The art of work
Taking a harder look, one that goes beyond the paint and gloss (or lack thereof) will reveal Kevin Johnston's top-notch, mechanically sound, hard-working Freightliner.

By Jeff Barker, contributing writer

When it comes to old-school business priorities, OOIDA Senior Member Kevin Johnston of Reedsburg, WI, knows what it’s all about.

A 40-year-old truck tends to draw a lot of attention wherever it goes, especially if the owner is still making a living with it. Kevin Johnston has owned this 1972 Freightliner WFT8664T cabover since September 1983. He still enjoys the attention his truck gets wherever he goes.

He pulls a 1990 Dorsey 48-foot spread axle stepdeck trailer, hauling hay, straw and various open-deck cargo in a Midwestern nine-state area. He enjoys the simplicity of a truck that he can do most of the repairs on himself.

Kevin has performed a few in-frame rebuilds on the Cummins NTC-855 350-horsepower engine. He upgraded to a Pulse exhaust manifold to provide a boost pressure increase.

“Between being able to work on the truck myself and not having to make payments, the economics play a huge part in why I have kept this truck for so many years,” he said. “I also like the light weight of this truck.”

Kevin’s cool old Freightliner delivers the goods with the Cummins engine being backed by an Eaton-Fuller RTO 9513 transmission with 0.87:1 final drive ratio and SQHD 3:70 rears on a four-spring air ride suspension. His truck averages 6.01 miles per gallon on his quarterly fuel reports.

Over the years, Kevin has done many upgrades to his truck to make it more comfortable and efficient.

He converted the truck’s electrical system from its positive ground setup to negative ground. He set it up with a separate electrical system and isolated batteries to supply power to his ProHeat X45 engine coolant heater that also heats the cab in the winter.

An air ride kit on the steer axle has smoothed out the ride. He replaced the direct drive engine fan hub with a Horton fan clutch; upgraded the wheel hubs to facilitate the use of outboard brake drums; and installed all aluminum wheels with radial tires.

He installed an aftermarket main cab heater, and the roof-mounted air conditioner unit still works well. He also installed HeatStar fuel tank heaters and says that they have been very helpful in avoiding fuel gelling.

As time goes on, Kevin will likely still be racking up some profitable miles and enjoying the attention that he gets with what he refers to as his “rat rod” of a truck. For those who have never heard that term before, it’s commonly used among the street rod crowd for a car that may not have attractive paint but is “all go” under that metal. As far as Kevin is concerned, a truck that is in excellent mechanical shape is one of true substance. LL