'Popo': 1955 needlenose Kenworth's second owner rebuilds a classic

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Updated Jun 11, 2024
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Harmony, Pennsylvania-based Damian Minteer opened his own custom truck and antique restoration shop, Crooked KW Services, about three years ago with about 20 years in the truck-building business himself.

The truck featured in the video up top is Minteer's personal project -- a 1955 Kenworth needlenose that he found sitting in a field more than a quarter of a century ago. Minteer is just the second owner of the nearly 70-year-old truck.

"I drove back and forth by it for about a year and a half, and I asked the owner several times over that year and a half and he kept saying, 'no,' and I was persistent," he said. "After a year and a half, he finally sold it to me for $1,000, and I still have the paperwork that he signed. It was a happy moment."

The truck was on display as part of the PKY Truck Beauty Championship at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March. 

Minteer said the truck originated in 1955 with a purchase in Richmond, Virginia -- the original owner pulled a dump trailer with it for about 25 years. It "took a backhoe and a dozer to get it out" of the owner's field after Minteer's persuasion did its job, followed by "about a year and a half and a lot of love" to rebuild it. "The frame was flaking and breaking in half. The wheels were flaking. There was a tree growing up through it. The rodents had completely ate the inside. The engine was locked up."

Damian Minteer's 1955 KenworthThe classic '55 Kenworth is now a true looker, that's sure.

Starting with the engine, Minteer pulled out the original 190-hp Cummins and a two-stick five and four transmission. He wanted to put a Cat motor in it, but it wouldn't fit in the original engine compartment, so he lengthened the hood by 10 inches to fit a 425-hp B-model motor and a 13-speed in it. 

The truck's original red, silver and white paint scheme was mostly gone by the time Minteer got ahold of it, and his vision when first acquiring the unit, since it was a '55 model, was to paint it Robin Egg Blue and white like a '55 Chevy Bel Air. He kept it that color until about 11 years ago, when he bought a new camper that the truck would pull. He wanted the units to match, so he repainted the truck to match his camper.

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Interior of Damian Minteer's 1955 KenworthMinteer said he modernized the interior of the cab, adding air-conditioning, power windows, power locks -- "all the comforts," he noted.

Sleeper of Damian Minteer's 1955 KenworthThe sleeper is a 36-inch Kenworth sleeper from the 1970s. It took "a little bit of modification and it fit," he said.

Since just about everything on the truck had to be redone, and finding parts for a 1955 was nearly impossible, "everything on this truck is either fabricated or modified," he said. Some of it is made for newer Kenworths and modified to fit. "A lot of sourcing, a lot of creativity, and it happened," he added.

Rear view of Damian Minteer's 1955 KenworthThe truck's nickname, "Popo," is in honor of Minteer's grandparents, who took him camping a lot as a child. Since he uses the truck to pull his own camper, he feels the name fits well.

[Related: Early Peterbilt 589 custom builds: Twin 2024 models from custom shop Semi Casual]


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

Transcript

Damian Minteer:  My name is Damian Minteer and I'm out of Harmony, Pennsylvania. I am the owner of Crooked KW Services. We do fabricating and build custom trucks and antique trucks and restorations. Just started this business about three years ago, but myself been doing it for over 20.

This truck is a 1955 needlenose Kenworth. I'm the second owner. I've had it for over 25 years. It was bought new in '55 in Richmond, Virginia. The guy drove it for 25 years, pulling a dump wagon and parked it, and then I found it. Took a backhoe and a dozer to get it out of the field and about a year and a half and a lot of love and had it going. And then ran it ever since then until 11 years ago, repainted it to match the new camper. It's been like this for the past 11 years.

It was really bad. The frame was flaking and breaking in half, the wheels were flaking. There was a tree growing up through it. The rodents had completely ate the inside. The engine was locked up, so completely repowered it, reworked everything front to back. Different chassis. I wanted a Caterpillar in this and it wasn't an option. So I lengthened the hood 10 inches so I could fit a Cat in it, modernized the inside. It's got air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, all the comforts, and it's fun to drive. Originally it was a 190 Cummins with a five and a four with a single axle. Now it has a four and a quarter B model Cat with a 13-speed, air ride. Kenworth air ride.

Originally it was red with silver and white stripes on it. There wasn't much left of it, but everything is aluminum on this truck except for the fenders. The front fenders are steel. All in all, I mean that part, it was in decent shape, but everything inside and under was not. Originally I had a vision since it's a '55, I painted it robin egg and white, like a '55 Chevy Bell Air, and it was good for a while, but then whenever I ordered a new camper, those colors weren't available and this is the scheme that the campers available in. So I repainted it.

Actually, it was a day cab before. Then I put the bunk on there. The bunk's actually like an extended cab that you can convert into a bed, so that's why the color change happened. It's a 36-inch Kenworth bunk. It's from the mid '70s. It just a little bit modification and it fit. Everything on this truck is either fabricated or modified. Some of the stuff is from newer Kenworths that you had to rework and rip apart and modify. Everything had to be made to fit this because you could not get parts for it. So a lot of sourcing, a lot of creativity, and it happened.

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