HOW IT ALL BEGAN...
B-10.......The Madison County Eagle, Madison VA, Thursday, May 20, 1999
Truck dealer ‘brings ’em back alive’
By Greg Glassner
Motorists on U.S. 29 can be forgiven for being puzzled when they see a sign for Handpicked Western Trucks. Indeed, the business opened up by Mark and Colleen Grehlinger represents a different approach to truck sales.
Grehlinger specializes in used diesel pick up trucks, usually finding what a customer needs at a dealer “out west” and “bringing it back alive.” “Out west” may be only as far as the Shenandoah Valley, but in most cases it is Texas, Oklahoma or Arizona. There is a good reason for this, Grehlinger explained. Folks out west, where a “short hop to town” may involve 100 or 200 miles, have been into diesel pickups for years. “Here, about 15 out of every 100 pickups sold have diesel engines. Out west, about 15 out of every 100 trucks sold aren’t diesels,” Grehlinger said. “We’re about five or six years behind the curve.” Grehlinger discovered this first hand. “I sort of backed into this thing,” he said. “When I got out of the hydraseed business, I had a Dodge pickup with a Cummins diesel motor in it and decided to sell it because I didn’t need a work truck. After a couple of years I missed it. So I started looking for one and couldn’t find one for sale for 50 miles around.”
“A friend had been out west and told me there were lots around there. So I went out and bought one. And driving back this brainstorm hit me,” Grehlinger said. I realized a lot of folks were asking themselves, “Where can I get a good diesel truck that’ll last three times the average truck, get good gas mileage and won’t cost $40,000.” The personal truck he sold several years ago had 151,000 miles on the odometer, Grehlinger said. “The guy who bought it drives tractor-trailer and knew diesels last a long time. He still comes by. He loves his truck.”
So Grehlinger started making contacts with dealers who would sell to him wholesale. He made a few trips out to Texas and Arizona and hand-picked some good, sound diesel trucks and brought them back. And they had willing buyers. So he brought a few more back to Madison County, often driving one back, trailering a second and having another driver to bring back a third one.
“One customer said, ‘Man. I can’t believe it. I spent thousands less than if I’d bought it in the city” Grehlinger said. “We’re like the opposite of Car Max. We don’t keep hundreds of vehicles around. We see what somebody wants and call around and try to get it. “One customer needed two ‘crew cabs.’ I gave her four to choose from. Then I went and got the two she wanted. Trucks from the western states may have what might be considered high mileage, but those miles are ‘easy miles,’ a lot easier than if they’d been put on grinding around the D.C. Beltway or pounding up the sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Grehlinger said. “I was with a dealer out there and he said, ‘I’m going to the bank, come with me.’ I said, ‘How far’s that? Figuring maybe four or five miles. He said, ‘About 150 miles.’ “But we drove about 70 miles an hour in cruise control and were there in two hours.”
The very dry conditions of the western states also is easier on a truck’s condition, Grehlinger said. “You wash off the undersides and they look like new.” After only six months in business, Grehlinger says he’s built up a solid client base and a reliable network of sources. “There’s stress, of course, like any business. But it’s fun. “I’m into it for making a living. Everybody has to eat. But if I felt I was making money and wasn’t treating people right it wouldn’t be fun.” Grehlinger said.
MY FIRST RIDE
1956 Dodge 1-Ton purchased in 1970. Colleen actually went on dates in this “Beauty”… Now that’s love.
THE FIRST DIESEL PICKUP WE EVER SOLD
When we sold this 1990 Dodge D350 in 1998, it only had 156,000 miles on it. Here is a picture of it in October 2007. The original customer we sold it to still owns it, now with over 450,000 miles, and still without an overhaul! Craig lives right here in Madison County and comes by every couple of months to say "hi". We snapped this picture to show our friends this special truck --- the one that started it all for Handpicked Western Trucks in 1998!
THAT 1991 DODGE HAS TRAVELED HOW MANY MILES?
We call her “Ole Red”. This truck is a 1991 Dodge dually. What first caught our attention when we saw her in late 1998 was the fact that she was pushing 670,000 miles. She was owned by S. L. Hess & Sons in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Upon our inquiry we learned from John Pence, one of the drivers, that the old girl had worked every day of her life pulling stock trailers from Oklahoma to Virginia. We took pictures of her and began telling folks about her performance as a way to educate prospective customers to the benefit of diesel engine longevity.
In late 2001 “Ole Red” finally developed transmission challenges (!) so at this point in her history, S. L. Hess & Sons decided it was time for her to retire from their fleet. Now mind you, this was the first time this old truck had ever needed transmission work. When we found out she was for sale we leaped at the chance to own the old girl. We had the five speed manual transmission rebuilt for $1,166, figuring that was a good investment. When we shared this fact with Mr. Hess, he was surprised at the reasonable cost of repair and said if he’d known it would cost so little, he would still own the truck!
Perhaps the most impressive fact is “Ole Red” now has over 800,000 miles under her belt and that is without an engine overhaul! This is a truck that has been worked hard and was never babied. Is it any wonder we specialize in pre-owned diesel pickups? For a truck with the combination of greatest engine longevity potential, most economical fuel mileage and outstanding pulling power, we enthusiastically promote diesel-powered pickups as the best choice.
Need we say more?!
Over the years, many folks have asked us how we transport our Handpicked Trucks home from out west. I got the brainstorm to click a pic as I was about to unload.
So friends, now ya’ know!
Our Sales Associate Team is growing and we are behind the times….
In 2012, we welcomed Hadley into our family. This beautiful little girl brought joy to all of us!
She is Grant’s baby sister and is now a year old.
And as always, we have Grant….who has really grown and is such a smart young man!!
Grant loves his little sister very much. They recently spent time with Bebe at the beach in NC.
Our “Junior” Sales Associate!
The “Bubster” posing proudly at the finale of 2009 Soccer season.
Did I include all the features for this new truck listing?
That's it, order taken!
Deal stamped with Grant's seal of approval.
Grant, a mechanic at heart!
“Bebe” is what Grant calls Grammie Colleen. She always hates to see him leave!
This is what Grant does on his time off.
This drivin' thing is pretty cool, Gramp!
“Bubby” checks out the payload of his new pickup loaded with his birthday loot.
Meet Grant, our first grandbaby. He was six months old on November 13, 2006. Yes, we know that all grandparents think their offspring is the cutest, smartest and the best in the whole world! BUT this little guy never cries or fusses. He's always grinning, he's always happy. So, of course, we've decided to bring him into Handpicked Western Trucks as our second sales associate, (to help his Grammie!) When you call for information, ask for Grant. He’ll be glad to help, unless he’s taking his nap!
Goodbye to Lucy
Our little Jack Russell