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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