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Custom-Built Trucks - Our First Born Baby

'53 Peterbilt "Miss-Behavin'"

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The 1953 Peterbilt was bought in November of 1997 from Bob Crouch in Longmont, CO. The truck had been in his possession for six years. He had acquired it from an individual in Nebraska. When Bob obtained it, he planned to make a restored hotrod out of it. Unfortunately Bob, like many hotrod builders, had about four other projects going at the time, and the truck sat for six years until we ran upon it. We bought it in running condition from Bob for $2,500 and brought it home to show mom. Unfortunately, mom slapped us and said, “What? Have you lost your friggin’ minds?” Sounds like Jack and the Beanstalk, huh?
Being the hotrodders that we are, we took it to the shop to see if it would still run. Wouldn’t you know it, the seat fell through when we sat in it. Couldn’t have that, so we took it out and put in an old milk crate. With new batteries, some wire, a borrowed starter, and a little fuel later, it started right up like a finely tuned watch that had never stopped ticking. It all started there, peering from behind the steering wheel, looking out over that hood, with the engine running powerfully beneath. That was the last glory of the old machine for the next year, though, as it was dismantled and spread over the shop floor.

At that point the chassis and engine was junked (being in such bad shape). A 1985 frame inherited in the initial purchase was used to start the job. Finding a used modern day Pete suspension was a trick but happened within that next month. We decided on a wheelbase of more than 300”. The longest fleet trucks’ wheelbase was 265”. The question became, did we want this thing to get around or just stay parked? OK, 300” it would be. New wheels, tires, air lines valves, electrical and plumbing were all done in the next few months. Then came motor time. Well, we didn’t want to break the bank on a brand new $25,000 motor, so we talked to our friends at Caterpillar. They made us quite a deal on our old test 550hp motor with 650,000 miles on it. The only catch was that we had to agree to rebuild it when we got the chance. Tranny’s were next. Growing up on 5 & 4’s over the years was not only my favorite, but a favorite among our drivers. Fuel tanks and batter boxes...well, they had to be long, low, and cool. All that had to be custommade. A sleeper was inherited. That and the cab were mated and put on top of the frame. Mock-ups with stretch wrap, cardboard, markers, and tons of imagination created the bodywork.

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Replication fenders were found and bought. The cab had the cowl lengthened so that the air breather intake tubes would not interfere with the lines of the hood. The hood being in such a rough state had to be rebuilt. In the rebuilding process it was lengthened and improved with new stainless steel hinges. The sleeper, coming from a late 80’s model cab, was too tall so it had to be chopped to stay with the lines of the cab. So 3” were taken out of the bottom and 3” taken out of the top to keep the truck symmetrical. The objective of the truck’s look was to be low and long, like a cruising hot rod. The stacks would be straight and tall, the bumper wide and low, and tons of chrome and lights - a driver’s dream. So, the bodywork was tailored. The next time it was all together it was in a state of raw metal and primer. The floorboard and seats were dropped in. The dash, wiring, steering, and an airframe were all under construction.

Air Frame? Well we wanted this old truck to ride like a new truck with the cab and sleeper riding as one unit on air bags (like the new ones). So, with the help of our friends at Tri-State, we engineered an airframe for the cab and sleeper to sit on. Next came the retrofitting of stacks, bumper, horns, visor, and lights. Wiring? You don’t even want to know.

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With the expertise of our shop and their years of experience with our new trucks, they somehow made that big horsepower electronic engine come to life. We called this our rough draft: Nov. - Dec. ’98.

Now everything was dismantled and sent to Diversified Paint and Body to be painted. The frame returned first. Boy, what a difference a little blue paint makes! I think this is where excitement played a big part in making this truck totally awesome! Stan Swank (who has pinstriped our trucks since the creation of our company) not only striped the cab, but the frame, axles, transmission, and anywhere we found an open space. Chrome nuts (980 of them and still counting) were not only put on the top end of the truck but on the under chassis, and engine compartment as well. Between late January and early February we decided we wanted to attend the Mid-America Truck show in late March. Insane? I guess we were. In the next month the truck went from getting painted frame rails, to getting a painted cab and sleeper, and to getting a hood. All the wiring had to be put back in along with the gauges and switches. They then had to be tested. Then came an interesting part: the interior.

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Thanks to Jim and Larry at Empire Upholstery who labored every single day and night up to the show until it was done. What was most impressive was that these old cabs were mostly sheet metal so they did not have much to work with. Jim and Larry somehow took what looked like the inside of a stove and changed it into a Cadillac, a home, a spectacular masterpiece.

The shop, as well as everyone else, labored intensively for the next month trying to reach the goal of a finished product. Stan and myself spent many nights on our knees rolling the tanks across the shop as we intensely polished it and many other items to a brilliant gloss. Stan, my gofer and inspiration, gave me the motivation, the push, and kept all of us from choking each other through the whole process.The last few days (beginning of March) were down to test drives and finding the items that needed to be finished or repaired. While all this was being done, trailer #58, a spread axl reefer, was being refurbished. It too went through the same detail-intensive work over.

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Then it had to get a load. This truck does not go anywhere without paying for itself. So, our friends at Coors helped us with a load to Louisville, KY. The night before its first departure included many labored hours to change a bad air compressor and a few valves just so we could make it out of town. Then D-day came - the maiden voyage with smiles, tears, and lots of swearing as she went out the gate. Everyone was exhausted, but proud, for Western’s teamwork had made this old truck live once more. But this time in style! Time to put your foot down, and we’ve got the foot to do just that!!! Check out our “Doll Feet”!!

Since then the truck has been a good old girl. Unfortunately, like any truck, they gotta work to pay for themselves!!! (gettin’ nice and dirty). The first few years we put a modest 40-60,000 miles a year on her. Then after installing a new 600 CAT and upgrading the trailer to a brand new 3000R to save some weight (and add stainless, and lights.... heh, heh, heh), it was about time to put her to work full time. One of our drivers, having handled our precious race transporter and cars over the years, took on the dream of driving the REAL BIG KAR!!

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In 2002, we put on over 120k in miles and attended many truck shows - overloading our trophy case for the year!! We were pretty proud of how she’s holding together, but maybe.... just maybe... this spring if she’s good..... we may give her some pretty new paint with some wild graphics!! Watch and see!

Well Lil’ Miss-Behavin’ is now 50 years old this year, 5 of them being with us!! She was quite productive last year putting on 140,000 miles, going to 8 truck shows, and bringing home 2 trophies. So for her 50th birthday we gave her a gift of plastic surgery (a lil’ rust removal and some paint). Watch here soon and you will see what I mean. She is going to be as beautiful as the ocean!

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So in 2003 it was time for an overhaul on the paint. Diversified Paint and Body once again stripped it down, got all the rust out of it, and repainted all the base blue on the truck from cab to frame. Then we brought in Johnny Pugh to put his talents to work. Johnny did just that - giving a ocean like look to the blue paint that can have soo many different looks to it. It can go from Deep Ocean Blue to Key West Lagoon Blue. Along with all that beautiful ocean water on it “Miss-Behavin” was born. Johnny painted a beautiful mermaid on the back of the old girl. This truck has 14 different pearls that were used in the paint - it is said that as she is going down the road and passing others they claim that the water (paint) actually looks like it is moving. All the pearls in the paint actually give it almost a motion to it. It is truly a work of art!!



 Well the old girl has put on alot of miles over the years and has sure as well earned what we paid or have in her. So in 2005, after we had to replace both trannies and then both rear ends, we decided to take her off the road and use her only for shows before we had to do something stupid like replace the frame rails. We had alot of cracks and breaks in the front lower skin and fenders that needed substantial work - so when we took all of that off we went ahead and had the whole bottom covered in stainless steel and had running boards made (just like the old KW), and moved the battery boxes behind the fuel tanks. We also added new WTI fenders to the rear and had Johnny add his works of art to those fenders. New front and rear bumpers were added and all the lights were changed out to clear lenses. The interior was also going downhill fast. The floor was a disaster and had to be ripped out. A new Rockwood floor was added and the interior is all being redone at this time. We have also retired the original reefer trailer and will be fixing it up and hope to have everything ready in time to go attend Louisville in 2006. Be sure to check out the pics below and check back for updates soon!!


Here Are More Pics of the Truck