Fat Cowboy Trucks

The pinnacle of transportation independence

April 18, 2022

Back around 2015 Mercedes was about to come out with a new pickup truck and among the things reported about it before its release was a statement from an executive that it wasn't going to be a "fat cowboy truck". The comment of course was meant to poke fun at American trucks and it was also completely harmless because Mercedes had no intention of selling their modified Nissan in North America (which of course was a wise move). Every once in a while I think about this statement and I've driven my fair share of big trucks, they're not fun to drive, they're a pain to park, and there always feel that there's less interior storage than you thing there ought to be, but despite all this I think I finally figured out the appeal of a fat cowboy truck.

A car is something whose primary purpose is to get people from point A to point B, a truck also fulfills that purpose but that is not its primary purpose. A truck's purpose is to work. For a fat cowboy that work could be to haul a trailer full of cattle along with a pallet of feed in the bed. For others that might be to tow a boat from one lake to another so that that boat can be used as a base of operations for workers contracted to repair said docks. For others the work of a truck could be to venture out in the mountains to recover lost souls, or to find wood to heat a home with, or meat to feed a family. Trucks serve a higher purpose than simply taking you from point A to B. The marketing for the Ford F150 Lightning was perfect marketing for a truck because it highlighted the fact that it was a truck built for work, supposedly more capable than any other truck, and I must admit that if it weren't electric and was reliable enough to easily survive a million miles it would be the perfect truck.

In many places in the United States, especially in places where we have mountains, you'll find a lot of fat cowboy trucks. You'll find more people with trucks than people whose livelihood relies on the use of a truck. That is because there is something about being an American over time warms one up to picking up hobbies that require a truck. Fishing, camping and hunting are of course classic examples of this, all these things can of course be done without a truck but as time progresses one realizes that it is foolish to destroy transmissions that aren't built to haul large boats. Off-roading is another example, many people use and build their trucks for the purpose of off-roading while wiser people recognize that trucks are for hauling off-road equipment. Shooting is another American hobby that is often made harder to do without a truck simply because a Cadillac can rarely get to the best places for it. Trucks are often great for less adventurous hobbies as well simply because it is much easier to fit woodworking and gardening supplies in the bed of a truck than it is to put them into the trunk of a Volvo. Even people who hate trucks end up finding a need for them. I was talking to a mechanic friend of mine who spends his spare time and money modifying his cars to race and he said he was looking into buying a truck because he didn't like the idea of putting a grimy transmission in the back of his Subaru. And of course trucks always come in handy when you have to move a friend's couch.

The other interesting thing about American truck owners is their tendency to modify them, of course some of these modifications are more useful than others but most are not without reason. There was a time when I believed that modifying a car was foolish because the engineers who designed them are smarter than we are, but I've now come to realize that we as the actual owners and users of the car have a higher reliability and utility standard than the engineers do. And besides, trucks aren't cars. I recently bought a Toyota 4Runner and while that isn't a truck it is the ultimate representation of an SUV which like a truck is a purpose built vehicle. In the time I've owned it I've come to the realization that if I am to get everything that I want out of it I will have to make up for the engineers' poor design choices through modifications and other improvements, I've already cut the wire to the flawed and primitive traction control system that was trying to kill me and I've had to tighten up the throttle cable that for whatever reason is prone to giving itself slack on those engines. When I realized my brake calipers were on their way out I bought larger brakes off of a Tundra to improve brake performance and lifespan, I've also decided that I need to get my lower ball joints examined. I've been slacking when it comes to ordering LED interior lights and I've recognize that upgraded headlights and overpowered fog lights are probably in my future along with a modernized stereo head unit. If my tires weren't essentially brand new I'd probably be looking into upgrading those as well. I'd also be looking into power inverters and dual battery setups if a portable battery pack like a Jackery wasn't a more practical modern option. None of these modifications are necessary on a car whose simple purpose is to bring me from point A to B but as something built for a bit more I expect a bit more than the bare minimum that automotive engineers provide these days, and I didn't even get into the planned obsolescence of expensive proprietary electronics or the cheap plastic engine components that could have been made with better material had cost-cutting not been a priority. A wisely modified truck is a machine built for purpose.

So while fat cowboy trucks aren't really fun to drive, are a pain to park and are generally impractical for many things I can't think of many things more American than a good reliable truck. Trucks are as much a symbol of independence as an AR-15, backyard chickens, and the American flag itself.