I'm sure glad I don't have to write about brand-new trucks because there really isn't a heck of lot more a guy can do to a new truck than hang an air-freshener from the mirror and then call it a day. Of course, if I had to write about a truck that is only a couple of years old, I guess I could talk about my '05 GMC Sierra. After the incredible gas mileage and impressive acceleration that the Jimmy's little 5.3 Flex-Fuel L59 V-8 provides, the next thing that comes to mind about the truck is the cheap, fuzzy gray cloth on the seats that General Motors tries pass off as upholstery. Not to insult Kmart, but the crummy material reminds of me of the store's cheap work socks. My first experience with the inherent lack of durability engineered into the cheap gray cloth happened only one week after I drove the truck off the dealer's lot and discovered that anything transported on the seats other than a human biped would wear off a spot that resembled a dog with a bad case of mange on its butt.
With this in mind, I thought back to the '58 Chevy Big-Window my dad bought new in late 1957 and remembered that by '64 he had to have the seat reupholstered with a rose-pink metallic Naugahyde he had picked out. Reminiscing even further reminded me that the old man used to go through terry-cloth seat covers on the '58 like they were going out of style. The expression that "they don't build them like they used to" comes to mind, but not for the reasons one might think. Concentrating on what all this means, I realized that the odds of my dad's '58 still being on the road after 50 years of service are pretty good. Sure the rose-pink Naugahyde might be a little worse for the wear, but that would be easy enough to fix. If I had to bet on my '05 GMC being around half a century later, in 2055, and that some guy was going to be able to restore the interior, I would wager the odds are zilch. Not that I'm "Victor the Predictor," but I can't imagine there will be custom upholstery shops around in 2055 that will be able to replicate an early 21st-century truck interior.
Stepping out on a limb a little further, I'll venture that the bulk of the vehicles roaming the planet in the next mid-century will be electric, or maybe even hydrogen powered. The future for internal combustion engines in the mid 21st century will be ethanol-not the corn ethanol being pitched today that requires virgin raw materials, but ethanol made from beer waste. I've burned 105-octane E85 ethanol produced from beer waste in my GMC's L59 motor, and I'm here to tell you the future is beer. Instead of pouring millions of gallons of beer waste into the sewers annually like the breweries in California do, the folks at the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado, recycle beer waste into automotive-grade ethanol. From the Coors brewery the beer-waste automotive-grade ethanol ultimately ends up as E85 sold at Diamond Shamrock stations across Colorado. It's not like brewing beer is going to go away anytime soon-the intoxicating liquid has been around for over 7,000 years. I've heard the argument that the demand for automotive-grade ethanol is threatening our nation's capacity to produce beer because of the threat to the corn supply. That's because they are diverting virgin stock from the front end of the distilling process instead of reclaiming ethanol as a by-product. I'm sure there are some who will say the millions of gallons of beer poured into the nation's sewers is only a drop in the bucket, but I don't agree. Not to stereotype anyone, but it seems like today's trendy microbreweries cater to the tree-hugger types who drive those orthopedic cars from Sweden. Maybe in the next 50 years or so the moonshiners ... er ... uh, microbrewers will recycle their beer waste from an on-site micro-refinery based in an old Norse country and then ship the 110-octane pure ethanol to the United States in Liberian-registered tankers. Instead of oil tankers like the Valdez running aground and creating a massive oil spill, a foreign registered ethanol tanker can crash and spill millions of gallons of booze into the ocean. Then the fish will get drunk, get promiscuous, and procreate like crazy. The next thing you know the world's food supply problem has been solved, and everyone is happy ... I tell you, it's a win-win situation! John Gilbert