Cars & Trucks

Behind the wheel of vehicles of all types

2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 — a posh, if pricey hauler.

|

It’s the storied image of pickup trucks – big, tough, rough-riding, dirt-encrusted haulers with bales of hay in the bed and a dusty horse trailer hitched to the back. The driver flops down the sun visor as he bounces over that last 20 miles of dirt ruts. Heading for the barn in the shank of an afternoon.

These days, he’s still doing that, but the truck might well be something straight out of a Mad Men-style advertising and marketing huddle in far-off Detroit or New York. In fact, we’re talking about the truck we tested recently, a behemoth of a rig, weighing three-plus tons, with a name to go with it – the Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4. And with that brand, that summoning up of the ranchlands of Wyoming, therein lies part of the tale.

Yes, you can still buy a plain old pickup truck for about $24,000 and it will do the job – tote that bale, haul that trailer. But why would you want to, when you can have a truck that will not only do the job in the daylight, but head for the bright lights of town after supper? It’s the age of the super-luxo truck, and with the super-luxo truck comes the super-luxo price (in the case of our Ram 3500, it was $67,835, which included the longhorn steer emblems, etched into the leather seats, and the $7,795 optional Cummins turbo diesel engine.) Lest anyone think that gussying up a pickup truck is akin to putting lipstick on a pig, figures provided by Ram show that sales of their luxury trucks have increased anywhere from 14 percent to 50 percent from 2007 to 2012, depending on the model of truck (the biggest ones sell the most.)

It used to be called Dodge

(A note on branding: these trucks are what we have known for decades as Dodge trucks. Four years ago, however, Chrysler Group LLC decided to split off the Ram name into its own stand-alone brand and leave the Dodge moniker to Dodge cars. So Chrysler insists that the truck is a Ram. Not Dodge Ram, much as it looks like a Dodge truck and drives like a Dodge truck, but Ram.)

Whether it’s Ram or Ford or GM, there apparently is a market for a truck that will carry fence posts in the daytime and take everyone to a party that night.

“The idea is that you can have a vehicle that will go anywhere and do anything,” said Allyson Harwood, executive editor of the bi-monthly magazine, Truck Trend.  “People like to haul a horse trailer or an RV. They want something as nice as the trailer they’re hauling. Luxury trucks, in general, are surprisingly popular. (The owners) take them into town, to go out to dinner, to impress their friends. It’s not the same bench-seat, crank-window work truck.”

The lore of the West

For any number of reasons – most of them to do with Detroit’s romantic notions of marketing – it turns out that trucks are frequently identified with the West. Hence, Ford’s F-150 “King Ranch,” Dodge Dakota (there’s that durned Dodge name again) or the General Motors twins, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, and the Ram Laramie Longhorn. It’s a sagebrush-and-cactus image, one the car companies burnish relentlessly – “the Laramie Longhorn is named in honor of one of the most iconic images of the southwest,” is how Ram spokesman Dave Elshoff put it in a recent e-mail.

It’s not as if this Laramie image is a product of 21st century marketing. More than 90 years ago, Edward Jordan, an entrepreneur who was producing a car called the Playboy in Cleveland, Ohio, couldn’t figure out why sales of his automobile were pretty flat. He took a trip out to the west and as the train clattered along the rails he saw a woman riding a horse, alongside the railroad train. Jordan was struck by the powerful image of the scene and decided to have a new ad campaign for his car, centered on the horsewoman, racing the train, and starting with the image of “somewhere west of Laramie,” according to this lovely story by University of Wyoming historian Phil Roberts.

The Jordan car advertisement may well have changed the ad business, but in Laramie, Wyo., the naming of this Laramie Longhorn truck is more a subject of curiosity than anything else. Not many had heard of it.

“Nobody ever asked me about it,” Laramie Mayor Dave Paulekas said the other day. “I guess it’s the name that reflects the West and Western culture. I think they just picked the name out of a hat.” But that choice is not a bad thing, Paulekas said. “It means the name ‘Laramie’ gets out to the rest of the country.”

About 20 miles outside Laramie, Amy Marie Lawrence, who is 92 and still lives on the family ranch – “I helped Dad, I was his top hand” – said she hadn’t heard of the Longhorn truck.

Nonetheless, she thought it’s “a compliment” for the Chrysler/Dodge/Ram people to name a truck after her home territory and its cattle. “Of course, we don’t have longhorns here anymore, but it has a nice ring to it. There is no such thing as a Laramie Longhorn, not that I know of. There probably was at one time. When they trailed the cattle up from Texas to Wyoming and Montana, it was pretty much to the east of here.”

At the Laramie Boomerang newspaper, editor and publisher Jerry Raehal e-mailed, when asked about the Ram Laramie Longhorn, “you are the first person who has mentioned it to me.” In a later e-mail he said, “ironically, Laramie does not have a Dodge dealership.” The nearest place you can buy a new Ram Laramie Longhorn in is Cheyenne, Wyo., about 50 miles east of Laramie.

And if you did buy one, what would you get? Thought you’d never ask.

Gets around 16 mpg

A humongously big (231 inches long) pickup truck that will seat five (at what feels like 100 feet off the ground) and haul stuff in the bed (six feet, four inches long). The Ram we tested delivered about 16 mpg and had a base price of $52,790. But Ram added some $15,000 worth of options, including the aforementioned $7,795 diesel engine, and $2,650 for the “AISIN Heavy Duty 6-speed Automatic Transmission (and) 3.42 Rear Axle Ratio,” and $995 for a sunroof. A sunroof in a pickup? Oops, I forgot. Luxo trucko. There’s also a big-screen navigation/audio screen, and that longhorn etching on the seats.

So if you want a truck that calls up images of those dusty main streets of Tombstone or Durango or Laramie, with steers lowing and cowboys ti-yi yippee-ky-yaying and swatting the dust off their jeans with 10-gallon hats, and the stagecoach pulling into town with a few arrows sticking out of the back, and the sheriff moseying down the block to check out that stranger, well, here it is.

Okay, pilgrim, it’s your move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: General
miketttt@att.net (Michael Taylor)

Comments are closed.