Some things just go good together… like macaroni and cheese, pizza and beer, and no doubt, Don Berube Sr. and trucks. For many years, Don was a driver, then a mechanic, and in 1985 he hung up the driving gloves for another career – opening his own truck accessory store in Bow, New Hampshire (which is also a great place to pick up your free copy of 10-4 Magazine each and every month).
Their first rented shop was housed in a 20’ x 20’ space, which has evolved into one of the biggest toy stores in the northeast, with at times three generations of family behind the counter. Berube’s Truck Accessories is an 8,000 sq. ft. superstore, which features anything “big rig” you can imagine (they also have a top-shelf CB repair shop and a huge graphics and sign department). The boys at Berube’s will gladly install almost anything they sell on your truck for you, as well.
Not long after opening the doors, Don decided his shop needed a wheeled mascot to help promote and show-off their available wares. What do you think he chose? The only thing that fit the bill was this 1956 Peterbilt 281, that was found by a friend in Florida. After being transported to New Hampshire, Don rolled up his sleeves and began a three-year transformation, ending up with the beautiful truck pictured here.
The original 190-hp non-turbocharged engine was pulled out to make room for a heated-up ‘75 vintage Small Cam Cummins with 335 horsepower. Extra suds are coaxed via a set of hi-po coated pistons, and then a “Hallstar” (Holset) turbo sends the exhaust out a set of dual 6-inch stacks. Deep inside, the fuel pressure has been upped to 400 psi and, at 2500 rpms, Don has a tick over 400 horsepower under his right foot. Backing up the big straight six is a Roadranger 13-speed double-overdrive crash box, which sends the power downstream to an air-ride suspended banjo, filled with a set of 3:70 gears, mounted onto a posi-traction differential.
And there’s no low-profile rubber on this rig – the polished aluminum 24.5” rims and tires have a height that keeps with the fender lines of the period. Finishing off the exterior is a unique aluminum flatbed that reflects the rig’s metallic green paint nicely. Don was quick to send thanks to Daryl at Courtland Truck Works in California for all his help in locating some of the hard-to-find parts for this project.
One can only imagine what a truck driver in 1956 would have to say about the nice and plush interior, featuring a set of dual leather air-ride seats, along with a Pioneer XM satellite four-speaker sound system with a big bass tube that would put a smile on any audiophile’s face – no matter how young or old they might be.
Now, don’t think for a second that this is a shiny, sit-still, sissy-boy trailer queen. Don has put many thousands of miles on it, including a pair of west coast road trips, which included a drive up the road to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado, with his son Dick riding shotgun, as well a trip to California in 2004. “While attending the ATHS show in California a few years back, I made some laps around Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. They limited me to 85 mph, but I wanted to hit 100 mph,” said Don.
When asked about some of the most memorable part of his travels, Don said, “For sure running to Utah on Route 66 and then making it through Death Valley was a cool accomplishment.” His gnarly little hot rod has also seen the Christmas tree and a few win lights at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, too. With Don’s son Dick behind the wheel, the old ‘56 took home a time slip with a 15.9 second 82 mph squirt down the quarter mile. Not bad for a vehicle that is over 60 years old!
This forest green beauty very loudly expresses the “CLASS” motto Peterbilt had for many years, and is also the perfect “wheeled mascot” for Don Berube’s chrome shop. The next time you are passing through Bow, New Hampshire, stop by Berube’s Truck Accessories to see all the cool truck stuff they have available, and to see this cool rig (or visit them online at www.berubes.com). And, while there, be sure to pick up your free copy of 10-4 Magazine, as well.