1998 Kenworth T800: Longtime Chicago-area produce hauler's pride and joy

Mark Solomon's 1998 Kenworth T800

Mark Solomon has been the only owner and driver of this 1998 Kenworth T800, which he ordered new in 1997 and took possession of on Jan. 2, 1998. Solomon is the owner of Solomon Produce, a fifth-generation family owned and operated wholesale produce distribution company in the Chicago area. Solomon's T800 is powered by a 460-hp N14 Cummins with a 13-speed. At 25 years old, the truck has just 460,000 miles on the odometer due to it working only locally around Chicago. 

The family business got its start in 1907 when Solomon's great-grandfather, Mike, started as a door-to-door produce salesman on the west side of Chicago after arriving from Romania. "He spoke no English and when he went through entry, they guided him towards piles of fresh bananas, and he decided to knock on doors and sell the bananas to the residents of the homes nearby."

The business later expanded when Mike and his son, Irving, bought a horse and wagon and started a coal (in winter) and ice (in summer) distributorship to go along with the fresh produce they would get.

In the late 1950s, Mark's father, Ronnie, got into the business. Mark said Ronnie "was amongst the very first wholesalers to put an 'insulated and refrigerated body' on a straight truck to deliver fresh produce to the hotels and restaurants" in and around Chicago. 

Front view of Mark Solomon's 1998 Kenworth T800Front view of Mark Solomon's 1998 Kenworth T800

Mark's time in trucking got started "right after I was potty-trained in the late 1960s," he said. He frequently rode along with his dad on trips to the market and on his daily delivery routes. At just 10 years old, Mark was driving smaller step-van-style trucks, and by 12 he was moving 10-wheelers forward and backing them into docks to get loaded, he added. The first truck he took out on his own for his dad was a 1982 Ford LNT8000 with a 24-foot reefer box.

Mark bought his first truck in 1985 -- a single-axle Ford L8000 with a 225-hp Cat and a 20-foot reefer box -- then graduated up to a 1987 Ford LNT9000 with a 270-hp Cummins, a 9-speed Roadranger and a 24-foot reefer.

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His first tractor came after he convinced his dad they needed to go bigger for the business. Ronnie told Mark he was "nuts," but after borrowing a trailer from a friend and demo'ing a new International 8100 tractor, he pulled up by Ronnie at the market one day and "backed it in on a dime," he said. "He snickered at me and said, 'Order up,' which led to my first tractor," -- a 1992 Ford LNT9000 with a 330-hp Cummins paired to a 9-speed Roadranger.

"Another one I should have kept, for sure" Mark noted. 

His next truck was the 1998 Kenworth T800 pictured above. Mark said he hopes "to be driving it for a long time to come. I just turned 57 and celebrated my 40th year of full-time driving at Solomon Produce," among his "many other duties," he said.

[Related: Owner-op's 'mint condition' 1999 W9]

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