texasmonthly.com: In your story you mention that by 1980 pickup trucks had made it to the big city. So why a story on the pickup, the new national car of Texas, right now?
John Spong: In truth, the best reason to do this story is really a nationwide one: America has gone pickup crazy. There are a number of signs indicating just how strong the trend is. For one, trucks are being bought by people who never would have thought about such a purchase five years ago, particularly moms and dads who want trucks to serve as their family’s primary vehicle. But just as significantly, pickups are being built by car makers that wouldn’t have touched them in the past, companies like Cadillac, Lincoln, and Honda. (Strangest of all, on that count, are the pictures you can find on the Web of a prototype BMW pickup.) And then there is the fact that Nissan and Toyota are now trying to move in on the full-size pickup market. Everybody I talked to—car makers, car dealers, car drivers—discussed the fact that for trucks to get this popular, people had to shake the idea that pickups strictly belonged in the country. But people in Texas got past that stereotype a long time ago, which is one of the reasons that automakers come here to find out how to build and market trucks. Learning about all that got me thinking about the two questions we tried to answer in the piece: What does the truck mean to Texas, and what does Texas mean to the truck?
texasmonthly.com: How did the idea come about?
JS: At a party last Christmas I ran into a buddy from high school who had spent the past five years working on ad campaigns for GMC trucks. He was a pickup nut, spouting off statistics and talking about buying trends and the history of trim styles, and he had this strong sense of state pride in the fact that Texas was the birthplace of it all. After listening to him talk about trucks for about an hour and realizing that his enthusiasm was shared by New York ad execs and Detroit car makers, I figured we had a story.