Going on a Diet

“I’ll have two Fords, a Dodge, and one Toyota please.
Oh, and I could go for a Cadillac later on.”  The more trucks
I repair, the more I’m apt to want to do more. One of these
days I might have to seriously think about going on a diet.
Too much to know, too much to do, and I’m not getting any
younger. I’m not sure what they say about old dogs and
new tricks is true, but they forgot to mention about adding
on pounds slows ya down.  However, with cars and trucks,
the size changes, the horse power level changes,
fuel economy, and luxury items all go through improvements
each year. Nothing slows down the advancement of
technology, not even a few extra pounds.

In the automotive world, technical and mechanical
changes are a constant thing.  For me keeping up with
those changes is like going to the gym.  It’s a constant
physical, as well as mental effort that can wear a guy
down with all the new stuff he needs to know, the systems
variations, and the amount of work needed to get to certain components.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve put on a few pounds over the past 3 decades.  I started out as a skinny kid and now, well… ain’t no kid anymore, and I sure ain’t skinny either.  But have ya noticed the shape and size of the cars over the years seems to gain weight too?  Then, a few years later they’re back on some sort of diet?  Model T’s were small compared to the modern car. But, by the time the 40’s and 50’s came along the size of the car had increased. The model T was squarer and boxy looking compared to the more rounded body lines of the cars from the 40’s and 50’s.  Well… except for those tail fins, but that’s a whole different story. 

The look of the car changed again in the 60’s too!  The styles seemed to reflect both rounded and straight designs, and the weight of the average car was a lot less than the older models. Then, by the late 70’s and 80’s car styling was back to the sharp edged crisp body lines, and the cars seemed to be on a different type of diet; this one was more of a fuel economy and emission diet. Of course, I don’t know for sure but, whatever the reason you could certainly tell the difference.  Do you remember the Mustang Ghia II?  Was that even fair to call it a Mustang? That was one car that wasn’t so much on a diet but more of an anemic excuse for a car. 

Seems every decade or so designers and engineers go on some sort of diet and scale back cars to smaller and smaller models, but later on the size and shapes grow again.  Along with the size changes, seems nobody can settle on what is a standard, economy, or compact size. What was once a compact size turns into the standard size and the economy car becomes more of a compact.  I’ll never figure it all out myself. But, somewhere along the way they give up on the diet and all the designs fatten up again. Just look at the standard pickup over the last few decades.

I used to be able to see over the hoods of most of the standard pickups, heck some of the compacts I could even see over the roof lines too!  But now, even what used to be just a small import truck has reached enormous mammoth proportions. Look at the Toyota pickup, it’s twice the size it was just 10 years earlier.

As far as working on trucks, the 60’s through the 80’s models for the most part, I could lean over the fenders and change the plugs or even a belt without having to resort to standing on the upside down milk carton.  After putting on a few pounds I find it a bit harder to lean over those fenders, and standing on that shaking milk carton is making me think of going back on my diet again.  With some of these bigger and better models, I should think about installing a scaffold and safety harnesses just to get to the air filters.

Some of the truck models have gone from what I would regard as a regular size to a XXXL in size. Then add the big fat tires, jacked up bodies, and you’ve got yourself a street legal monster truck.  But jump up there and look under the hood.  There’s no room for anything else, it’s jammed packed!  If you’ve got anything substantial to do under the hood, such as a headgasket you’re better off just taking the entire cab off and hang it from the lift.  Now you’re talking some real “under the hood work”! 

So what’s next? Are the engineers going to go back on that diet and start coming up with skinnier, sleeker designs?  Or, are they going to keep adding more and more to them until they’re all so huge that the salesman has to bring out a step ladder just so you can go on a test drive?  Where’s it all end? 
All this getting bigger and better has led to some changes at the repair shop too. Some shops aren’t equipped to remove the cab of a truck to do some of the service work. It’s kind of a forced diet in a way. But, there are several other reasons shops today have gone to this regimented diet, and it’s not all because of the size either.

One reason for this self-imposed diet is the cost of the various scanning equipment to properly repair these over inflated computers on wheels.  Not only are the prices varied, but the monthly/yearly fees to keep that tool up to date is another issue, and as technology advances so does your scanner inventory.  Even though the scanner you have now is in perfect working order, the cars that it was designed to service have started to dwindle from the highways.

Technology doesn’t just bring changes for the consumer, but for the mechanic as well.  New systems, new ways of doing old things, and new equipment are just a small part of the changes that occur.  There seems to always be a newer design that mimics an older system although with more stream lined efficiency. Very seldom do things remain the same. The way I’ve got it figured, there’s a mild change every five years and a more dramatic change in technology about every ten years.

Ya never know, maybe the engineers and designers are I planning on doing what I'm going to do, and that’s go on a diet.  But, we all know… most diets don’t last long, and I’ll eventually put all the weight back on that I lost… and then some.  If the history of the automotive world is any example of what may come in the future with the next generation of truck designs… the results may end up just like my diet.  Go figure…

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