January 01, 2001

Andy Whiteman’s day began innocently enough: a trip to the dentist, and some shopping with his family afterward as a reward. But, as is often the case in a household with an uncommon appreciation for sturdy classic off-roaders like the Geo Tracker and its Suzuki Sidekick twin, a quick trip to Pull-A-Part of Canton was just too hard to resist.

And the family struck gold.

“There was a spare tire off a Tracker out there in the back,” Whiteman said. “That’s one I can take right home and bolt right on for a spare. I walked through Ford World and those were off, laying off of a vehicle, so I picked them up.”

All in all, the family lugged seven tires home, each with excellent tread life — enough to fill the hatch and the van’s rooftop for the short ride ahead.

“My buddy has a garage, so the wheels on it don’t bother me — I can break ‘em down and put them on my own rims,” Whiteman said. “I don’t care if they’re on a Ford or a Dodge or whatever. Four of these are mounted and balanced and ready to rock.”

Whiteman begins his trips to Pull-A-Part at the electronic lookup desk. As soon as he walks in, he uses the New On Yard computerized inventory system to find out which cars have been set in the past 48 hours to find the freshest inventory — and the best set of tires.

“If I don’t find what I’m looking for here, I’ll find it at Pull-A-Part in Akron,” Whiteman said.  “If I’ve already paid here in Canton, it doesn’t cost me extra to go into Akron. It’s only 20 miles, and it doubles my chances of finding what I’m looking for. Sometimes, if I’m up that way shopping or something, I’ll hit there first just to see what they’ve got.”

As it turns out, great taste in compact off-road vehicles runs in the family. Whiteman’s wife drives a right-hand-drive Jeep for postal delivery. Even if a state of emergency is declared, or the road is closed, the mail must be delivered — and she’s expected to report in to work. It’s important for her to have fresh tires on her Jeep so her neighbors get their mail.

“My most fun car was a ‘91 Geo Tracker,” Whiteman said. “I never drove it on the road. It was off-road, always. It was unreal where that little thing would go in the woods. My son drove it for a year through the woods with no brakes, so when he went to driver’s ed school, the teacher got in there — he was nervous. About the second block down, he’s kickin’ the seat back, — ‘He’s already ready.’ Driving through the woods with no brakes, you learn car control.”