- Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram helped Marine Corp. Veteran Mitch Akin fix his prized 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 that was stolen while he was at school.
- Gulfgate had community partners pitch in their services for the $25,000 restoration.
- The truck got a new paint job, tires and embroidered U.S. Marine Corp logos on its headrests, among other changes.
HOUSTON — Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram knows how to say thank you.
When dealer President James Davis heard Marine Corp. Veteran Mitch Akin's prized 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 was stolen, stripped and vandalized while Akin was at school, he wanted to help the veteran who had lovingly restored the turbodiesel pickup.
It was a thank-you for his service to the country.
"Mr. Davis has daughters in college and he employs a lot of military, so it really hit home for him," Nicholas Cruz-Montoya, client-relations manager at Gulfgate, told Edmunds.
Davis called in the automotive cavalry.
Autoworld Collision Center painted the truck a Dodge metallic gray. Auto Facelifts of Houston handled the interior, embroidering U.S. Marine Corps logos in the headrests and a USMC logo on the dash, as well as a pumped-up entertainment system. Mike's Truck Toys of Pasadena donated the 16-inch chrome wheels and 25-inch tires. AP Autoglass added some tinted windows.
Gulfgate mechanics tackled the engine, adding a new battery, engine starter harness and more. It also repaired exhaust and intake leaks, air condition and added an electronic vehicle tracking system to find the truck if it ever disappears again.
Between all of the companies, the total restoration reached $25,000, Cruz-Montoya said.
"Repairing this prized truck rather than setting him up in a different truck was so important to us," Cruz-Montoya said. "You can't replace that sentimental value he had with it after fixing it up so nicely."
The feedback from their goodwill gesture has had an impact as well, Cruz-Montoya said. Many saw TV reporter Bill Spencer's KPRC's report on Akin seeing the truck for the first time.
"I run the social media pages and the gratitude from commenters has been amazing. They feel touched by his story," he said. "They've made comments that they are not in the market yet for a car but when they do, they'll remember us."
Edmunds says: Just as one soldier can make a difference, so, too, can one gesture, a dealership learns.