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Truck Talk
A labor of love
You've heard about those restored classic cars that were "barn finds." OOIDA Member Lee Burmeister's working 1989 Freightliner is a "field find."

By Jeff Barker, Land Line columnist

As we travel highways and byways wherever we go, some might see an old truck sitting in a field somewhere and not think much about it. Thankfully, there are young drivers like Lee Burmeister who see potential in them and have the willingness to make great things happen.

Lee Burmeister, an OOIDA member from Grand Ledge, MI, is very passionate about the old-school way of trucking and wants to do his part to help bring it back. Three years ago, at the age of 24, Lee spent some time recalling memories of riding in his grandfather’s truck and how much he loved the trucking atmosphere in those earlier times.

About that same time, Tony Clark, a close friend of Lee’s had located a 1989 Freightliner cabover sitting in a field and encouraged Lee to buy it. Lee had a vision come immediately to mind when he saw it. So he got it running and drove it home.

Lee parked the truck in his grandfather’s barn and started the makeover, which took more than two years to complete. Between addressing mechanical issues, bodywork, painting and various cosmetic modifications, a lot of work went into making Lee’s dream of a cool old-school ride a reality.

Fred Weiting, another friend of his, helped with the bodywork and painting, including the retro-inspired graphics and lettering. Lee added the new custom-made drop visor while using clean used parts he found, like exhaust stacks, rear fenders and the Texas bumper.

“I have a family to support, and building this truck on a budget was a big priority,” he said.

This sharp-looking cabover is getting to work a lot harder than most older trucks. He often pulls B-Trains and eight-axle flatbeds in Michigan and neighboring states that have him grossing 160,000 pounds. He also pulls a spread-axle flatbed when hauling other loads to Texas and other places further away.

“My fuel mileage is only 3.5 to 4 mpg when I’m doing heavy-haul work under a permit but closer to 6 mpg when I’m running in an 80,000-pound situation,” he said.

As with many really nice working trucks, it’s still a work in progress.

“I put the truck back on the road in July of 2011 and am still not finished with it yet,” Lee said. “I’m still doing interior upgrades as time and money allow.”

Fortunately, Lee has already earned himself a first-place trophy in the working class bobtail cabover category at a truck show in St. Ignace, MI, just a short time after putting his truck back on the road last summer.

Lee thanks his family and friends for all of their help in helping him accomplish his dream. LL