Second Life

We all know a few owner operators that have liked their truck so much they decided to keep it for years, or decades. But, we rarely hear about a company that does the same thing, simply because they have a driver that wants to hang on to their $20,000 baby. But, in this case, Shamrock Lumber Company of Eugene, Oregon, was one of those rare companies, and driver Ron Van Altvorst was that “one-in-a-million” exceptional driver that Shamrock has aimed to please, for over 30 years, with a special truck. And now, with new owners, Ron’s old ride is getting a second life – and he gets to be a part of that one, too!

Beginning his trucking career in 1968, driving a 2-axle GMC “Crackerbox” with a 6V71 Detroit, Ron Van Altvorst (71) of Eugene, Oregon, hauled machinery locally around Oregon for a company called Topline Equipment throughout most of the 1970s. He always enjoyed that gig, and even more so, when they upgraded him into a 3-axle conventional a few years later. However, the fun really began in 1978 when a local businessman named Jack Oneil, also of Eugene, and a few other partners, decided to part ways with Georgia Pacific and start a lumber sales business of their own called Shamrock Lumber Company. Shamrock asked Ron to come drive their first truck and, of course, Ron couldn’t turn it down.

Shamrock bought a 1973 Kenworth W900A truck and trailer used from a local lumber company, Maks Wood Products, and painted it in their trademark white and green colors. This A-model was a hell of an upgrade for Ron, but Ron’s real upgrade came in 1981 when Shamrock ordered him a brand new W900A, complete with matching Alloy brand beds. This ‘81 KW would end up becoming Ron’s pride and joy for the next 20 years – and beyond.

Getting away from it all to the “peace and serenity” of the open road was always a perk of the job for Ron. His wife Teri and son Toby enjoyed Ron’s truck as much as he did, and Toby would often go out on trips with his dad. Ron’s runs spanned everywhere from Portland, Oregon, to Yreka and Alturas, California, and even east towards Burns, Oregon. Ron still smiles when recalling how Toby would always stay wide awake, for most of each trip, without missing a beat.

Ron always cared for this ‘81 KW like it was his own, and when the day came that the old girl hit a million miles, Ron pulled off of the 2-lane highway, stepped out, and took some pictures. Before Ron knew it, he had put over 1.3 million miles on this beauty, and in 2001 Shamrock Lumber Company bought Ron another new Kenworth, painted to match his old standby. The 2001 KW B-model was virtually identical to his 1981 in looks, and every bit as good-looking.

Taking perfect care of that B-model like he owned it, just as he did with his ‘81, Ron always had a sweet spot in his heart for his older ride. Ron retired in 2010, but would still drive over to Shamrock regularly to say “hi” and, of course, check in on his baby (the ’81). In 2012, Ron would find himself needing to drive over to a different shop to see his truck, because long-time friends of his, Jeff and Debby Patterson, bought the ‘81 KW from Shamrock. Jeff and Debby’s ultimate goal was to completely restore this wagon – and Ron was more than happy to hear that!

The restoration process began shortly after the purchase, and the Pattersons were always keeping Ron in the loop – until they sent the entire setup to Brattain International, a local dealership in Eugene, to receive a complete paint makeover, in the truck’s “original” colors, of course. Ron would drive by the shop, wondering where the ‘81 was, but the Pattersons kept the extent of the rebuild secret for the last few months. In May of 2016, the truck made its debut at the national ATHS antique truck show held in Salem, Oregon. They invited Ron, his wife Teri, and son Toby (40), in addition to their grandson Spike (3), to come up to the show. Needless to say, Ron got a little choked-up when the Patterson’s rolling surprise came into his sight at the event.

Thanks go out to Casey Roscoe and everyone at the Seneca Sawmill for setting up the load and letting us take some of the pictures in their yard. Also, big thanks to Brattain International Body Shop, especially Ryan Brooks and Rich Cobb, for doing such an awesome job on the truck. Last but not least, Steve and Copper Runyon of Hub City Chrome for the accessories, and Jerry Cehrs and his crew at Valley Pressure Washing for the great polish job on the truck.

To this day, Jeff and Debby make sure that Ron gets to drive his old ‘81 to all the shows and parades and, naturally, Teri, Toby, and now Spike are always right at his side. This neat old Kenworth has been a part of Ron’s life for over 35 years, and thanks now to Jeff and Debby Patterson, not only does the rig get the chance to live a second life, but Ron Van Altvorst does, too.

About Bryan Welsh

Bryan Welsh’s love for trucking, both old and new, probably began while rolling around in his custom lit-up Radio Flyer wagon with chrome wheels when he was a kid. Over the years he has owned, built and driven several trucks and his involvement and pride in the trucking industry has only grown. Bryan, who writes from both “the road” and his home in Junction City, Oregon, has been a regular contributor to 10-4 Magazine since October 2009.