374,757 and counting

August 22, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

HANCOCK - Ray Givens changes the oil and filter on his 1989 Toyota SR5 pickup truck every 2,000 miles.

He washes the truck, including under the hood, once or twice a month.

Givens, 60, of Millstone Road east of Hancock, estimates he's invested the same amount he paid for the truck - $13,500 - in maintenance.

Maintenance is a big reason Givens had 374,757.8 miles on his odometer Thursday morning, winning The Herald-Mail's mileage contest.

Givens said he will donate his $50 winnings from the contest to the Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots. The charity is one that Givens, a former Marine, often helps.

Seven of the 17 responses received by Aug. 15 were for vehicles with more than 300,000 miles on them.

One entry had more than 500,000 miles, but it was a company van that had been driven by multiple drivers. One of the entries was from a California woman who read about the contest on the Internet.


Contestants wrote and spoke about the benefits of not having to make car payments and doing your own maintenance, about long trips and daily commutes, about rust spots and, in some cases, applying duct tape or welding metal over holes caused by rust.

"I haven't had a car payment since the early '90s," Givens said.

Before he bought the pickup, Givens got a new vehicle every three or four years like "normal people do," he said. This is his second Toyota pickup. He sold the first one to get one with an extended cab.

"This one is such a nice vehicle and continues to be. I just can't see getting rid of it," he said.

The truck has not been without problems.

"It's left me sitting twice," Givens said.

On his way home from work in Montgomery County, Md., in 2000, he overrevved the engine while pulling the truck into traffic in downtown Rockville during rush hour and got stuck in the road.

"A lot of people were mad at me," Givens said.

Two weeks ago, Givens was on his way to Sykesville, Md., to get the timing chain replaced when he stopped to get gas. As he pulled away from the pump at the Sheetz at U.S. 40 and Md. 66, the chain broke.

Givens takes his pickup to Mortensen Motors Inc. in Sykesville because his friend, Pete Mortensen, owns a Toyota repair business.

"He's always taking care of his vehicle," Mortensen said. "He's probably a little overcautious. He overdoes it sometimes."

Some of the work Mortensen has done on the pickup was to increase the horsepower because Givens was commuting over South Mountain.

Whenever something went wrong with the engine, Givens had Mortensen upgrade the horsepower with Toyota Racing Development components.

The truck has hit other bumps in the road.

The pickup got painted burgundyish red with gold stripes down the sides after hail chipped the paint around 1997.

It's on its third timing chain, third radiator, second transmission and fourth windshield.

Givens has been able to get the transmission bearings, the truck's weakest parts, fixed before they damaged the transmission because he heard a slight humming sound.

"You drive a vehicle long enough, you catch all the noises, creaks and rattles," Givens said.

Despite its age and travel travails, the pickup looks new.

In the winter, Givens power washes the truck after every snowfall and at least once a month to get road salt out of the cracks and crevices.

The rest of the year, he washes the truck at home with a sponge at least once a month, and often twice. After covering the air filter with a plastic bag, he hoses and scrubs the engine compartment.

He waxes the truck at least once a year.

He also owns a 2000 Toyota 4Runner with more than 78,000 miles on it, but prefers the pickup he bought in Frederick, Md.

Most of the truck's miles came from Givens' 85-mile round-trip commute from Boonsboro to Rockville, until he retired in February 2002. He moved to western Washington County a year later.

He occasionally drives his wife, Edna, to work in Hagerstown, and likes to go on long fishing and hunting trips.

Givens was driving home from the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in 1999 when the odometer turned to 250000.

Last September, it flipped to 350000 just before his trip to Wyoming to hunt antelope.

Givens thinks his pickup has another 100,000 miles on it and plans to take it to Wyoming again this fall to hunt antelope, then head south to western Colorado to fish.

Givens likes the pickup so much that he bought another standard-sized Toyota pickup, a Tacoma, this month before Toyota stopped making that body size in favor of a larger one.

The new one has an automatic transmission, a four-door cab, shorter bed space and a six-cylinder engine compared with the older one's stick shift, extended cab and four-cylinder engine.

Givens planned to clean out his garage this past week so he could keep the new pickup in it.

"It may get driven (every once in) a while, until the other one doesn't run," Givens said.

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