The Dart: Local’s antique truck makes starring ‘roll’

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2016

NATCHEZ — The three vehicles sitting in Doug Thomas’ driveway have covered a lot of miles and a lot of years in the Natchez resident’s life.

But it may be the last few miles in his 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck that have made him a star.

It has been a couple of years since the truck rolled into view in a Paul McCartney video.

Email newsletter signup

When The Dart landed on Beechwood Street Saturday, Thomas was busy taking apart his lawnmower behind his house.

On most weekends, Thomas would rather be working on the 1951 Chevrolet or 1985 Chevrolet pickup trucks sitting in his driveway or his 1966 Dodge Coronet in the garage.

“I am the world’s worst when it comes to not getting rid of anything,” Thomas said. “The 1951 Chevy is a star.”

As the opening bars of McCartney’s song “Early Days” begin in the video, the truck drives down St. Catherine Street toward the triangle on Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Natchez.

“You might say I am a star, too, since I was driving the truck,” Thomas said.

He has had the truck for more than 36 years. It was the second vehicle Thomas bought with his own money.

Scenes of McCartney in the video were not filmed in Natchez. If they were, Thomas said he would have provided his truck for free.

“If McCartney had been in town, I would have done it for an autograph,” Thomas said.

The barbershop in the triangle and scenes from Cemetery Road in Natchez are featured prominently in the black-and-white video.

Filmed two years ago, the truck appears in seven shots of the five-minute video, Thomas said. “I’m amazed at how much coverage the truck got.”

One other car, a Buick Studebaker, got more exposure, he said.

Thomas has worked as a car mechanic in Natchez for more than 34 years. He first started work at A&B Motor Company and fixed cars there for 23 years, until it closed. From there he went to work for Heritage Dodge for seven years. For the last four years he has been working for Performance Dodge in Ferriday.

“I always tell my older brother that it is his fault that I am a mechanic,” Thomas said.

As a child he helped his brother work on his 1957 Chevrolet at home.

“I was his gofer,” Thomas said.

At 14, he worked at one of the area’s full-service gas stations doing light mechanic work.

While working on other people’s cars, Thomas was also working on his own collection.

“I rebuilt (the Dodge Coronet) from end to end, and then wore it out again,” Thomas said. “It has another 150,000 miles under my foot.”

“Unfortunately it caught another deer.”

With the grass inching higher every day, fixing the lawnmower was Thomas’s biggest priority Saturday.

With grease up to his elbows and parts scattered across the ground, Thomas hoped to get the orange Husqvarna up and running.

“I hate lawnmowers,” Thomas said. “I’d rather work on cars all day.”