A great creation for the Great Race

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Updated Dec 1, 2016

One of the more distinctive entries among the dozens of classy show trucks at the most recent Overdrive’s Pride & Polish competition was “Clyde,” Todd Turner’s heavily modified 1972 Kenworth W900.

With its narrow front end, open-side hood, a tiny cab, and only four wheels, including wide singles on the rear, Turner’s creation has a hotrod feel, though that wasn’t his goal. “I didn’t have any look I was trying to go for,” he says.

Wide rear wheels and an open hood help give Todd Turner’s creation a hotrod feel.Wide rear wheels and an open hood help give Todd Turner’s creation a hotrod feel.

Indeed, with the amalgam of vehicles used to assemble the truck, it has only marginal W900 lineage. It’s got a chassis from an International 4900, a Cummins 855-cubic-inch engine taken from a dump truck, seats from a Ford pickup and a hood fabricated at the shop of Turner’s Big Sky Towing, based in Odessa, Texas.

The look was good enough for Pride & Polish judges at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, where Turner won third in Builders’ Class, Bobtail.

Turner started on the truck a year ago. As he sought technical help for the front end, he visited Rodney Rucker, a master builder based in Winslow, Arizona. Rucker was scheduled to be in the 2016 Great Race in June, from San Rafael, California, to Moline, Illinois, but was unable to make it. He suggested Turner enter.

“I said I’d like to get in the Great Race, but it’s sold out until the year 2020,” Turner says. “He goes, ‘I know the owner. I could probably get you in the race.’”

Turner was skeptical of this, as well as Rucker’s frequent name-dropping, including that of comedian Jay Leno, who’s well-known for collecting high-end custom vehicles. But as Turner eventually learned, Rucker was for real on all counts and got him into the 2016 road rally.

“The Great Race is an antique, vintage, and collector car competitive controlled-speed endurance road rally on public highways,” says the race website. “It is not a test of top speed. It is a test of a driver/navigator team’s ability to follow precise course instructions and the car’s (and team’s) ability to endure on a cross-country trip. The course instructions require the competing teams to drive at or below the posted speed limits at all times.”

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The winners were within about 30 seconds of the perfect timing for the entire route, Turner says. “They don’t have fun in the race,” he speculates. “They’re concentrating on times.”

Turner’s truck bears two stickers noting the two race legs where he and his 20-year-old son Travis, as navigator, achieved perfect times. By the end, “we were off, like, 33 minutes,” he says, but that was OK because they “got lost once or twice” and had a great time.

Rucker helped get Turner into the 2017 race, running from Jacksonville, Florida to Traverse City, Michigan, June 24 to July 2. “It will highlight some of the greatest car cities and some of the greatest automotive museums in the country,” says the race website.

“I’m building another truck now,” Turner says of his 2017 race entry. It will be totally fabricated, “nothing store-bought.” Rucker will enter a stretched late-1950s Peterbilt.