Bruce Wingen is more than a truck driver – he’s an inventor, a pilot, a racer, a fisherman and a successful businessman. Bruce began Chevelle Racing & Trucking in 1992, and at one time he had a fleet of 70 trucks. Today, Bruce, who is from Thornton, Colorado, currently runs three trucks, hauling primarily refrigerated freight, but he recently added an enclosed car trailer for hauling high-dollar and collector vehicles to his fleet. Bruce’s trucking career has been very long and successful, but his business resume extends far beyond just running trucks.
Bruce’s career, having grown up in Hoven, South Dakota, began in trucking when he was just 15 years old. Back then, with his friend Marv Raba, Bruce drove a 1968 Freightliner cabover with a 290 Cummins and a 4×4, hauling cattle to Sioux Falls. In 1974, Bruce got his first driving job, running an L9000 Ford with a 318 Detroit, pulling a belly dump. In 1980, Bruce bought his first truck – a hardly used 1980 Peterbilt 352 cabover with 60,000 miles from Claire Larson, who, at the time, ran a small Peterbilt dealership. Today, that small single dealership has grown into The Larson Group, a large network of 13 dealerships. After buying his first truck, Bruce went hauling for Action Carriers out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In addition to running Chevelle Racing & Trucking, Bruce is the brainchild behind, and Chief Operating Officer of Enertek Solutions, a manufacturer of lithium-powered APUs (auxiliary power units). Bruce’s products have applications in everything from trucks to RVs, as well as military and marine applications. With kilowatt ratings of 1.5, 3 and 6 available, these units allow trucks to run many of their auxiliary and accessory functions without necessitating idling. Weighing 30, 60 and 120 pounds, respectively, their power-to-weight ratio can also offer a significant weight savings over traditional battery systems (check them out online at www.enerteksolutions.com).
Bruce works hard, but he also knows how to have fun – and his cool truck is just one example of that. Sitting on an enormous 320-inch wheelbase, the truck, a 1987 Peterbilt 359 extended hood, certainly has the long look going for it. The truck’s power comes from a 425 horsepower 3406B Caterpillar, pushed through an 18-speed Eaton and 3.36 rears. Custom features include an 8-inch stainless exhaust with Pickett elbows, a 20-inch bumper, stainless steel rear full fenders and light bar, and a drop visor.
One of the most unique features of Bruce’s truck is the 36-inch coffin sleeper. Aside from exaggerating the already-long wheelbase of the truck, it is not in-fact a 359-era Peterbilt flattop, but instead a Unibilt sleeper off a 1999 Peterbilt. This conversion allowed for a much larger opening to enter the sleeper, increasing the overall comfort of the truck. This modification, which also determined the 8-inch stacks (Bruce originally was going to use 6-inch stacks, but the wider Unibilt sleeper made the stacks look too small in the gap between the cab and sleeper), required a large amount of alterations to be made to the back of the 359 cab for the two pieces to mate. Ultimately, however, the non-original sleeper is a wonderful improvement for the truck.
Another interesting characteristic of Bruce’s slick 359 are the custom stainless steel tank covers for the rig’s 200-plus gallon fuel tanks. Each fill-up may be expensive, but the extra large tanks allow Bruce to fuel up less often. The long tanks, which feature ghosted flames matching the front fenders, also help to fill the large amount of rail the truck has. Ever the salesman, you will also notice Bruce’s truck is fitted with his own APU unit. The truck actually toured the country when the product made its debut, showcasing the capabilities of this unique power unit.
One of the most interesting features (and challenging issues at the photo shoot) is the paint. The color is the Buick version of black cherry, which reacts much more strongly to light than similar colors offered by Peterbilt. The truck, depending on the light, will go from nearly a pure black, to an almost root beer color, to a vibrant and striking color which can only be described as bright black cherry. Needless to say, it was not an easy color to capture!
Bruce’s truck has seen many miles. Originally a company tractor at Chevelle, Bruce shut the truck down and built it to pull his motor home with – and he truly built the truck himself. Except for the paint, which was done by Diversified Body Shop, all of the other work was done by Bruce. However, putting business before pleasure, Bruce recently gained a very large reefer contract, and he didn’t hesitate to put the old rig back to work. In the past four months, under his (and at times others) driving, the truck has run over 100,000 miles. For 120 days straight, the truck never sat for more than three days at any one time (and it’s still working).
Bruce’s 359, however, is not the only vehicle he has painted black cherry (it is his favorite color). Bruce also has a very cool (and fast) 1966 Chevelle with a 600 hp 388 stroker that can turn 11.2 ETs on street tires! Though the car does not race very often anymore, Bruce achieved many event wins in the 1980s in the “Street King” class with it. Aside from his black cherry Pete and Chevelle, Bruce also has a 2005 Harley Davidson Road King with enough chrome to keep up with his truck and a 1979 Mooney airplane, both painted black cherry. When he’s not trucking, racing or riding his Harley, Bruce enjoys fishing. In fact, Bruce’s fishing skills are so good, that he once had a stint as a professional Walleye fisherman in 1993.
In the 36 years and 5 million miles (with one accident that was proven as the other driver’s fault) that Bruce has driven a truck, much of his success is a byproduct of his tremendous work ethic. However, Bruce would like to thank Claire Larson of The Larson Group for getting him in and financing Bruce’s first truck over 30 years ago. Bruce would also like to thank his wife of 34 years, Sue, for, in his words, “Putting up with my crap!”
10-4 Magazine would like to thank Bruce Wingen for his time. In the world of refrigerated freight hauling, one is often late before they’re even loaded, but Bruce still found the time to talk with us and do a photo shoot (or two) with his truck, hot rod and motorcycle. We would also like to tip our hat to him for his fearlessness on getting the truck into several odd locations for the shots. Bruce has had many years of success, and if he and his truck are any indication of the future, Chevelle Racing & Trucking is a name that certainly won’t be going away anytime soon.