Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Blue B-Model Mack

I ran across this little beauty at a rest stop somewhere in New York or Connecticut on my way back from North Carolina. Talk about a blast from the past. I used to drive a Model B61 Mack. A 1958 B61 to be exact. Only it was blue and did not have a sleeper. I hauled overseas containers from one dock to another up and down the Mid-Atlantic in the early 1970s.

I hated that truck but loved it at the same time. It was slow. The 170 HP Thermodyne diesel engine hated hills. Up or down. The steering was shaky and I was always having to pour gallons of coolant and oil into it's inner workings so it wouldn't overheat at the drop of a hat. The windshield wipers often did not work. Usually as soon as the first drop of rain fell, they would quit. But fire them up when it was sunny out or the mechanic was nearby and they would flop back and forth like they were new. I spent many a mile doing the manual intermittent wipe with an outstretched hand on the driver side wiper. I rigged up a special coat hanger just for those rainy days I might run into. No heat. No AC. No power steering. And only the driver's door window could be counted on to go down and then back up without a hitch.

The one thing it was was dependable. I never broke down in it. It always got me and my load to where me and my load needed to be. I never got a ticket while driving it. There was no chance I would ever get a speeding ticket. But I never received a log violation, an over weight summons, or a safety fine.

The safety fine thing always puzzled me. That beat blue Mack just screamed for a DOT inspection. Yet, the ones I went through, it always managed to squeak by with, "Bub, the air compressor needs some punching up, your tires look close to being worn out and get those brake lights fixed." Warnings, but never a ticket.

I acquired the Blue B Model Mack as a reward for being the low man on the totem pole at the trucking concern I drove for. When I got behind the wheel, it had over 2 million miles on it. At least that was what the mechanic claimed. The drivers seat was busted and tipped to the left. There was no passenger seat, just an old metal school chair someone had stuck in there in it's stead. The paint was faded where there was paint and the frame had long lost it's black color in favor of a dirt colored rust effect.

I guess I logged about 75,000 miles in the Blue Mack. 75,000 miles of hard earned valuable experience that would serve me well the ensuing years I remained a truck driver. Important things like learning to actually sleep draped over the steering wheel without drooling on my shoes. ( take off the shoes, then only your socks get wet and you don't look foolish when you go in for a cup of coffee.) Changing out flats on the old 2 piece rims that could kill you if you got it wrong. Learning to steer straight with a steering wheel that had a dead spot in it 12 inches in both directions from center. And last but not least, backing up into tough holes with no power steering. That one made all my future back ins make me look like a pro.

I loved that truck. Driving it meant I was getting a great pay rate. Driving it meant I was getting experience over the road. Driving it meant a real over the road tractor was a definite possibility in the near future. It represented opportunity and I took full advantage of it.

Once I stepped out of it and into that 8 year old White with the sleeper, I would come back to the yard and spot my old friend retired and rusting in the back lot and I would be sad. But only for a moment. That almost not old White had stolen my heart.


Dawn on MDI said...

sounds like my truck now... only mine is teeny.

A Midnight Rider said...

My office is in a major distribution center. I encounter hundreds of trucks every day.

I always wondered what kind of crazyness goes on in those truck stops. Especially on the weekend when the drivers have time to kill.

Apertome said...

That truck sounds like a good fit for your work boots!

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha! I learned to drive wheeler in a B61 with a quad box. (36 years ago) Beautiful paint but the inside of the cab was a horror show. No floor mats so my feet roasted waiting in the pit. When they sent me out with one of the older guys to learn how to drive it, I was really jazzed (hey...I was 19) He looked at me and said, "It ain't no f**kin' honor, kid". LOL!

Anonymous said...

I know just where you are coming from, because I have drove the hasbeens also. but my first mack was almost new.

I started hauling logs with a B- 81mack in 1959, it was almost new and it was a refreshment from what i had been driving, a big 200 cumins with a quad box and water cooled brakes and also a bendix exhaust brake.