Meet the King of Million-Mile Cars

VICTORIOUS VOLVO: Irv Gordon is closing in on 3 million miles. (Photo: Volvo).

Do you have an old beater, a station car, a piece of junk that really should be in a scrap yard — but it just keeps running and running? Maybe you should hold on to it — it might be valuable someday as a million-mile record car. I don’t think anybody in the world can beat Long Island’s Irv Gordon, who has put nearly 3 million miles on a 1966 Volvo, but others have come surprisingly close, and with all kinds of cars and trucks. Here’s a portrait of the king, and some of the pretenders to the throne:

One indestructible Volvo: Gordon is a 71-year-old retired high school science teacher from East Patchogue, N.Y., but you probably need to track him down on the road because he’s always driving his Volvo, an 1800S sports coupe of the type driven by "The Saint" on TV. He had 2.93 million miles on the odometer now, and will definitely keep it on the road through 3 million. A 125-mile round-trip commute piled on the miles (64,000 miles annually) over the years, but now that Gordon’s retired, he can really hit the road. The Volvo had an engine rebuild at 680,000 miles, then another one at 2,010,000. It has the original radio, though. “Three million miles by my 73rd birthday sounds right,” says Gordon. “But, whether I reach that mark is more up to me than it is the car. The car’s parts have long proven they can take it, but I'm not so sure about my own. Either way, it will be a fantastic testament to the engineering genius of Volvo.”

A hardy Greek Benz: Greek taxi driver Gregorios Sachindis could have been a contender for knocking Gordon off his perch, since his manual-transmission 1976 Mercedes-Benz 240D diesel had achieved 2,852,000 miles. But it now sits quietly behind velvet ropes at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, keeping company with a million-mile 280SE from California. "That's a commercial car, anyway, not a personal vehicle," sniffs Gordon. Indeed, there are tons of commercial vehicles that attain high mileage, and million-mile big rigs are common. Sachindis bought his car in Germany when it already had more than 200,000 kilometers on it, then brought it back to Thessalonica and into 24-hour-a-day taxi service. He rotated three different engines a total of 11 times. A Georgia man with nearly the same car, an ’81 240D, hit his million miles way back in 2008.

An honorable Honda from Down East: Joe LoCicero is a damage claims inspector based in Maine, with territory that covers all of the state and northern New Hampshire. Nearly tying Gordon, the Saco resident drives 55,000 miles a year, all of it in a pristine-looking 1990 Honda Accord. And he recently took it over 1 million miles, earning congratulations from Gordon — who knows he’s no competition in this lifetime. “Though I’ve never met Million-Mile Joe, I understand he’s a former auto mechanic who’s extremely diligent with vehicle maintenance,” Gordon says. “In our increasingly throwaway society, it’s delightful to learn of a fellow car fan who takes impressive care of his automobile.” In October, Honda presented LoCicero with a 2012 Accord in a ceremony in Saco. It’s the first million-mile Honda.

A Toyota Starlet: Does anyone even remember the Toyota Starlet? Jim and Dianne Jeter have a fondness for the car, since they put a million miles on a thoroughly ratty ’82 example (not the one at left; it looks too good). I interviewed them years ago as their rustbucket had achieved 999,421 miles. Dianne told me, “We asked the Lord to bless the car and keep it running, because we couldn’t afford car payments.” Their strategy was to sell the car for the kind of payout scored by LoCicero and Gordon (who was presented with a 780 Bertone Coupe when the car hit the million-milepost. Gordon put almost a half-million miles on that car, too, but sold it eventually to a friend from Holland. As we talked, the Starlet was sitting in the Jeters’ carport. He thought that whoever bought the car would want to take it over a million miles. “I wish I was driving it now,” Jim Jeter said. “I think it could do another 100,000 easily.” Well, they didn't get the big payout, but they did get to be on the David Letterman show, and that's something.

Some other star cars: Tom Olding's million-mile 1995 Dodge Ram diesel (the only American car here), and Peter Gilbert's Saab 900 SPG, which went into a museum after hitting a million miles.