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Gerdie - - The story of the shop truck


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A lot of guys and gals in the trade will have a special project in the back corner of the shop or at their home garage. It’s in our DNA to make things mechanical go. Some are into dirt track racing, the drag strip, power boating, snow machine, or many of the other forms of engine snarling, testosterone filled adrenalin sports activities. Then there are those who are interested in restorations projects. While others spend hours upon hours carefully and artistically creating their own unique work of automotive art.


I got into air cooled VW’s. Restored a few and showed them at different shows, even won a few 1st place trophies and a few best of shows too. Sadly, the VW passion subsided a long time ago and all those cars are gone now. Like a lot of these restoration or testosterone filled hobbies, at some point in time they wear a little thin and you move onto other projects. However, for me, there is this one old truck that I never got rid of… and that’s Gerdie.


Gerdie, as my daughters affectionately named it, is a 1984 Toyota 4X4 extended cab pickup. I bought it second hand when it had about 5,000.0 miles on it. It was in perfect shape and it was just the size I needed. These days it sports a few small dents here and there and a few cancer spots as well. It has slowly aged from shiny and new to dull and drab as the kids and the rest of the family grew older. This whole story is a result of me rummaging through some old photos and I ran across one of my two daughters standing in the bed of the truck. I think they were just 4 or 5 years old then. (They’re in there mid 30’s now.) (My son on the other hand, well, he doesn’t even want to be seen it. Says it’s not cool.) It does have that old car funk and it’s definitely no show winner, but I like it just the same.


The paint faded years ago and a lot of the primer is showing through these days. The original 22R engine gave up years ago, dropped #2 cyl going home one night. A few years ago it was the transmission and somewhere between the engine and transmission problems I had to find a replacement rear-end for it.


When I bought a brand new full size pickup old Gerdie became the shop work truck. And, like most shop trucks it got used and abused. We used it to haul parts and old junk engines and transmissions to the scrap yard. Half the time nobody would strap things down and things would slide around bashing into the sides of the bed as you would stop or take off. Mechanically, we kept it in shape, beyond that nobody gave it a second thought; it was just an old truck and nothing more.


Every little ding and crinkle has its own unique story to tell. Most of them I put there myself. With the exception of a few that is. Nothing major mind you, well… there is that wrinkled front right fender that I’m not taking the blame for. That’s my wife’s fault. She was teasing me with some licorice one afternoon at the shop (years ago) she took off running around the shop giggling, so the chase was on. She rounded the corner outside the front office with me in hot pursuit. I didn’t make the corner; instead I tripped and did a header into the fender just above the center section of the wheel arch. Crushed it in pretty good too! I never changed the fender, I just hammered it out the best I could and left it there as a reminder of why I shouldn’t chase the wife for candy. Come to think of it… I didn’t get any of that licorice either.


For years it was strictly the shop truck. Then we decided to move out into the country for a different life style than in the city. Gerdie took on the job as the all-weather 4X4 vehicle, and boy… has it come in handy. These days with gas prices the way they are the old truck makes regular trips back and forth to the shop almost every day. (Beats filling up the big V8 fuel tank in my other truck.) The old rust bucket gets a few stares on my 35 mile commute to work when I’m bounding along at 70 mph, like I said, it’s no show winner; it may look like crap but it runs like new.


The big thing about this old truck when it’s sitting out in front of the shop is not that it’s my old truck that I’ve personally owned for 30 years, it’s actually my statement piece of what can be done. Just like the show car that somebody built by hand or the racer building their perfect machine. Old Gerdie becomes a way of telling my customers just how long you can actually keep one on the road if you really set your mind to it. Most of the time, when a car reaches a certain age, neglect becomes its only friend, and everything starts to fall apart. The oil isn’t changed, that little rattle is left go, or the coolant leak it’s had for quite some time is forgotten about. (That is until the next time you drive it and forget to bring the jug.)


In fact, a lot of times it actually helps make a sale just to have the old heap of iron sitting in the parking lot. Oh sure, there are those that look at it and turn their nose up. Some will quote the old cliché, “It’s a mechanics car, and you know how it is… the worst car is always owned by a mechanic.” I just smile, while they are standing at the counter getting their car checked in and say, “Mine runs and drives, what’s yours here for?” (Snicker, snicker)


As it is, I think I’ll hang on to the old truck a while longer. Maybe it’s the memories of all the trips we’ve taking in it or the stories behind each of those dings. I’ve been asked many times why I don’t restore it. You know, turn it into one of those “back in the corner of the shop” restorations jobs.


Nay, you’d cover up all those little dents and the memories along with them. I think I’ll keep it just the way it is.


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Good story. I went to a sales meeting this week put on by Jasper Engines and transmissions. They suggested creating a wall of pictures of customer cars with say 200k plus on them or 300k plus. It shows customers what us possible.

That is an excellent idea!!


Also, great article, Gonzo.

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I had given up on my 1987 Toyota 1 Ton Cab and Chasis with 375,000 miles and decided to look for a replacement. I was unable to find anything new for less than $25,000 and nothing I found used was acceptable in this style vehicle. I decided to rebuild this one and spent $10,000 to completely rebuild the engine with American parts except the new Toyota injectors, new steering and front end suspension parts, new body parts including glass with all felt and rubber parts plus all new lumber for the stakebed. I am hoping it lasts another 30 years because I plan to. I put a link to the photo that does not appear to have populated.

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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