'The fun of old trucks': John Rooney's 1984 Ford CL9000 cabover

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Updated Feb 23, 2023

China Grove, North Carolina-based John Rooney bought this 1984 Ford CL9000 cabover about a year before the Mayberry Truck Show in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, last fall. It had been used to haul cattle. Since purchasing the rig, Rooney repainted the truck himself -- a base gray with orange stripes. "It was a big white box when I got it... I did auto body in high school," he joked. "Apparently, I still know how to do it." 

John Rooney with his 1984 Ford CL9000John Rooney said the truck "is just a toy, for now." Rooney, at the time of the Mayberry show last fall, drove locally for R&L Carriers, home every night and weekend.Video and photos taken by Lawson Rudisill, edited by Andrew Guinn

Other than the paint, the truck was in good shape when he bought it, and he didn't have to do any body work. Otherwise, Rooney's "been trying to get all the bugs and gremlins worked out of it so it’s a reliable truck."

After he bought the truck, Rooney found paperwork in it that showed the engine, a 400 Cummins with a 9-speed, was only about two years old -- a fact the previous owner didn't mention. "I lucked out on that one," Rooney said. The truck shows around 850,000 miles on the odometer, but the engine only has about 120,000 miles on it. 

John Rooney's 1984 Ford CL9000One unique feature about the Ford CL9000 is its height. Rooney said it's about the tallest commercially-produced truck he's aware of, standing at about 9.5 feet. "You ride down the road, drive by all these modern trucks, you have to look down to see in the windows," he said. "When you wave, they have to look up to see you to wave. When they turn their head, all they see is the door."

Rooney said he's always liked the Ford CL9000 model, and all the chips fell into place for him to find and buy this one. "It showed up at the right time, at the right place, and it just kind of happened," he said.

As of last fall, Rooney's next order of business for the truck was painting the frame, then moving on to the interior, which is still original. "It’s in good shape, I just gotta get it cleaned up," he said. He also had work to do on the A/C, which he said keeps blowing lines every time he replaces one. "The fun of old trucks," he quipped.

[Related: Owner-operator Mel Williams' work-in-progress 2003 Peterbilt 379]

Catch plenty more views of the rig in the video up top. For custom-equipment features delivered to your email inbox, subscribe to Overdrive's weekly Custom Rigs newsletter via this link.


John Rooney: My name's John Rooney. I've been driving for almost 31 years. And I drive officially for R&L Carriers. This is just a toy for now. It's a 1984 Ford CL9000, 400 Cummins, nine speed. It's a fun toy.

I bought it about a year ago, and the guy was hauling cattle with it. And I just recently did the paint job on it myself and been doing all the polishing and cleaning it up, so I can bring it out to events like this. It was a big white box when I got it. So I did the gray and orange stripes, and I painted the whole truck myself. I did auto body in high school. And apparently, I still know how to do it.

I've done all the aluminum polishing myself. And just the paint work, it didn't need any. The body didn't have any damage in it, so I didn't have to do anything there. But trying to get all the bugs and gremlins all worked out of it, so that it's a reliable truck. It's in good shape. I just got to get it cleaned up. And I've got lights I want to add to the roof and a few other places. The interior needs a good scrubbing. And it's all original inside it. You still got the original seats and everything's still original inside. I have to get the A/C to work. I keep blowing lines up every time I replace one. The fun of old trucks.