My Ride in a 359
By Duke Doubler,
In 1972 I had an experience
that, at the time, I didn’t realize would make such an impression on me that I
can recall it vividly now, 31 years later. At 19 years of age I was at an
awkward stage for someone trying to enter the trucking industry. I was old
enough to hold a chauffeur’s license and a job at a truck garage where I was a
flunky and the unofficial yard jockey, but too young to drive cross-country. I
was making acquaintances in the business and would occasionally take a road trip
with drivers who were willing to tolerate me and teach me the nuances of driving
a truck. To these unsung heroes, the faculty of the School of Hard Knocks, I
still owe a great measure of debt.
. . . .
Arthur “Bud” Sells, was one of
those tolerant souls that indulged my fascination with their work, their world,
and their trucks. On this memorable occasion he allowed me to ride with him in
his 359 Pete from Nashville, Tennessee, to my home in Murfreesboro.
. . . .
As the lights of Music City faded behind us, we
pushed on into the darkness and roller-coastered our way over the hills
southeast of Nashville. It seemed that Bud was constantly working the gearbox.
The 318 Detroit Diesel had a narrow RPM power band, and keeping it wound up where it was happy
required frequent and quick shifting in these rolling hills. On uphill grades
the 318 would begin its labor and the shrill scream slowly wound its way back
down to the low tone. Then Bud would work the splitter valve to return the
engine RPM back up to its comfort zone again. The longer pulls often required
split shifting. Just about time the engine was lugging down and begging for
relief, Bud would flip the splitter and snap the shift lever towards the dash.
One could see and hear all the subsequent commotion, but not feel a thing! That
man was smooth as glass with the transmission. On downhill grades the momentum
of the rig allowed for more casual shifting and the 318 would seem to sigh
briefly, as if catching its breath between gears. . . .
For the whole story, subscribe to Old Time Trucks® and read the February/March 2004 issue.