A Big-Ass Truck Does Not Make You Tough

Yesterday, I shared some thoughts on the Ford Super Duty F-250 Limited with a few of my closest internet friends. Even though I had praise for the massive truck’s capabilities, I found it—not shockingly—not great for everyday driving and errands. I nevertheless found myself inundated with comments and emails that suggested that, most likely, this truck was just too much for me to handle, and I wasn’t tough enough to handle such a meaty chunk of man-quipment.

I disagree. In fact, counter to what advertising and popular culture would have us believe, I’m pretty sure big modern trucks make you far less tough than old, tiny shitboxes or any number of other cars. I’ll explain.

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Without drawing too much attention to any one, specific insecure idiot, one email implied I’m a big sissy from a candy-ass area (New York or California, he said—I’m actually a Cheerwine-chugging North Carolinian, though I did live in Los Angeles a long time) who can’t “handle” a big truck.

The implication is that he, big modern truck-owner, is a tough, capable brute with an ass made from something other than candy—perhaps big slabs of steak held together with barbed wire and swear words.

Here’s the thing, though: this guy’s 2019 F-250 does not in any way make him tough. In fact, quite the opposite.

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A new F-250 is an extremely comfortable and safe vehicle. The interior is roomy and luxurious, the climate control is fantastic, you’ll probably be fine in any wreck short of a direct, house-sized meteorite strike, and inside you’re as insulated from the outside world as you would be in a modern office tower. There’s nothing too much to “handle” there, except you have to be more careful when you’re trying to park, but even then the thing has 360° cameras, so, you know, it’s not that hard.

None of those things makes anyone tough. It makes you pampered.

Now, let me just contrast that to the sort of ancient, deathtrap shitboxes I tend to drive. Take the Yugo I drove down from New York to North Carolina not long ago. It’s tiny, uncomfortable, full of parts that could break at any moment, zero A/C, no real insulation from the outside world whizzing past at a mile a minute, and if I run into anything bigger than a sparrow I’ll probably end up dead.

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I mean, think about it: what is tough, anyway? What do we mean when we say someone is tough? If something breaks, and someone just deals with it and fixes it, that’s tough. Someone who can deal with a lot of discomfort without pissing and moaning about it is tough. Tough is someone who looks adversity in its beady little eyes without blinking, and does what has to be done, with a certain amount of quiet determination. Someone who finds joy in situations that aren’t perfect, things that need work, jobs and situations that demand a little sweat and work. And it obviously has nothing to do with what’s between your legs.

Tough is someone who maybe does something a little bit dangerous, but because there’s other joys or benefits—perhaps even very intangible ones—finds it’s worth doing anyway.

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That’s not to say that a big-ass truck driver can’t be tough—of course they can be, and many of them have those hard jobs that require toughness—but what makes them tough is not their big-ass modern truck. The truck inherently does not give you that.

Is the truck itself tough? Absolutely! Modern trucks like that F-250 are absolutely rugged, tough, extremely capable machines, no question. But they don’t just make whoever drives them tough, in large part because the trucks themselves are so tough. There’s something of an inverse relationship there.

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Now, someone who drives her first-gen Miata on the highway with an 18-wheeler hub spinning right by her ear, now that’s a car that makes you a bit tough.

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Same goes for anyone driving an old Land Rover, or a vintage Jag—hell, anything British—or old, pre-traction control muscle cars or rattly Ford F100 trucks or AMC-era Jeeps or anything with manual chokes or steering hubs shaped like spears or so many other things.

When I drive my 52 horsepower, 1500 pound tiny little car with zero airbags on the highway, you’re damn right I’m taking way more risks than the guy in the lifted truck with airbags and massive aftermarket bumpers, and, hell yeah, that makes me more tough, at least in that one very specific metric.

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Being tough isn’t even my goal at all—I’m a guy who unashamedly loves cars that are actively cute and weird, hardly crucial elements to toughness, but those weird, cute cars still make the driver tougher than anyone in, say, a 2020 Chevy Silverado HD.

Still not convinced? Consider this thought experiment: let’s say you were the majordomo or whatever for some inbred young prince with hemophilia and Avian Bone Syndrome and the fragility of a raw egg in a champagne flute. Little Prince Delicacy decides that he wants to drive to his harpsichord recital (his valet touches the keys for him; the impact would shatter his fingers otherwise) and the majordomo has to select which vehicle in the royal fleet to give the prince keys to.

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The fleet consists of a manual 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite, a manual 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing, a 1975 Jensen Interceptor, and a 2019 Ford Super Duty F-250 Limited with an automatic transmission, glorious A/C, and so many airbags it’s like driving a potential bouncy castle. Which vehicle is the majordomo going to put the prince in? Of course it’ll be the F-250.

Also, if you’re driving a lifted truck with a bunch of big aftermarket bumper ram-bar things all over it, and you’re not actively using it to drive through many concrete walls for some reason, that’s the automotive equivalent of wearing a bike helmet to eat brunch.

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Of course, I have to say here that you should drive whatever makes you happiest. No question. If you love a big-ass modern lifted truck covered in bull bars and whatever, then wonderful, I hope you get the big-ass truck of your dreams and you drive it for many ecstatic years. I mean that, and I respect anyone’s choice to drive a vehicle they love.

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But that doesn’t mean I have to play into the myth that these massive, technologically advanced, comfortable, safe vehicles make the driver “tough,” or that people who drive small, underpowered cars are candy-asses or whatever, because that’s simply and demonstrably not true.

Tough isn’t about being able to crush another driver to blood and twisted metal by driving over them while sipping a Monster Energy drink; tough is driving around knowing you could be crushed to to blood and twisted metal by someone sipping a Monster Energy drink, but going out and driving your ridiculous little whatever, all the same, because you love it.

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If any of you tough guys wants to drive around a Yugo to prove your toughness, just let me know. As soon as I fix the stupid alternator.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)