We often get accused of featuring trucks that don’t actually work on our covers, but most of the time that accusation is not true. But, when an eye-catching, mind-blowing, off-the-hook show truck is built, we will put them on the cover from time-to-time. Such is not the case this month.
This month’s cover truck, owned by Jon R. Davis of Opp, Alabama, is a true working truck, and it has the miles to prove it (almost a million). Truth is, it looks pretty darn good, too, so this one should satisfy those who want to see clean working trucks AND those who want to see something cool. This truck, which Jon built as a tribute to his late father (AKA Dixie Whistler), proves that you don’t need to build a “trailer queen” to make the cover of our magazine.
Jon R. Davis (37) comes from a strong bloodline of truckers. Both of his grand-daddies (Jon is from the south so that’s the way he said it) had trucks in the 1960s. His grandpa on his mother’s side had about ten trucks and hauled wood chips, cattle and other agricultural-based products, while his grandfather on his dad’s side had three or four trucks and hauled produce. Jon’s father Joe started driving around 1970 and drove nothing but cabovers until he bought his first conventional – a short hood Kenworth W900 – in 1978. The following year, Joe bought a 1979 long hood KW and drove that rig until he got off the road in 1988. Jon still has this truck (known as Ol’ Blue) today. Jon’s mother Ann is no stranger to driving, either. She often went out on the road with Joe as a team or out by herself. Needless to say, trucking is in Jon’s blood.
When growing up, Jon loved to hang out at the shop and help wherever he could. By the time he was eight or nine years old, he was driving trucks and moving trailers around the yard on a regular basis. And, not long after that, he was known to go out on the road as an unofficial team member and drive, sometimes as far as Louisiana to Arizona. Back in those days (the 1980s), Jon’s father Joe hauled catfish out of the south and took it to California and then brought produce back to Florida – and all these years later, Jon still hauls some of the same freight for the same customers today.
Although Jon’s father got off the road in 1988, his company continued to grow. In 1990 he added another truck, three more in 1993, and then five more in 1995, eventually getting up to 15 trucks. In the mid-1990s Joe hired a dispatcher and semi-retired. Then, in 2005 he completely retired, selling all but one of his trucks. Not long after that, Joe passed away in 2009. At 62 years old, Jon’s mom still has a truck and her own company – 3D Trucking – and today, her truck is leased-on at Jon’s company. But now we are getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s back-track a bit.
All throughout high school, Jon spent his summers out on the road, and when he was 14 years old, he discovered roping. After graduating in 1993, Jon spent the next four years working on the family farm, growing peanuts and raising cattle, and roping. Of course, he continued to play around with the trucks whenever he could, and in 1997, with some help from his father, bought his first truck – and it was a tall ride! The truck was a stretched-out 1988 Peterbilt 379 with a big Cat engine, a 2-stick transmission, 3.55 rears, and a classic “heartbeat” paint scheme. Jon signed on at his dad’s company, Joe A. Davis Trucking, bought a cattle trailer, and hauled nothing but cows for several years.
As time went on, Jon’s freight gradually changed from cattle to produce (he still hauls cows every once in awhile) and his “fleet” grew. In 2000, he added a second truck, and then another, and then another (all of these trucks were leased to Jon’s father’s company). In 2004, shortly before his father retired, Jon formed Jon R. Davis Trucking and continued to grow. Today, Jon’s operation has ten trucks and a bunch of stainless steel reefer trailers. Most of the trucks, like the one seen here on these pages and on the cover and centerfold, are stretched-out Peterbilts with plenty of chrome and lights. They are all painted a different color, but all of them are long hoods and all of them (except for the one featured here) have Jon’s big “JD” brand (logo) painted on the side of the sleeper.
Not one to buy “new” equipment, Jon and the guys in his shop work hard to keep their old iron going strong. Several of Jon’s current trucks are approaching the 2 million mile mark, and one of them, a 2003 Peterbilt 379, already has 2.1 million miles on the odometer. On average, each of Jon’s trucks travel about 250,000 miles a year, so the miles stack up fast. In his shop, Jon and his guys (Alan Gafford, Ronnie Tisdale and Tracey Peavy) do everything but the heavy engine and transmission work on their trucks, including frame stretching, installations, custom fabrication, polishing, interior work and some painting. Jon also buys older trucks to fix them up and then sell them. Sometimes he ends up keeping a truck that he was intending to sell, and sometimes he sells a truck that he was intending to keep – depending on his company’s needs at the time. Jon always has a few projects going in the shop, which brings us to the truck featured here, which started out as a project.
The truck featured here, called “Dixie Whistler” in memory of Jon’s father (that was his CB handle), started out as a beat-up repo truck that already had 700,000 miles under its belt. When Jon bought the 2005 Peterbilt 379 with a 70-inch standup sleeper back in 2008 the motor was blown and it was filthy, inside and out. Jon towed it home and went to work on it, doing most (but not all) of the modifications you see now. The first thing they did was rebuild the 550 Cat engine and then install a Pittsburgh Power “Cat Box” to juice it up. They also replaced the stock 10-speed with an 18-speed transmission, and then, once the drivetrain was solid, went to work on the truck’s exterior.
Once they started cleaning up the exterior of the truck, they realized that the original Slate Grey paint was still pretty good, so they did not repaint it. They did, however, add two Metallic Silver vinyl stripes, installed 8-inch Dynaflex pipes, and then a host of stainless steel accessories from Valley Chrome including the front bumper and blinker bars, visor, several light panels (all featuring the “slotted light” arrangement), cab and sleeper extensions, bullet lights on the roof, an airline connection box and an air-bag/shock box behind the sleeper. The guys also built and installed matching painted deck plates, complete with the silver stripes, and added single round headlights on Double JJ brackets. Jon wanted to stretch the frame back then, but he ran out of time – he had to put the truck to work.
As mentioned before, the truck was really dirty when Jon first got it – especially the interior. Jon spent a lot of time cleaning it up inside, and even pulled the entire grey dash out and then painted it black. He also added custom leather seats, a Grant steering wheel, chrome knobs, switches and bezels, new armrests, stainless steel door sills and a new floor. Removing the original floor (even in the sleeper), he installed a custom black rubber floor that is smooth and shiny – and very functional. The interior is not “off-the-hook” but it is clean, tastefully done and functional (remember, it’s a daily driver).
Near the end of 2010, in preparation for the truck show in Louisville the following year, Jon finally stretched the frame from 265 inches to 300 inches, and then added WTI double hump fiberglass fenders (painted Sable Metallic) and a rear bumper from Valley Chrome. As a finishing touch, Jon had JR at Lifetime Nut Covers make him some oval-shaped billet aluminum emblems featuring his “JD” logo to replace the existing Peterbilt emblems. In March of 2011, Jon took the truck to his very first show and ended up getting a 3rd place trophy in his class (which is very good in Louisville). Since then, Jon has taken the truck to a couple shows, including the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, TX last August. But don’t think this truck is sitting under a cover inside their shop and just going to truck shows – today, with well over 900,000 miles on the odometer, it is expected to break the one million mile mark sooner than later this year.
As mentioned earlier, Jon still owns the long-hooded Kenworth A-Model his dad bought new in 1979. This truck, known as “Ol’ Blue” because of its two-tone blue Seminole paint scheme, was originally equipped with a V8 Cat, but it blew up in 1989. Back then, they dropped a 6-cylinder B-Model engine in the truck and put it back to work. A few years ago, Jon started cleaning up the old rig, rebuilt the V8, and then put it back in the truck, which also has a 5+4 2-stick setup and a 36-inch bunk. Jon learned to drive in this truck, so there are a lot of memories there (at 9 years old, he says, he could drive this 2-stick rig better than most grown men). He’s been tinkering around with this truck for several years now, and hopes to get it running back and forth to California sometime soon.
In June of 2010, one of Jon’s drivers started helping us out with our distribution. Bill “LA Rookie” Weekly (the LA stands for Lower Alabama) fills all of our 10-4 Magazine racks along I-10 and I-20 in the states of New Mexico, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, as well as South Carolina. And if “Rookie” is busy or on the wrong end of the country when the magazines are ready to be picked up, Jon will send one of his other drivers to get them. “Rookie” is a pretty interesting character, and he drives a pretty neat truck, too (his Peterbilt features a split paint job in Black and Lime Green). We’d like to thank Jon, Rookie and the rest of the drivers that help keep our racks stocked in that region month after month. We are sure that the drivers who pick up their free copy of 10-4 Magazine in those areas appreciate their hard work, too.
When Jon isn’t trucking or working on a truck, he still likes to go roping. When he first started, he did a lot of team roping, but for the last few years he has focused entirely on calf roping. Over the years, Jon has won a lot of cash, 27 saddles and one horse trailer, among other things, for his roping skills. He typically attends rodeos close to home, but once a year he travels to Texas for a big one there. On his ranch at home, Jon and his wife Debbie raise horses (they have 22 right now), breed cows, and grow hay. Married since New Year’s Eve 1998, the couple has a 6-year-old son named Kruz. In addition to “running the ranch” at home, Debbie also handles all of the payroll, billing and other necessary office work at Jon R. Davis Trucking.
Jon wanted to thank Gary Pons of Valley Chrome for all his help over the years. Jon met Gary almost 20 years ago when Gary was still driving a truck and the two have been friends ever since. Gary takes great care of Jon in regards to getting him accessories for his trucks, and Jon really appreciates that. Jon also wanted to thank his wife Debbie for all of the support she provides at home and at the office, as well as all of his great drivers that help make Jon R. Davis Trucking such a successful operation.
If you run along one of the southern routes between California and Florida, there is a good chance that you will see this truck, with a matching polished stainless steel Utility reefer in tow, at some point along the way. But Jon R. Davis did not build this truck to show it off or impress anybody – he built it to work hard and look good – and to memorialize a great man who was a big influence on his life – his father, Joe A. Davis. We are sure that the “Dixie Whistler” is looking down on Jon from above and is very proud of all his accomplishments. So, whether you are a fan of clean working trucks, cool show rigs or both, we hope you dig Jon’s good-looking Peterbilt as much as we do – and we ain’t just whistling Dixie – we really mean it!