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Truck marks a million miles

Pick most experts' brains about 1950s pickup trucks - heck, a 1950s anything - and they'll tell you where you can get it restored, refurbished or repossessed.

Paul Gautschi isn't interested in anything refinished on his 1955 Dodge pickup unless it's an oil filter or a battery. And chances are, he's got a lifetime warranty that covers those.

See, this truck is a working truck. It was when Gautschi bought it 34 years ago and, more than a million miles later, it still is.

"It's not like it's parked someplace," Gautschi says. "This thing is on the road every day. This is a working truck."

Gautschi grew up in Los Angeles and saw his L.A. neighbor buy the truck right off the assembly line for $850. Twenty years later, that neighbor wanted to upgrade and sold it to Gautschi, his first working truck.

Four years after that, Gautschi and family moved to Sequim.

Out in the fields near his Diamond Point-area home, Gautschi revels in the workmanship put into this metallic beast of a truck. Metal on metal, he says, has made this vehicle last.

He smacks the doors and flatbed with a palm here and there. Predictably, the metal is stoic, not showing a dimple for all his strikes. Even the dashboard is metal.

The only dents and scratches on this truck, he says, are from when other folks have backed up into it in a parking lot. In 54 years, it hasn't seen a single accident.

Not yet, anyway.

Not that the machine hasn't been tinkered with now and again. Gautschi notes the first engine ran 320,000 and another 350,000 after a rebuild before it was replaced. The second engine, a wide-block 318-cubic-incher, has been rebuilt once.

The truck broke a million miles a few thousand miles ago, and at 1,054,000 miles or so the odometer and speedometer simply stopped working.

Working in his yard a stone's throw from stacks upon stacks of firewood, Gautschi, an arborist, says this truck has been indispensable in his line of work. Folks want a tree cut down because it may damage their home and he's happy to take home the free firewood.

When stubborn trees won't budge, he backs into them with the Dodge.

And when the cows and horses need a lift, he gives them a ride in the half-ton pickup.

"They just don't make 'em like this anymore," Gautschi says.

Gautschi likes to buy items for his truck that have lifetime warranties, sometimes warning the salesmen that his truck will outlast any battery or part.

His advice for drivers who want the same kind of longevity?

Simple maintenance, such as oil changes every 3,000 miles and a lube now and then.

"Our whole mentality (in this culture) is: disposable," Gautschi says, pointing to a 30-year-old wheelbarrow he still uses.

"Take care of stuff and maintain it, it'll last a lifetime."

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com

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