I Love My Truck Contest
Discover the unique stories behind OKL readers’ favorite trucks.
“When I saw it come around the corner it was pure magic," Jacob Jimison says of his 1993 American General Bobbed Deuce M35A3. Photo by Ryan West
In the early hours of a cool, crisp morning, Jess Steele rolls down the windows of his ’72 Chevy, letting a breeze of rural Oklahoma air drift across his face. He’s not thinking about the sound of the tires rolling down the road or the familiar whirr of the engine, but instead he’s wondering about a man he has no memories of—his father.
When Steele was a mere five weeks old, his father passed away suddenly. His father’s love for classic trucks, however, lives on in Jess. As a self-employed business owner, Steele owns 14 trucks. His wife, Alisha, who nominated him, says he has always enjoyed working on older vehicles. He hopes to pass along that passion to his son and daughter someday. But none of his trucks make him think of his dad as much as his ’72 Chevy.
“I think he probably drove these same streets as me with his windows down and a big smile spread across his face, as I do the same,” Steele, a Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative member, says.
Trucks offer a deep connection to people, both past and present. For many Oklahomans, trucks serve an active purpose as modern day workhorses. According to the Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association, trucks account for 64% of all new vehicles sold in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.*
In this edition of Oklahoma Living, we celebrate the role of trucks in our readers’ lives. We hope you enjoy reading the stories of the winners of our “I Love My Truck Contest” as much as we enjoyed receiving all the entries.
Jess Steele and his '72 Chevy | Photo by Ryan West
Best Work Truck | Jacob Jimison
Dean Jimison has a simple philosophy when it comes to parenting—seize the moments when they come.
“You may only have one chance to make a dream a reality for your children,” the Lake Region Electric Cooperative member says. “Take a chance and you might get lucky and give them a memory they will have forever.”
For the Jimison family, that memory came in the form of an army truck.
Jacob Jimison and his 1993 American General Bobbed Deuce M35A3 | Photo by Ryan West
For as long as he can remember, son Jacob Jimison has been fascinated with trucks. Jacob fondly remembers having truck toys and posters in his room as a little boy. Now as a 16-year-old, his passion remains and he has replaced those toys with an electrical system layout showing the electrical diagram of a truck.
His favorite has always been army trucks.
“Secretly it’s my dad’s too, even though he thought they were a little impractical for our family,” Jimison says. “But in the mind of a kid, it is the king.”
When Jacob was 10 years old, he saw his dad looking at a 1993 American General Bobbed Deuce M35A3 online. His dad asked him if he was interested, and next thing Jacob knew they were on an unforgettable trip to pick up the truck in Atlanta, Georgia.
“When I saw it come around the corner it was pure magic,” Jacob Jimison says.
The father and son duo drove the truck all the way back to Wagoner, Oklahoma, and have used the truck for just about everything including pulling motorists out of riverbeds and driving it through a Christmas parade.
Jacob now uses the truck for work on their family land, pulling out bushes or small trees. He can even drive it through deep water if needed. In town, he treats it as a “Sunday driver,” taking it out for a spin as he can. He plans to keep the truck forever, but nothing will beat the memory of his dad making his dream a reality.
“Fixing it up, driving it around—all of that is fun, but the best part is that I have done it all with my dad,” Jacob Jimison says.
Prettiest Truck | Gary Donley
Northwestern Electric Cooperative member Gary Donley jokingly refers to himself as the “Grapes of Wrath” in reverse. After returning from serving in Vietnam in 1968, Donley took a job in California. He spotted a ’58 Ford Ranchero, and for him, it was love at first sight. He returned to Oklahoma to care for his father, driving the Ranchero and pulling a trailer all the way home.
The Ranchero is a combination of a pickup and a coupe. It was produced from 1957 to 1979 by Ford and is said to have been the inspiration for General Motors’ El Camino.
Gary Donley and his '58 Ford Ranchero | Courtesy photo
Donley drove the Ranchero to work and raced it at the local drag strip from time to time. After he got a work truck to drive, his sister drove the Ranchero back and forth to college; then his brother drove it while in high school.
After removing the transmission for another vehicle, the truck sat still for about 25 years. Then, in 2006, restoration began. After investing more than $70,000 in the project, the truck purrs like a kitten and shines like a precious jewel.
Donley took it to his first car show in 2011 and won his class. Since then, he has been to about 70 car shows, winning something at almost every show, even winning two or three trophies at some. More than the accolades, Donley loves connecting with fellow truck enthusiasts.
“I have some people who come up to me and say, ‘Your truck is the reason I come to this show every year,’” Donley says. “I love that people enjoy it as much as I do.”
“Trucks are the way of life here,” the Woodward native says. “They’re a good fit for Oklahomans.”
Classic Truck | Patsy Wells
“We use our trucks for everything,” Patsy Wells says. “If you’re a member of this community you’ve got to have a truck. It’s a signature thing.”
There is one truck in Wells’ family, however, that remains set apart from the working group—a charming and well-loved seafoam green and white 1954 Chevrolet 3100.
Patsy Wells and sister Debbie Tweed with their 1954 Chevrolet 3100 | Photo by Ryan West
Wells’ parents, Leon and Mary Brown, bought the truck for $1,345 dollars from G.B. Purcell Chevrolet in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Leon was hooked after one touch of the shiny green and white paint and used proceeds from that year’s cotton crop to make the purchase.
The family worked long hours of farming, but even when finances stretched thin, the truck got to stick around.
“We had so much fun in the truck as kids,” the Northfork Electric Cooperative member says.
Leon and Mary would take their children, Patsy, Debbie and Mike, on vacations to state parks. An aluminum topper and slats across the truck bed would allow them to sit up or lie down—but not stand up. On one special occasion for Wells’ 13th birthday, she got to go to an out-of-town football game.
“Mom’s rule was you couldn’t have more kids come than the number of age you are, so I got to pile 12 friends with my family in the ’54,” Wells remembers joyfully. “The lights went out on the truck on the way and a patrolman escorted us into the game.”
Wells says her dad was tinkering with the truck all the time. The inside was always as polished and clean as the outside. Any time he had anything done to it, he did it with as original parts as possible.
The truck has driven in parades and escorted grandchildren in sashes and crowns down main streets. At one parade there was a car show and the ’54 won the “People’s Choice” award. It also makes an appearance at the Old Settlers parade in Cheyenne, which is held every five years.
Leon passed away in 2019, and the truck lovingly carried his saddle and boots to his final resting place. The truck now lives with the Brown girls, Patsy and Debbie, and continues to make memories with the entire family—and remains stylish without a scratch on it.
Ugliest Truck | Vena Thunderbird
This truck may not win any beauty contests, but if you open the hood you will quickly see it is solid and safe. Lovingly nicknamed the “Behemoth” by its owner and creator, Vena Thunderbird, the 1999 Toyota Tacoma with a six-cylinder engine now has a long life to look forward to.
Thunderbird, a pottery artist and quilter by trade, paid cash for the truck and went about repairing and rebuilding it.
“Y’all know us Okies can and will do what needs to be done, so I rebuilt her,” the Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative member says.
Vena Thunderbird and her 1999 Toyota Tacoma | Courtesy photo
Thunderbird has retouched, tuned, replaced and switched out just about everything on the truck from axels to differential seals. She’s learned everything by watching YouTube videos and finding needed parts at “pick and pull” yards. She even has learned how to weld by trial and error. The only part that’s not working is the radio, but Thunderbird isn’t worried about that missing piece.
At 52 years young, Thunderbird’s advice is to keep moving and keep going. Her “Behemoth” now has 130,000 miles on it, but she expects with good care and upkeep it could last upwards of 700,000 miles.
According to Consumer Reports, the Tacoma pickup truck has been a reliable, but hard-riding workhorse.
“It holds its value surprisingly well, making bargain-priced used ones hard to find,” the site says.
The “Behemoth” is truly one of a kind. With its unique patchwork of colors and parts, Tacoma fans aren’t likely to find one similar to it for sale.
“It’s not about looks,” Thunderbird says. “It’s about being proud you did it yourself and I am extremely proud of myself.