Some things are worth the wait. Such is the case for Scott Diller’s recently rebuilt 1981 Kenworth W900A. Dubbed “Red Dawn” by the crew at Elizabeth Truck Center who built it, this truck was four years in the making. Some thought it would never be finished, but Scott proved them wrong when the truck finally made its debut at the truck show in Louisville in March of 2011. And what a debut it was – winning several 1st place trophies and Best of Show in the Limited Mileage Bobtail class. At only 27 years old, some wonder how Scott could have such a nice truck, but this boy has made good decisions, worked hard, and caught a few lucky breaks along the way, too.
Scott Diller came from humble beginnings. His parents, Larry and Wanita Diller, met when Larry was only 13 years old and Wanita was only 11. Back then, Larry’s folks were dairy farmers in Hagerstown, Maryland. The two got married when Wanita turned 18, then they began hog farming. Raising up to 1,000 hogs at a time required much work – and a lot of feed – so Larry bought his first truck – an International 1900S hot shot. Over time, he began hauling feed for other farms, and then he started hauling liquid animal fat (which was added to feed for cattle). Larry eventually bought a second hot shot (an International 4700) and then leased on with Packard Transport out of Channahon, Illinois.
Larry’s first big regular run had him pulling Jet Skis out of Canada and taking them to Florida, and then he brought conversion vans back up. When that run dried up, he turned to the load boards to find freight, but his little single-axle hot shot could not haul as much as the bigger trucks out there, so he lost a lot of loads. To remedy this problem, Larry, who was still leased to Packard, bought a 1989 glider kit Kenworth T600 and started pulling a step-deck in 1994. When that truck turned out to be a money pit, Larry purchased a new 1996 Kenworth T600 the very next year off a local lot. The following year, in 1997, Larry and Wanita put their heads (and names) together and formed Lanita Transport.
Lanita Transport, now based in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, has always been about flatbed and step-deck LTL freight, and the foundation of the business was built on service and honesty. At this point, Lanita was just Larry and one truck, but in 1998, Larry was approached by a guy who wanted to drive for Lanita, so Larry ordered a brand new viper red Kenworth W900 for him to drive. From there on out, every truck Lanita ordered was a viper red Kenworth. When they ordered the red W900, they also ordered a nice matching flatbed with red rails and some chrome. This combination was built to work, but it looked good. Scott was about 15 at the time, and this rig got him excited about running nice equipment that could also compete at the shows.
Later that year, in the summer of 1998, a local pipe company offered Lanita a contract to exclusively haul all of their local (within 300 miles of their yard) freight. The contract was signed, and Larry immediately went out and bought three new Kenworth T800s to handle the new work. Then, he bought another T600, taking them to six trucks, and then brought in five or six owner operators, leasing them on at Lanita. About this time, Larry got off the road and began working in the office full time. But as time passed, he needed more help – enter Scott.
After dropping out of the traditional high school in 9th grade, Scott finished his education through a home study program and eventually earned his diploma. When he was 16 years old, he went to work at a local cabinet company, where he stayed for about six months. From there, he moved on to a local lumber outfit called Rigidply Rafters, where he drove a forklift and packed orders. After he turned 18, Scott went to work at Lanita. Back then, Larry did the dispatching, Wanita did the paperwork and Scott answered the phones. Times were tough, too – Larry had to bring on three or four more owner operators just to pay Scott’s salary. Being only 18, Scott had his CDL but he could not cross state lines, which really limited his driving. But whenever a local run came up that he could haul, he took it. By this time, counting their leased owner operators, Lanita was running about 15-20 trucks.
In September of 2002, Scott married his wife Leanna two months before his 19th birthday. Now that he was married, he was kind of glad that he wasn’t out running long haul loads all over the country. About this time, Scott’s younger sisters, Leanne and Lori, got involved with the company. Leanne married a dump truck driver who bought his own truck and then signed on at Lanita, and Lori started working in the office. Today, Leanne (25) is not directly involved, but her husband still runs for the company, and Lori (22) handles all of the finances and billing.
By 2004, Lanita was running about 25 trucks, and Scott decided that he wanted to buy one for himself. His dad had always supported him, but Larry was not in a position to help his son buy a new truck. Being only 21 and already having a house payment, no bank would even look at Scott when he asked them for a loan, so Scott turned to his friends. He found Charlie Klopp. Charlie was an owner operator at Lanita who had several trucks, and he offered to sell one of them – a 1992 Freightliner FLD120 – to Scott for $10,000. This truck was not a looker, but it got the job done. Scott was able to put a driver in that truck and pay it off in just three months. And three short months after that, Scott had $30,000 in the bank. Now, he could go buy that new truck he wanted – a 2005 viper red Kenworth W900 with a 72-inch Aerocab. He sold the Freightliner back to Charlie, and then invested a few bucks on some chrome and accessories for his new ride, and then put it to work at Lanita.
Back then, Lanita’s office was just some rented space in a sign shop. There were always cool trucks at the sign shop, getting lettering done, and Scott often wandered over to check them out. One day, the guy at the sign shop (Jeff Nolt) suggested to Scott that he should paint a truck with a faded “sunrise” scheme. Scott did not think it would look good, so to prove him wrong, Jeff created a picture on his computer, which became the inspiration for Scott’s next truck, which would later come to be known as Tequila Sunrise. One of the drivers at Lanita really liked Scott’s 2005 Kenworth, so he sold it to him for top dollar and then ordered his next KW – a 2006 W900 with a 307-inch wheelbase, which he intended to paint like Jeff suggested. Unfortunately, Jeff did not have a large enough booth to paint an entire truck, so Scott turned to the guys at Elizabeth Truck Center (ETC) in New Jersey to handle the job.
As most of you already know, ETC and their sister company Car Craft Truck Works in Staten Island, New York, are one of the premier truck builders, fabricators and painters in the country. They not only painted the truck, but they also added a deck plate, pipes, and some other accessories. Back at the sign shop, Jeff painted all of the interior pieces including the floor, the steering column and the dash panels with a tribal design that matched the exterior. Those pieces were then taken to ETC where they put everything back together. That truck made its debut at the Louisville truck show in 2006, but Scott did not clean it good enough to win any trophies (it was his first “big” show). But, he did get picked to be an ambush truck on Season 2 of Trick My Truck, which was wildly popular at the time.
Scott took Tequila Sunrise to most of the major shows in 2006 and then put a driver in it. After racking up about 200,000 miles on the truck, Scott sold it, again at top dollar, to a guy who just had to have it. He took that money and ordered his next truck – a viper red (what a surprise) 2007 Kenworth W900 with old-school white stripes. Scott really didn’t like this truck much when it arrived, but once he lowered it and added a few things, it began to grow on him. A few years later, this truck would end up not only being featured inside the 2011 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar, but also on the calendar’s front cover (Scott still owns this truck).
Shortly after Scott got that handful of cash from selling Tequila Sunrise, his friend Justin Lang told him about a 1981 A-Model that was for sale. Scott always wanted to build a cool A-Model, so he went to check it out. When he got there, it was inside a dry van, and in pretty bad shape. It had no front tires, no drivetrain, it had a short hood, and the interior was trashed, but Scott bought it anyway. He never even took the truck home – he had it picked up and hauled directly to ETC where it was to get completely refurbished.
The old Kenworth got dropped off in June of 2007, but the work did not begin until early in 2008. The guys at ETC started with brand new frame rails. Using a few items out of a wrecked W900L, they mounted the front axle, rear-ends, suspension and cross-members. The front end was air bagged, new springs were installed (to ensure that it would sit level), and an electronic 475 Cat C-15 (juiced up to 550) was dropped in, as was a brand new 18-speed transmission. Scott’s original intention was to have the entire project completed by March of 2008 for the truck show in Louisville, but that did not happen. They continued to work on the truck throughout 2008, working mostly on the cab and sleeper, but by the end of the year, business had got so bad that Scott had to put the project on hold.
As everybody knows, trucking took a huge nose-dive in 2008, and got even worse in 2009. When ETC finally decided that they needed the bay for other jobs, they moved the KW outside, where it stayed for a couple years. During that time, things got tough at Lanita, and Larry was ready to throw in the towel, get rid of everything, and just go back to one guy (himself) with one truck. He told Scott, “I’m out! If you want it, it’s yours.” Scott and his wife thought about it, talked about it, prayed about it, and then decided to go with it. Since then, Scott has handled the day-to-day operations at Lanita and Larry, who is still the owner and president, just drives.
As things started to get better toward the end of 2009, the project started back up, and in early 2010, Anthony Pesce at ETC promised Scott he would put the rig inside and not take it out again until it was done – no matter how long it took! Working on the truck sporadically in 2010, Scott wanted the Kenworth to look as “original” as possible, and he wanted to be able to work it once it was done. Three weeks before the 2011 Louisville truck show, the entire truck was put together – every hole had been drilled, every piece had been fitted, and every accessory was ready to be mounted, but there was not a drop of paint on it. They took the truck completely apart, spent two weeks painting everything, and then put it all back together, completing the job just a few days before the show. Naming the truck “Red Dawn” and sending it on its way to Louisville, the truck promptly caused jaws to drop, heads to turn, and eyes to bulge – and then it went on to earn several trophies, including Best of Show in the Limited Mileage Bobtail class.
With exception to the “skeleton” of the cab and sleeper, the front axle, the cross-members and the rear-end housings, every component on this truck is brand new. Every mount, bracket, isolator, air bag, harness, piece of hardware, line, wire, etc. was replaced or fabricated by the guys at ETC. Although the exterior of the truck looks fairly stock at first glance, when one looks a little closer, you see much more – especially inside.
With the addition of the electronic engine came a lot of wires, harnesses and switches – all of which, they did not want to put on (or behind) the dash. ETC’s electrical “guru” Jim Baxter moved all of the harnesses, fuses, relays, wires and connections that would normally be behind the dash into the side storage compartment in the sleeper (hidden behind a false panel). Then, a console of switches was built and mounted to the side of the driver’s seat so that everything was at Scott’s fingertips. The totally custom hot rod dash only has a handful of digital gauges, as well as the heating and A/C controls and wiper knobs. The interior, done by Humberto Zarate, was covered with diamond-tuck upholstery (black with red stitching), including a large portion of the floor. The two-tone paint scheme was also continued inside, and matches the rig’s exterior graphics perfectly (it is even on the shifter and steering column). A 6,000-watt stereo, installed by Roger Conti, completed the interior.
The exterior of the KW, as stated before, was kept as “original-looking” as possible. Fit and finish is extremely important to the guys at ETC, and they work hard to be the best in the business in this area of expertise. Some of the exterior modifications include one-piece windows, a new long hood, period-correct air cleaners and sun visor, six-inch exhaust with custom boltless mounts and full stainless rear fenders (made by Trux). The fuel tanks are completely smooth (the weld lines were removed), the handles on all of the sleeper compartment doors were shaved, custom three-step battery boxes were made, and various panels and pieces of hand-fabricated stainless can be found throughout, including slim cab and sleeper extensions, tank fairings and a one-piece deck plate. It would be impossible to mention all of the modifications here because every component, panel, bracket, bolt and rivet was touched – something was done to everything!
Scott is proud of what he and ETC have created, and can’t say enough about the talented crew at Car Craft Truck Works. Some of the other people that helped get this project done include Anthony Pesce (the Big Cheese at ETC), Matthew Froehlich (Mechanic), Angelo Mazzey (the Head Assembler and Builder), and Wynton Pelle (Body Work). The fabrication crew included Diego Mena, Gustavo Mena, Germain Sanchez, Hector Valencia and Felipe Zarate. The painting and graphics were done by George Mazzey, Javier Rivera and Jose Moran, and the lettering and pinstriping was handled by Glen Designs. Although ETC did most of the “heavy lifting” on this truck, Scott was still very involved in the project – he was at the shop all the time, helping with ideas and concepts, and making sure that the crew never lost sight of the final goal – to build a clean, cool work truck.
Today, Lanita runs about 30 trucks and covers all 48 states, hauling mostly LTL flatbed and step-deck freight. Larry is currently driving a 2007 Kenworth W900 with a two-tone blue Seminole paint scheme and is really enjoying being out of the office. On longer runs, Wanita goes out on the road with him. The two have been married for over 30 years now. Scott and his wife have two boys, Aaron (5) and Jake (2), and Scott’s sister Leanne has two kids. Raised in a conservative and religious (Mennonite) home, all of the decisions that Scott makes regarding the way he lives and the way he runs the family business, are all firmly tied to his faith.
Larry agrees that having nice equipment can be an asset to the business, but he also believes things can go too far. Nevertheless, he is proud of Scott and how he has taken control of the business, and looks forward to seeing that A-Model haul some freight in the not-so-distant future. And, after taking the truck to a few of the major shows this year, that is exactly what Scott plans to do. Scott Diller did not build “Red Dawn” to be a trailer queen or a museum piece – he built it to work, and he can’t wait to get it out there and start using it. This classic-looking A-Model with modern hot rod styling proves that good things do come to those who wait!