Decisions, decisions, decisions

Episode 318

May 31, 2020

Keep it and go for another 100,000 miles?

When I purchased my 2004 Toyota Tacoma in October 2013, I had just retired from Caribou Technology Center as the agriculture instructor/FFA Advisor having taught for 38 years. My 1998 Tacoma would not pass inspection. While looking for another Tacoma, I happened upon this one in Woodland, Maine.

The truck had 184,878 miles on the odometer and was in decent shape. My goal was to get 10 years out of the truck and maybe over 300,000 miles. The major event that made me think that was possible when a new frame was installed by York’s of Houlton in December 2014 at 201,000 miles.

At Yorks Of Houlton in December 2014. You may notice the nice new black frame. In addition, new leaf springs were installed, spare tire holder, front lower A-arms, emergency brake cables, coil springs, and several crossmembers. If you look closely behind the driver seat area are a couple rust areas which would come into play in 2020. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The Tacoma was used on my tree farm as well as daily transportation. It required typical maintenance which was and is performed regularly. I began kart racing with the Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) in 2013, the “new” pickup replaced the 1998 model and became in 2015, a racing sponsor billboard to help market the racing program as well as promote my sponsors.

HTF Motorsports #10 race kart at Spud Speedway for NMKA Doubleheader. The truck hauled all my pit supplies, spares, fuel and race kart. With a year off from kart racing, the need for race sponsors disappeared and you will see in later photo what happened. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The Day of Reckoning 

The annual trip to get a renewed inspection sticker with this truck usually results in several repairs, typical of any vehicle with that many miles on the odometer. The inspection date in December 2019 was the time when a decision needed to be made about the future of my work/race kart hauler.

The rocker panels on both side had holes and that rust spot in a previous photo had turned into a rusted cab corner. The left side of the pickup bed also sagged so much that the bed had to be lifted to close the tailgate latch.

The right side rocker panel, which looked similar to left side, was one reason the truck would not pass inspection. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Iron oxide was the culprit for making this body mount disappear and cause the bed to sag. Yikes! (HTF Motorsports photo)

I suspect that many readers who live in the northeast and want to keep an older car or truck, have been faced with the same or similar dilemma I was facing at that point of the Tacoma life. What do I do? Sell it for parts, use it only on the farm, or mitigate the problems which prevent it from passing inspection.

I dislike car payments but do like the convenience of a new vehicle (and the smell of new). My wife and I and the guy who would do the repairs, Gary Martin, Martin’s Auto & Truck Refinish in Caribou, talked back and forth many times about the cost of the project.

The cost estimate went up dramatically when I priced new rockers. No one had aftermarket body parts for the Tacoma and OEM rockers for both sides was $1600. For some reason the rear half of the rocker panel included the window on the cab, a huge part with exorbitant shipping costs.

Fender flares hid big-time rot which further convinced me that a new bed was needed. (HTF Motorsports photo)

More bad news was forthcoming. I would need a different bed which new cost $3800 plus shipping. A used one was located in New Brunswick, which added another $1220 which included a new front bumper and another rocker panel

Labor and paint would add another $1800 for a grand total of $4620.

One thing I am is loyal. I figured I could document this project and let UpNorth Motorsports readers follow the fate of my quasi race kart/tree farm pickup over the next several years and see if my loyalty paid off or would it have been better to dump the truck and get a newer one.

One thing that helped me to repair rather than replace was the acquisition of a wrecked 2010 Tacoma with the same engine and drivetrain. It has sat for a few years in the back of a now defunct auto body shop in Caribou. The totaled truck engine has only 60,000 miles on it before meeting some immovable object suddenly.

My goal is to get the usable parts removed, cleaned up, tagged, and stored just in case they are needed. Of course, I will need to get someone to do that on the cheap. I tell my wife, “I have a plan” then smile.

Picking up the truck from Gary Martin at his new shop in Caribou. I was treated very fairly by Gary who I asked to make the truck pass inspection not necessarily look the best. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Another view of the completed truck. Up next will be looking at fuel tank and pump, thorough cleaning, rally car sized mud flaps, and air freshner(s). (HTF Motorsports photo)

Maine Indoor Karting auction set

Another sad part in the saga of the closing of Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough was announced this week that Keenan Auction would be handling the online sale of the karts, plow truck, and other equipment. I am including the site for those who may be interested in bidding.

I hope someone develops another indoor kart location which can help nurture future racers as well as help old folks like me relive the past.

Daytona International Speedway hosts memorable high school graduations for area 2020 grads

Three high schools near Daytona International Speedway celebrated their graduation in a way which will I am sure assange the lose of ceremonies at school. I can imagine the 10th year reunions when Class of 2020 members reminisce about no graduation at school and the actual ceremony at the world famous speedway.

I suspect if a local high school would like to use Spud Speedway in Caribou as a unique venue for 2020 graduation, owner Troy Haney would be open to the idea. It may not be Daytona, yet Spud Speedway does have plenty of room to social distance, a great public address system, excellent turf areas, and of course the 1/3 mile asphalt track with a finish line. Several photo-worthy areas are also available.

I have included a photo from Daytona and the press release provided which describes the events hosted by the speedway.

A Matanzas High School graduate celebrates his graduation at Daytona International Speedway. (DIS photo)

Graduates from Flagler-Palm Coast, Matanzas and First Baptist Christian Academy were able to enter the historic 2.5-mile venue with family/guests in one passenger vehicle, and all remained in each vehicle during each of the three different ceremonies.

“This is such a special day for Daytona International Speedway, to be a part of the journey for these graduates,” said track President Chip Wile. “These seniors were unfortunately robbed of a traditional graduation, but we were able to provide it right here at the World Center of Racing. It is such an honor for us to be able to host hem and support our community during these truly difficult times. We will remember the finish line of their high school career for a very long time.”

Programming took place on the asphalt skid pad that leads from the exit of turn four to the entrance of pit road. Graduates were able to listen to their ceremony inside the track via low frequency radio station 107.9.

Afterwards, each vehicle – in a graduation procession – made its way toward the start/finish line where each graduate’s name was read followed by a presentation of their diploma through the driver’s side window before taking a “Victory Lap” around the 2.5-mile venue. Afterwards, all returned to the area near pit road entrance where the moving of the tassel and cap toss occurred.

Next week… grassroots restoration of a hot rod

I am looking forward to sharing the story of a local hot-rodder who restored his first car after making attempts to do a few other auto related projects in the past. Brett Johnson, Woodland, has a story which fits the vast majority of folks looking to get a unique vehicle back on the road.

After looking at high dollar rebuilds by professional specialized shops in car magazines, I believe many beginners may get discouraged when it comes time to do their own thing. Some never start a project, while many others start, and run out of funds, fun, time, tools, and/or skills to finish, often times selling the project parts and pieces cheap.

Brett’s story is not a superstar rich guy working in a squeaky clean shop, rather an ordinary guy working in several friend’s shops where helpers and tools moved the project forward.

I thought it would be nice to show a couple teaser shots from Brett to give you a sneak peek at the story.

Johnson’s project car sitting at Caldwell Auto in summer of 2016. He bought it from Caldwell Auto in 2016 then sold it to a person in Woodland. When a friend bought another car from the owner of Brett’s Nova, he got this one also, which he in turn sold to Johnson. (Brett Johnson photo)

Brett Johnson’s 1972 Nova is on the right, Ryan Porter’s 1973 Nova is next followed by Veronica Moutinho and her 1974 Nova and on far left is Joe Moutinho and his 1972 Chevelle. The group stopped at the Houlton Irving Truck Stop on a recent cruise. (Brett Johnson photo)

Stay tuned next week for the rest of the story.

Let’s go racing!

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)


Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine