'I just had to have it': Missouri cattle hauler's '71 Pete 359

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Satha Kilgore, owner of Missouri-based livestock-hauling fleet S&J Kilgore Trucking, launched the business with family in 1996 and has been hauling mostly butcher cattle since.

Kilgore still drives almost daily as part of his 17-truck fleet, with around 27 operators that haul for him or pull his trailers. The fleet operates in the Midwest, Southeast and Northwest, including with the truck he's been driving local, mostly, since January of 2023, the pristine '71 Peterbilt 359 EXHD you can catch plenty views of in the video up top. It's part of a stable of other long-hood Petes, though Kilgore owns one Kenworth and a couple of cabovers, too.

The trucks range from new 2023 models all the way back to the '71 359, which he bought about a year and a half ago. It was on display at the 2023 Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, Missouri, where we caught up with him.

"Like any good cattle hauler," he said, “we’ll go anywhere if the money’s right.” 

S&J Kilgore's go-go-going today, he noted: business has been strong in recent years even as other freight has slowed. He has six reefer trailers in the  fleet, but taking refuge from poor rates he’s only been running one or two of them part-time to fill in the gaps as of late. 

“The cattle industry is really good for us,” he said. The small fleet benefits from the difficult nature of the work.

“Not a lot of people want to do what we do. These butcher cows, it’s dangerous. You got to want to do what we do," he said. "I’ve had some cousins get hurt real bad."

In and out of trailers with the animals getting them situated how they need to be to ride, for drivers, he repeated, "it’s just dangerous. You’re trapped inside the trailer to put them in the compartments. Cows don’t want to be messed with, bulls don’t want to be messed with. They get mad, they’ll hurt you.”

2019 Wilson livestock trailer hooked to Satha Kilgore's 1971 Peterbilt 359 EXHDKilgore's 359 is paired with a 2019 Wilson livestock trailer.

A friend of Kilgore’s previously owned the truck from 1999 until he passed away. Kilgore had helped him build the truck over the years, and “he always told me if something happened, he’d give me the opportunity to buy it." So he did, in the Fall of 2022.

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“I just had to have it,” he added.

The truck sat for the majority of the 23 years the previous owner had it, mostly used for show. After so many years of being garaged, Kilgore had to do a good bit of mechanical work to get it in shape to put to work, including work on the transmission, suspension, rear ends and air bags. 

B-model Cat engine in Satha Kilgore's 1971 Peterbilt 359 EXHDUnder the hood is a B-model Cat with a 13-speed and 3.70 rears, with low air leaf suspension. Kilgore noted the truck is equipped with all late-model suspension components, but it “still has an old-school motor.”

He's the fourth owner of the truck, but as far as he knows, the truck only has a bit more than 1 million miles on it. 

Interior of Satha Kilgore's 1971 Peterbilt 359 EXHDKilgore has done some work on the interior, including the wood dash and floors. At the time of GBATS in September, he said the sleeper was all he had left to do in the truck.

[Related: 2019 Pete 389 glider a patriotic tribute to owner's trucking mentors]

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


Satha Kilgore: Satha Kilgore, S&J Kilgore Trucking LLC. We're out of Macomb, Missouri. We got 17 trucks. Probably 90% of them are Peterbilts. I do own a Kenworth, and we got a couple cabovers on the crew, but majority of them are all extended hood Peterbilts. And I run about 27 guys total, a lot that haul for me or pull my trailers, and we've been in business since 1996 as our own business. But before that, my father drove for other people, but we started our own business in 1996.

We got anywhere from this '71 up to 2023. It's kind of a local truck, but a friend of ours owned it and we put it together for him slowly over the years, and I guess he bought it back in '99, and we just slowly helped him build it. And he died a couple years ago and I got the opportunity to buy it. He always told me if something happened, he'd give me opportunity to buy it, so I bought it. But it's been around our family since 1999, but we've done a lot of the work on the truck over the years, and then I just started driving it full-time pretty much this year, just to get out and enjoy it.

It's got a 400B-model Cat in it. It's got a 13-speed, 3.70 gears, Low Air Leaf suspension, but all late model suspension under it, but it's still got an old-school motor. The truck itself, it's around a million miles is what we heard because it sat in the garage a lot over the years, over twenty-something years, but it's got a little over a million miles that we know of. But I guess I'm the fourth owner of it, from what I know. I never did know the first two owners, but the last previous owner's the one we helped build it for, and he only put about 20,000 miles on it in 23 years

Yeah, just showed it. And when he passed away, like I said, I got the opportunity to buy it and I just had to have it.

Well, I've redid the transmission since then, the suspension, the rear ends, the airbags. I'm doing a little bit of interior. I don't have it all done, but it's a wooden tiered floor and dash, and only thing I got left to do is the interior of the sleeper.

I bought it last fall and just started slowly putting money in it and getting it back up where I felt like I was comfortable driving it because it hadn't been drove, really, other than the truck shows. And as I started driving it, little things would happen like hell. So I just went through and just redid everything. The truck sitting does not help. If somebody wants to give me some money for it, I'll let it go. But other than that, I plan on just keep driving it.