Jon Osburn hits the road with OOIDA's new StarCar

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 4/4/2014

At OOIDA, Senior Member Jon Osburn’s job is the full-time driver of the Spirit of the American Trucker, taking the OOIDA tour truck on the road to truck stops and truck shows all over the nation. As of this week, he’s now pulling the Association’s mobile display trailer with a new tractor, compliments of Western Star.

Photo by Nikohle Ellis

Jon Osburn

At this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville at the end of March, Western Star exhibited its one-of-a-kind concept truck. The truck was built by the vote of the people in the “Design Our Star” social media promotion held by Western Star last year.

Then, they handed the keys to OOIDA for the next 24 months.

OOIDA’s new Spirit truck takes the phrase “fully loaded” to the limit.

“My new toy is a joy,” Osburn said back at OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, Mo., and preparing to embark on his first “On The Road” tour to the Chicago area.

Using a 2014 Western Star 4900 EX chassis, the new “Spirit” boasts a Detroit Diesel DD16, 15.6-liter engine, capable of churning out 600 horsepower.

“The motor is as big as you can get in the United States right now,” he said. “There are probably some off-road construction applications that have a bigger motor, but not for on-highway.”

By herself, “Miss Eleanor” weighs 23,500 pounds fully-loaded.

“Western Stars are not light,” Osburn said. “They’ve never been known for lightness, but they’re built like a battle wagon.”

Osburn’s first trip behind the wheel of the new truck was a bobtail run from MATS back to OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley.

“Without a trailer, it rides wonderful,” he said. “With a trailer it’s even better. I can’t say enough good things about the ride. Very smooth. For a non air-ride front end, it’s just about as smooth as you can get.”

That smooth ride comes from a 270-inch wheelbase, an all-leather cab, and an interior big enough for the 6-foot tall Osburn to stand up and walk around in when moving from cab to sleeper.

“We’re going to have the very first Western Star with a fold-down bed,” he said.” I have seating for two and a table, but when the bed’s folded down, I have a 48-inch wide bed, with a pillowtop mattress. For a truck driver, that’s plush.”

The exterior of the cab is red, white and blue, done in honest-to-goodness paint, not vinyl wrap. The laser-cut Alcoa aluminum wheels feature a star pattern for the lug nuts. Osborn said the blue and red accents are the same colors used for Optimus Prime in the “Transformers” movies. Cut out of the front chrome bumper is the Western Star motto: “Never back down.”

Photo by Nikohle Ellis

Although the new truck may be big and bad, Osburn said fuel economy hasn’t been forgotten. He estimated the truck got over 7 miles per gallon on the bobtail run back from MATS, and said he expects by the time the motor is broken in, the lifetime fuel economy average will be better than the old Spirit truck.

“I’ve got people from Daimler, Western Star, Detroit Diesel helping,” he said. “We’re trying to prove that as long as you don’t drive a gazillion miles an hour, you can get good fuel economy with a big motor. We’re still looking for the sweet spots.”

Be sure to catch Jon and the Spirit truck April 6 through 8 at the Petro on I-39 at Exit 99 in Rochelle, Ill. For a copy of the 2014 Spirit schedule, click here.

Key details:

  • One-of-a-kind custom Western Star 4900 EX chassis
  • DD16, 15.6-liter engine
  • 270-inch wheelbase, 144-inch sleeper
  • 18-speed Eaton Fuller RTLO-18918 transmission 
  • WABCO 6S/6M anti-lock braking system with traction control
  • Custom paint job from SoCal Customs – the red and blue match “Optimus Prime” from “Transformers” movies
  • Fully loaded leather cab, all-cloth sleeper interior with 48-inch wide foldout pillow-top mattress
  • Heated and cooled seats in cab
  • Holland FWS1 ILS 24-inch Air Slide Fifth Wheel, made from billeted aluminum

You can view the complete spec sheet here.

Land Line social media coordinator Kerry Evans-Spillman contributed to this report.

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