If you want your company and/or product to stand out, you need to have something that people will notice – something that sets you apart from the crowd. Well, Dustin Dickerson certainly has that! The amazing rig you see here was built to be a rolling business card for his new truck customizing and fabrication shop, Dickerson Kustom Trucks in Thorntown, Indiana, and with it, Dustin, and his business, are getting a lot of attention. At only 30 years old, this young man has many talents, which his “Bilt to be Noticed” Peterbilt and MAC trailer clearly illustrate.
Like so many of our trucking friends, Dustin grew up on the family farm in Lebanon, Indiana. Today, he still lives in the same town, and his new truck shop is in the nearby town of Thorntown, so Dustin did not stray far. Dustin’s family has deep roots in Lebanon – roots that trace all the way back to his great grandfather Ivan Fairfield, who ran a service station in Thorntown. When Ivan retired in 1976, he locked the doors when he left and the building has not been touched ever since! And, oddly enough, it is right across the street from Dustin’s shop. The family still owns the vintage service station, which Dustin says is filled with old car parts, cigarette vending machines, and who knows what else.
Dustin’s parents, Doug and Lynette, went to high school together and have been married forever. Back when Dustin was a kid, they farmed grain, soy beans and corn on about 2,500 acres. Dustin loved going out on the tractor and working on the equipment with his dad. Since farms need trucks, they had a 1977 Peterbilt cabover with a small bunk and an 8V-92 Detroit engine. Nothing excited Dustin more than getting to fire up that Peterbilt, and when he got old enough to reach the pedals (about 10 years old), his dad started letting him drive it down their half-mile long gravel road. This was the truck Dustin learned to drive in, and they still own it today (Dustin hopes to one day restore and rebuild it).
Throughout high school, Dustin and his friends spent a lot of time customizing vehicles. Back then, Dustin painted a lot of pickup trucks and tractors out in their barn. After graduation, wanting to learn more about car customizing, he went off to WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming to study Collision Refinishing and Upholstery. After earning his degree, he went home to open a custom car and hot rod shop. Renting a building from his grandpa Floyd (the location he is still in today), Dustin converted the old factory into a more usable space by removing 16 posts and changing the roof structure. Once that was done, he could bring in the paint booth – and now he also had room to move vehicles around inside. Focusing on major auto restorations and custom paint, he started Invision Auto at just 20 years old, all the while, still helping out on the family farm.
Since big customization jobs can be few and far between, Dustin quickly realized that he needed to do some regular insurance work to pay the bills, but he really didn’t want to. About this time, to help supplement his income, he bought a beat-up old Peterbilt 359 and started trucking at night. After about a year of this craziness, he decided to close the shop (sort of) and truck full-time – he still had the shop, he just stopped taking jobs from customers and used it instead to just work on his own truck and the family’s farm equipment. Fixing up his own trucks, folks around town started noticing them and began asking Dustin to work on their trucks. Before long, he was back at it, but now focusing on big rigs.
When Dustin started having problems with the motor in the truck he was driving, he decided to buy a newer one, which just happens to be the one you see here on these pages, but it looked entirely different. Originally built by 4 State Trucks in Joplin, Missouri for one of their customers, the truck is a 2007 Peterbilt 379 with a factory 600-hp Cat C-15 Acert and a factory 310-inch wheelbase. Featuring a black paint job with simulated rips in the paint, the truck was pretty tricked-out. Dustin drove it like that, pulling a MAC half-round end dump (also the one you see here) for several years. Eventually, around 2011, he got tired of telling people that someone else had built the truck and decided that it was time for him to re-do it. And with that, the project began! What started out as just a simple new paint job turned into a full-fledged customization project that would kick-start the next chapter of his life – Dickerson Kustom Trucks.
Once the work on the truck began, it all snowballed from there. Before Dustin knew it, the entire truck was taken apart and the chassis was being dragged out to be sandblasted. At that point, it had been decided to pull the motor and paint it, air-bag the front end, completely re-do the interior, shave all the door handles, and add all kinds of custom touches to the exterior. The entire project took a year-and-a-half to complete. While all of this was going on, Dustin put drivers in his other trucks to keep his income flowing.
The first part of the project involved the chassis and drivetrain. Once the sandblasting was done, they prepped and primed the entire chassis and then painted it with the same process they would later use for the exterior. Going to work on the motor, they stripped it and painted it blue. The plastic air piping was replaced with painted aluminum tubes, and a custom firewall cover was built. All of the aluminum pieces under the hood were taken to Indy Metal Finishing for polishing, and Lincoln Performance Coatings, a division of Lincoln Industries, ceramic-coated all of the “hot” pieces under the hood, giving them a “polished aluminum” look. Fleece Performance Engineering bored out the turbos, and then the engine got a “Stage 2” tune from PDI, as well as a PDI exhaust manifold. The end result is a huge powerplant under the hood that produces 800+ horsepower – and also looks amazing!
Once the chassis and drivetrain work was complete, Dustin went to work on the body panels and fabrication, starting with a custom deck plate, which included an air-operated door that opens and closes to hide or expose the air and electrical connections. After that, he constructed custom steel light bars/fender brackets for in front of and behind the drive tires, and then installed fiberglass fenders from Bad Ass Customs (they supplied Dustin with uncut fenders so he could cut the radius around the tires himself). Bad Ass Customs also provided the extra-long fiberglass front fenders and body drop panels, but Dustin modified those, as well. After removing all of the door handles and installing remote-activated poppers, the doors were re-skinned. Underneath the truck, a belly pan was fabricated to hide the driveline and an “I-panel” was constructed and mounted between the fuel tanks – and both were outfitted with plenty of lights. Behind the sleeper, custom, rounded, shock box covers were built to match-up to the eventual paint scheme. Once all of this was done, it was time for paint and all of the final chrome and accessories.
Painted Midnight Sapphire (a PPG color) with two-tone gray stripes, Dustin applied the tri-coat paint with a purple mid-coat, and then sprayed six coats of clear. All of the LED lights are from Trux, part of their new “Flatline” series with paintable bezels, so Dustin painted them all to match. The truck is also equipped with custom strapless breathers, a custom painted drop visor on the front of the truck and the back of the sleeper, 8-inch Lincoln Chrome exhaust, stainless steel steps/battery boxes, and a 20-inch Valley Chrome bumper. Dustin kept the truck’s original double-round headlights, the Double JJ bases and blinker bars, the oval-punched grille, and the nine “penny lights” on top of the cab that it had when he bought the truck, but he did have everything re-polished and cleaned up. He also painted the fuel tanks, the stock mirror brackets, and the air cleaners. Once the exterior was complete, it was time to go to work inside.
The rig’s interior features the same color scheme inside as it does outside. Featuring a one-piece painted blue aluminum floor with gray stripes that extend all the way back into the sleeper, the floor matches the truck’s exterior exactly. All of the textured plastic interior panels, including most of the dash, were filled with epoxy to smooth them out, then primed and painted. Rockwood helped Dustin out with many of the interior and dash pieces, and Lifetime Nut Covers provided all of the gauge bezels and nut covers (inside and out). When Dustin bought the truck, it already had the extra-long “rat fink” gear shifter, so he left it in. The seats were upgraded to Bostrom Wide Rides and then mounted on custom bases built by Dustin. There is also a flip-down TV/DVD player in the dash, a custom stereo, a painted-to-match steering wheel, and custom door and ceiling panels. Besides the floor and a few painted pieces, the sleeper is still stock.
Once the truck was completed, Dustin took it to Denton, Texas to display it at the annual show the Peterbilt factory hosts – and it was a huge hit! By this time, Dustin realized that this truck would never be an everyday worker, so he decided to up his game and build a matching trailer. Now fully-invested in the idea that he was not going to be driving trucks anymore but instead building them, he decided to take his existing 2006 MAC half-round trailer and customize it to match the truck. When complete, this combination would be the ultimate business card (and resume) for his new venture – Dickerson Kustom Trucks. Wanting to debut the combination at the truck show in Louisville in late March of 2013, Dustin got bogged down with other projects in the shop over the winter and was not able to start his trailer project until three weeks before the show.
Not quite knowing exactly what he was going to do, he just tore the trailer apart, cut off the stock rear fenders, and started working. Building custom light boxes for each side of the trailer, the boxes were lined with lights facing out and down. When it was all said and done, the entire combination had more than 300 lights! Next, he built and painted an aluminum enclosure for the rear ends and suspension, complete with a belly pan to match the tractor and forward-facing light bars in front of each axle. The back end was completely customized, which included a visor over the grain door, a light bar and custom mud-flaps. Next, fiberglass fenders from Bad Ass Customs were mounted, the front and back of the trailer was covered with stainless, and then a custom-built “visor” was added to the front of the trailer to match the tractor. After that, the entire trailer was taken to Fenton, Missouri to be polished. Unbelievably, Dustin finished the entire rebuild in less than three weeks, and the now-complete “Bilt to be Noticed” combination made it safely to the show in Louisville.
Since competing at the Louisville truck show and going full-time at Dickerson Kustom Trucks, Dustin has been kept busy. Doing small jobs here and there, he also recently finished a full build for David Emmert. Debuting that truck at the show in Rantoul, Illinois last July, David’s Black Sable (black with gold flakes in it) 2006 Peterbilt 379 was a crowd-favorite, for sure. Getting ready to start another full build, this time on a Kenworth W900, Dustin is looking forward to building many more cool rides. Besides earning a respectable 3rd place trophy in Louisville, Dustin’s truck has been awarded Best of Show at several events, including the show in Waupun, WI and the Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, MO.
We had a great time hanging out with Justin and his family for a few days, and really enjoyed getting to take the truck out into one of their cut wheat fields for the pictures. Dustin wanted to thank all of his friends, family and sponsors for their help in getting this project finished – there are just too many people to list them all! In the beginning, Dustin Dickerson did not set out to build something this wild, but in the end, he did – and he is getting’ noticed now! To see some of his other projects or to contact Dustin, you can find “Dickerson Kustom Trucks” on Facebook. And if this first project is any indication of what Dustin is capable of building, his business will be in the spotlight for many years to come.