A legacy lives on

Steve Sturgess | September 01, 2012

The Western Star 4900EX embodies the style and toughness of its Canadian roots, enhanced by the engineering of a global truck maker.

 

 

Western Star has been a constant since the brand was created in 1967 by the White Motor Corp. in Kelowna, B.C., for the western trucker. It’s best known north of the border, but American drivers who bought the brand became loyal customers, appreciating the ruggedness of the company’s trucks.

Following White’s bankruptcy and the acquisition of Western Star by Daimler Trucks North America, the Western Star of today is founded on the chassis and powertrain resources of the world’s biggest truck maker.

The Western Star 4900EX boasts a customizable style and rugged dependability.

It is an interesting combination that offers great potential to the truck customer looking for true flexibility in specification and customizability, but it brings with it the engineering of a great technology company, too.

I picked up a Western Star 4900EX from the L.A. Freightliner branch in Fontana, Calif., part of the Los Angeles-based Velocity Vehicle Group. From there, a quick scoot over to Utility to pick up a 53-foot reefer and then to Perris to load pallets full of cinderblock.

The truck

The 4900EX, so named because of its long hood and 132-inch length, is made for the over-the-road trucker looking for style and substance. It’s also perfect for the smaller fleet or as a rewards truck for top drivers in a big operation – especially one using Detroit power. But there’s also the availability of the Cummins ISX as an alternative. Mine had the 560-hp DD15.

While there is the economy-minded 4900SB, the EX is not necessarily an uneconomical model, with its beveled grille surround, curving windshield glass and the wide cab’s generally rounded corners. Cool, sculptured cab extenders sweep the air out and up over the trailer for improved air penetration. There are external filters, cab-mounted exhausts and exposed tanks and toolboxes that give the 4900EX its sharp looks.

The cab, introduced as the Constellation in 1996, was originally designed by a joint Australian Western Star/DAF team. It was to be a workhorse in the Outback, where earlier Western Stars had proven to be tough, reliable road-train haulers.

The old Heritage cab, dating back to the original White conventional, was proving too cramped. The replacement steel Constellation was a big step up, offering one of the roomiest rides of the era.

Except for the cruise control, all gauges and switches are located on the wing dash. Large rocker switches can be operated while wearing gloves if necessary.

The contemporary and lightweight Stratosphere sleepers were added in 2006. They’re available today in lengths from the diminutive 34-inch to the 82-inch Ultra High Roof model featured on this 4900EX. Like the cab, the sleeper is largely hand-built, giving customers a wide range of options for individual customization.

The sturdy Western Star frame features signature round bolt-in crossmembers. On this 4900, the suspensions are corporate Daimler, with the twin taper-leaf front end and the Airliner tandem air suspension.

Axles are proprietary, too, with the DA-F rated at 13,300 pounds for additional scale capacity on the front end. Like its competitors, Western Star has to deal with the weight of the emissions equipment added for 2010. The drive axles also are from the newly renamed Detroit division – DA-MT-40. This is good news for the customer, as these axles have their unique durability features and, being from Daimler, make any warranty issues easy to sort out.