Somewhere I read, “When you’re cool, the sun shines all the time,” and for Mr. Bill Frampton, it was always sunny wherever he went, including the small dairy town of Artesia, California, where he was from. It was just a small friendly place, less than two square miles in size, but packed with local family-owned farms, dairies, diners, tool stores and residents that never hesitated to give you a “how ya doin’ wave” as they drove past. This tiny town in sunny Southern California was home to many trucking legends – guys like Bill and one of his most respected friends (and ours), George Van Dyke, just to name two, who called Artesia home at one point.
This month’s Fog Line Rewind is about trucking icon Bill Frampton – a trend-setter and all-around nice guy who showed the rest of the country what “cool” was back in the 1970s and 1980s. Born right there in that little town of Artesia (located near the intersection of the 91 and 605 freeways next to the city of Cerritos) in 1941, Bill, along with his two older sisters, would become one surprise after another, and Artesia would never be the same.
At the time, a local business called Artesia Ice was a very successful outfit, and Bill’s father Harvey went to work for them long before Bill was even born. Going back even further, the city of Artesia might never have even existed if it wasn’t for Bill’s grandfather and his four brothers, who helped form the small community in the late 1800s!
Harvey Frampton, Bill’s dad, went to work for Artesia Ice in 1929, working the graveyard shift, doing everything from sweeping floors to loading trucks. Over the years, he worked his way up to the day positions around the warehouse, and because of his steadfast dedication and work ethic, Artesia Ice eventually put him into sales. Later, he moved into a management position, and then in 1966, Harvey got the opportunity to purchase Artesia Ice Company. Of course, he jumped at the chance, and this is where the Frampton name first really came to be known.
Bill’s dad Harvey was always a man that stood by his word and lived by it, so naturally Bill was raised the same way. Heck, Harvey wouldn’t even let Bill go deep sea fishing as a youngster until he had practiced casting in the bed of a 1937 Ford pickup for weeks first. Through the years, Harvey instilled into Bill the idea that, “If you’re gonna do something, do it right!” And, to this day, Bill still lives by that philosophy.
While Bill was still a teenager, Harvey made him the truck jockey out in the yard at the plant. Bill spent many days and nights maneuvering 1940s- and 50s-era Ford single axles pulling 28-foot trailers, along with an old GMC, around that plant every day, making sure to park all of them inside the warehouse every night. Harvey was adamant about Bill “doing it right” – and, lucky for Harvey, he just happened to be raising the perfect son for mastering those truck moves.
Naturally, by age 18, Bill was off and going head-on into the trucking world. Bill left Artesia Ice for several years, cutting his teeth driving tankers for California Ammonia Transport and ‘slam bang’ transfer units. One of his favorite wage jobs was hauling carrots for Maggio out of Indio, California, where he found four loads a week out of Salinas, before the freeways there now ever existed. With quite a bit of experience already, Bill returned to Artesia Ice in 1970, only this time to be an owner operator, hauling the ice.
Hell-bent on having a cabover with a long wheelbase, Bill decided that it was time to stick it out there and step up. He and his dad, Harvey, went to look at a Freightliner cabover with great specs, but it just didn’t quite fit the ‘bill’ (pun intended). The salesman that Bill was dealing with located a brand-new blue 1970 Peterbilt 359 day cab conventional with a 335 Cummins Small Cam and a 4+4, which Bill bought and immediately jumped right into. For the most part, Bill spent most of the hot summer months hauling ice around the local area, but sometimes he got to travel a bit, too. One memorable location was Mercury, Nevada – an atomic test site and home to many nuclear missile silos – where he delivered ice directly to the crews constructing the launch pads. Like when building Hoover Dam, the freshly-poured concrete required instant cooling, and a big load of Artesia ice was prefect for the job.
As sweet as the ‘70 Pete was, Bill still dreamed of having that cabover with a long wheelbase. So, in 1974, he bought a brand-new beautiful two-tone brown Peterbilt 352 and then hit the road. To this day, that brown 352 is still Bill’s most loved truck. From around 1974 on, running two trucks wasn’t a problem for Bill. He hired a driver for the blue ‘70 and ran the cabover himself. If you ask Bill, he’ll say, “It was a piece of cake. I went from two trailers and one license plate, to four trailers and two plates!” These two trucks made their rounds, day and night, without fail.
Being the father of two kids – a daughter and a son – Bill was also a father without fail. His son Mike, just like his dad, had big dreams and a lot of talent and energy, but not necessarily towards school. Realizing this, Bill took things into his own hands and made sure that every extra second that Mike had was spent right there with him in that ‘74 cabover Pete. Mike wasn’t too happy about that, or so he said, but whatever it was that he was saying at that time, it’s safe to say that Mike actually enjoyed the time spent with his dad – and he learned more in those few years than any school could have ever taught him.
By the time 1978 rolled around, Bill’s business was growing, and he needed another truck. Of course, it had to have some power, and it had to be a Peterbilt, so what else could it be other than a 359 extended hood, dressed-out in dark red Imron paint. This truck was spec’d with a KT450 Cummins, but Bill immediately added an aftercooler and juiced it into a KTA600. This truck came factory with a ‘wide mouth’ grill and a slightly larger mesh opening in the nose piece and was equipped with a 36-inch factory sleeper. This girl was bad to the bone, right out of the box, and would receive the Frampton badge on her doors, along with the #9 on the air cleaners.
Bill and his son Mike spent the majority of the late 1970s rollin’ around together in that 359, as well as the brown cabover. But, by 1980, things got even busier and Bill had to add yet another truck – and another driver – Mike! Of course, Bill ordered another dark red Peterbilt 359 almost identical to his ‘78 (the ‘78 was later fitted with a 48-inch Double Eagle sleeper and the ‘80 got a 60-incher). By this time, Bill’s fine fleet was starting to get recognized and respected from Nevada to Oregon, and from California to Washington, for its over-the-top eye appeal.
One time, around 1982, Bill got a call from a truck shop in Oregon, and the mechanic there was wondering why one of Bill’s drivers (who they called “Joe Momma”) was complaining about having a “lack of power” in one of the red K-powered 359s. The mechanic asked, “What’s the deal with this guy? The truck is putting 580 horses to the ground!” Needless to say, nothing was wrong with Joe or the truck – he was just a little spoiled when it came to power.
Any real trucker worth his weight will remember those pressed-out 96-ft. wide trailers Bill had with the mural of the ‘cool bear’ sitting on an ice block painted on them, along with the words, “When you’re cool, the sun shines all the time.” Highly polished wheels and white mud flaps were almost mandatory on Bill’s rides, but the most noticeable part on any of his combos was what most guys would read on the swinging doors on the back of ALL of Bill’s trailers – Harvey Frampton Trucking. Why Harvey and not Bill, you ask? Well, if you’re ever lucky enough to meet Bill and ask him, he’ll proudly tell you, “Hell, if it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
In the mid-80s, the Frampton fleet continued to grow, and Bill added a few more dark red 359s. By then, the ‘Ice House’ was well-established as the place to be for good times, nice iron and great truckers. Friends like Bryan and Gary Van Laar, Ronnie Nobach and so many others, from all over the country, would come rollin’ in whenever they were in town. As a teenager, Kevin Van Hulzen would wander down there to help out, making the ‘Ice House’ basically a 24/7 truck show. And, being that he, Harm Speerstra and several others founded the first Pomona ‘Truckin for Charity’ show in 1981, now known as Truckin’ for Kids, Bill was no stranger to shows.
By the time the 90s came around, the fleet was growing and changing quickly. A majority of Bill’s trucks were becoming Peterbilt 379s, and most of them were now yellow with charcoal fenders, with the exception of one Pete 377, with a set-forward axle, ordered as low as the factory would build it (it was still dark red with black fenders, like the older trucks). Bill never thought he would ever let one of those in his yard, but when people told him that he couldn’t make a 377 look good, Bill had to prove everyone wrong. But, this 377 didn’t just make those folks eat their words, it surpassed what Bill thought was even possible with one of those types of trucks, especially back then, making that 377 yet another top-notch member of the now-famous Frampton fleet.
Throughout the 90s, and up until 2002, Bill’s sweet fleet boasted over 20 company trucks and over 30 sub-haulers, making Bill a very busy guy. Having a great family and trusted friends in his life, nothing ever felt like work to Bill. His drivers were the key – any time and any place they needed to be, his guys got it done (and still made time to juice their tires). Bill hired Kevin Van Hulzen the day Kevin got his license, in 1991, and then immediately sent him out with a load of ice. Best friends and drivers such as Art Bousema, Paul Lazano and many others, helped make Harvey Frampton Trucking one of the finest fleets our country has ever seen.
In 2002, Bill decided to sell his company and retire, but to anybody that knows him, they know that “retirement” wasn’t in Bill’s vocabulary. Over the last 15 years, now at 77 years young, Bill has never slowed down. He still loves trucks the way he did as a kid, wheeling those Fords and GMCs around the ice house, and if you ask his friends, they will tell you that Bill still has the same energy.
When asked if there was anyone in his life he would thank, he instantly said, “My dad.” Bill, it’s safe to say that your dad looks down on you from heaven every day, grinning, and filled with pride. After all, when you’re cool, the sun shines all the time! Thank you, Bill and Mike Frampton, for letting us share your “authorized” story, and thanks to Kevin Van Hulzen and Mike for letting us share all these amazing old pictures. Bill Frampton and his cool rigs set the standard for decades, and because of his influence and good reputation, trucks and trucking – on the west coast and beyond – will never be the same.