Two decades later, Maddox, 64, finally decided to follow the traffic. In 2003, he moved his store four miles to a site near an I-80 exit.
The move was a modest success. His dealership now sells 120 new cars and trucks and 320 used vehicles each year, up a total of about 25 units.
Nebraskans refer to I-80 as "the Fishhook" because it runs straight across much of the state before curling up around Omaha in the east. Maddox isn't the only Nebraska dealer to go fishing for customers in new locations near the freeway - and in some cases, where the population is more dense, the results have been impressive.
Near the sharp end of the Fishhook in Blair, Neb. (pop. 8,000), is Woodhouse Ford. Last year, the dealership says, it sold 5,200 F-series pickups - more than any other Ford dealership anywhere. Steve Lyons, Ford Division president, confirms Woodhouse's No. 1 rank.
It's hard to find a better location than that of Woodhouse Ford, which sits just north of Omaha near five major highways. And co-owner Bob Woodhouse has taken advantage of the spot. He says aggressive marketing and low prices draw customers from half a dozen nearby states.
Other dealers located on the Fishhook have prospered. And virtually all the Nebraska counties that generate sales of 1,000 or more new vehicles per year are located along I-80, according to Cross-Sell Inc., a firm that generates monthly vehicle sales reports.
Brian Hamilton, a fourth-generation dealer who owns four Nebraska stores along I-80, appreciates the Fishhook's economic role. "The highway is an economic lifeline for Nebraska commerce," Hamilton says. "But dealers north and south of the interstate have a long road to prosperity."