Canadian Contractor

Steve Maxwell   

Steve's two trucks: A personal history

Canadian Contractor canada Mining Property Vehicle

A good work truck is your most important power tool. It's as important as any lead hand. Here's my personal story about my two vintage Ford Trucks. Tell us your own truck story for a chance to win an iPad.

A pickup truck is your most important power tool. Without it, nothing gets done. Maybe that’s why a reliable truck earns more respect and admiration than other vehicles. We tend to like the things that serve us well and faithfully.


For what it’s worth, I’ve always owned Fords, though it’s not the name that convinces me of anything. My admiration of Ford trucks began with a handful of facts that have since been confirmed by 27 years of building and driving experience. Truck owners are stubbornly loyal, and we all have truck stories that are important to us. Here’s mine.

My truck story begins when I was a newly-minted, 23-year-old cabinetmaker with a dream to leave my city home and build a construction career and house for myself deep in the country. Cash was as tight as it gets, so I ended up buying an old, sturdy 18-year-old 1968 F-250 that I picked up for $500 from a tradesman who’d retired it to a back alley in downtown Toronto.


I was still living with my parents at the time, so Ihad the truck towed to their suburban driveway where I lavished plenty of TLC on the old rig. It didn’t need anything major, but I learned a lot installing new brakes, lines and hydraulics. I also changed a bunch of things that were still working but might give out on me later: starter, clutch, battery, exhaust. I also lined the bed with 1”-thick hard maple planks since I planned some very heavy work for that truck, work that eventually turned into a 12-year torture test.


My main use for the F-250 was hauling stone I quarried from outcroppings in the forest on my property, plus hauling timber and materials that I used to build my house on Manitoulin Island. Like I said, funds were tight, so anything I could do myself I did on my own. The only hired labour in the project was for putting up sheetrock. That truck and I did everything else: building 24”-thick 34’ x 44’ basement walls, a hybrid frame combing 2×6 studs with white pine timbers, and above-ground stonework 9”-thick limestone laid in the classic broken ashlar pattern. I tallied it up, and in the end that tough old Ford hauled tens of thousands of pounds of white pine beams fromthe sawmill and about 500 tons of raw limestone slabs I gathered, loaded and unloaded by hand.


That vintage F-250 was 30 years old when I gave it to a neighbour. We both live 20 km from town, and he didn’t have the money to buy a replacement vehicle when his died. The truck wasn’t all that pretty when I handed over the keys, but it could still certify, and it ran as well as the day I put my own plates on it back in 1986. All it lacked was four-wheel drive, and that’s what got me thinking about my next truck.

I’m frugal, and since I don’t usually have to travel far with my truck, I now own a 1990 F-150 that I keep in top shape. I don’t need anything newer since this one is dead reliable. Including a recent paint job, a few repairs and the original purchase price spread out over the 15 years I’ve owned the truck so far, monthly cost of ownership is under $100.

This truck was the last one owned by a legendary builder in my corner of backwoods Canada. His name was Ivan Isaac Bailey, he was born in 1909, and except for a couple of years in a mining town during World War II, he always lived in the same place on Manitoulin Island. Local houses, cottages and stone chimneys all over the township still prove his skill, and he always traded in for a new red Ford F-150 every two years. Ivan was certainly a man of habit. I bought his very last truck from his estate after he passed on, and except for a few repairs and swapping out small parts before they actually broke, this rig has been my primary truck for hauling stuff around my farm property and for building projects. I don’t put on a lot of kms – there’s only 140K on the clock as I write this – but most of these were heavy going, though trouble-free.

The four-wheel drive on my truck is pretty much essential whenever our Manitoulin winter rolls around, as well as for the work I do in the bush hauling firewood out and materials into backwoods jobs. In addition to hauling lumber and supplies, the truck is indispensable for maintaining the 2 miles of cedar rail fence on my cattle pasture. The truck does get the odd highway run too, making the 7 hour drive down to the big city whenever I put on a building seminar or take my shot-putter son down to a track meet.


My 19-year-old daughter always used to be embarrassed about dad’s old truck, but now she sees how cool a vintage F-150 can be. She even asked me to drive her to her wedding this past July in it. That was the most memorable run I’ve ever made in the truck. And believe me, driving your daughter to the church on her big day is tougher on the eyes than an onion sandwich. While I was watching her step out of the F-150 in her white gown and veil, memories flooded back of a little, curly-haired girl climbing out of that same truck on our trips to a jobsite, or down a forest trail for a picnic, or for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the flat limestone of the Lake Huron shoreline. Check out my video of real life with my F-150, including a glimpse of the wedding run on that big day.

A good work truck is as important as any lead hand. It’s every contractor’s most important power tool and essential for getting the job done. But just as in the rest of life, I figure it’s best to choose your friends wisely and stick with them for the long haul.

Click here to read more F-150 stories and tell your own story for a chance to win an iPad.



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