I agree with the selections of current production trucks that can be considered classics, but I would like to point out that many these trucks are refined versions of earlier classics (Kenworth W900A, Peterbilt 359, Freightliner WFC-120, and Volvo WA).
The following trucks had a 5-10-year production run, were used in both fleet and owner-operator service, were available with a wide range of power-train options, and are no longer in production.
- Mack: RW – Superliner (1978-1988). Based on the popular R model, the Superliner featured a long hood with a larger radiator to accommodate higher-horsepower engines. The RW was aimed at the long-haul market and could be equipped with a variety of options.
- International: Transtar – 4200/4300 (1974-1984). The Transtar 4000 trucks were a big change in design from the Transtar 400s that they replaced. With a squarer cab and hood than its predecessor, the 4000 series had plenty of room in the cab for driver comfort and under the hood for bigger engines that were coming into the market. Many options were available to make these trucks quite appealing.
- White: Road Boss II – (1977-1983). In the mid 1970s, White decided to produce most of its trucks using basically one cab design for both COE and conventional models, and in 1978 began marketing the integral sleeper (this design had been seen before, but this was the first to use the late-style wide cabs). Volvo-White, and Volvo Trucks North America continued to refine this concept, resulting in the current Volvo VN models.
- GMC: General/Chevrolet: Bison – (1977-1988). General Motors designed these trucks to fit the needs of vocational users, as well as fleets and owner-operators. Generals and Bison were well-engineered trucks that offered many options.
- Ford: Louisville LTL-9000 – (1976-1988). Ford’s entry into the long conventional market was an attractive, well-built truck that was used both regionally and over-the-road.
I would suggest two cabovers as classic material.
- White Freightliner – Vanliner. Freightliner was the first to offer the extended cab option for COEs in 1968 with its 104-inch cab designed for Greyhound Van Lines. This option became known as the Vanliner.
- Kenworth – K-100 86-inch Aerodyne. Kenworth was the first to offer this raised-roof design in 1976 as the Bi-Centennial Edition. It became a regular option in 1977, later on the VIT 108-inch version. The raised-roof gave more room in the cab and helped improve aerodynamics.
I am only including one aero-conventional that I consider groundbreaking.
- Kenworth – T-600. Kenworth released this radically new design during a very difficult economic time. Drivers did not accept T-600s at first, but with the possibility of increased fuel mileage, better maneuverability and improved ride, many owners began buying these so-called “Anteaters.” After 20 years of production with only minor updates, I feel the T-600 qualifies as a modern classic.
Bill Johnson is Managing Director of the American Truck Historical Society.
For Midwestern grain hauler Dan Fries, “after 30 years of owning nothing but Kenworth trucks, I would retire before I would buy anything less.”
Today Fries drives a new W900L, but his history with Kenworth goes way back.
“I bought my first KW in 1976. It was a pre-owned 1972 K100 with a 350 Cummins and an air shift 4×4 Spicer. My next truck was a 1984 W900B. It used to haul mail from Des Moines, Iowa, to Sioux Falls, S.D., and every time it passed me I would think that if I ever got the chance, I would own it. It was red and orange in the Monterey paint scheme.”
Fries liked the colors and design so well that when he ordered his next truck – a 1989 W900B Aerodyne – he had the Kansas City, Mo., dealership paint it the same way.
“I like the ruggedness and the value that comes with Kenworth trucks, but most of all I am impressed with the history behind these machines,” he says. “Even in early trucking advertisements, when someone wanted to make a special impression on the trucking industry, there would be a Kenworth in the picture.
“In all the design changes Kenworth has made over the years, all a professional driver has to see is a side view silhouette to be able to distinguish a Kenworth from any other truck. The lines are as classic as those of a P-51 Mustang airplane or a 1963 Corvette car. From the standard sun visor to the curve of the front fenders to the shape of the radiator cowl, the first glance is all you need to tell you are looking at a Kenworth.”