.The Little Beast—Machine Memories

Comes a time when a fella needs to decide whether to keep pumping money into his 19-year-old truck or to ply the Covid-constipated California supply chain for a new one.

I guess it’s that time, and I guess I’m that fella.

Truth is, my beloved 2003 Nissan Frontier—a.k.a. the Little Beast—has his share of cracks and leaks. In the past few months I’ve replaced his valve covers and gaskets, as well as the seal between his transmission and engine. I wanted my mechanic to do more work, but some parts are no longer manufactured, and he told me he won’t remove the transmission again—it’s just too big a job to take on.

Life wasn’t always this way. I used to drive the Little Beast like a racehorse, without a care in the world. Six hours down to California City, 14 hours up to Seattle, 15 hours out to Uranium Springs—I’d sit back and listen to the whir of the stock supercharger as my front grill ate up the pavement hour after hour, and drop into High 4 when I finally hit the mud or the sand.

I bought the Little Beast stock in 2008, back when I had money to burn, added bigger wheels, all-terrain tires, a couple of inches of lift, a winch bumper, a cat-back exhaust system, a winch and a cone air filter. I’ve loved every moment I’ve ever spent in or around that machine.

It’s apparent my boy is feeling his age. His clutch has a lot of play, his reverse lights flicker, a piece of his rusted-out exhaust pipe fell off last month, the AC and the CD player have been out for years. But I don’t want to buy a new-used truck, I just want to drive my bad boy for as long as I can. He’s the only truck I ever wanted.

I’m not the only person in this predicament. At least a half-dozen people I know are also doing everything they can to keep their old trucks alive. The general consensus is that these old machines have character, are well-built and belong to a rapidly diminishing generation of pre-completely electronic and plastic vehicles that will soon disappear forever.

My mechanic told me, “Might as well keep him, Mark. Because of Covid, the price of used pickup trucks is up as much as 50%. If you try to buy another one right now, you’ll wind up with someone else’s piece of junk.”

I’d rather hold on to my own piece of junk, thank you very much. The Little Beast is a joy to drive: I’ll love him till the day I die.

Mark Fernquest lives and drives in West County.
Jane Vickhttp://janevick.com
Jane Vick is a journalist, artist and writer who has spent time in Europe, New York and New Mexico. She is currently based in Sonoma County. View her work at janevick.com.
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