Sometimes you have to take a risk to get ahead. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is more than just a catchy saying for Scott McDaniel of Terre Haute, Indiana – it is a way of life. Always a hard worker and never one to pass up an opportunity, Scott has built a successful collision repair and paint shop in his hometown. Although he does not work on big rigs, Scott has always been a gear-head, so he loves vehicles of all types – especially cool old trucks. So, when he got the chance to buy one, he took it. And what started out as a fun “project truck” for his son, has now motivated Scott to buy a new truck and trailer and start his own trucking company.
Born and raised in Terre Haute, Indiana, a modest-sized college town with five or six schools nearby, Scott (47) did not grow up in a trucking family. Scott got interested in working on cars at an early age, and did his first full automotive paint job at just 14 years old. After barely getting through high school, Scott got a full-time job painting cars and was off and running. After a couple jobs and a couple of years, he decided to start his own business in a 3-bay shop behind his parent’s house and Scott’s Custom Colors was born in 1992. Two short years later, he got the opportunity to buy a shop in town and, over the past 21 years, has grown steadily ever since. Today, his state-of-the-art collision repair and paint facility is one of the finest in the area.
In 2008, Scott was in Evansville, Indiana for the weekend and saw this old KW sitting for sale at an International dealership and decided to buy it and build it for his son, who thought he might like to get into trucking. The previous owner was a farmer who used it as a spare truck and it was always parked inside, so the 30-year-old classic was still in pretty good shape. Being a “car guy” and a gear-head, Scott wanted to fix it up and give it a nice new paint job, but he had no experience working on big trucks and his paint booths were not big enough to accommodate such a large vehicle, so he took it to the local Kenworth dealer to be customized. After almost a year, not much had been accomplished on the project, so Scott pulled the truck out of there and began looking for another builder to tackle the project.
Not knowing much about the world of big rig building, Scott got on his computer and found several builders, which eventually led him to Rod Pickett of Pickett Custom Trucks in Marysville, WA. Initially, Rod was just going to clean everything up, add a few custom touches and paint it, but once the truck arrived at his shop, he realized that he was going to have to replace the frame rails, so the “fix it up” job quickly became a full frame-up restoration. During the rebuild, Rod took on the daunting task of relocating himself (and his shop) to Arizona, which slowed the project down a bit, as well (he even used Scott’s unfinished truck to pull a loaded trailer down during the move). After all was said and done, the build took four years to complete, but Scott is very pleased with the amazing truck Rod created for him.
The rig is a classic 1977 Kenworth W900A powered by what Scott believes could be the original 350 Big Cam Cummins engine (it has been rebuilt) and a 13-speed transmission. With 1.2 million miles under its belt, the daycab truck originally had a 214-inch wheelbase, but Rod stretched it out to 265 inches when he installed the new rails, and then added air-ride to the front. Finding a 36-inch sleeper in Eugene, Oregon, Rod re-skinned the entire bunk before mounting it on the truck (he also re-skinned the cab, and in the process shaved the door handles and added remote-activated poppers). Access to the sleeper is provided by a “crawl-through” opening in the back of the cab that features a window that can be rolled up or down with a hand crank.
After doing some mechanical work to the motor, everything under the hood was either replaced, cleaned-up, painted or chromed. The orange and silver paint, along with the black tribal-flame breaker stripe, was mostly done by the folks at Casey’s Body Shop in Lake Stevens, WA. Once everything was in place, it was time to dress it up with all of the shiny stuff.
Wanting the rig to be eye-catching but not gaudy, Scott kept the accessories to a minimum. After installing a new grill and surround, Rod added new Valley Chrome bumpers (front and rear), new aluminum fuel tanks, custom boxes with stainless covers, and an eight-inch Dynaflex exhaust with Pickett elbows (yes, they were named after their original creator, Rod Pickett). The truck also got electric one-piece windows, one of Rod’s electric windshield wiper conversion kits, nine new cab lights, a stainless deck plate with a stainless connection box, and a visor built by Rod. Looking for some extra style, Scott had Rod drill out oversized holes in his wheels, mount Hogebuilt stainless full fenders on custom hidden brackets, and then re-do the entire interior in black leather. Now, with everything complete, the head-turning Kenworth can still attract plenty of attention, but it doesn’t look like a circus.
Making its debut at the 2014 Top Gun Large Car Shootout in Rantoul, Illinois, Scott had veteran driver Don Boligeto bring the truck out to the show in July (Scott did not even have a CDL at the time, but is now in the process of getting it). Scott made a lot of new friends at the show and took home the Best of Show Bobtail trophy in the limited miles class. He was also chosen by us to do the photo shoot for this cover feature, which we did right around the corner from the show at the abandoned Chanute Air Force Base. Closed in 1993, this decommissioned facility provided an eerie backdrop to many of our photos.
Working 60-65 hours a week at the shop and being very involved with his son’s car racing hobby, Scott does not have time for anything else. His son Josh (22) is currently Scott’s parts manager, and when the two of them are not busy fixing smashed vehicles, they are either working on the race cars or at the track racing. Josh loves to race and earned “Rookie of the Year” his first season, but winning isn’t everything. Josh hopes to one day take over the business from his dad and race on the side for fun – and maybe do a little trucking. Scott also has a daughter, Jessica (20), who is currently studying to get a business degree. Scott eventually wants her to run the office and handle the company’s finances.
Building this truck really opened Scott’s eyes to the industry – so much so, he went out and bought a brand new 2015 Peterbilt 389 and formed a new company called Scott McDaniel Trucking, LLC. The long black truck with maroon fenders is currently at Rod’s shop getting all of the goodies to make it look “right” – like new fenders, a bumper, visor, painted cab and sleeper skirts, deck plate, stacks, extra lights, etc. Scott also ordered a brand new 53-foot, spread-axle, Great Dane stainless dry van to pull behind the new truck, which is scheduled to arrive in a few months. Set to start running soon, Scott hired Don Boligeto to drive this cool new combination, hauling seeds and such, between Indiana and the southern states. Scott is hoping the business takes off so that he can add more trucks and, eventually, do some driving himself.
Scott would like to thank Rod Pickett for building his dream truck. Being a paint and body man, it was hard for Scott to let someone else do this job but, having similar standards and tastes, Rod and Scott were certainly “on the same page” when it came to the quality of craftsmanship done on the A-Model. Scott also wanted to thank Cody Gardner for originally hauling the rig out to Washington, and Dan Brown for bringing it back to Indiana from Arizona when it was finished. Ron Miller was also a big help, in regards to loading and unloading the truck. Lastly, he wanted to thank Don Boligeto for all his help in taking the truck to the show in Rantoul and then moving it around for us during the photo shoot.
We at 10-4 Magazine would like to thank Scott for being so patient. After all, he waited six months for us to finally get his truck on the cover. And we might need to reserve him another cover in the future, as he also has a nice 1981 Kenworth K100 cabover sitting in the barn, awaiting restoration, as well. With only 500,000 original miles, Scott hopes to one day take this rig to Rod’s shop for a complete makeover, too. But in the meantime, he will continue his quest to earn a CDL and enjoy running the truck up and down the quiet county roads around his house.
For a guy who barely made it out of high school, Scott McDaniel has done pretty well. Hard work, taking chances and seizing opportunities seems to have been Scott’s formula for success. And although the future is still not certain in regards to his new trucking venture, given his past record and his tenacious attitude, it would be safe to say that Scott will either wildly succeed, or go down in flames trying. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?