This month’s “creation” was built for Mike Blackston (55) of Wetumpka, Alabama. Growing up poor on the family farm in Steens, Mississippi with his parents, Henry and Katherine, and his six older siblings, Mike was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But, through years of hard work and determination, he was able to lift himself out of that situation and, eventually, purchase the amazing truck you see here.
Growing whatever they could to turn a buck on the farm, including corn, hogs and cotton, Mike remembers things weren’t very easy back then – they didn’t even have indoor plumbing until he was 11 years old. The house he was raised in had a screen door in the front and one in the back, which was always open – the only time the actual doors were shut and locked was when the radio would announce that a prisoner had escaped from a chain gang (they had no television). Once the escapees were captured, the doors were opened back up. All the kids slept on the floor, and the nearest paved road was six miles away. On that road, there was a hill, and Mike can still remember hearing the trucks pull that hill – the sound of those old motors would bellow and echo through their entire valley. Mike would ponder, “I wonder where they’re going?” every time a truck went up that hill. “One of these days, that’s going to be me, ‘cause I’m gonna get out of this place,” he would say to his brother Paul (who is also a trucker now).
The family farm had an old dozer, a 1962 GMC Crackerbox with a Detroit, and an old IHC R190 gas-burner, but most of the farming was still done by hand. Mike only made it to the 9th grade – after that, he went to the school of hard knocks on the farm. When he was still in school, while riding the bus, there was a trucker that lived on the route. The truck would sit in the owner’s driveway all winter and spring, and the owner always kept it shined up nice and was always tinkering on it. Then, in the summer, he hit the road. Even back then, Mike remembers thinking, “That would be the perfect job.” Later, this trucker, Les Perkins, would teach Mike to drive and then eventually hired him to haul grain – he worked for Les from 1981 to 1988, and learned a lot from this man. In 1988, Mike started driving for Dale Taunton of Fresno, California, who was a sub-contractor for Bekins Van Lines.
Around the fall of 1980, while trucking through Alabama, Mike’s trailer lights started flickering, so he pulled over and hopped up on the deck plate to fix the problem. After that, he spun around and jumped off the truck. Right then, a pickup truck sped by and nearly ran him over. Noticing that the pickup had a CB antenna on it, Mike raced into his cab and hollered at ‘em on the radio, “Watch what your doin’ – you could of killed me!” About that time, a lady came back and said, “You better watch that cute tush of yours, ‘cause next time I’ll hit it!” Then, a man’s voice came across the radio and said, “Hey man, that’s my sister, sorry ‘bout that. Where you heading?” From there, the two got to talking and ended up becoming great friends. Every time Mike passed through that neck of the woods, he would always stop and visit with his good friend, Carl.
In January of 1983, Carl passed away and then Mike lost touch with his friends in Alabama. Around seven years later, he started wondering what Carl’s sister Sue (the one that was driving that pickup that almost hit him) was up to, so he called her. A couple years later, the two got married on Carl’s birthday, so they would never forget him. Now, 22 years later, Mike says, “The good Lord was watching out for me on that fall night in 1980, because if it weren’t for them flickering lights on my trailer, I would have never met Carl or the love of my life.” Sue is fun, and she can certainly hold her own – she says what she means, and means what she says!
After getting married, Mike and Sue bought a 1990 KW T800 with a 90-inch Double Eagle sleeper and went on the road together in 1992. In 1998, they purchased a W900L with a 110-inch Double Eagle sleeper that was 102” wide, but quickly sold it because they didn’t like the wider sleeper, replacing it with a 1999 W900L with a regular-width (96 inches) 110-inch Double Eagle. When things started slowing down in 2000, they sold the truck and bought a dozer, and Mike began working in construction near their home. In June of 2001, they purchased a Mack Vision and went back to trucking. They ran that truck until they built a 2005 KW W900L with an 80-inch Double Eagle bunk and a KTA 600 Cummins engine, which he still owns today.
Mike stopped in at Kansas City Peterbilt a few years back to change the oil in his KW and ended up meeting Clint, who thought Mike’s truck was way cool. After the two became friends, Mike eventually started thinking about buying a new truck, so he called Clint, and away they went! Mike decided to order a new truck to be current on the emissions and for their lighter weight. This build was not done quickly – it took about 15 months to complete – and started out with a new 2014 Peterbilt 389 painted Snow white with a black frame and featuring a 600 Cummins ISX, a high-torque 18-speed transmission, and an air-ride front axle. Mike already had an original, brand new Double Eagle sleeper that had never been installed on a truck to put on this one, so the truck was ordered without a sleeper. Once the plain truck finally arrived, the fun began!
To get the project started, they sent the new Double Eagle sleeper to Tim Weaver at Bald Eagle Services and had him re-skin the sleeper sides to look like an old Mercury bunk, and then changed the interior to the classic KW button-tuck style done in Crimson red with black buttons. To make sure the truck’s cab was well-insulated, every square inch of it was covered with HushMat before anything else was done. Not wanting any gray pieces inside the cab, Clint had Travas with 2B Interiors completely re-do the truck’s interior in the same button-tuck style and color to match the sleeper. Mike also decided that he wanted a 359-style dash, which is a fairly large undertaking, in itself. After the dash was in, Carl at Rockwood Products made custom wood dash panels, which matched the custom walnut floor, also made by Rockwood. Once all of the “heavy lifting” was done, it was time to dress it up with goodies.
Looking to keep everything clean and simple, Clint chose Shift front and rear fenders and breather lights, all clear-lens LED lights, including nine roof-mounted cab lights, 359-style double-round headlights on Double JJ brackets, and seven-inch Dynaflex exhaust. After hiding the urea tank, the driver’s-side battery box was switched out to match the passenger-side box, and then the fuel tanks were painted. Next, they added tank bracket covers, one of Clint’s drop visors, a painted “I-panel” between the tanks, a smooth and flush painted deck plate (striped in black and white from front to back), and a rear tail box, complete with hidden back-up lights. To finish it all off, Clint’s dad chopped the air cleaners and the shifter.
This truck is very special, and a large part of that is because of the care and extra efforts put into it by Leonard in the body shop – it was important for him to ensure that everything was perfect. Leonard put his heart and soul into this truck, and it shows. Mike Blackston lives by the Bible verse Psalm 37:4, which says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If this truck is any indication as to how much delight Mike has in God, well, it speaks for itself. The dash plaque on this one says “HAD 2 HAVE IT” because that is how Mike felt about this truck – and that says it all!