Life and Family

Doing Your Job


Street’s Machine

by Jim Park
Untitled Document

The difference between Dave Street's 1978 Peterbilt 359 and any other old truck is that Dave's is pretty well all original. It's difficult to keep an older truck original because parts are hard to come by, but Dave has managed to keep this one faithful to the original spec, right down to the door handles and vents.

The truck was originally owned by a Kansas grain farmer who literally used it only to haul his produce to market. Shelby Elliot, a used truck dealer in Kansas City, grabbed it when the farmer got rid of it. Elliot has an eye for unique trucks, usually of the long-legged variety. A Canadian used truck dealer named Rodney McNamara bought it from Elliot, restored it, and left it sitting in his barn near Hamilton, Ont. for several years. Dave made McNamara an offer on it in 1996, but he wasn't selling. Then in November 2002, he tried again, and this time he was successful.

The Spec Sheet

-- Dave Street
Truck -- 1978 Peterbilt 359
Wheelbase -- 225-in.
Bunk -- 36-in.
Engine -- 3408 V8 Cat 600 hp
Transmission -- Eaton Fuller 13-speed double overdrive .60 final
Rear ends -- 3:55
Current mileage -- 853,000 miles

"My son had talked me into restoring an older truck a while ago, and I had my eye on this one ever since," Dave says.

Dave spent six months restoring it. He stripped it down to the frame rails, and had it sandblasted and repainted. He replaced all the fasteners with stainless-steel hardware, but re-used all the original running gear. He got it all back together in early May 2003 and after two trips with the truck, the engine came apart.

"A valve guide went through a piston and pretty well wrecked the thing," he says. "It still ran, but there was enough material in the oil pan, like thrust washers, bits of metal and stuff, I was into a major rebuild. The Cat people told me I was looking at close to $37,000 to have it done."

V8 3408 Cats are rare enough to begin with, and there certainly aren't any more parts in stock, so Dave had a decision to make: drop something else under the hood and get on with it, or keep looking.

Then his friend and boss, Marty Paddock, a partner in Earl Paddock Transportation of Stony Creek, Ont., suggested that if he were to drop an engine other than a 3408 into the truck, 'he'd have just another old truck.' Keep it original, Marty said, and you'll keep the value in the truck.

He tracked down a 3408 from a dealer in Alberta and had it shipped home. But that one had a Brake Saver (Cat's hydraulic engine retarder) on it. That assembly made the engine four in. too long for the truck - the retarder had to go.

While the wrecked motor was out of the truck, Dave decided to do a little front-end work. He re-cored the radiator; a five-in. rad with 5/8 tubes, the biggest truck rad the rebuilder had ever seen. "He told me that was the kind of rad you'd see in a bulldozer, not a truck," Dave says.

He recently passed his Ontario Drive Clean Emissions test, but admits the fuel economy isn't the best he's ever seen.

The heavier he loads and the harder he runs, the better it seems to do on fuel, he says

"I've tracked the mileage pretty closely, and when I really push it, I can do 4.2 mpg. When I go easy on it, like when I'm running Ohio, it'll drop to 3.9 mpg."

Dave runs the truck a few thousand miles a week for Earl paddock transportation, running out of southern Ontario into the U.S. southeast.

This is Dave Street's first experience restoring an older truck, and when asked if he had any advice for someone else interested in such a project, he said without hesitation, "I hope your wife has a sense of humor."

Editor's Note:
Dave Street let me take a spin in his truck after we'd finished taking pictures. As it happened, Dave had a CD playing that was a remake of some classic trucking songs roughly the same vintage as the truck. It was a real treat to be driving again in an arguably cramped and rougher riding truck than we're used to today, but there's something special about that old iron. Maybe it was the time-sync'd soundtrack, or perhaps it was that the truck and I both began our trucking careers in the same year; I really can't say. But I can tell you, the truck is in considerably better shape. Thanks for the ride, Dave.