Trucking Life: People
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Kenworth Stand the Test of Time, Owners say

Cooper bought the '35 Kenworth 89 from Stump on one condition, that he restore it in time to show it at the 1995 American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) national convention in Spokane, WA.

KIRKLAND, WA — There’s something really special about a man’s love of his truck. And that’s especially true for Gordon Cooper and Pierre Aubin, self-described Kenworth die-hard fans.

Kenworth recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and in doing so, they also celebrated a few of the people who restore their trucks including their two big Canadian fans: Cooper from Calgary, AB and Aubin from Ste.-Catherine, QC.

For Cooper, it was love at first sight. He first spotted his special truck, a 1935 Kenworth 89 on display at the 1992 American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) Antique Truck Show in Vancouver, Wash. And it was ugly.

“It had been repainted an ugly utility orange color, but I still fell in love with it,” Cooper says.

Despite the ugly paint color and the fact that the wood frame can and exterior was in rough shape, Cooper immediately knew he found something special.

The 3-ton single drive axle flatbed truck still ran with its original 65-hp gasoline-powered Hercules JXCM engine, a 4-speed manual transmission, a 2-speed Brown-Lipe auxiliary transmission and a Timken 2-speed rear axle.

And Cooper bought it from Pat Stump of Yakima, WA.

Stump had actually found Cooper’s jewel abandoned in the corner of a field near Yakima with a layer of Mount St. Helens ash still covering its dashboard and much of its interior.

Cooper took it home and with help of his friends in the Pioneer Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society, he finished the restoration, complete with a rebuilt stakebed.

Gordon Cooper and his second wife Wendy on their wedding day, with the 1957 Kenworth 923 in the background. The truck was also present at Melissa's wedding (Cooper's daughter).

Since then, Cooper has restored a number of Kenworth trucks, including a 1957 Kenworth 923 conventional, which was featured in the Kenworth Truck Company’s 75th Anniversary in 1998.

The Kenworth 923 was also the bridal carriage in three weddings, including Cooper’s and the wedding of his daughter. He’s currently restoring a 1926 Kenworth Model OL.

“I have been a die-hard Kenworth fan for most of my life,” said Cooper, who owns and operates O.C.E.A.N. Hauling and Hotshot Ltd., a light oilfield hauling company based in Calgary, AB.

His company runs several Kenworths including a 2003 tri-drive Kenworth T800 with a 15-ton hydraulic picker.

“Kenworth trucks are so well built and can handle the rough conditions in which we operate. They also run more efficiently, which allows me to pursue the hobbies I enjoy – collecting and restoring vintage Kenworths.”

The 1986 Kenworth K100 also has extensive new wiring, airlines and a 425-hp engine and 13-speed manual transmission that was removed, then repainted and replaced. Aubin says his trips with this refurbished truck are reminiscent of those he took with the five Kenworth K100s he drove earlier in his career.

For Aubin it was a bit different, but his story is laced with the same dedication and fondness of trucks.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s Aubin owned five Kenworth K100s, equipped with Kenworth Aerodyne sleepers and he had remained fond of the Kenworth cabover model.

“Over the last two years, I searched for one and with the help of one of my drivers, Luc Lemieux, I found the one I wanted,” Aubin says.

“Luc found it in Land-O-Lakes, Fla. The 1986 Kenworth K100 belonged to two brothers, Rick and Ron Judd, who hauled horses to special fairs in the southern states.”
Aubin flew to Tampa to take delivery of his truck, but Ron, one of the owners, told him there were others looking to buy the truck.

But Aubin wasn’t giving up easily and the more he told the brothers about his company, the more he persuaded them to part with the truck.

“When [Ron] and his brother learned more about my company, they were sure their truck was going to go to a good family.”

Aubin drove it back to Montreal, where he had it refurbished by Francis Thouin, the owner of a local truck body repair shop.

“Francis’s body shop professionals – Alain, Erick and Daniel, worked on that truck,” he says. “They lengthened the frame from 192 inches to 224 inches; took out the 340-hp engine and 13-speed transmission, then repainted and reinstalled them; sandblasted and repainted the cab; and installed new wiring and airlines, among other things. They came up with a truck that looks and feels as good as a brand new one.”

Aubin occasionally takes his refurbished 1986 Kenworth K100 out for short 2- or 3-day trips. The trips allow him to stay grounded and to spend time with a truck he’s always loved throughout his career. The K100, along with the Kenworth W900, were first introduced in 1963.

Today, Aubin’s companies – L’Express du Midi, Les Transports Audec and Les Transports Delson operate an all-Kenworth fleet of 114 units, a majority of them Kenworth W900L with 72-inch and 86-inch AeroCab sleepers equipped with 600-hp Cummins engines to handle loads of up to 85,000 to 88,000 pounds in Canada. Aubin also owns a fully restored 1956 bullnose Kenworth cabover, equipped with a 335-hp Cummins engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.

“Kenworth has always met our business needs as well as our desire to drive the best looking trucks in the industry,” Aubin says.

“Owners of antique trucks often see their restoration work not only as a way to preserve the trucks they love and a bit of trucking industry history, but also to bring back a sense of nostalgia,” says Bill Johnson, executive director of the American Truck Historical Society.

“They take great pride in knowing their restoration work will allow others to see first-hand the changes and innovations in truck manufacturing introduced over the years. As Kenworth concludes its 90th anniversary, it’s important to recognize all those dedicated individuals who work to preserve this history,” Johnson says.

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