine—the five-inch diameter chrome exhaust pipe you have sticking straight up through the bed looks just as dumb to everyone else as the four-inch chrome exhaust tip on a compact car looks to you.
And if you’re running a gas-powered pickup with the mufflers cut off, here’s a newsflash: it doesn’t sound good. It sounds like an exhaust system that someone hacked up, and by that I mean it sounds like warm vomit echoing in a steel drum. If you’re going to go with a custom exhaust, at least get some aggressive mufflers and run stylish pipes up the side of the cab. Otherwise it just looks like you’re hauling a smokestack in the back of your truck.