Drive down I-95 or along the curves hugging the Appalachians in North Carolina and you just might spot the extraordinary -- a Toyota Tacoma rolling along with amazing grace. It says so on the tailgate:
1,253,000 GOD BLESSED MILES
At a friend’s urging, proud owner Mike Neal spread the word when his trusty Tacoma clocked a miraculous milestone. Literally.
Spreading the Word -- Mike Neal is proud that his Tacoma still runs well, despite the high mileage. A friend even encouraged him to post a sign on the truck’s bumper.
“I joked to my buddy, what do you want me to do, make a sign?” Neal recalls. “And my friend laughed and said, well...yes!”
For 11 years the independent contractor and his 4-cylinder Access Cab have faithfully trekked across state lines. For Neal, it’s not just any job. It’s a 425-mile, eight-hour per day labor of love.
“The patients are always number one to me,” he says. “That’s all that counts.”
Every week Neal safely transports nuclear medicine used to detect tumors in cancer patients nervously awaiting PET scans.
“I’ve gotta be there on time so the patient doesn’t experience a delay on my part. I can’t let them down,” Neal says.
And he’s always delivered thanks to his Tacoma’s nearly impeccable report card. Assembled in Fremont, California, it has had a few service records for minor recalls. But Neal didn’t need to replace the original engine until 880,000 miles or the spark plugs until 704,000 miles. The original transmission remains untouched.
The general manager of Fred Anderson Toyota in Raleigh says he’s never seen anything like it in his 18 years in the automotive industry. It’s a testament to Toyota’s hard work ethic and superior product.
Neal now fondly remembers the day he made that leap of faith. He met with senior salesperson Jeff Teague on November 8, 2007 to trade in his ‘04 Scion xB for his first new Toyota.
Still Going Strong -- Fred Anderson Toyota Senior Salesman Jeff Teague (left) and General Manager Andy Little (right)
sold Mike Neal his 2008 Toyota Tacoma a decade ago. The truck now has more than a million miles on the odometer.
“I’d just gotten laid off. I was about to start my new job, so I’m sitting with the finance guys thinking I’m gonna pay on this truck for seven years and by that time it probably won’t even be running.”
It’s been paid off since 2014 and boasts quite a fan following. Just ask Teague. He documents Neal’s mileage marathon on YouTube for eager followers.
“Mike’s fans are always clamoring to know what the mileage is at now,” he laughs.
And wherever Neal travels, folks snap pics of his million-mile marvel and invariably ask about one pivotal moment.
“They wanna know what I did when my Tacoma hit 999,999 miles. I couldn’t wait for it to strike a million. I had my camera out and everything. And then a few minutes later...nothing. There wasn’t enough room for that many numbers!”
Pushed to the Limit -- Neal was excited to see what would happen to the odometer when he drove his millionth mile. But it’s been stuck on “999999” ever since. There’s simply no room for more numbers.
Neal now tracks his miles on the tripometer. When it clocks yet another 10,000 miles with each passing month, he records it in his trusty notebook. Those pages are getting full.
Neal has no immediate plans to trade in his Tacoma. But if the time comes, you can bet engineers would love to get their hands under the hood for future product development. But Little has another idea.
“We could put it in our showroom to let people see what a million-mile plus Toyota looks like,” says Little with a grin. “You really can’t have a better marketing tool than that!”
As for Neal, when the day comes to retire his trusted truck, it’s a no-brainer. “The Tacoma has never let me down. I can’t see myself driving anything else.”
Fans ask Neal if his now legendary joyride sports a name. The answer is a resounding no. He simply refers to his old friend as his God blessed truck. As Neal likes to say, “Toyota made it. God blessed it.”
By Alexa Conomos
Disclaimer: Performance results are unique; similar performance is not guaranteed. The views and opinions expressed by the individuals herein are their own. This represents an actual Toyota owner’s experience and Toyota does not warrant its accuracy.