Sunday, December 21, 2008

What I Like in a Custom Truck

Anybody on dialup is gonna wanna kill me after this post. This one is for you, Jed! I'm gonna give the photo credits right now - some are from Ultra Rigs of the World, and the rest are from

I've said before how I don't care for a lot of lights and a cluttered look. Lots of lights means lots of non stock wiring. That means a lot of splices. "Road salt" loves to eat that stuff for kicks. More lights=more work for a fat trucker. I get paid by the hour, but at some point, I get tired of fixing the same thing over and over. Any of these trucks that go "over the hill" or even run in some ice and snow are gonna have trouble. Plus, all that chrome and stainless absolutely has to be polished frequently. Just going to "The Streakin' Beacon" isn't enough - hard water deposits, bugs and the film that builds up has to be removed by the Karate Kid method: Wax On, Wax Off. Yer listening to the Voice of Experience here.

As far as styling goes, I prefer conventional Peterbilts (359,379 and the new 389). I just like the simple nose, grill and classic lines. When it comes to driving, though, I prefer conventional Kenworths (W900A, B, and long nosed versions of each). The KW's classic styling is a bit overblown for my taste, but driving one is a different proposition. The cabs are quieter, the foot pedals are placed correctly, the steering shaft isn't angled, and the rest of the ergonomics are of a higher quality, in my humble opinion. Supposedly KW's manufacturing neighbor Boeing designed their doors, and I can guarantee you that NVH is far more controlled in a KW.

But, that doesn't take into account the custom goodies:

Here is a Pete that in my books has had the chrome and stainless slathered on a bit liberally. I like the single headlights - that evokes the old needle nose Petes of days gone by. The grill is stock. There are too many lights, though. Lights are in the bumper, extra clearance lights on the cab, matching clearance lights on the leading angle of the sleeper, a strip on the air cleaner housing, at the bottom of the cab and at the bottom of the sleeper, on top of the sleeper, and the load lights on the rear of the sleeper. I'd bet you just can't see the strip of red lights behind the air cleaner housing - nothing like having a bunch of lights brightening your evening driving experience. There are some painted train horns on top of the sleeper - the truck has to have some sort of horn, and the stock ones from the top of the cab had to be removed to make room for the extra clearance lights. It also sports a stainless "droopy" visor - but not so extreme that you can't see through half the windshield. Stainless goodies include the air cleaner housings, the leading edges on the sleeper, the battery box/steps, the compressed air chambers (just under the cab above the steps), the step on the fuel tank, the tool box under the sleeper behind the tank, and some trim behind the headlights and on the full rear fenders. By the way, full rear fenders suck when you have to chain up. Last but not least are the six inch straight pipes.

Here is a W900L that again, in my thinking, has too many lights and shiny stuff. The bat cutout lights in the bumper are cool, but wow, how many strips of lights are on this truck? The airfoil bug deflector is usually accompanied by the big brother on top of a flat top sleeper, but this is another huge sleeper truck.

Another W900, but with a custom hood and grill. KWs come standard with four rectangular headlights, but this one has round headlights frenched in. The grill is a custom punched sheet. Most of these custom hoods have the fender radius lowered, so the truck looks lower than it is. The big rectangular bumpers are sometimes called "Texas" or snowplow bumpers. So far, all of these are the stronger boxed end variety.

The louvered look.

Just so you know there are other brands of trucks that get customized. This is a Western Star with too many lights. I'm a sucker for flame jobs, too.

Here we have another W900 with the custom hood treatment. Most people mount single round headlights for that retro look. Turn signals are in the bumper and on the mirrors. The grill is stock.

I got yer snowplow bumper right here. Notice how the fender radius drops almost to the ground at the rear of the hood - no need for mud flaps there. The radius is lowered here as well. The grill is custom - it is supposed to evoke the old shutter grills that opened and closed as water temperature changed. This is a beautiful truck, but I just don't care for the bumper and headlight treatment. The visor would require me to let all the air out of the seat just to see out - and that ain't gonna work with this fat boy. I do like the more minimal chrome and stainless look - the air filter housing is painted with the stainless straps to set it off. The marker lights are hidden as well.

Now we're talkin.' Flattop Pete with more painted goodies. I really like the painted tanks and stacks(8", maybe?), with the stainless and chrome straps and mounts to set it off. Minimal marker lights, custom bumper and grill are present. This truck has a custom grill shell - it isn't shaped like a stock Pete shell. The sun visor, while painted, is dropped too far for a tall driver, though, and again, I'm not wild about full rear fenders. I do like the overall look, though.

Here is another minimal look Pete. Single headlights, a more stock looking Texas bumper, a more or less stock grill, and painted tanks and filter housings are pluses. I do like the looks of the droopy visors, but I would never be comfortable driving with a set. I like the stainless strips behind the fenders that extend along the bottom of the cab and sleeper in spite of myself. The mirror mounts are painted and the mirror heads are stock stainless.

Another painted minimalist Pete with the 359 style headlights. The swan as a hood grab bar is a retro touch as well.

Breaking up the parade of Paccar products for the moment - I really like this Freighliner. I've driven too many to really want to drive this one, but I sure do like the way it looks. It sports a custom hood - stock Freightshakers have quad rectangular headlights built into the front of the fenders. I do like the single headlight look. Stock Freightshakers also have a rectangular marker/turn signal mounted at the top of the fender - moving it down to the bumper, losing the external air cleaner housings and using tiny LED cab marker lights really helps the "shaved" look.

Just because it's different - no bumper at all, and an extended custom grill that has a stock appearance. I'm not sure what I think of this one.

This is an older W900A with custom wheels and suicide doors. Mostly retro with slight minimalism.

A Corn Binder after my own heart! I like the bumper and the hidden marker lights, plus the painted tanks and air filter housings. The visor is custom and doesn't drop too low. The "dart" contrasting stripe is reminiscent of old KW paint jobs, too.

This is the new International Lone Star just released this year. Most of the stuff on this truck is stock. It screams retro, and wooden floors are a factory option.

Excessive slathering of chrome, lights and stainless results in this:

"Decotora" trucks in Japan. They are so far out of whack with the universe that they are cool, but Lordy, please don't let a bulb burn out. I have to think they require super heavy duty alternators, or even use more than one. They are beyond garish.

But who am I to judge? If that is what they want to do, more power to 'em. I'd rather drive a truck that looks good with a proper cleaning and some work with a chamois rather than a polishing cloth every weekend. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather be home staring at the inside of my eyelids during a Nascar race or football game than rubbing black crap off some metal on my weekends.


Anonymous said...

Hey, the whole maintenance issue was the main thing I thought of when I was looking at all those bling-ed out trucks. That, and a general aversion to chrome, except as an accent. So I like the look of the painted filter canisters, with chromed straps. But hey, if that's what someone wants to spend their time/money on, well, horses for courses, eh?

Yeah, the retro styled Lone Star looks good.

Oddly enough, I understand the Japanese Decotora trucks more than I can using a tractor to pull a 5th-wheel travel trailer. Or maybe I just expect a Japanese cultural thing to go to the extreme, so it surprises me less.

Jeffro said...

But hey, if that's what someone wants to spend their time/money on, well, horses for courses, eh?

Works for me, too! Of course, most of those trucks rarely work much in the first place. The guys that do run show quality trucks on the road are a far more energetic breed than I!

Anonymous said...

One more, for the season: Sleighliner?

Jeffro said...

Heh! Ho ho ho!

Farm.Dad said...

After seeing this post i just have to ask .... Will you Swear that you never have either pulled or admired a bull rack LOL . Best to you and yours .


Jeffro said...


Ashes to Ashes

Dust to Dust

If it Weren't for Cow Haulers

The Left Lane Would Rust

I've hauled one load of cattle - from northwest of Cut Bank MT - we were within a quarter mile of Canada when the dirt road ran off to the ranch for about thirty miles to just east of Kinsley KS. My day started in Great Falls Sunday morning and I was at home in bed by 3am Tuesday with cowshit in my hair from climbing the sides to check and get the calves up.

I'm glad I did it, but I thought the hours were a bit long. Just about all the fat cow haulers I know have part of a finger missing or major scars on their face - or both. So it's either long hauls with calves or short hauls with fat cows. Sheep and hogs? Thanks, not this fat boy.

I gotta admit that a slick conventional hooked to a new Merritt or Wilson cow wagon starts my motor. When I started driving, cow haulers and National Carriers were the hot rods of the day. Now, it's just the cow haulers, and them not so much either.

Humaun Kabir said...

Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.

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