Every so often you run into a truck out there that gets you to raise your brow. Trucks today are packed with so much electronics – from fuel to brakes, electronics fill the truck, monitoring just about everything. Years ago, though, it was all mechanical, and a few die-hard drivers out there still run that way. Chad Uthmann (38) of LaPorte, Colorado, is one of those few out there still working a mechanical truck – the 1964 B-755 Mack seen on these pages. And although it is a little rough around the edges, what else would you expect from a 50-year-old truck that still runs out in the trees and off-road on a regular basis!
An owner-operator only, running Uthmann Enterprises, Chad was born and raised on a dairy in LaPorte, Colorado, a small town just outside Fort Collins. At a young age, Chad knew that he wanted to drive trucks, quickly learning that cows weren’t his profession, but with dairies come trucks. Learning to drive from his father, Rodger, Chad bought his first truck when he was only sixteen years old. Ironically, Chad’s father was a dyed-in-red Peterbilt driver, remarking that Macks were “just work trucks” and nothing more. Chad, though, became a life-long Mack man because, in his words, his father’s Peterbilt “was always coming back on the hook” (wrecker).
Chad’s first rig was a 1965 F600 Mack cabover painted pink! Chad says the odd color came from the previous owner’s wife, who didn’t want another truck. Agreeing to a new truck if she could pick the color, that pink F600 cabover towed a reefer hauling produce between Denver and Fort Morgan, CO until it ended up in Chad’s hands. Since Chad put his foot in the door 22 years ago, he’s primarily worked in the oversize, heavy-haul, agricultural, livestock and logging areas of trucking. In fact, when he wasn’t in school, he was out hauling logs and moving equipment.
Deciding that he wanted to have a classic working Mack, Chad came into the B-model seen on these pages about a decade ago. Originally a dump truck in Montrose, Colorado, Chad bought the truck from Wagner Equipment in Denver. Coming from Denver’s primary CAT dealer, the truck was painted yellow and black. The truck ran, but it had lived a rough life, and the clutch linkage was obliterated, along with all the expected wear and tear of a then 40-year-old rig when Chad got a hold of it. After a new linkage and clutch was installed, Chad used the truck to pull a lowboy for a while, hauling equipment, before he eventually starting the process of rebuilding the truck as it is today.
Beating the body back to shape, Chad re-painted the truck black and red and re-worked the interior, leaving the dash and steering wheel painted mint green, which is classically indicative of vintage Mack trucks. With a single air cleaner, a single air horn, a steel bumper, and very little chrome, the truck has an all-business look. Powered by a 400 Big Cam Cummins, the truck is outfitted with a Quadriplex (5×4) set of sticks pushing Mack 700 rears. Screaming along at 55 miles per hour, the truck runs on a Mack Camelback suspension and sits on 24.5 tall tires all the way around. The truck also received period-correct logging gear when Chad outfitted it with a General logging bunk from 1964. Needless to say, this is not a truck any driver could just jump into and easily run.
Although it may not see the same miles per year as some other trucks, Chad does work the truck frequently, and the miles it does see are not easy miles. Hauling logs two to three times a week, this truck regularly runs over Cameron Pass on Highway 14 into North Park, Colorado, as well as getting off the pavement and onto the logging tracks. In fact, this truck was out hauling logs following last year’s High Park fire that made national headlines. The truck may be a little rough-cut, like the timber it hauls, but for a working truck that is five decades old and still fully mechanical, this Mack is looking just fine! From time to time, Chad hooks the old truck to an oversize load, too. Just recently the Mack, in tandem with Chad’s other work truck (a 2008 Peterbilt 389), helped tow a 130-foot long section of diversion pipe with no problems.
Happily married for thirteen years to his wife, Nikki, the couple has two boys – Tyler (9) and Jace (6) – and both of his boys love trucks. But don’t think that Nikki just does the paperwork – she can drive, too! Nikki and Chad first met when Chad saw her hauling silage. Getting her start driving while in college, Nikki has been driving trucks almost as long as Chad. She backed off driving to raise the kids, but Nikki still enjoys getting out and driving when she can. Aside from raising the kids, handling paperwork and driving if need be, Nikki also holds a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, a useful degree if your husband still drives an old B-model Mack!
When Chad isn’t out hauling logs with the Mack or hauling other loads with his 389 Peterbilt (his regular and over-the-road work truck), he can be found tinkering around his collection of vintage Macks. Aside from the working Mack on these pages, Chad also has numerous other Macks, including a small fleet of B-series Macks, SuperLiners, and R-models, as well as several vintage Autocars, Kenworths and Petes. Chad also has a serious interest in vintage and classic Caterpillar dozers, and has a large collection of them, as well. Chad enjoys attending historical Caterpillar shows and swap meets whenever he can.
Chad would like to thank his dad, Rodger, for getting him started all those years ago. He would also like to thank his wife, Nikki, for her help and support in running their business. Chad also wanted to thank his mechanic, Robert, who makes sure that all of his trucks stay running. In Chad’s words, “If it’s more than diesel or grease, Robert handles it.” We at 10-4 would like to thank Chad and Nikki for having the truck available and ready to go on a fairly short notice.
Times are definitely changing, but sometimes stubbornness for a simpler design isn’t a bad thing. We admire the drivers out there still working the trucks of days gone by. They’re a dying breed of truck, and with them the history goes away, too. But, so long as there are folks like Chad Uthmann, they won’t disappear. And as for the rough edges, they give these old trucks character, which can be hard to find in today’s new trucks!