You get him a classic car, of course.
As Mitchell Toyota approached its 30th anniversary, Tony Palmer had an idea. A service manager who’s been with the San Angelo, Texas, dealership for 28 years, Palmer knew that owner Mike Mitchell Sr. loved classic cars, but didn’t have a classic Toyota in his collection. So, Palmer approached the owner’s son, Mike Mitchell Jr., about finding and restoring a Land Cruiser as a surprise for the elder Mitchell.
“He started telling me about a couple that he’d already found,” says the younger Mitchell. “He’d already talked to our technicians, and they were willing to do the work on it.”
Some of the Land Cruisers Palmer identified weren’t in great condition, but one stood out: a 1982 FJ40 that belonged to a loyal service customer.
“Her husband passed away in 2006, and she kept it locked up in a metal building,” the younger Mitchell says. “He had actually restored it partially on his time.”
Over the next 10 months, Mitchell Toyota technicians and local specialists finished the restoration. Luckily, they managed to keep it a secret from their boss.
“We were able to hide it from my father,” says Mitchell Jr. “It’s been in our shop quite a bit. When they were doing all the mechanical stuff to it, we bought a cover for it. He doesn’t go into the dealership much anymore [since] he’s pretty much retired. We put taller vehicles next to it. He never even noticed.”
On December 5, two days before the dealership’s anniversary, Palmer presented the FJ40 to Mitchell with family members, employees and a few loyal customers.
“We had a slide show and movie professionally made that we played for my dad before presenting it to him,” the younger Mitchell says. “It showed pictures of the FJ40 from the day we picked it up all the way to when it was complete.”