PLYMOUTH TWP. — This is a story about a man and his truck. It’s also a story about fathers, sons and bonds that last beyond the grave.
Howie Gyle purchased a 1941 GMC pickup in 2003. He was 53.
He gave the truck a name, “The Lyin’ Preacher,” but more on that later.
Gyle’s plan was to keep the truck around for a few years, and then when he retired, he would put it in his garage in Mountain Top and putz around with it until he could get it running and in good enough condition to drive on the street.
Gyle’s plan was retire at age 60, which would have been 2010. He died of a brain tumor three years short of that goal.
Gyle’s wife, Ann, kept the truck, but after she held a yard sale before moving to Dallas, she decided it would be best to give it to her son, Shawn Pulver, for safekeeping.
Pulver, who considered Howie to be his “real” father, made a decision. After coming to work at his business — C&S Truck Shop on Route 11 in Plymouth Township — and looking at the truck every day, watching it rust and further deteriorate from its already decrepit condition, Pulver had an idea.
Pulver found a company that did truck restorations and he entrusted the “Lyin’ Preacher’ to Muncy Restorations. It took a few years, but “The Lyin’ Preacher” finally returned to C&S Truck Shop and Pulver in August.
It’s a spectacular transformation, being taken from a rusting, drab grey, non-running near-junk vehicle to a shiny red and black beauty, complete with a diesel engine, over-sized tires, air conditioning, extended running boards and power windows.
And on the back of the truck there are two photos at each end of “The Lyin’ Preacher” — one of Howie Gyle and the other of a lion with a preacher in his mouth.
Pulver paid $75,000 to have the truck restored/upgraded and he did it for one reason.
“I did it for Howie,” he said. “Howie was as much my father as anyone could be. I loved him like he was my real father.”
About that name
Pulver’s mother said her husband loved antique cars and trucks. She said he saw an old beat up truck parked in the neighborhood that he never saw before and fell in love with it.
“He bought the truck to do over after he retired, but he died on May 10, 2007, at 57 from a brain tumor and never got started on the restoration, although he did try to get it running,” she said.
The story goes that Howie bought the truck from a “preacher.” He asked the preacher if it ran and the preacher said that it did. All it needed was a little TLC and the motor would be purring like a kitten, the preacher told Howie.
“Well, Howie was never able to start it,” Ann said. “Howie was very mechanically inclined and he realized that he was taken. That truck was not driven to the spot it was parked, it was pulled or brought there on a flat bed truck, and Howie said he was going to do the truck over someday and call it the Lyin’ Preacher.”
Ann said after Howie passed, people from all over offered to buy the old truck, but she told them that it wasn’t for sale.
“I just couldn’t sell it,” Ann said. “Looking at it made me sad because it was going to be a project for Howie when he retired and he never made it.”
So Ann gave the truck to her son because she could never sell it and it made her sad looking at it. Pulver couldn’t sell it either and it made him sad, too, looking at it knowing that Howie wanted to restore it. So Pulver decided to have the truck restored for Howie so Howie’s memory would live on in the truck.
Pulver turned the truck over to Muncy Restoration in 2008 and after six years in restoration, on Aug. 29, 2014, the truck was returned and is now a beautiful tribute to Howie, right down to the airbrushed picture in memory of Howie on the back of the truck.
The 1941 Duramax GMC is a completely working truck with a snowplow hitch, snowplow, electric windows, great sound, and much more.
The truck’s future
Pulver intends to take the truck to shows and fairs. He will have a plaque made that will tell the story of “Howie and the Truck.” He won’t ever use it to plow snow.
If Howie were alive, Pulver said he would probably have sanded the truck and painted it himself.
“It wouldn’t look anything like this,” Pulver said with a laugh. “But he would love it.”
Now known in some circles as “the Howie truck,” Pulver said the restored version allows Howie to live on.
So it’s no surprise that the first road trip the restored truck took was to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Hanover Township — to Howie’s grave.
“I wanted him to be the first to see it,” Pulver said. “I’m sure he could see it and I know he liked what he saw.”
Ann said her late husband lives on through the truck.
“I just wish he could of been here to see what his truck looks like now,” she said.
Ann said she’s proud of her son and what he did for Howie. She said it shows the bond the two shared as stepfather and stepson.
“What’s the old saying?” she asked. “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”
And to raise a special stepson.