Priceless Memories

A father, a son and a 40-year old truck. This is a combination some may not think much of, but for a 1977 Kenworth A-Model to be bought brand new, kept in the family and used for over 25 years, and then passed on to a son that appreciates its sentimental value, well, that is priceless. Some things just get better with age, and this truck is one of them. For this particular rig, and many others its age, if it could talk, boy would it have some great stories to tell.

What makes a truck legendary? The truck itself, the time it spent working, or the ones who drove it? In this case – all the above! Kentucky native “KY” Hylton moved to Ohio 52 years ago, purchased his first truck (the one seen here) on the 4th of July weekend in 1977, and married his wife Pauline (Polly) in 1979. Fast forward a couple of years to the birth of their son Tony (Anthony) on May 1, 1981, and a legendary trucking family was born.

Trucks are bought and sold every day, but there are those rare trucks that remain in the family, are well-taken care of, and kept road-ready. KY was a driver for a company until a truck accident that occurred in 1976 caused him to be laid-up for about six months. When he came back to work, his position was no longer available. That was the moment when he realized that he needed to buy his own truck, which is when “Old Blue” was purchased.

Hooking the rig to a Fruehauf coal bucket, KY started hauling sand and gravel for a local asphalt company. This duo averaged eleven 40-ton loads a day (net weight in the box) for Samco in Windsor, OH. Hauling sand and gravel would remain its job for the next 25 years, mostly for Schloss Paving, from their gravel pit to their asphalt plants, until it was retired to being a spare truck. Through those 25 years, KY and his wife Polly both drove the truck.

Purchased brand new off the lot for $49,900 (note the 49 on the side of the hood) from Hissong Kenworth in Richfield, OH, this 13-speed Kenworth was stock with an 1,150 cubic-inch KTA Cummins pushing about 450 hp. This was KY’s first time operating a 13-speed, so he had to teach himself how to drive it. In 1982, they did a factory upgrade to the KTA engine, increasing its horsepower to 525, and then in 1987 they did another factory upgrade, this time to 600 hp. For those that don’t know, the KTA Cummins was originally created for earth-moving equipment and generators, but with the onset of Caterpillar and Mack coming out with big V8 engines, Cummins decided to release it for some on-road applications – and it is a beast!

I had a moment to sit down with KY to find out what his most memorable moments were while driving this old KW, and the stories he told had me feeling like I was there. Back in the day, a man knew he had plenty of horsepower in his truck when he could pass a Greyhound bus. On one particular trip, hauling salt to Columbus, OH, he passed a Greyhound bus and, according to KY, that just tickled him to death. Back then there wasn’t a lot of big engine trucks out there, and his KTA Cummins was the biggest one around that area at that time. The only other engines that were comparable were the V8 Cats, the V8 Macks, and the big Detroits.

“Old Blue” became famous in KY’s area
because of its ability to get-up-and-go at any time. KY said it was always a joy to drive. On another occasion, he spoke of semi-truck pulling, and how his powerful KW won a lot. There was one pull that KY attended in Hartville, OH that was home to a man who drove a V8 Mack, and KY was determined to do whatever he had to do to out-pull that guy in his hometown. Unfortunately, that “determination” killed KY’s engine during the pull, but regardless of the failure, KY still prevailed and still out-pulled that Mack!

Shortly after the 600-hp factory upgrade was completed, Polly started driving the truck, and she too recalled a moment that has always stuck in her mind while driving the KW. Hauling sand and gravel to the plant, she got stuck behind a car that was going too slow. Beginning to leave some extra room between her and that car in front of her, she waited for the oncoming traffic to pass. Once the coast was clear on a long straightaway, she gave it fuel and made the pass with ease, saying, “It literally sat me back in my seat and I just flew around that car!” After the adrenaline rush, she called KY and told him that she wasn’t expecting that much power to be produced when she put her foot to the floor.

This truck, with KY behind the wheel, along with two other men, were the first three to begin semi-truck pulling in their area. The A-Model became known for its ability to work hard every day during the week, and pull hard on the weekends, as well. KY has since retired from trucking, while Polly, with 31 years under her belt, figures she can go another four or five more years before she retires. Polly currently owns and operates a 2003 Kenworth W900L six-axle dump truck with a C15 Cat and an 18-speed. She mostly works for the paving and milling crews, but fills in any gaps with hauling sand and gravel into the plant, when needed.

Tony grew up around trucks and rode with his parents on a daily basis until school started. At that point, his parents would drop him off and pick him up from school in the truck. On the weekends, Tony was always out with KY and Polly, washing on the trucks and doing any necessary maintenance. It was guaranteed that Tony was riding co-pilot with someone during the summer, and he would often visit with the folks inside the scalehouse between rounds.

In 2000, at age 19, Tony got his CDL and started driving a 1996 Kenworth T800 six-axle dump truck. He became very acquainted with hauling hot rock/asphalt, sand and gravel. In the winter, salt was the mainstay, until the paving season came back around in spring. Tony got out of trucking full-time in 2003 and went to work at the city road department, doing maintenance, operating equipment, and snow-plowing in the winter, where he remains employed today.

KY never went to truck shows because he was always too busy working, but Tony took the time to shine it up and took “Old Blue” to its first event ever – the Hillbilly Shriners Truck Show in Pennsylvania on September 20, 2003. It was at that show that Jim “Slicker” Reed made mention to Tony that he should stretch the truck four feet. And so began this Kenworth’s transformation, beginning with the four-foot stretch, and then installing a drop visor from Chrome Depot out of Mantua, OH. In 2004, KY passed down “Old Blue” to Tony, knowing he would keep it in his possession and take good care of it. And Tony surely intends to live up to that expectation.

On July 14, 2007, Tony married his wife Beth. This year, not only did “Old Blue” turn 40 years old, but Tony and Beth celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary, as well. Together, the couple has two sons – Adam (8) and Garrett, who will be one this year, on September 28th.

Over time, Tony found himself working part time for Bonner Farms, pulling a cattle trailer, hauling livestock. The most recent truck he’d been driving is a classy Peterbilt 389 that, if you attended, may recall seeing at the MATS show in Louisville back in 2015. Meanwhile, “Old Blue” was getting worked on little by little. Jump to 2016, two weeks prior to MATS, at the end of March, and Bonner Farms took delivery of a new Peterbilt 389 that, once finished, was pushing around 1,100 hp. Between Tony and the guys in the shop at Bonner Farms, they managed to get her completed in time to unveil her at MATS and, later that year, she also appeared at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs in Joplin, MO.

At that SuperRigs event in Joplin, back in 2016, is where I first met Tony. Becoming friends with him led to becoming friends with his wife Beth. Tony and I spoke briefly about attending SuperRigs in 2017, but we didn’t know where the location was going to be yet. Between our conversations, Tony and Beth’s conversations, and talks between Tony and his crew (which included “Big Mike” Garrett and his son Josh), an ignited determination to get “Old Blue” fixed-up and to the event, came to life.

“Old Blue” made her debut this year at the 2017 Shell Rotella SuperRigs show this past May in Tulsa, OK. The trip was made possible by the help Tony had with getting the truck put together, polishing by Evan’s Detailing and Polishing out of Chilton, WI, stellar support from his wife, and transport of the KW so graciously provided by Dick Bonner of Bonner Farms, who enabled Tony to drive the aforementioned 2016 Peterbilt 389 show truck, with “Old Blue” on its back, to Tulsa. This was truly a team effort – and an experience Tony will never forget.

As mentioned, this 40-year old rig pushes 600 horses from her KTA Cummins motor. To this day, it still has the original motor, which has been overhauled three times, and has an accumulative mileage of about 1.6 million. All of the KW’s restoration was done in-house, including the previously-mentioned four-foot frame stretch. The frame was sandblasted and painted again at the beginning of 2017. Early in the truck’s transformation process, WTI fenders, painted to match, were installed on the truck. All the chicken lights, switch covers, train horns, hub caps and bezels were purchased from Chrome Depot in Mantua, OH, along with the six-inch Grand Rock stacks. All the paint was bought from Geauga Auto out of Middlefield, OH. A new steel deck plate, purchased from Vanguard Laser in Mantua, OH, was also installed in-house.

To keep the rig more period-correct, there are no LED lights anywhere on the truck – even the “underglow” lighting comes from twelve 4-inch lights. Inside the cab, the floor received a facelift, which now features ceramic tile. The inside of the truck is covered with classic red button-tuck upholstery, and it has a true wood dash, which is very simple. But, other than a sound system that has been added, the interior isn’t fully completed yet. The exterior refurbish was finished on May 14, 2017, which just happens to be the same day it was loaded-up on a step-deck and hauled to its unveiling at the “Titans of Tulsa” SuperRigs show, where it was well-received. Did it earn a spot in the upcoming Shell Rotella calendar? Time will tell (confirmation of the calendar spot holders are not announced until November). Stay tuned.

Tony and Beth graciously opened-up their home to me for several days so I could do this photo shoot and put this feature together. I had the opportunity to spend time with the whole family, learn all about their neat old rig, hear stories of days gone by, and solidify what I expect to become a life-long friendship. Humble in their nature with kindness in their hearts, I am honored that they allowed me to tell the story of them and their Kenworth, and share how owning (and working) a truck for 40 years has affected their lives along the way. Tony said he looks forward to continuing this tradition, and one day passing “Old Blue” along to his sons.

Though not a working truck any longer, those in the Ohio area still get to enjoy hearing her coming down the road as she heads to a semi-truck pull in or around town. This has been an exciting year for the Hylton family, which includes completing the KW’s exterior makeover, attending the SuperRigs show in Tulsa, “Old Blue” turning 40 years old, and now the cover of 10-4 Magazine! And the year is not over yet. But, as awesome as all of these accomplishments are, nothing compares to the priceless memories this rig has provided the Hylton family – memories that will live on far past the first generation, which started it all, way back in 1977.

About Stephanie Haas