Many of the cover-worthy trucks we find out there are owned by people who could afford to have a custom truck shop build their dream ride – and there is nothing wrong with that. However, we occasionally come across a sweet rig and are pleasantly surprised to hear that all of the work was done by the owner and just a few friends. Such is the case for this month’s cover feature. Rolando Nava and two of his friends, Fabian Ortiz and Jorge Ballesteros, did almost all of the work on this truck themselves at night and on the weekends. Calling it a “backyard build” because all of the work was done either in-house or by local people/shops in and around southern California, this long and low Kenworth epitomizes that “California cool” look.
Growing up in Oxnard, CA, just north of Los Angeles on the coast, Rolando (AKA Rollie) grew up in a family that was heavily involved in the ag industry. This fertile region is well-known for its ability to grow excellent fruits and vegetables, and the Nava family not only grew them, but they also had a roadside stand where they sold some of their products, as well. When Rolando and his three brothers were growing up, if they weren’t at school they were either helping out on the farm or working at the produce stand. This did not make for a very “fun” childhood, but it did teach the boys a great work ethic – something Rollie is very glad he has today.
Rolando’s father Miguel began purchasing trucks and then formed Nava Trucking around 1990 strictly to haul his own products. Starting out with two Peterbilt cabovers, he eventually moved to conventionals, with his first one being a 1988 Kenworth T600 (Rollie still has this truck and hopes to one day fix it up like the one on the cover this month). Building his fleet up to four trucks, times got tough and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. At that time, Miguel basically began shutting the company down and all of the trucks were sold, except for the T600. Of all the brothers, Rolando was the only one that had any interest in trucks, so in 2002 Miguel offered the company and the T600, which still had a driver and was stilling hauling loads, to Rollie. Rolando took the deal and became a truck owner!
Although he had done some local trucking around town and grew up around trucks, Rolando never got his CDL. When he purchased the T600 it came with not only a driver, but also a 1988 Utility reefer. As part of the deal, his father also loaned him $5,000 as seed money for his new venture. At this point, Rollie was working full time at a local cooler so he just stayed there and began dispatching the truck on the side. Running as Nava Trucking, Rolando eventually left his job to dedicate his time to the trucking company, and over the years has built it up to be a successful operation – but he still has never had a CDL!
Today, the company is officially called Rollin R Enterprises, but most of the trucks still run with the Nava Trucking name on the door. Running primarily in California and Arizona, Nava specializes in hauling all sorts of ag-related freight like produce, fertilizer, equipment and packing materials. At only 36 years old, Rolando has built his company up to over 20 trucks, with various trailers and 30 employees – and he is still on the grow! Having just purchased a 1.5-acre piece of property in Oxnard with a paved yard and an 18,000 square foot insulated warehouse, Rolando is looking to add cross-dock services, freight consolidation and warehousing to his operation. Rolando’s fleet currently consists of 14 Kenworths, 4 Internationals, and 3 bobtails for running around town, and their list of trailers includes reefers, dry vans, curtain vans, flatbeds, step-decks and more. It is a lot of work, but as Rollie says, “I’d rather be tired than broke!”
The truck on our cover this month spent most of its life in the Nava fleet, racking up over a million miles. Bought as a used truck in 2008, the 2005 Kenworth W900L was painted teal green and had just about every conceivable bolt-on accessory you could buy – it was clean and cool, but it was not a custom truck. When the original motor gave up, they replaced it with a 2007 Cummins 525 ISX. Since getting the new engine, the truck has rolled another 150,000 miles or so, putting the total at around 1.2 million miles.
In April of 2012, Rolando and two of his friends decided to shut the Kenworth down and completely rebuild it. Starting out with a new one-piece hood from Jones Performance, they sent the truck down to southern California to be painted a vibrant Eclipse Orange color. A year later (don’t ask!) they got it back from the paint shop and went to work. Hoping to have it ready for a show in May of 2013, the guys ran out of time and missed that show, so they reset their deadline for October of 2013 – for the Truckin’ For Kids Show & Drags, a charity event held every year in Irwindale, California. This deadline they made – but not by much!
Featuring a modest 255-inch wheelbase, the guys wanted the truck to have an “elegant” look and worked hard to give it really clean lines. In addition to the Jones hood, they added a set of chrome Headwinds headlights on Double JJ brackets, a 20-inch stainless steel bumper and louvered grille from ATA, a painted visor, and a 12 Ga. air-ride kit on the steer axle, which gave the front end its signature “slammed” look.
Looking at the sides of the truck, which features a large 72-inch Aerodyne sleeper, the “elegant” and smooth style was continued by adding painted cab and sleeper panels, 8-inch Dynaflex exhaust and painted 12 Ga. mirror brackets. Wanting an even mix of paint and chrome, the tanks were painted and then trimmed with custom chrome fairings and three chrome straps, the chrome breathers were chopped and the intake covers were painted, and custom chrome covers were made for the step boxes. The guys made a conscience effort to stagger the chrome and painted surfaces to break things up and give the truck an “even” look.
Moving to the back, the truck was outfitted with Talladega fiberglass half-fenders that were specifically chosen because the radius matched the front fenders almost perfectly. These fenders were painted orange and then trimmed, at the bottom, with stainless steel plates (these plates not only help extend the chrome lines of the truck all the way to the back, but they also protect the fenders from rock chips). A custom stainless light bar from ATA and a painted and smooth deck plate finalized the rear end. Wanting to keep the lighting minimal, they installed some classic watermelon-shaped glass lights in all the right places, but just a few of them. The finishing touch was hand-painted pinstripes done by local painter Henry Segura. Using purple and silver leaf, Henry covered the entire rig with subtle pinstripes and lettering, which was the icing on the cake.
Finishing the truck the night before their deadline, Rolando and the guys were able to get the truck down to the Truckin’ For Kids show for its debut – and it was a hit! Nothing else sitting out on that lot had a stance that could touch it, and we at 10-4 took notice. In fact, we liked it so much, we chose the truck to receive our special “Sponsor’s Choice” award. And like many of our past choices, we knew this truck was destined to grace our cover. When we called Rolando a few months later to set it up, he asked us for a little more time – he wanted about six weeks to stretch the frame and redo the whole interior, and since the interior was just stock, we thought it would be a good idea to give him the extra time he wanted. But, just like everything else, it barely got finished in time for our photo shoot.
Sending the truck out to a local shop in Fillmore, CA, Tommy Lugo stretched the Kenworth from its original length to 302 inches. And when you stretch the frame, you also have to stretch everything else underneath, so the job took a little longer than expected. After the newly-stretched frame and deck plates were repainted gloss black, the truck headed to The Upholstery Zone in Simi Valley, CA to get the interior done.
Ramon Vazquez wanted about 20 days or so to get the new interior done, but he only had 10 – and he did it! Trying to stay away from paint and wood and give it more of a classic, elegant, hot rod look, they covered everything with tan leather and suede, and new carpet was put on the floor. The leather door panels and seats were accented with small pieces of sting ray skin, dyed in an orange color, to match the exterior. The stitching on the seats was made to emulate the pinstriping patterns on the truck, and ambient lighting was built into the ceiling and back wall of the sleeper. A big stereo, featuring 13-inch subs and three big amps, pumping out about 2,000 watts, was also added. The interior is very classy, and it was like nothing we had ever seen before. We were very impressed!
Finishing everything up at the very last minute possible, when we showed up the night before to get ready for the shoot the next day, a small army of detailers were feverishly cleaning and polishing the truck, and Henry Segura was still re-pinstriping the newly-stretched deck plate (see photo). The next day, we headed down the coast to Point Mugu and shot our pictures next to the ocean at Mugu Rock. We could not have asked for better conditions – with beautiful California weather and a stunning location, the shoot went off without a hitch!
The two guys that helped Rolando with this build should get a lot of credit for the work. Fabian Ortiz (36) has worked with Rollie for 12 years and is a jack-of-all-trades. Operating as Rolando’s right-hand-man, Fabian does a little bit of everything including mechanical work and maintenance, some local driving, electrical work, loading and unloading trailers, polishing, custom fabrication and installations. Whatever needs to get done, Rolando can always rely on Fabian to do it! Jorge Ballesteros (30) has known Rollie since they were kids (their parents were friends), and although he has been helping Rolando with his special projects for many years, Jorge has never officially worked for Rollie – he is a crane operator at Ventura Truck & Crane in Santa Rosa, CA. When Rolando approached Jorge about helping him out with this project, without hesitation, he got right on-board 100%.
Rollie, Fabian and Jorge spent a lot of time away from home to get this rig done, and for that, a big “thank you” should go out to their families. Rolando and his wife Diana have been married for 19 years and have three kids – Rolando Jr. (18), Krystal (5) and Nicholas (3). Rolando also wanted to thank his parents, Miguel and Feliz, who have been married for over 40 years, for all of their support, as well as his brothers, Noel (39), Miguel Jr. (30) and Jessie (26). He also wanted to thank Fabian and Jorge, his employees and customers, and everyone else involved in this build. Special thanks go out to Henry Segura and Ramon Vazquez for stepping up and getting it all done, just in the nick of time. But, more than anything or anyone else, Rollie wanted to thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed on him – he is living a truly blessed life.
Working hard to get settled in at their new location, Rolando Nava and his team are looking forward to a fantastic year of growth. After taking the truck to a few shows, Rollie plans to put the Kenworth back into full service. And with its unmistakable stance and uniquely-elegant look, this “backyard build” is sure to turn heads when out on the road, and be able to hold its own at a show against any shop-built rig out there!