Pickup Truck Owners Stay Loyal, Despite Gas Prices

Vintage Ford pickup truck near Harpers Ferry, W.Va. i

Are pickup trucks becoming a thing of the past, like this vintage Ford? Not according to several people in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Noah Adams/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams/NPR
Vintage Ford pickup truck near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Are pickup trucks becoming a thing of the past, like this vintage Ford? Not according to several people in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Noah Adams/NPR

Sales of pickup trucks are no longer "Like a Rock." For the first time in decades, the best-selling vehicle in America is not the full-size Ford pickup.

The Bob Seger song, with its snarling guitars and images of hard-working Americans, has helped propel sales for Chevrolet for years. Ford trucks have been "built tough" for decades, and Toyota finally made a big rowdy model. That was before rising gasoline prices let the air out of their tires.

These days, people don't seem to need a Dodge Ram 4x4 to bring home a few boards from Home Depot. Even the National Park Service is downsizing its fleet, replacing full-size pickups with mini-models.

Some truck owners are trading in for "smaller" modes of transportation.

In the small town of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., one might see a Subaru Forester, happily driven by a former pickup owner. And then there are people like Steve Eggers, a college student who rode from North Carolina to New York City, and all the way back to Charleston, S.C., on a handmade touring bike he bought with money from selling his truck.

But even in an age of $4-a-gallon gas, the real truck people will stay truck people.

Firefighter Jason Wright knows every bolt on his Chevy, which he uses to carry emergency equipment. He says he's modifying his pickup for better off-road performance and mileage.

"In my truck, I'm running 35-inch tires that are 12 inches wide," says Wright, who volunteers with a fire company near Harpers Ferry. "Right now, I'm running a V-6 Chevy 262, and I'm getting 22 miles a gallon."

John Garza, who was out trimming the grass, has a fondness for Toyota pickups. He currently has a 1989 Tacoma 4x4, though he prefers the older, smaller trucks

A mechanic, Garza likes to get deep inside the engines because he likes to see good numbers on the odometer — the Tacoma has 163,000 miles and counting. "I do all my own work on it. It's got a blown head gasket on it, but that's one of the problems with a 22 r motor. But it's easy to work on," he says, shirtless and sporting a bandana.

A carpenter working nearby out of the back of his Ford 150 says Garza's got it wrong going with Toyota. Ford is what you stick with, says Gary Mathis, whose loyalty is almost a country song lyric.

"My dad had a Ford and I have a Ford, so that's the way it is, brothers," Mathis says.

Patti Seklemian, who was passing through Harpers Ferry from Virginia, doesn't drive a truck, but says her dad back in Utah always did.

"After my father passed away, my mom kept the pickup truck in the carport," Seklemian says. "She thought she was safer if she had two cars there; people would think that she wasn't alone. But my brother had such pickup lust, one day he came and took it from her."

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