George Van Dyke of Tangent, Oregon loves cabovers. In fact, for almost 25 years, that is all he ever owned and operated. Getting started on a dairy, hay was the first thing George hauled, so he’s always had a soft spot in his heart for hay trucks – especially truck and trailer setups. So, later in life, when it came time to restore a truck for the shows, it was a no-brainer for George. After finding and building an old Peterbilt 352 cabover hay truck and trailer, he found another old Peterbilt cabover and built it as an almost exact match to the first. Today, George Van Dyke’s working fleet consists entirely of long hood conventionals, but those old Peterbilt cabovers sure take him back to the good old days.
Born in Holland, George immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was just two years old in 1947. They came to Cypress, California and joined an uncle who already had a dairy in Paramount. Eventually, George’s dad Sid bought his own dairy in Paramount, and then later moved it to Artesia. Growing up on a dairy, there were always trucks around, and George was pretty fascinated by them – especially cabovers and hay trucks. George dropped out of high school when he was 15 years old and then went to work for his father on the dairy.
In 1968, when the freeways started going through and the housing market was booming in Southern California, most of the dairies were forced out of Los Angeles and sent to Chino. Some, who didn’t want to move to Chino, went north to Tulare. Well, George’s father didn’t like either of those places so he decided to move to Corvalis, Oregon, instead. Not wanting to leave Southern California, George and his new bride Marianne decided to stay and George took a job driving a truck for a local roofing company. That only lasted about four months, and then George’s father convinced them to come to Oregon.
Once in Oregon, George went to work on the dairy. In 1969, he decided to buy a 1957 GMC flatbed so he could haul in their own hay. George milked cows in the morning, trucked to Central Oregon to get hay in the afternoon, and then returned in time to milk the cows again in the evening. It was a lot of work! Shortly after that, George began hauling hay for some of his neighbors, too, and George Van Dyke Trucking (GVDT) officially started. The next year, George stepped up to a 1959 Freightliner cabover, but it turned out to be very unreliable, so in 1971 he purchased a brand new 1972 Peterbilt cabover. Now, he was trucking in style, but he was working his butt off, too. The next year, in 1972, George decided to walk away from the cows and he never looked back. He was now a full-time trucker!
To begin his trucking career, George signed on with a local company called IMT (Independent Motor Transport). Oddly enough, IMT was based in Tangent, Oregon in the very same office that GVDT is in today! Back then, George hauled a lot of lumber and veneer for Boise Cascade. When IMT sold out in 1977, George decided to go find his own loads. Enticing one of IMT’s drivers to join him, George bought a 1969 Freightliner truck and trailer and then hired Phil Wright to run it. Phil was one of IMT’s best drivers and he was known for keeping his rig super clean. Phil drove for George for 15 years until he retired.
In the late 70s, everything was booming – a guy could work 24/7 if he wanted to. George built his fleet up to six trucks – three trucks and trailers and three tractors pulling flatbeds. At that time, they were still hauling hay, but not very much. Then, in 1981, a recession hit and the building industry came to screeching halt. Many of the mills started closing, so George had to find other freight to keep his trucks moving. Through a grain salesman he knew at church, George was introduced to a new run hauling wood products down to California and then cotton seed back to Oregon. For the next ten years, George had three trucks dedicated to this haul. Over that time, he built his fleet up to twelve trucks, all of which were still parked and maintained at George’s house. About the same time that the county started hassling George for having all the trucks at his house, IMT’s old yard in Tangent became available, so George and Marianne bought it and moved the operation out of their home. Today, GVDT is still based out of that same three-acre yard in Tangent. As the company grew, George eventually had to stop driving and start taking care of everything in the office.
George’s wife Marianne was also born in Holland. She immigrated to the United States with her family when she was seven years old. George saw a picture of Marianne in the local Artesia newspaper (she was running for Dairy Princess) and liked what he saw. He asked her out six times before she finally agreed – the rest, as they say, is history. Today, after 44 years of marriage, they have two sons, Brad and Brian, and a daughter, Cheri. Marianne is the Business Manager, overseeing both the trucking company and a sign shop (Van Dyke’s Signmakers) they own and operate on the same premises.
After graduating from high school in 1987, George and Marianne’s oldest son Brad tried going to college, but he only lasted a few weeks. Always knowing that he wanted to drive trucks, he left school and went to work at the family business. Brad started washing trucks when he was seven years old, so he was no stranger to the company. Brad drove until 1999, and then got out of the trucks and went into the office to dispatch. Years later, Brad quit dispatching and started handling more of the accounting, billing and bookkeeping – today he also takes care of all the trucks (with help from his dad). Brad (43) and his wife Jenny have been married for 21 years and have two children – Rachel (18) and Ryan (15). Jenny runs the sign shop, which now has five employees and is doing very well.
After high school, George & Marianne’s daughter Cheri did the daycare thing for a while before joining the company in the early 1990s. In 1995 she married Erich Schoen. Erich got his CDL and then went to work at GVDT for several years as a driver. Later, he bought his own truck and leased on at GVDT for a few more years. Last year, he parked his truck and became a Sheriff (he switched over to the dark side). Today, Cheri helps her brother Brian with dispatch and does other various office functions. Cheri (39) and Erich have been married for 16 years and have two kids – Jessica (14) and Jake (12).
When Brad’s brother Brian graduated from high school, he went to work at Les Schwab Tires. After about a year, he told his dad that if he bought him a conventional truck, he’d join the company. So, in 1993, George bought his son a nearly-new 1993 Peterbilt conventional, which was the first non-cabover he had ever owned. Brian drove until about 2000, and then he took over the dispatching. Brian (38) and his wife Jeana have been married for 14 years and have three kids – Carson (9), Maci (7) and Maya (2).
Brad liked Brian’s conventional so much, he convinced his dad to order him a brand new 1995 Peterbilt 379 conventional. That truck, which was the first to be painted in Van Dyke’s now-signature Medium Green color, went on to become pretty famous on the truck show scene. Known for its amazingly-polished aluminum (especially the headache rack, which most people thought was chromed steel thanks to renowned polisher Dave Barr of Centralia, Oregon), that 1995 Peterbilt won just about every award imaginable from 1996 up until 1999. At that point, the Van Dyke’s got burned out and stopped going to most of the shows. Today, they only attend a few select shows each year.
Back in 1977, George bought a new Pete 352 cabover. At the time, he wanted to order an H-Model with a Cummins KT450 engine, but it was an $11,000 option, so George opted out of it. The H-Model’s cab was 4” taller than the standard cab to allow for a larger radiator to cool the big KT series Cummins engines, as well as the V-8 Cats and 8V-92 TT Detroits. Later, when it wasn’t about the money anymore, George and his boys started looking for an H-Model with a small 86” sleeper cab. In 1993, they found a rare 1977 H-Model in Winnemucca, Nevada with recessed dual stacks. Unfortunately, it did not have a KT450, but it was good nonetheless, so they bought it. George’s old driver Phil Wright, although retired, came back to do a lot of the work on this truck, as well as Blayne Johnston of McKay Truck Repair.
When they found the old H-Model, it had been cut off just behind the fuel tanks and had no rear-ends or driveline (see photo), so they bought a parts truck with a 400 Cummins Big Cam III engine and air leaf suspension and put them on the truck. They also added twin turbos from a Cummins 475, but did not change to the lower compression pistons or add the variable timing from the 475, so it was kind of experimental. The longer frame rails that provided the truck’s 240” wheelbase, as well as a bunch of other parts, came from a 1993 cabover. When it was first built, truck #20, which was completed in 1995, was just a tractor. Featuring a stock olive green interior, George used the tractor locally every so often.
Later, around 2003, #20 was converted into a hay truck and trailer. Blayne Johnston and McKay Truck Repair lengthened the frame (not the wheelbase, just the rear section of the frame) and then built the bed from scratch. Brad and the guys at GVDT painted the truck right in their shop. A beautiful 1962 Utility trailer, painted to match, was added to complete the combination. Although a hay truck and trailer in no way fits in with the current GVDT fleet, George built the truck for sentimental reasons. The load of hay you see on #20 in the pictures here is the ONLY load this truck has ever had on it (thanks to Greg at Zehner Farms for providing the hay).
As great as truck #20 was, it still didn’t have the KT450 engine George wanted so badly, so they found another 1977 352 H-Model that did. As Marianne put it, “George just can’t resist a cabover standing out in a field.” This one, dubbed truck #21, did not have dual recessed exhaust, but it had a “K” in it, and it ran, too (they actually drove it home and did very little work to it). McKay Truck Repair stretched the short wheelbase out to 240” to match truck #20, and then Blayne Johnston and his son Blayne Jr. went to work. To complete the combination, they fixed up a matching 42’ long 1986 Alloy flatbed trailer. Finishing it just in time to debut it alongside its twin at the ATHS National Show & Convention held in Pleasanton, California in May of 2010, both of the trucks together were a big hit.
On their way home from that ATHS show in Pleasanton, George blew a steer tire on truck #20, which put the rig, loaded with two pickup trucks on the bed, into the center divider wall pretty hard. George hung on for dear life and was pretty lucky that it did not roll over in the soft gravel. After fixing the tire and getting the rig home, they took it to the body shop at DSU Peterbilt in Portland (where they buy all of their trucks) to get it repaired. There was extensive damage to the bumper, the lower left side cab panels, and all of the wheels on the driver’s side. An old-timer at DSU who specializes in cabovers did all of the work – and he did a great job.
GVDT purchased their first conventional in 1993, and since 2003 they have bought nothing but long hood Peterbilt conventionals. Today, the GVDT fleet consists of 25 tractors (mostly 4-axles) and about 40 trailers (primarily 53’ curtain vans with 4-axle setups). The curtain vans have proven to be very versatile because they can handle just about any type of freight (and the shippers like them, too). Currently, the trucks are all sorts of colors, but they just began the tedious process of painting them all the same color – Medium Green – like the cabovers seen here. GVDT primarily hauls building materials and beverages throughout the west. Having all of the family involved has been a great way for George & Marianne to not only keep their kids close, but to also spend a lot of time with their grandkids (which they love). George & Marianne are still very active owners and operators of GVDT and they have no plans of retiring anytime soon.
Most of the family members are strong Christian believers, and most attend the First Assembly of God in Albany – Brad sometimes plays the drums in the praise band and often runs the sound board. The church also has an annual car (and now truck) show that George is very active with, as you can imagine. This little “church show” has grown every year and now draws in some of the finest hot rods, motorcycles, farm tractors and big rigs the Pacific Northwest has to offer. In addition to the twin cabovers, George also has a perfectly-restored 1951 GMC 950 and a beautiful 1967 Ford 850. His next big project, which he hopes to have ready for the 2013 ATHS National Show & Convention being held in Yakima, Washington, is a 1965 Peterbilt daycab cabover with dual recessed stacks (Blayne Johnston and his son will be building this one, too).
George Van Dyke Trucking has always been a family affair. Starting their company with just one truck in 1969, George & Marianne’s business has grown significantly, and their family has, too. And having all of their children (and now some of their grandkids) involved in the operation just makes it that much more special. When asked about the future, Brad said that he would like to see the company grow, but they are just about out of space in the yard to do that – plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
George Van Dyke undoubtedly has one of the finest fleets in all of Oregon and, when you include these two matching Peterbilt H-Model cabover show trucks, it just proves that hard work, faith, honesty, perseverance and a little luck will still bring you success. Congratulations, George – you finally got that K-powered Pete you always wanted to take you back to the good old days. Or, maybe, the good old days are now!