Why are some folks so drawn to old trucks? Is it the romance of years past? Whatever the attraction, the love affair with old trucks continues on, especially along the Wine Road.
Though their numbers of dwindling, we found four old trucks along the Wine Road with entertaining stories.
Old Truck #1 – 1954 Chevrolet
Driving into Mounts Family Winery, you might catch a glimpse of an old pickup truck in the field. Or, maybe you’ll see it along the vineyard roads or across the winery yard. If it’s a special event day, co-owner Lana Mounts will make sure it’s parked alongside the covered tasting area, allowing visitors to check it out or even take a selfie with it.
Rich Mounts, Lana’s father-in-law, is the truck’s current owner. The original owner was Rich’s dad, Jack, who bought the three-quarter ton pickup new in 1954 from Bell Chevrolet in Healdsburg. Rich was seven at the time, and he remembers it was a working truck from day one.
Rich explains this model had the “deluxe” cab, which doesn’t mean what you think. The deluxe part was it had six windows, including half round windows on the sides. It didn’t come with a radio or a heater, and still doesn’t have either. Most of the windows and the hubcaps are gone, but it still runs and is part of the Mounts Vineyards work force.
When Jack bought the pickup for $1625, it was the only truck he owned, so it would haul the crops, initially prunes. In 1956, Jack started planting the vineyards. When the grapes were harvested, the truck would deliver 2500 lbs. of fruit at a time. Definitely a working truck!
At almost 70, this truck has had very few changes during its farming tenure. Originally a baby blue color, in the early 1960s Jack had it painted yellow. Rich refers to the color now as yellow with rust highlights. Later Rich changed the battery from 6 volts to 12 volts so after setting during winter months, the truck would still start without being jumped.
Today the truck is used to drive around the vineyards and haul needed supplies to the vineyard crew. It no longer leaves the ranch, but in its day, this truck delivered grapes throughout wine country, took hunting trips to the wilds of Modoc County, went with Rich to college at San Luis Obispo, and even went to Disneyland.
With only 130,000 miles on it, Rich says it’s just broke in. “We live in a disposable world,” said Rich. He explained nothing is set up to be fixed now, and it gets harder and harder to get parts for just about anything, especially farming equipment. The saving grace for this old Chevy is it’s now valued by truck collectors, so he can still find parts to fix it.
The week I talked to Rich, his son David, the Mounts Family Winery co-owner and winemaker, was putting new tires on the old truck. As Rich explained, this isn’t a “foofoo” truck, and it just keeps on working.
Old Truck #2 – 1950 Chevrolet 440
The ACORN Winery/Alegría Vineyards old truck, when not in use, resides in a prominent location across the driveway from the winery tasting room. Nestled around the vines, this old truck lends itself to some perfect photo opportunities for visiting guests.
Owner Bill Nachbaur bought the truck just a year or two after he purchased the vineyard in 1990. He remembered he bought it from the children of the original owner after he’d passed. Like Rich Mounts’ truck, it was probably bought from Bell Chevrolet in Healdsburg as it was a local truck, and Duval Bell was the man to buy your Chevys from during those years.
Bill’s truck is fully operational and is a key part of the vineyard and winery business. The truck hauls barrels, picking bins and anything large that needs to go from point A to point B. But most importantly, the bed of this old Chevy is the staging area to dump buckets of grapes into the stemmer/crusher. Without the truck, making the wine would be a more challenging.
A few years ago, Bill had the truck restored and painted, bring back a bit of its past glory to the present.
Old Truck #3 – 1964 Dodge D100 Sweptline
When Cast Wines owner Jack Seifrick put a bid in on the old Dodge pickup truck, he had little hope of being its next owner. The Dodge was sitting in the gigantic Salvation Army property just north of Healdsburg, waiting on the donated vehicles lot for a winning bid. Three months later when Jack learned his $400 bid won, he’d forgotten he’d even bid on it.
Now the proud owner of an old truck, Jack quickly learned his $400 investment was minor compared to the tab for getting it running again. This truck had spent years giving its all to a Sonoma County rancher. After new tires, breaks and a transmission, among other things, Jack was able to bring his “rescue Dodge” to the winery.
For a time, the truck was used as a working truck once again, but today it is more like eye candy for old truck lovers. Its place of honor is just outside the tasting room where the rescue Dodge and rescue dog Duke hang out together.
Old Truck #4 – a small fleet of 1945 Chevrolets
The trucks at A. Rafanelli Winery have been a part of farming in Sonoma County for over 75 years and counting.
Dave Rafanelli recounted the trucks’ history with a sense of affection and appreciation for their decades of hard work. In 1946, Dave’s grandfather Alberto and father Americo made a trip to Bell Chevrolet in Healdsburg to buy a new truck. The 1945 trucks would have been built during the war years, so they were without chrome, as all available chrome was used for the war efforts.
That year, Alberto and Americo bought two new 1945 Chevy trucks. The cost was $2200 each. The trucks came with a flatbed in the back with a frame. A farmer or rancher would have to build out the truck’s bed to fit their individual needs.
These two trucks were originally used to haul hops. As the Rafenellis expanded their crops, the trucks hauled prunes and pears. By the early 1970s, Americo begin to focus on growing grapes, so the trucks were used to haul grapes during harvest and move barrels around, the same jobs they do today.
By the mid 1990s, Dave had taken over the business from his dad, Americo. Wanting to add to his fleet of trucks, Dave was able to find two more 1945 Chevy trucks. And, they just happened to be the same color as the two original trucks — olive green and black.
When Dave had all four trucks restored, he kept the original colors and he added on the missing chrome. As part of the restoration, Dave contacted the then retired Duval Bell, the original owner of Bell Chevrolet. Mr. Bell told Dave he remembered the day his father and grandfather bought the first truck, for he also sold a pickup that same day. Selling two trucks in one day had never happened before in his business. Then a few weeks later, Alberto and Americo came back and bought a second truck. Mr. Bell also gave Dave original Bell Chevrolet license plate frames from a box of new ones he’d taken with him when he sold the business. The new license plate frames completed the restoration.
Every harvest the Rafanelli fleet of 1945 Chevy trucks haul about 1000 tons of grapes from the estate vineyards back to the winery. A trip that is never more than 10 miles.
After over 75 years, all four trucks are still working and have served four generations of Rafanellis, as Dave’s daughters are now running the day to day of the business.
Next time you visit a winery or two along the Wine Road, be sure to be on the lookout for old trucks. There are more old trucks out there, and folks are willing and sometimes eager to tell their stories.
I want to extend a special thanks to Rich Mounts, Bill Nachbaur, Jack Seifrick and Dave Rafanelli for taking their time to share how old trucks are part of their winery’s story.