1974 ‘Low Patrol’ Ford W9000: Robb Mariani’s white whale

| June 18, 2014

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Though the working rigs tend to dominate the headlines around Shell Rotella’s annual SuperRigs show, this year there was a firecracker of a truck at the top of the judges’ list in the show-truck category: the “Low Patrol” 1974 Ford W9000 cabover custom rig of “trucking’s biggest fan” Robb Mariani. Pictured above, Mariani bought the rig, with its original 290 Cummins and Rockwell 3:73 rear end (which remain today) and only 53,000 original miles, in 2004 from a car-lot owner in Smithville, Tenn., who himself had purchased it years earlier at an auction conducted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol years ago, where it’d served a long life but logged a very few 38,000 miles.

After Mariani bought it, he then featured it in Season 1 of his American Trucker series on the Speed Channel. “I went to Mexico [in that episode] looking for parts for it,” he says. 

Robb Mariani on the cover of Truckers News in July 2011. Read that story via this link.

Robb Mariani on the cover of Truckers News in July 2011. Read that story via this link.

When he was visited by then Overdrive sister magazine Truckers News editor Randy Grider for the story at this link, originally published in 2011, he’d painted the entire rig black and had it mostly parked for safe keeping at Bill’s Truck Repair in Sanford, Fla. “I wasn’t really sure how to restore it” or what work exactly to put into it, says Mariani. “The interest in doing a hot rod was in the background. There’s a guy in Texas who did a Blue Mule [from the classic White Line Fever film] replica – a very nice truck.” A friend of Mariani’s longtime associate, Lincolnton, N.C.-based small fleet and Brad’s Classic Trucks owner Brad Wike, had started a Blue Mule replica at the time, too — “it’s ready for paint now,” Mariani adds today.

Brad Wike with Low Patrol at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs event earlier this Spring in Charlotte, N.C. The hot rod took Best of Show in the show-truck class.

Brad Wike with Low Patrol at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs event earlier this Spring in Charlotte, N.C. The hot rod took Best of Show in the show-truck class.

Going a quite different route with his own 1974 Ford then began to seem more and more appropriate, something to “steal a little thunder” on the truck-show circuit, really turn some heads. By fall of 2012, Mariani had long established himself in work representing Cobra Electronics and Wike called him up to Wike’s annual classic-truck show — Mariani calls it “Brad’s Southern Classic,” unofficially, a big event featuring a bevy of classic and custom trucks. Wike “wanted me to show [the 1974 Ford] as an unrestored truck,” Mariani says, Wike also suggesting the two could afterward put some work into it at the on-site shop.

Mariani's Low Patro 1974 W9000 at its MATS 2014 debutModest intentions, however, in the year and a half saga that ensued morphed into something else entirely. “Unfortunately,” says Mariani, “I’m an anal-retentive perfectionist.” Like Ishmael and the white whale, longtime designer Mariani strove to fit the vision in his mind to reality. As he and Wike continued working on it intermittently through 2013 and on into this year, the vision of a true big-rig hot rod kept them on their toes before its ultimate debut in the Cobra Electronics booth at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March this year.

Follow through some of the work on and finished features of the truck with the photos below. A gallery of images follows at bottom.  

And if you haven’t seen the rig in person as yet, you may well get a chance at a Pride & Polish event coming soon. Stay tuned. 

Before the 13-inch roof chop, Wike and Mariani, with Wike's weld man, the Ford was anything but low. Regular readers may remember the location where the work took place, the lower garage at Wike's shop where he, Mariania and Frank opened the old safe in Evel Knievel's Mack haul rig. For the video of that event, follow this link.

Before the 13-inch roof chop, Low Patrolwas anything but low. Regular readers may remember the location where the work took place, the lower garage at Wike’s shop where he, Mariani and shop lead mechanic Frank Phipps opened the old safe in Evel Knievel’s Mack haul rig. For the video of that event, follow this link.


After the chop, the team lowered the truck nine inches, resisting the urge to air-bag the hot rod. Such trucks "look great slammed down, but you’ve got to air it up" again, ultimately. "We made this one as low as we could get it" by trial and error, says Mariani.

After the chop, the team lowered the truck nine inches, resisting the urge to air-bag the hot rod. Such trucks “look great slammed down, but you’ve got to air it up” again, ultimately. “We made this one as low as we could get it” by trial and error, says Mariani.


"The back panel of the truck on the W series," says Mariani, "had the stack mount on the frame and the air intake went up and over the passenger side." Consideirng how they were going to "make it run" without the "giant air intake" in the traditional position, Mariani and Wike opted modified the intake to fit elsewhere. "If you look at the truck where the tool boxes are on the side, they’re completely gone but we have access to them under the sleeper. On the passenger’s side, we sacrificed that and made that a giant air box."

“The back panel of the truck on the W series,” says Mariani, “had the stack mount on the frame and the air intake went up and over the passenger side.” Considering how they were going to “make it run” without the air intake in the traditional position, Mariani and Wike modified the system to fit the intake elsewhere. “If you look at the truck where the tool boxes are on the driver’s side, they’re completely gone but we have access to them under the sleeper. On the passenger’s side, we sacrificed that and made that a giant air box.”


Early W series from around 1966-69, says Mariania, "had a very metal desk in the cab – an old style but not very owner-operator/over-the-road friendly. Later, they added this dog box section with cup holders and a map holder" such as the one in the 1974.  Mariani and company built a new center console and revamped the interior in total. The dash "built from scratch. We wanted to make this metal dash on the inside that I could integrate my Cobra 8500 HD pro into."

Early W series from around 1966-69, says Mariani, “had a metal desk in the cab – an old style but not very owner-operator/over-the-road friendly. Later, they added this dog box section with cup holders and a map holder” such as the one in the 1974 originally. Frank Phipps built a new center console (pictured above) and Mariani and company revamped the interior in total with old-style Knodler low-back seats and much, much more. The dash in Low Patrol is “built from scratch. We wanted to make a metal dash that I could integrate my Cobra 8500 HD Pro into.”


All told, Mariani and Wike put in untold man-hours -- "months" -- of labor, and otherwise spent, estimating very conservatively, around $50,000 on the rod. They got lots of help from a variety of sponsors in equipment donations and the like, from the Big Rig Chrome Shop in TK TK, House of Color paint, Mariani's long association with Cobra Electronics, Bingham Tire in Tennessee and others. HELP ME OUT WITH THOSE I'M MISSING HERE AND/OR A QUOTE TO ROUND IT UP.

Mariani, Wike and company put in untold man-hours — “months” — of labor, and otherwise spent, estimating conservatively, around $50,000 on the rod. They also got lots of help from a variety of sponsors in equipment donations and the like, from the Big Rig Chrome Shop, House of Kolor paint, Mariani’s long association with Cobra Electronics, Bingham Tire in Tennessee and others.

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  • Ross

    Lovely old beast. This was my first truck. Colder than a Frigidaire in winter even with two accessory heaters. No AC for summer. So a lot of heat in the summer.
    It had a stiff front suspension. I think about 7 leaves of springs. A Hendrickson walking beam suspension. probably 38000 pound rating. A Cummins 335 in front of a 9513 transmission. Rear end ratio was 4.33.
    Sometimes I wish I had had more respect for it. Sometimes I just wish I had respected the time.
    Its good to see someone who is willing to spend the time to recover an oldie but goodie.

  • Tom AndSheila Hurd

    You can invest 50 grand into an old washing machine and it will still be an ol washing machine. These old buckets didn’t have any value after they rolled off the dealer lot, not sure why it would be worth more than that today. Paint and shiny stuff doesn’t create a classic, There is a reason why all the dealers abandoned the cab over line, no one liked them, they were only a bridge law necessity for a time.

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  • Mike K

    It is too bad that people destroy these old trucks by modifying them into ugly hot rods. That low of mileage vehicle will never be found again and the destruction of hacking it to pieces can not be fixed. Cabovers is what I started out in and today are the forgotten ghosts of yesterday that need to be saved. Its just like all these custom trucks that are always on every magazine cover and at every event. They are just all the same Peterbilt conventionals with the same boring items done to them. I can’t stand them and when I go to a show, I am drawn to old school cabovers and conventionals .not a bunch of over priced copycats.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    A 9670 is what i would like to find !

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Up in jersey mack and brockway were big , mack built the the cabs for the cab over Brockway , No dog and a different grill , i would love to see some of the drivers today live in one of them for a week ! the Mack with a tri-plex , a gold dog one that was all Mack , drive line , cab , and suspension , the silver dog was on the macks that were not of pure bloodline !

  • Mike64

    Mike, I couldn’t have said it better. Very well stated!! It’s a shame this tractor went from a functioning tandem axle classic to a I don’t know what the hell it is now. It would have been great to see it in it’s factory colors and all it’s originality of a 40 year old truck.

  • Danny Jones

    I’m typing this from the seat of my 1996 International 9600 in Van Tx right now, pulling a 7-car parking lot. I picked up the “old” girl for $3500 last year, and while she ain’t the cheapest to maintain, and the N-14 is a thirsty mill, I’ve run many trips over the Grapevine, and am now on my third OTR run with her. Polished tanks and wheels, clean paint, and DOT hassle free lol. No ac, and I started out 30 days ago from SoCal, stopped in Houston, Miami, Boston, Charlotte, and tomorrow Dallas and then back to SoCal next week. It may not be the most comfortable by a long ways, but I bet I get a lot more comments, thumbs up, and CB shout outs than any Cascadia on the road!

  • norman ott

    I loved my 80 352 that I got new. Today I’ll take a 379, too old to climb up in that cab.

  • glenn hoddle

    what price do you want to pay for A 9670, jimmy the greek, plenty of cabover around me, even the feature of this article a ford W9000 in great shape. I saw it today 6/21 just waiting for a new home.

  • Jkc

    Lots of co running down here i75 in Florida I see a least 7 a nite all in great shape pulling flats refrig dry cattle cars dumps you name there going down the road

  • Red Light Bandit

    COE’s: with the infamous slim day cab UPS drivers getting the worst of it. Due to the light weight of the boxes, trailer cubes had to be max’ed out.

    That left the poor UPS driver with a steering wheel pressed into their stomach with the seat pushed to full rear setting.

    Those short wheelbase COE’s were notorious for tearing up driveshaft’s as well due to the sharp angles incurred from the short driveshaft connecting the rear of the trans (up high) to the front of the rear axle (down low).

    Air bags were almost unheard of back them. Everything was walking beam, rubber blocks, or metal leaf spring. Empty – they were kidney busters. Fully loaded they road like a caddy.

    As for restoration of old buildings, machines, planes, trains, trucks and cars – it is usually a not for profit “love affair” that the person dumps $100 bills down an empty sewer hole – never to recoup their losses.

    There are exceptions to the rule. Certain old classic items of high value are worth the restoration, and sell for a profit – but those are very few examples.

    “I have an old 1972 Ford Pinto hatchback that I want to spend $50,000 in total restoration costs…” <== THAT is an example of a love affair with a Pinto, and not a sound business decision.

    "I want to rebuild one of the very last few remaining B-17's left on the planet" <=== rare classic worth the cost of repair, great historical value, and ability to recoup lost costs in rebuilding.

    Old saying with those COE's is that the "driver was the first one the scene in whatever that truck hit head on"; meaning absolutely NO protection from a front end hit.

    I learned about that the hard way in my 1969 White 7400 COE with a drunk woman going the wrong way on the interstate just north of Louisville back in 1975. She died at the scene. I was knocked out as my truck slid sideways down both lanes of the interstate. That was a 70mph +70mph = 140 mph hit. Hurt, just a little. Front of my truck was all chewed up where that car try to climb up into my cab.

  • Red Light Bandit

    ROB: my friend I think and its my own personal opinion, that the basic classic design would have been best served if the original lines were kept intact. What your truck looks like is a ZZ Top mobile – where is the “well dressed man”?