Like Father Like Son

John Murray: Following in His Father’s Footsteps

John Murray II does it all. Not only does he run a five-truck transportation company, but he also does mobile truck repair and service, as well as sell new and used trucks – just like his father, John Murray Sr., did, too. I guess hard work just runs in the family (no pressure on John III, right?). Based out of Chatsworth, California, just north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, M & J Transportation Services Inc. owns and operates a small fleet of flaming-hot red rigs of various makes and models. And, in addition to the typical Peterbilts and Kenworths, with a sharp Freightliner Coronado transfer unit in the mix, we just couldn’t resist (we have never had one of these on our cover).

Being a second-generation trucker, John’s parents, John Sr. and his mother Anna, came to California from New York in 1960 on a bus with just $600 in their pockets (and after all these years, they are still married). After arriving in Los Angeles, John Sr. went to work as a mechanic. A few years later, John Sr. bought a truck – a 1963 White 9000 – and began driving. Back in those days, he pulled a trailer for North American Van Lines. Building up to five trucks at one point (like his son today), he started fixing up old junkers and selling them for a profit. This eventually lead to Murray’s Truck Service, which later became a full-service dealer for Volvo White, Autocar and Iveco trucks. John’s business was so successful, he was featured in a three-page article in the April 1985 edition of Overdrive magazine!

Like many kids growing up, John II started playing with toy trucks at a young age, pretending to be like his father. Lucky for him, his dad began taking him to work with him at the age of six years old. This is where John Sr. taught his son how to work on trucks and drive. By the time John was 12, he was driving trucks in and out of the yard and was a full-fledged diesel mechanic, and at 16 he got his Class 1 commercial license. Working at the shop after school every day, John got tired of going to school with greasy hands, so he moved into the parts department.

After finishing high school in 1985, John attended a local junior college for several years where he took classes that would help him run his future businesses. He had no intention of getting a degree – he just wanted to learn some basic skills in the areas of accounting, business, marketing and real estate (he took Spanish, too). While working in the parts department at his father’s dealership, people would come in with a “laundry list” of parts they needed to fix up their old trucks, and John started talking them into buying new trucks. On his 19th birthday, John sold his first truck on his own.

At the young age of 22, John bought the dealership from his father, and Chatsworth Truck Center (dba Murray’s) was born in 1990. At that time, it was an Isuzu dealership, but a few years later, John also became a Mack dealer. In fact, he was the youngest dealer principle in Mack history at just 25 years old. Selling Mack trucks in a Peterbilt-dominated market was not easy, but John was good at his job and he made it work. Things went well for almost 12 years, and then the 9-11 terrorist attacks occurred in September of 2001. Over the next three months, they did not sell one truck, and the value of the used rigs sitting on their lot began dropping dramatically. As a result, in January of 2002, John shut the dealership down. Thankfully, he had some trucks on the side to fall back on.

A couple of years before John closed the dealership, he formed M & J Trucking, which was named after his daughter (Madesyn) and his son (John III). He started this business on the day his son was born in 1999 (if he would have been a girl, her name would have been Mackenzie, and John would have named the company M & M instead). Buying a 1999 Mack from himself, he put it to work with a driver while still running the dealership. When he closed the dealership, he bought another Mack – a 2001 with a Superior transfer unit – and added it to his fledgling fleet. He ran those two trucks until 2006, and then downsized due to family issues.

Selling the two Mack trucks, John purchased a 1986 Autocar in 2007 that, oddly enough, was sold new by his father. John formed a new company, M & J Transportation Services, with his new partner in crime, Mary Cruz. These two met shortly after both had just ended relationships, so they were a little gun-shy, at first. After losing contact for a few months, they were randomly reunited at a concert in Laughlin, Nevada, and have been together ever since (conveniently, the M & J name not only fits with the names of John’s kids, but also their names – Mary & John).

With the recession in full swing, business was pretty slow, so John ran the Autocar himself and sold a few trucks on the side. The Autocar was John’s first truck to get his now-signature viper red paint and yellow flames scheme, which all his trucks have now. Pulling a 1979 Fruehauf trailer with Superior boxes, the flashy transfer was powered by a 425-hp 3406B Cat hooked to a 13-speed transmission. As truck sales remained flat, John put a driver in the Autocar and went back to his roots – mobile service. Purchasing a 2004 Kenworth T300 service truck – a truck he originally sold new to a customer and then did all the regular maintenance work on – he began doing fleet maintenance again. This Kenworth, of course, got his new signature paint scheme, and a few other upgrades, as well.

John kept the Autocar transfer until 2014, until he had to forfeit it to CARB. It was a sad day, as this truck had a lot of sentimental value to John. Not only did he get to drive it when it was brand new on his father’s lot, but it was also later photographed by Overdrive magazine and featured in a three-page article (February 1987) they did about the “legendary” Autocar brand of trucks. It was also a truck John personally built and drove for several years, so “turning it in” was not easy – it was also completely paid for!

With business picking up, and needing to replace the Autocar, John bought a new 2015 Freightliner Coronado (the one on our cover and centerfold this month) and had it fitted with a complete Superior Trailer Works transfer set. The viper red truck with yellow flames has a 505-hp DD15 hooked to a 10-speed transmission, and features an air-ride front axle, heated leather seats, and every other option available. Since then, John has added two more brand new trucks – a 2017 Peterbilt 389 extended hood with a Superior transfer, and a 2017 Kenworth W900L, which pulls a polished aluminum MAC end dump. The Pete is powered by a 450-hp ISX hooked to a 10-speed, while the KW has a 475-hp ISX hooked to a 10-speed, and features a 62-inch flat top sleeper.

About a year ago, John added a cool cabover to the mix, as well. The truck is a 1987 Peterbilt 362 with a 444 Cummins, and it only has 400,000 miles on it. Thinking he might lose this one to CARB, too, thankfully, when he bought the new KW, it allowed him to keep the cabover, but he can only run it for a limited number of miles. These days, he leases this truck to the movie studios, where they use it to move trailers around locally. All these trucks have John’s signature paint scheme, which is just slightly modified for each make and model of truck, to optimize the look. And, since the flames are all done in vinyl, when John decides to sell the trucks, all he has to do is peel off the flames.

Still living within minutes of where his parents originally settled when they came to California in 1960, John and Mary have a small shop in Chatsworth, California, where they dispatch the trucks, operate their fleet service business, and sell about 30-40 new and used trucks each year. They have access to sell Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner and Isuzu trucks. Their low overhead makes them very competitive in their pricing, and John’s extensive knowledge of trucks and trucking allows him to spec each truck just right for his customer’s particular needs. They also have numerous financing options for most credit scenarios, so if you are in the market for a new or used truck, give John or Mary a call (818-359-2292).

Turning 50 later this year, John enjoys getting out on his Harley as often as possible. When he was a teenager, in the early 1990s, he raced bicycles (BMX) professionally, but after retiring from that sport he began riding and racing motorcycles, but just for fun. Today, he competes in five or six motocross races a year, throughout California, and really enjoys it. Last year his son, John III, started racing, too. John currently races a 2016 Husqvarna 450, but he has several other bikes, as well.

Living together as a blended family, John has two kids – a daughter named Madesyn (18) and his son John III (17). Madesyn is attending college and studying to be an interior designer, and John, who is still a junior in high school, is thinking about going to a technical college in Arizona to become a motorcycle mechanic. Mary also has two kids – a son named Gino (16) and a daughter named Lorena (14) – and both still live at home and attend high school.

Thanks go out to John’s parents, especially his dad, who taught him so much, and still helps him out with advice on tough repairs and moving trucks around – he is now 82. And without his drivers, there would be no company, so special thanks go out to Greg Lee (who was driving the Freightliner but is now moving to the new KW), and Jeremy Leeper (who runs the Peterbilt). John currently needs a driver for the Freightliner, so if you are up for the task, and want to drive a 10-4 cover truck, give him a call (818-359-2292). Also, John would like to thank Jay Pocock at Superior Trailer Works. John and Jay have been friends for years and do a lot of work together. And, of course, John thanks all his dedicated customers, who have stuck with him for all these years. We would also like to thank Tapo Rock & Sand in Simi Valley for allowing us to take over their facility for the photo shoot.

Looking to grow a little, John would like to add one or two more trucks to his operation, and, eventually, get a small lot where he can start building up some inventory for his new and used truck sales business. But, for now, he is happy to be walking in his father’s large footsteps, stride for stride, building a legacy for the next generation. Like his father, John Murray II has owned and operated trucks, fixed trucks and sold trucks – and now, he’s being featured in a truck magazine – like father like son!

About Daniel J. Linss - Editor

Daniel J. Linss has been with 10-4 Magazine since the beginning in September of 1993, and has been the Editor and Art Director since March of 1994. Over the years, he has also become one of the main photographers for 10-4 and is well-known for his insightful cover feature articles and honest show reports. Married for over 20 years with three children, Daniel operates a marketing and production company (Daniel Designs) which produces 10-4 Magazine each and every month from his office in Squaw Valley, CA.