A Long-term Relationship
“I’ve had a lot of offers to buy my truck,” says Bill Murphy of his 1988 Toyota Pickup Xtracab. “But I’m just not in the mood to sell it and get a new one.”
Murphy even rebuffed an advance made by Solomon Teklu, general manager at Jim Norton Toyota of Lawton (Okla.). The dealership has serviced the truck since 2001, amassing 27 pages of service records—the vast majority for routine maintenance.
“I offered Bill whatever he wanted and he wouldn’t take it,” says Teklu. “He loves that truck. He doesn’t want to give it up.”
However, Murphy did recently allow the dealership to borrow the truck to put it on display in their service lane for six weeks. In exchange, Solomon loaned Murphy a 2015 Tacoma. But as much as he liked it, Murphy couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel of his old friend. After all of the years and the miles, it’s not a stretch to say the two have bonded.
On the Road Again…and Again
The relationship got its start in March of 1989 when Murphy bought the pickup.
“I just really liked the looks of it,” says Murphy. “It’s a 4x4, so it sits up a bit. And it drove nice.”
That proved critical when, a few months later, Murphy landed a job with Ben E. Keith Company as a food distributor sales representative—a roll he fulfills to this day. In a typical week, he’ll log 750 miles calling on customers in the rural outskirts of Oklahoma City. Do the math and that pencils out to 3,000 miles per month, which is how often Murphy religiously returns to Jim Norton Toyota for an oil change.
While Murphy trusts the dealership service staff nearly as much as he does his pickup, that doesn’t mean he sits idly by in the waiting area while they work on his pride and joy.
“Unlike today’s models, this one is not a self-contained system. You have to know how to lube it,” says Murphy. “I made a copy of the schematic in the service manual that shows the location of all the grease fittings. I keep it in the sun visor. I also keep a grease gun in the truck, just in case. Then I’ll go back in the shop with my truck. They give me a seat and we talk. The gentlemen in the shop have become my friends.”
“He’s a friendly guy, very down to earth and laid back as can be,” says Service Manager Gary Gatliff. “But he watches everything that does on with that truck. Everyone on the staff has become accustomed to having Bill there.”
‘A Tougher Breed’
The past two-and-a-half decades haven’t all been smooth sailing, however. At the 275,000 mark, before he begin bringing the truck to his favorite dealership, Murphy says the timing belt broke requiring him to replace the engine. He put another motor in about 250,000 miles after that.
Murphy, though, has no complaints. Prior to 1989, he owned General Motors vehicles that, he says, “started leaking oil all over the place after about 90,000 miles. I could never get much past 100,000 miles with those cars.”
Gatliff echoed that sentiment.
“When I worked at Dodge and Chevy shops, 60-70 percent of our work was under warranty,” he says. “Here? Maybe 10 percent is. This is mostly a maintenance shop. We rarely have to fix them.”
And if the dealership had more customers like Murphy, it’d rarely have the chance to buy and sell them.
“This truck is just a tougher breed,” says Murphy. “Like my wife Donna likes to joke, ‘It’s just now getting broken in.’”