Truck named Clyde glides to a millionMarch 4, 2014
By BILL POWELL
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — Any day now, the odometer on Nancy Richardson’s 1995 Toyota T100 pickup truck should roll to all zeros as it crosses the 1,000,000-mile plateau.
The truck that sits ever at the ready in her Jasper driveway will hurdle past 994,000 miles this week. Barring the unforeseen, this spring it will join the list of the world’s longest-lived vehicles.
The folks at Popular Mechanics figured out that joining the Million Mile Club equates to going around the Earth 40 times. It’s a distance that, at 60 mph, would take two years to drive.
Nancy, 62, who lives near the old Jasper Middle School, racked up her miles delivering fish.
Fish from Fiji, Norway, Chile, New Zealand and other corners of the globe are flown in to a Louisville wholesaler. Nancy, a happy woman who giggles at least in the middle of every third sentence, picks up multiple 40-pound foam coolers filled with swordfish, Atlantic salmon, mahi-mahi and many other varieties and delivers them to high-end restaurants and country clubs in Evansville, Owensboro, Henderson, Fort Branch and Princeton.
She’s been at it more than 20 years. At times, she’d log more than 1,600 miles a week. She’s currently driving upwards of 800 miles weekly, responding to orders texted to her by chefs.
Early on, Nancy delivered the fish in a 1985 Toyota minivan. It wasn’t the perfect arrangement, she says. Toyota did not make a cargo van, so her minivan’s cloth seats and carpeting did not fare well when faced with fish scales and fishy juices. That 10-year-old minivan blew a head gasket at just over 370,000 miles. When it went to car heaven 19 years ago, Nancy went to Uebelhor & Sons in Jasper and picked out her new pickup truck. Toyota called its plum color Pearl Red.
Her T100 is nothing fancy. Its powertrain consists of a four-cyclinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. No wall-to-wall carpeting here. Its cab floor is a rubber mat. The base model truck did not even come with a rear bumper but Uebelhor’s threw one in when Nancy made her purchase.
The two-wheel-drive truck cost $12,900 new. It does sport air conditioning. “It’s the only luxury it came with,” Nancy says.
Despite it being manufactured in Japan, Nancy calls her truck Clyde. That’s short for Clydesdale, she says, because her Toyota is a work horse.
Each day, coolers of fish go into the T100’s bed, starting with the last delivery of the day toward the front. Nancy eases off the clutch and pulls out onto the open road, no matter if the pavement is bathed in sunshine, wetted by thunderstorms or frozen with sleet.
This winter has been a bear, Nancy says. In some areas not as proficient at clearing snow as Dubois County, the Toyota has bounced its way over washboard snow pack. Clyde has studded snow tires on the front and rear during the winter.
The red truck with a white Leer topper almost always sits outside under the stars in her driveway. Its cab is nosed into the opening of her garage only on snow days.
Over the years, Nancy has had its radiator, transmission, heater blower motor and gas tank replaced.
The engine is all original and “still sounds as good as the day I got it,” Nancy says.
Uebelhor & Sons does all her service work, from frequent oil changes to necessary repairs. Service department staff there know her truck and know she depends on it to earn a living, according to Nancy.
“They have been very, very good to me,” she says.
Clyde has been in some tight jams and has had his share of close calls, like the time a car coming off the interstate failed to stop at a cross highway just as Nancy was passing. The fishmonger spied what was about to happen in the nick of time. Tires squalled and the smell of hot brakes filled the air. When Nancy looked, her truck and the car that came off the interstate were side by side, facing oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, with no more than an inch separating them.
Clyde looks good for having so many miles under his belt. There are no cracks in his dash and his vinyl bench seat has only one rip. He was never undercoated but his undercarriage, from body mounts to suspension components, looks like a low-mileage truck’s chassis with no corrosion. He gets washed out but receives a foamy bath only when he’s good and dirty.
There is some rust visible on Clyde’s back bumper and Nancy blames backing into a pole at 5 mph for that.
Nancy counts Clyde’s mileage on her taxes, so she’s not concerned with his expenses and doesn’t know how much she’s spent on repairs over the years. When faced with a major expense, she always asks herself if she’d rather spend $1,500 on Clyde or make new vehicle payments for the next four years. The former option always trumps the latter.
Nancy is a stickler for using Toyota replacement parts to keep Clyde as close to stock as possible.
Twice during his lifetime, according to Nancy, getting Clyde’s transmission repaired meant driving a week to 10 days with his odometer unhooked. Given those uncounted miles, the T100 is probably already on the precipice of 1,000,000 miles.
Nancy knows Uebelhor & Sons is planning some type of recognition when Clyde gets to a million. They want his odometer to roll to all zeroes in the dealership’s lot, she says.
“I think Uebelhor’s wants that truck,” a smiling Nancy says. “The whole place knows when I come in there.”
She deepens her voice and impersonates a service team member saying, “The truck is here.”
“They just say ”˜The Truck’,” a laughing Nancy relates.
For now, there’s work. Road conditions were bad enough for all the local schools to cancel classes Monday but Clyde still boogied to Louisville and completed his delivery rounds. He was white from road salt by the time he rolled back into Jasper.
Nancy does not have too many years until she retires and there’s no rush to usher Clyde to pasture.
“He’s been, like, my pal, you know?”
Contact Bill Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org.