I recently had the pleasure of testing the new Harley-Davidson F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab diesel pickup and, during the course of the week-long test, took it to Arizona over an extended weekend look for a feature on this vehicle in our Nov. '04 "Heavy Haulers" issue. The 4x4 Super Duty, sitting high on heavy-duty suspension and 18-inch wheels and tires, was one of the largest vehicles I've recently tested, and it definitely felt big on the road.
This got me to thinking - do we change our perception and attitude when behind the wheel of different trucks and SUVs and do others change the way they perceive us? Take my F-250 tester as an example. When cruising down the road in the big Ford, my attitude was definitely different than say, if I was driving a Toyota Tacoma. Big trucks command a certain amount of respect on the road, and the mindset of the person behind the wheel certainly changes somewhat to fit their large surroundings. I'm not saying the attitude becomes more aggressive or domineering, or even overconfident. Perhaps the word that might come close is an attitude of pride. This is particularly true if you're driving your own truck that has been modified to suit your lifestyle and your own particular tastes.
Let's pretend you are the proud owner of two trucks; both of which you've modified for different purposes. Both are heavily modified Ford F-150s - one has a 5/7 suspension drop, and the other is lifted 9 inches, running on 36-inch-tall tires. Is your attitude going to be the same behind the wheel of each? Probably not. Although you'll probably sit proudly behind the wheel of either truck, in the lowered vehicle your attitude might fit adjectives such as cool, mellow, refined, and stylish. When driving the lifted Ford, your attitude will probably change to strong, tough, confident, and risky.
Over the past few years, I've been personally involved in building and driving three different project vehicles while working with Truckin' and Truckin's SUV: a Toyota Sequoia, a Chevy Avalanche, and a Hyundai Santa Fe. The Sequoia and Avalanche are pictured on this page, and I guarantee I experienced a different attitude when behind the wheel of each vehicle. There was definitely a different attitude happening whenI cruised my 6-inch-lifted Avalanche as opposed to driving my compact Project Santa Fe. But because I was intimately involved in the buildup of each vehicle and was pleased with the result of all three, the attitude of pride was always present. All these vehicles gained their fair share of thumbs-ups, turned heads, and astonished stares as I drove down the street - further confirming that attitude of pride.
I may be over-analyzing this, but I believe at the core of most aftermarket truck enthusiast's efforts is the desire to change the attitude of themselves and others - hopefully for the better. Why else would someone build a custom truck? Hopefully, when you build something you know is tight and right, you feel good (a change of attitude) about your efforts and make others feel good when they view the result of your hard work.
So, the next time you get behind the wheel of your chosen ride, stop and consider your attitude - are some of your feelings directly related to your truck's appearance? Do you, like so many of our readers, ride with pride?