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Farmer's GMC pickup surpasses amazing longevity milestone

w/art by ruthApr16 and 325th oil change work order with odometer reading: 1,501,190 kms.By: Bill Redekop

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Reynald Gauthier, a millet farmer from St. Claude, has driven his 1997 GMC pickup truck for 1.5 million kms and hopes to drive it a few thousand more.

PHOTOS BY RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Reynald Gauthier, a millet farmer from St. Claude, has driven his 1997 GMC pickup truck for 1.5 million kms and hopes to drive it a few thousand more.

ST. CLAUDE -- Driving in an early-April snowstorm along the Yellowhead Highway, from Saskatchewan back to Manitoba, Reynald Gauthier kept checking his odometer.

It was dark, raining and snowing. And windy. The highway was so icy for stretches he had to reduce his speed to 20 km/h.

But he kept checking the odometer. "I kept watching it. At one point, I drove with my (interior) light on because I didn't want to miss it."

Then the magic moment arrived. His odometer turned over: 1,500,000 kilometres. That's 1.5 million kilometres. (It only registers as 500,000 kilometres because it had already turned at one million, years ago.)

Gauthier didn't break out the champagne -- he was driving -- or otherwise stop to celebrate. But he felt pretty happy.

Then a half-hour later, a westbound pickup truck went into a skid. "It was sliding past me like a curling rock," Gauthier recalled. He was almost by. Then it just dinged his tail end: the truck's first dent. The passing vehicle did not stop.

It spoiled his mood a bit. Fortunately, the dent is little more than a sign of character for an old farm truck: a maroon, 1997 GMC SLE 1500 pickup truck with extended cab. It could have been a lot worse, said Gauthier.

How do you get a pickup truck to 1.5 million kilometres? Gauthier does a lot of driving. He farms millet -- an ancient, gluten-free cereal grain -- and markets seed to over 2,000 farmers in Western Canada who grow it for feed. He takes his truck -- his mobile office -- to accompany a semi-trailer making seed deliveries. (Gauthier is also developing a line of gluten-free food products.)

And, of course, many truck parts have been replaced in that time. The transmission gave out at 1,007,000 kilometres. The diesel engine died at 1,276,000 kilometres. The engine wasn't burning oil or leaking, but a hairline crack had developed. The fuel pump and rear-end differential have been replaced.

He's also working on his 18th set of tires. He's burned 162,000 litres of diesel fuel. He's had 325 oil changes. He replaces his air filter with every oil change. He estimates the cost averages out to about $80 each time, for a total of $26,000 in oil changes.

"I've put enough money into it to buy three new trucks," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2014 A1

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