Out here on the California coast, we drive whatever we want, and let others do the same without impediment. But, closer to the heart of our nation (or even 20 miles from any major freeway), automotive brand clashes rage hotter than ever. The big question is this: why? I journeyed to the heart of Texas, where truck brand loyalty is a way of life, to gain some understanding.
Standing in the sweltering, wet-wool-blanket air of DFW on a Friday morning in July, I began to panic at the mostly empty state of my pockets. Fearing that my car keys were wedged in a grimy seatback pocket or nestled in a weathered bowl next to some security checkpoint, I started to scramble. Some of my forehead sweat had nothing to do with the 90%+ humidity. Relief set in when I remembered that I had left my keys at home on purpose. The H on my security remote could have gotten me lynched here.
Among the sea of Ford, Dodge and Chevy rigs, I managed to flag-down my cousin in his GMC. See, the “professional grade” version of a regular-old Chevy truck is somewhat of a smart alternative brand here—like a Saab might be where I’m from. Feeling the full-blast relief of triple AC vents blasting my face, I began to examine the truck brand hostility by digging for my cousin’s perspective. He dropped a wad of brown spit into the empty Big Gulp in one cup holder and set his beer into the other. He had what he considered an outsider’s perspective on the biggest conflict of all: Ford versus Chevy. He was an outcast from the Ford circles, and a somewhat-acceptable outsider who could enter the Chevy clans on a temporary guest pass only. He said the two groups rarely knowingly mixed, and when they did knowingly mix, they either ignored the white elephant on the barbecue or picked fights. To get a first-hand look at the clash, we’d have to get in on a neighborhood gathering where the meat and the Marlboros were both being chain smoked. We needed to get into someone’s backyard barbecue.
Luckily, 5:00 was approaching on a Friday in Texas. BBQ was immanent; four yards were linking up for a huge one at 6. People from up to 5 or so blocks would be on the way. Since most of the all-American truck owners coming have their eyes set on 20 or so beers, they’d be leaving their trucks at home and hoofing it. Unless somebody rolled up a sleeve, Ford and Chevy owners would be mingling and either not know it, or know it and just internalize it. Perfect—a hotbed for studying the hostility between fans of the two automakers.
Talking to one of these guys was like talking to a hundred. I didn’t know this until I had talked to a hundred, though. You see, (fill in short name starting with a J here) works 12-hour days as a (fill in construction or trade job you can do without a license for cash under the table) to pay for his (Ford or Chevy), new gear for his (Ford or Chevy), and a case of (Bud, Miller or Coors), even though his (wife or girlfriend or mom) gives him crap about getting his act together. He was raised to love (Ford or Chevy) from the beginning and to hate (Ford or Chevy), because (Fords or Chevys) break down all the time and have less power. Besides (Ford or Chevy) is the real all-American brand—not (Ford or Chevy). His dad and his dad’s dad and his dad’s dad’s dad drove a (Ford or Chevy), which is the way it’s always been and it’s never changing.
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