Leon “Popcorn” Wheaton’s needlenose 1950 Kenworth, still in good hands

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Nearly four Januarys ago, Jason Keeler’s phone rang. The Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, owner-operator had a reputation as a no-nonsense guy who built his own custom show trucks.

On the other end of the line was a fellow driver he’d known for a while: “Hey man, I want to build a truck. Would you build me one like yours?”

Keeler’s answer, some might say, was classic Keeler: “Well, you got any money?”

Turned out the inquiry was serious.

All the necessary arrangements were made with the carrier Keeler was leased to at the time. With their assurance that if things didn’t work out, he’d “always have a place to hang his hat,” Keeler took a leave of absence.

Among Keeler’s personal projects detailed in the video is this 1950 Kenworth W923.Among Keeler’s personal projects detailed in the video is this 1950 Kenworth W923.

That was nearly four years ago. He hasn’t left the shop since, operating Keeler Custom Truck Restoration with his father from that central Pennsylvania home base. For plenty views of the 1950 Kenworth W923 that is his own personal flagship rig, view the video up top.

The 1950 KW as viewed from behind the sleeper.The 1950 KW as viewed from behind the sleeper.

In the accompanying interview, Keeler not only details some of the rig’s features, including the K-model Cummins that powers it, he pays tribute to the rig’s history under the tutelage of more than one owner, including Leon “Popcorn” Wheaton out West. This interview (you can hear it in full via this recent edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast) was conducted at the 2019 Truckers 4 Hope Jamboree event in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. This year’s show is kicking off this week, Sept. 25-27, at the same location as prior years, dedicated as always to benefiting research in Cystic Fibrosis. You can read about the genesis of the event via this link to my story about it in 2018.

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