FORT WAYNE – Early Friday morning, 17 minutes before the alarm was set to go off, Joseph Oliver’s phone rang.
It was his dad.
General Motors is hosting a homecoming tomorrow at Memorial Coliseum, his father said. And there will be a pickup parade that might qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest.
“He said, ‘You need to be in the parade, be part of history,’ ” Oliver recalled Saturday. “It would be something to tell my grandchildren about.”
The 32-year-old Columbia City man took the day off from his grain elevator job and made the trip to Fort Wayne. The parade didn’t end up setting a record, but he didn’t care. He doesn’t even have kids yet, much less grandkids.
Oliver also didn’t expect to win a prize for the oldest or the newest truck. He didn’t travel the farthest or own the pickup with the highest mileage – the other two categories that offered plaques and gift cards as prizes.
What award would he qualify for – if they offered it?
“Maybe the Proudest of Your Truck Award,” he said with a gleaming white smile.
The toughest part might have been deciding which of Oliver’s three pickups to drive in the parade – but his father had thoughts about that, too.
Dad’s recommendation? Oliver’s 1985 Sierra Classic 4-by-4, three-quarter-ton truck. The camper special is designed to hold a camper shell in its pickup bed. The vehicle, which still has the original engine, has logged about 240,000 miles.
Oliver bought it – rescued it, really – in July from a guy who planned to sell it for scrap metal if a buyer didn’t step forward.
The body was in such sad shape when Oliver got it that you couldn’t even really tell it was red. He’s been teaching himself how to do body work on it in his spare time. Oliver works at Ag Plus, a Churubusco grain elevator, where he loads and unloads grain brought in by farmers.
Oliver’s first pickup was a 1984 farm truck that was handed down to him in 1997 when he got his driver’s license. He still has the red Chevy Scottsdale, which has the letters “JOE” in the vehicle identification number.
“I said that’s my truck. I’ll never get rid of it,” Oliver said, still a little stunned by the coincidence.
His 1994 teal GMC Z71 was built in Allen County’s truck assembly plant – another point of pride for Oliver. He was thrilled to learn as a kid that GM had a factory in nearby Fort Wayne.
“I’ve never had a car. I’ve only owned GM pickups,” he said.
“They’re old, too. That’s the way I like them.”
Shortly after lining up for the parade, which would kick off three hours later, Oliver sprayed foamy white cleaner on his tires and started wiping them down in the parking lot. He also pulled out a can of paste wax that he used to wipe away invisible dust.
Sometimes, Oliver admitted, he keeps the engine cleaner than the truck’s exterior.
“I’m a motor guy,” he said. “I’m a sucker for shiny motors.”