Most car and truck shoppers will perform many long hours of research to ensure they buy the perfect vehicle for their needs. Mike Neal was no exception.
He had just started a new position. A very interesting and rewarding job at that. Mike delivers nuclear medicine all over his home state of North Carolina and often into Virginia. This would require a vehicle that can hold up over the long haul for many years and numerous miles most other people might not even consider.
Just a man and his Toyota Tacoma
“The job I had required a pickup because we carry heavy radioactive loads. So, I did online research. The only truck that would do what I want and that would be as reliable came up to be a Toyota.” Mike said. “And it came down to, I was afraid to get anything but a Toyota!”
This is where our journey begins. With a 2008 Toyota Tacoma 4-cylinder access cab pickup truck and a man with a heart of gold.
Mike takes his position very seriously, and in his mind, the patients he serves are the most important thing. You see, these patients are people who have been diagnosed with cancer, and the medicine he delivers helps physicians detect if their condition is improving or not. Often, Mike is met with short deadlines and unfathomable mileage demands.
Over one hundred thousand miles a year demands.
What about that famous sign on the back of his truck?
When people buy a new car or truck, the dealership that sold the vehicle will often put their name or logo on the back. It is good, solid Advertising 101.
Some new vehicle owners will take that logo off right away. Not Mike Neal, though. In fact, Mike created his own sign around 640,000 miles and updates it every 10,000 miles. That was over half a million miles ago.
That is 500,000 or so miles of advertising.
“Thousands of people from all over the country have seen the mileage go up. I’ve had people drive by and give me thumbs up and take pictures of the sign.” He is clearly a man who is proud of his Tacoma.
“I used to update the sign every 5,000 miles, but that was too often. So now I change it about once a month, or every 10,000 miles.”
For the record, I drive about 18,000 miles each year and I think that feels like a lot. Mike drives over five times that much. Yikes.
So, why the high mileage sign on your Tacoma?
Why would someone willingly display their mileage on the back of their truck? I mean, it is basically like advertising for a company for free. This must be the most impactful, inexpensive, return on investment form of advertising Toyota could ever ask for. But, you see, Mike is a humble, grateful man. He does not think this way, and that is why his answer should not have surprised me.
“I wanted to show people just how long the Toyota brand can last.” He replied.
“The thing I love most is when a Chevrolet, a Ford, a Chrysler or any other manufacturer passes me. They are wondering ‘will my car last a million miles?’
And then for Toyota owners, I like it because it encourages them to know that Toyota makes quality products. If that little Tacoma can last a million, my expensive Toyota can last a million miles.”
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Let’s hear from the fans around the world
I thought this story would make for good content on my “Toyotajeff” YouTube channel. Not just about the Tacoma, but about the man behind the truck. The video has been viewed over 850,000 times since last November, and I am amazed by the 3,700 mostly positive, encouraging comments people have posted.
“I’ve seen this guy driving down Highway 70 in Kinston (in North Carolina).”
“He is right about the Toyota brand. Trust me. I know.” This one came from an 18-year Toyota master mechanic who sees this quality and reliability over time day in and day out.
“Cool! He should be famous.”
“What a good and humble man. Toyota should buy this guy a new truck.”
“For crying out loud, give that guy a new truck! He’s a walking advertisement!!” This enthusiastic comment was “liked” by 636 viewers.
That last theme resonated strongly with a majority of the people watching the YouTube video I filmed last fall, as hundreds of similar viewer comments echoed that same sentiment. But that was a long time ago. Mike only had 1,218,000 miles on his Tacoma then.
And what is next for Mike and his 2008 Tacoma?
Mike is now at 1,290,000 miles. Lightly driven highway miles for anyone who is trying to ballpark appraise his blue 2008 Tacoma right now.
The funniest comment I saw about this story was from my YouTube viewer Austin. “Imagine if this guy was trying to sell that truck on craigslist. ‘2008 Tacoma 4cyl, lightly used, 1.2 million miles…$8000. No low ballers, I know what I’ve got lol.’”
Actually, it would be funny to have Mike bring his truck in somewhere for appraisal. But that will not happen, as Mike plans to keep driving his trusty friend for the foreseeable future.
“Hopefully I will have 1,300,000 in about 3 weeks.”
Thank you, Mike. We appreciate what you do and for carrying the Toyota torch for thousands of people to see.
Feel free to leave some words of encouragement for Mike and his Tacoma. I am sure Mike is not alone either. Tell me about the high mileage vehicle you are driving as well.
Thanks everyone for reading. See you next story tomorrow…
Jeff Teague is a Toyota news reporter at Torque News. You can reach Jeff on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter @toyotajeff1 and tweet him tips for new stories. Jeff also shares Toyota news videos on his Youtube Channel at ToyotaJeff1.