By Jeff Barker, Land Line columnist
Throughout his youth, Dennis Johnson saw how hard his father worked to build a small trucking operation to support a family. Nowadays, fueled by his appreciation for his father’s efforts as well as a love for old International trucks, Dennis is proudly keeping his word to his father to carry on what he started.
Johnson, an OOIDA member from Clark, SD, is a great example of many Midwesterners who still embrace the morals of hard work and keeping a commitment. He grew up around an agricultural-based trucking environment. There he learned what it takes to grow and maintain a customer base despite many changes and challenges over the years.
Dennis’ truck, a 1985 International 9670 cabover, belonged to his father for several years. His father was the truck’s second owner, and Dennis bought it a few months before his father died.
Dennis hauls livestock most of the time and knows how important it is to keep his equipment in near-perfect mechanical condition. As any livestock hauler knows, even the most minor breakdown on the road with a load of cattle, hogs, or horses on board can have costly consequences – ones that go far beyond the cost of any tow or repair bill.
With that in mind, Dennis likes the idea of having an engine that has no electronic sensors that could fail, not to mention any emissions control equipment that could cause other problems and result in a roadside breakdown.
“Being stuck on the side of the road is not an option when you have a loaded livestock trailer, especially at 2:30 in the morning when temperatures can reach 20 below zero or worse,” Dennis said. “It wouldn’t take long for any of us or the animals to freeze to death at that point.”
Being a loyal lover of International trucks, like his father, has helped Dennis form a good relationship with several International parts dealers in the five-state regional area where he operates.
“I went to high school with many of the people working those parts counters,” he said. “They work hard to make sure I get what I need when I need it.”
He pointed out that over time it has become difficult to find certain truck model-specific items that may no longer be in production. However, he has learned to improvise and make sure repairs are done properly.
Dennis likes the growing trend of vintage equipment making a comeback as nicely restored working trucks. He hopes this may fuel enough of a demand for parts vendors to make more items available for them.
“I’m loving the sight of more old iron coming out on the road and hope they will take notice,” Dennis said.
Contrary to popular belief, not all old trucks are (or have to be) noisy rattletraps.
Dennis remembers how the International 9670s had quiet interior noise levels compared to most other trucks that came into production during the 1980s.
He has replaced the aging rubber door seals, insulation, and window track felt in the doors to help retain a “like new” feeling. That has made it easier for him to enjoy listening to music on his Sony stereo system with a CD player, satellite radio, and a jack for his iPod. He added some comfort with the National Seating Elite seats that he installed. He also replaced worn parts in the cabover’s complex shift linkage to eliminate the rattle from the shift tower.
“I like it to feel as quiet and as tight as a drum while I’m on the road,” Dennis said.
With his truck paid for and in very good mechanical condition, Dennis has found a little more time to work on the cosmetics. He has displayed this truck and others that he’s owned at a few area truck shows over the years and has a few trophies to show for it.
“I have been supporting my family and they have been supporting me in many meaningful ways over the years, including many projects that involve my love of these old trucks,” Dennis said.
We think that Dennis’ father would be proud of what could easily be seen as a continuing legacy. LL
Jeff Barker is an OOIDA member and a former certified diesel mechanic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.