What Truck Does a Diesel Shop Teacher Drive, and Why? (Reader Story)

diesel shop teacher Anthony greco
(photo: Anthony Greco)

[Editor: We cannot thank Anthony enough for sending his story and his ongoing support.]

My name is Anthony Greco. I was born in Manhattan in the year 1953. I grew up with television shows such as: 77 Sunset Strip, Route 66, Lassie (there was a pickup truck in the show), and Chevrolet commercials during Bonanza. How could a young boy not begin to like cars and trucks? I have always liked cars since the age of five. The 1963 Corvette Stingray in those old commercials was a sight to behold. Since my grammar school was just around the corner from Tremont Chevrolet on Buckner Blvd. in the Bronx, it was nothing for me to sneak out of the school yard during lunch period, and run to the dealer to see the new Corvette Stingray split window coupe and grab a few brochures! I still can remember the smells of those new Corvettes. Would like to add that I grew up (rare in those days) in a single parent household, raised by my mother who did not know how to drive.

Fast forward to 1968, at 14 years old I pass an entrance exam to attend a NYC vocational school named Automotive High School in Brooklyn, NY. It would be an hour long subway commute from the Bronx to Brooklyn and an hour for the return trip back home. It was well worth it as it satisfied my over the top desire to learn about cars. Upon my graduation in June 1971, I was offered a job as an apprentice mechanic at Manhattan Chrysler Plymouth in Manhattan. The tremendous starting salary of $2.50 per hour. It was a factory service center on the west side 50 street and 11th ave to be exact. I saw and drove every muscle car that Chrysler produced from 1967-1972. It was obvious that Chrysler was an innovative automotive company that was respected and feared during the muscle car era. Employment lasted at Chrysler for 9 months before I would experience my first lay off of several while in the automotive repair industry. A couple of lay offs came thanks to the Arab oil embargo’s of the 70s. I hated being out of work living in a then less than desirable neighborhood. It would take both a senior mechanic who I worked with at a Pontiac dealer in the Bronx and a former high school shop teacher to convince and push me to attend college. So off to evening college at the CUNY, while working full time as a mechanic during the day with no student loans.

My first real world exposure to a pickup truck happened at the end of summer 1973. The week of Labor Day, I fly out to LAX to visit my cousin in Costa Mesa, CA. John picks me up at the airport and drives me to his home with a new Orange, 1973 Datsun pick-up truck bopping to every expansion strip on the 405 Freeway. During the drive I am thinking what a little toy this truck is compared to the muscle cars I have been exposed to back home. While he goes to work during the week he allows me the use of his little mini truck, and I fall in love with it’s excellent fuel mileage and the pure fun of driving up and down the PCH. This was a huge difference and savings of fuel compared to my 66 GTO which was back in NYC. During the week of my stay, we drive up to Lake Isabella with his friend Chuck in his Chevrolet C10 to partake in some 455 Olds powered water skiing, my first time.

Feb. 22, 1978 I am offered a teaching position at my alma mater and am about to begin a wonderful career teaching cars, trucks, motorcycles. I also have the honor of shaping young minds, filling my ever increasing desire to learn about cars and meeting some very famous automotive people.

Datsun pickup truck

August of 1980, my girlfriend and I are married. We spent 16 days honeymooning in California. We went to visit family and spent two nights of our honeymoon in Garden Grove, CA in my cousin’s Chevrolet camper. Soon after we come back to reality, I find a used Orange 1976 Datsun pick up truck with a 5-speed for sale. This would be my first but not my last truck. The little Datsun needs some work, but it is the same color as my cousin’s 73, and now I am having fun driving to work and working on the little truck.
During the early 80s, I had been servicing a 78 VW Rabbit Diesel, I already knew the owner was getting 55 mpg. What a great vehicle, if it was a pickup truck, to drive my daily 100 mile commute from Suffolk County, Long Island into Brooklyn and back home. This little Rabbit would be my first exposure to a Diesel engine and encourage me to learn about this little oil burner.

VW Rabbit Caddy

In 1983, we are expecting our first child and there is an ad in the local paper for brand new Mazda pickup trucks for $5,500.00. I could not resist and ordered a Blue Mazda truck in the Deluxe trim, B2000 gas engine and a 5-speed (minus all options except power brakes). What a great little truck, we went everywhere with it and piled on the mileage commuting to work. At the time, I was unaware that Mazda offered this truck with a Diesel engine called the B2200.

Somewhere during the mid to late 80s I attended an engine class on the Dodge RAM 50 Mitsubishi Diesel engine at the Chrysler factory training center in Tappan, NY. Here I had the opportunity to completely tear down this little oil burner and actually see how it was constructed. Having never seen the inside of a diesel before, I was completely blown away how beefy this little Japanese Engine was built. It’s crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons were more robust than any V8 gasoline engine I ever worked on, whether small or big block.

The summer of 1989 I attended an instructor’s seminar at Ohio Diesel Tech School in Cleveland, Ohio. I signed up for the electronic engine control class, which as many of you know had set the automotive world into a frenzy, unbeknown to me, there was a much more exciting class happening which I found out on the last day. A Cummins factory rep backs out of the shop class in a then new 1989 Dodge standard cab Dually with the 12 valve Cummins. It is a truck like I have never seen or heard before, the Cummins sounds awesome. The driver then proceeds to light up the rear tires on 51st, in Cleveland. I wanted to know more about this truck and it’s diesel engine. The seed had been planted.
At our school, they finally woke up to the fact that there was a need for a diesel engine class. Even though I was biting at the bit to possibly teach this class, it would not be in my cards. Did not have enough seniority or diesel experience to pull this off. Maybe this was a good thing as the class was equipped with the Oldsmobile Diesel engines, and we all know how they turned out! The good news, I was able to service a 1980 Olds Diesel for someone I knew and enjoyed every moment learning about the engine.

1987 dodge ram charger cummins diesel conversion
1987 Dodge Ram Charger with Cummins Diesel conversion (photo credit: seller)

In 2001, I am teaching at a completely different school out in the suburbs on Long Island. This particular school system used to teach diesel, but just like so many school systems, they decided to let the program fall by the wayside and cease to exist. Now along comes the body shop teacher who picks up a totaled 2000 Dodge RAM 2500 equipped with the 24 valve Cummins turbo Diesel engine at auction to bring back to life. No-one has to twist my arm and get a little bit curious about this truck and it’s resurrection progress. During this time I am driving a 1997 Ford Ranger extended cab, 2wd, 4.0 V6 automatic trans which gets excellent fuel mileage. The rear side-mounted fold-down seats are no fun for my children and they let me know it. Back to the 2000 RAM, when they finally have it repaired the body shop teacher asks me to take it home with me to see how it runs and if it feels ok to drive. Is he kidding me? He can’t be serious, why I’ll just leave my Ranger in my shop class and absolutely take the burden of driving your repaired Dodge home!

The sound, the vibration, the power, the smell were fantastic. Finally, after seeing that Dodge in 1989, now in 2001 I finally get to drive one like it. It was love at first acceleration! The Cummins pulled like no gasoline engine I had ever had. The torque was right there down low and the drive home was like a dream. It had more pull than my 1990 Bronco 5.8, or my 1996 Suburban 2500 5.7 small block with 4.10 gears.

This was it, my next truck. March of 2001 had me looking for a full size diesel pickup truck. Was it going to be a Ford F250  7.3 power stroke or the Dodge RAM 2500 24-valve Cummins? The Ford Giant on Long Island had a new white 2000 F250 left over on the lot, they would not budge on the price.

When I was dating my wife in the mid to late 70s we would visit her cousins in Bergenfield, NJ. They had close neighbors two houses down whose son, Billy, went to school for heavy duty diesel at Engine City Tech, Union, NJ. Billy is younger than me by a few years but he was cool. In front of his parent’s house was his tractor all apart and the Cummins engine out of it sitting in the driveway! Who is more cool than that? His parents are totally awesome! Most teenagers have cars ripped apart, but how many do you know with a tractor? I will put this on my bucket list, but it most likely will never happen. lol

I decide to give Billy a call to talk about diesels. He suggests that I go for the Dodge with the Cummins as it is a true medium duty engine. His reasoning is that you “want an inline engine with that long stroke for the torque output”. His statement constantly plays in my head as it is the simple truth.

In April of 2001, I visit a Dodge dealer and order my current extended cab RAM 2500 with the Cummins and an automatic transmission. The truck now has 136,000 miles and just went through it’s first major repair, a VP 44 Injection Pump. I have always ran this engine on by-pass filtration and Synthetic 5W30 diesel oil. My engine oil is always cleaner than someone’s gasoline engine oil due to the by pass filtration system. The truck has the capability to carry 110 gallons of diesel on board due to it’s double fuel tank setup. It has been on numerous trips to the Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio areas and to the Catskill Mountains in November where I have slept in the 8 foot bed. It pulls my little camping and motorcycle trailers with ease, sometimes causing me to forget they are “back there”. The best part, if I watch my speed, do not go above 60 mph, no heavy acceleration, 21 mpg can be coaxed out of the Dodge.

2016 chevy silverado duramax diesel turbo pickup truck
2016 Chevy Colorado Duramax diesel

2015 is the opportunity to attend the N.Y. Auto Show where you can find me checking out all the new HD trucks. Dodge is first and everyone else is next in no specific order. Corvettes, Challengers, Mustangs, Porsche and Ferrari will get a look also, but later.
What’s this at the Chevrolet Colorado display? A little 4-cylinder diesel cutaway on a stand that looks so very familiar to the 2006 Jeep Liberty CRD engine which my daughter owns. I need to know more! I see the possibility here of a midsize truck obtaining 30 plus mpg. Little did I know this would prove to be true. August 2016, I visit my friendly Chevrolet dealer and purchase a 2016 Colorado crew cab 4X4, 6 foot box LX package with the 2.8 Duramax Diesel engine. Why? Because it is an in-line 4 and I can see the possibilities. My wife and I take a trip up to Cape Cod to spend a few days, and it is a perfect excuse to seat the piston rings. I am old school. At one point on the trip I am able to coax 36 mpg out of the little 2.8 oil burner. It does not get better than that for a pickup truck. Well, maybe it can?

I retired from teaching high school students for 38 yrs and 4 months in June of 2016. Taught and worked with some wonderful students and witnessed them succeed in student competitions and move on to different careers. It was a great career for me also.

My wife and I have been kicking the idea of buying a camper and touring this great country of ours. If this happens it will be a diesel pickup truck with a cab over unit. This has been on my bucket list since 1971, but life kind of gets in the way. Hey, there was a song written about that. Surfing the net one evening and low and behold there are a couple of Truck Nuts just like me, ok maybe worse, TFLTruck.com. Their videos quickly catch my attention, and I get this warm, fuzzy feeling like back when I was 14. They are doing real world reviews about HD Diesel pickup trucks without all the hoopla. Real facts, no fancy light show, no bs, a real pulling test on a real long steep mountain, up to 11,158 feet, with a maximum load somewhere I have yet to visit. They cover real honest to goodness trucks that someone can actually purchase if they care too and have the financial means. Can’t get enough of this. They are reviewing my “hope to be” next truck. I visit Mrtruck.com and he explains the subject of towing. Purchased the book “Truck Nuts” because I want to know! It’s still tons fun for me, and it is all about shifting gears and more learning. It truly never gets old.

February 15 of this year we became grandparents for the first time. I have a grandson, Luca, after raising three daughters of our own. Grandpa is the best title I have ever held. My wife and daughters have had to put up with my obsession with cars, trucks and motorcycles for all these years. All I need now is for my grandson to have just a little bit of interest in cars or trucks, boy, am I going to get in a lot of trouble. It is the last hoorah and here’s hoping it is just as exciting as the first. I can continue to teach about cars and trucks right till the end of the chapter. How awesome.

Currently, I am teaching part time at Farmingdale State College and have been called upon to teach the diesel engine class. How exciting is this!

So why does a shop teacher own and drive a diesel truck? Because I can! It’s the power, the sound, the smell, the excellent fuel mileage. It’s tooling down the road at a slow pace, windows open, radio off and just listening to the purr of the diesel. There is a full chassis underneath, it has rear wheel drive, it is old school. It’s 100% American, and we are free! One can tow with a truck, a truck can pull tremendous amounts of weight, more than what the truck itself actually weighs. Trucks move produce and goods to the store, to factories, to hospitals. Trucks help win wars. Trucks are used for camping, for expeditions, for adventures. Trucks are rescue vehicles, they save lives, they are needed and used in national disasters. Trucks go places where cars cannot. Trucks allow us to sit above all others and see the road from a higher perspective it is a safer feeling. It is the only vehicle I would want to take on a long road trip. But, I must confess it would also be exciting in a vintage Corvette or on a Harley!! Problem is, you cannot physically take everything with you!