Oldland Distributing in Central Point, OR has been working alongside Commercial Collision & Paint for almost four decades. After buying his first brand new Peterbilt conventional 359 in 1980, Jim Oldland sent his shiny new rig down the street to Bill Abernethy’s place, Commercial Collision & Paint, which had just opened about a year prior, to get a few modifications done. Some 37 years later, the two still work together, making each of the beautiful trucks in the Oldland fleet a true “team effort” between these two Pacific Northwest icons – especially Jim’s flagship 359 show truck – known as #18.
Raised in Coos Bay, OR, Jim Oldland (69) grew up around trucks – his grandfather drove for a beer distributor, while his father drove for a tanker outfit for most of his life. Jim and his friends used to wash the tankers at his dad’s work and move them around the yard, which was fun. After graduating from high school in 1965, Jim got a driving job at Standard Oil, delivering fuel and oil to local mills and loggers.
While working at Standard Oil, Jim began attending college in Ashland, Oregon. To earn a few extra bucks, he also started driving part-time with his dad at the tanker outfit. He eventually earned his Business Degree, along with a Minor in Accounting, which became very helpful when he formed his own company a few years later.
Once Jim got out of college, he took a “temporary” driving position at West Coast Truck Lines, but that two-month job turned into two years. At the time, this outfit, which had all Peterbilts, decided to start buying Mack trucks. Jim was like, “No way – I’m not driving a Mack!” Thankfully, the company had a flatbed division and they were looking to lease-on some owner operators, so Jim bought a new 1971 Freightliner cabover and signed-up. Jim’s grandfather (and father) always said, “If you can’t afford to buy a new truck, then you can’t afford to buy a truck.” To this day, Jim still lives by that advice.
Hauling building materials, fertilizer and salt, Jim ran for this company for two years – until he got sick of tarping! At that point, he sold his ’71 and bought a new 1973 Freightliner cabover and a new Utility reefer and started pulling for Alfreight, which was a division of ONC at the time. He stayed there for two years and then left to form his own company, Oldland Distributing, in 1975. Back then he had one truck and no “big plans” for the future, but four decades later, his operation is still going strong.
These days, with about 25 trucks, Oldland Distributing hauls mostly refrigerated LTL freight, but, as Jim put it, “We specialize in doing what nobody else wants to do and going where nobody else wants to go.” Around five years ago, the company peaked at 40 trucks. But these days, because it is so hard to find good drivers, when one of their longtime drivers retire or, sadly, die, they just sell the truck. Driver turnover at Oldland is very low – many of their drivers have been there for a very long time, because Jim takes such good care of them.
Adhering to that advice bestowed to him by his grandfather all those years ago, most of the trucks in Oldland’s fleet are new Peterbilt 389s. Over the past couple years, they have even purchased several special edition “Pride & Class” Peterbilt 389s. Every new truck that Jim has purchased since 1980 has first went to Commercial Collision & Paint before being put on the road. Each truck spends about a week at Bill Abernethy’s shop getting lettered, a few items painted, and some added special touches. Bill and his crew have also been partners with Jim on several of his big truck restoration projects – like the one done on truck #18, featured here and on our cover and centerfold this month.
Truck #18 is a special rig. Not only was it Jim’s first brand new Peterbilt conventional, but he put the first 300,000 miles on her, too. After that, it went to other drivers, but over its useful life (and about 2.5 million miles), only five other guys drove it – and most of them are still with the company or recently retired. Jim stopped driving regularly in 1986 and, by 2006, nobody wanted to drive the old truck anymore. In need of an overhaul, they parked #18, and then it sat for several years, waiting to be reborn.
In 2010, the restoration of the old 1980 Pete 359 short hood finally began. The project was a team effort between the Oldland shop guys and the Commercial Collision & Paint crew, with Jim overseeing everything and making the big decisions. With other projects going, along with all the regular maintenance of the fleet, it took three years to complete the rebuild. When it was finally finished, the truck made its debut at the ATHS National Convention and Antique Truck Show, which was held in Yakima, Washington, that year (2013). And, not surprisingly, it was very well received by all in attendance.
The truck was originally equipped with a Cummins engine, but in the late 1980s, it was upgraded to a Cat 3406-B. Later, it was fitted with a radiator from a Pete 379 and an air-to-air package. The truck ran over a million miles with that Cat under the hood. But, for the rebuild, Jim decided to go back to its roots, and had a Cummins NTC 350 installed. This is no ordinary NTC 350. After performing a complete rebuild of the motor and upgrading the intake manifold and turbo to newer ones from a Cummins N14, they installed high-flow injector nozzles and modified the entire fuel system. They also moved many of the accessories out of view – the A/C condenser was moved under the sleeper, while the air dryer, power steering reservoir and fuel filters were moved to less conspicuous places. The result is a super-clean engine compartment!
Originally painted Light Aqua Metallic Blue, the 250-inch rig and its 60-inch flattop sleeper were repainted with a turquoise color, with no metallic, custom-mixed by Commercial Collision & Paint. During the rebuild, Jim tried to keep the truck as original as possible, keeping many of the items stock, like the visor and exhaust, but some things were upgraded, like the suspension, which was switched to Flex-Air, and the transmission, which was upgraded to an 18-speed. The hood is stock, too, but Jim had the big blinkers and extra lights removed from the front fenders to further clean things up.
Every square inch of this truck was gone over and redone – it is immaculate. Even the tires were mounted in a specific way, so they can all be lined-up and properly “staged” at the shows, and the aluminum wheels were polished on both sides and inside all the holes. Little details like this is what makes this rig stand out in a crowd. Other final exterior touches include a polished aluminum 5th wheel (with polished pins), a smooth and flush painted deck plate, and a custom air-line connection box.
Although it was completely redone, the interior of the truck was kept fairly stock, as well. Ron Stone, the Shop Foreman at Oldland, who was a big part of this build, said the interior of this sweet rig is about 80% original. Commercial Collision & Paint converted the cab and sleeper to a Unibilt system and enlarged the opening to allow the seats to be mounted further back. The Corvette-style dash with simulated wood-grain is all stock, along with the original dash plaque, which reads, “This Peterbilt Custom Built for Jim Oldland” – and that’s pretty cool!
The original intent of this truck was to make it an emergency/back-up truck for the fleet, but it turned out so nice, Jim just didn’t want to use it for anything but shows. Later, they acquired and then rebuilt a long nose Pete 359, that looks almost exactly like this one, but it’s powered by a 3406-B Cat and has a 36-inch sleeper. This truck, known as #28, took two years to build and is now the truck that hauls #18 to the shows.
Another special truck in the Oldland fleet is #182 – a black 2002 Peterbilt 379. Originally ordered for longtime driver Larry Meyers, who has been around for over 25 years, this truck was recently redone in honor of Jim’s son Kurt, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2004 – he was only 23 years old. Although almost of their trucks are now ordered with Metallic Seafoam Green paint, black was always Kurt’s color, so a few of their newer trucks have recently been ordered in black, in honor of his memory. Larry uses #182 daily, picking up and delivering local freight, and shagging trailers.
As awesome as Oldland’s fleet of trucks is, it’s their people that really make the company special. In addition to Jim, who still comes in to the office on most days, Ron DelGrande (48) has been around since he was 15 years old. Starting out washing trucks, he later became a driver (he was one of the few that drove #18 while it was still part of the working fleet), and then eventually made his way into the office, where he dispatches and such, along with Kristina Schmedmann and Rachele Altishin, who have both been at Oldland for about eight years. Ron Stone runs the shop, and has been for the past 11 years, with help from Bryan Byrd and Robert Whitfield.
Over at Commercial Collision & Paint, Bill Abernethy and his wife Lisa, along with their son Dave and the rest of their crew, are an integral part of the Oldland fleet. Special thanks go to Bob at Commercial Collision, as well, for doing most of the interior work on #18. Additional thanks go out to Wes Conley for his help on the project, along with Papé Kenworth and DSU Peterbilt, for their help with parts and such. We would like to thank Larry Meyers, Drew Piuma, and our longtime friend James Davis for their help during the photo shoot. Also, we’d like to send a shout-out to Oldland driver and aspiring truck photographer Tony Merck, who we finally got to meet face-to-face, and pass along a few tips.
Jim Oldland has no plans to retire anytime soon, but he has been slowing down over the past few years. The fact that he has a capable and dedicated team, running most the operation, allows him to relax and enjoy life a bit more. Treating his people good – both customers and employees – has been the benchmark of his business, which is evident by the longevity of his company and the devotion of his employees. Working together, along with the fine folks at Commercial Collision & Paint, Oldland Distributing and their amazing fleet of trucks – both working and show – are a testimony to what can be accomplished when “team effort” is more than just a headline or slogan.