It seems that Jeff Houts of Madras, Oregon has got himself into yet another fine mess. The last time we wrote about Jeff was when we put his amazing “hot rod” Peterbilt on our cover back in April 2010. That truck, which featured a flat-blue and black paint scheme and a totally-custom suspension, complete with a “notched” frame to get it even closer to the ground, was one of the most unique (and lowest) working trucks we had ever featured. Well, since then, Jeff has built a few more sweet rides, with the latest one, seen here, being even lower than that old blue rig.
A couple years after Jeff’s truck made the cover, he had a “bout of insanity” and sold it to someone back east. Truth is, he had started doing a lot of OTR work and the truck’s 36-inch sleeper was just not large enough to live in. As he had done in the past, Jeff turned to our mutual friend Clint Moore at K.C. Peterbilt and ordered a new 2013 Peterbilt 389, painted cream with a tan frame (they called the truck “Whole Latte Low” because of the colors). All California-legal, this truck was ordered with a 63-inch flattop sleeper, a car-hauler front axle, a 294-inch wheelbase, and a car-hauler rear suspension.
Once the truck arrived, Jeff and his son flew out to K.C. to pick it up and then drove it home. Once back in Oregon, Jeff spent a couple weeks making some modifications, including hiding the DEF tank (following explicit instructions from Clint), adding 8-inch Dynaflex “dummy” stacks (it had a weed-burner exhaust underneath), and a painted visor. The front was air-bagged with a kit from 12 Ga. Customs, extra lights were installed, and then the truck was sent to Bill Abernethy at Commercial Collision in Medford, Oregon to have a few more things added and painted (cab and sleeper extensions, the fuel tanks, air cleaners, etc.). Once the old-school-looking truck was done, Jeff hit the road with it in April of 2012.
At the time, Jeff was pulling a flatbed or a walking floor trailer, whatever the freight dictated. He ran hard until the end of that year, hauling things like lumber, trailer parts, steel, anything he could find, but he was already getting tired of being away from his family. In December 2012, Jeff’s dad approached him about helping full-time on their farm, where they grew mostly wheat and alfalfa. Without hesitation, Jeff agreed and then sold his truck to Mike McPherson in Washington (who still has it) and three of his trailers to James Davis of JDT in Medford, Oregon.
After selling off all of his equipment, Jeff didn’t even look at a truck for a year. As their farming business took off, Jeff and his dad found themselves falling behind in their hay deliveries, and they also wanted to start bringing in loads of compost for their fields, so Jeff “resurrected” one of his dad’s old trucks – a bright red 1997 Peterbilt 379 with a semi-gloss black frame. Ordering a new 45-foot walking floor trailer from The Trailer Company in Bakersfield, California, the rig needed to be really low to accommodate their needs, so Jeff started “tweaking” on it. Well, before he knew it, his “sickness” had taken over and, once again, the truck was just two bare frame rails sitting on the shop floor!
When it was all said and done, the sleeper truck had been converted into a factory daycab setup, the front end was bagged, and the entire truck was lowered – a lot. Then, the brackets for the fuel tanks and boxes were modified to allow these pieces to be mounted three inches higher to give the truck a little more clearance. They also dropped in a fully-rebuilt (and painted white) Cat C15, new rear-ends, a new transmission, and a car-hauler front axle. Again, Bill Abernethy was hired to paint everything red, including the tanks and air cleaners, as well as the back of the newly converted cab. Picking up the new trailer in July of 2014, Jeff and his dad have been working that truck and trailer hard ever since.
Not long after getting the red truck on the road, Jeff needed to add another one. Not having enough time to order a custom ride, Jeff just bought a 2015 Peterbilt 389 off the lot at K.C. Peterbilt from Clint Moore that was painted cream with a turquoise frame and fenders. It was nothing fancy – just a solid new truck. In fact, before taking it home, Jeff had Clint’s guys remove most of the “cool” add-on parts and had them replaced with simpler items – the big pipes and smooth heat shields were replaced with 5-inch pipes and retro-looking vented shields, the big front bumper was replaced with a tapered 16-incher, and the tall rubber was switched out to super-low 22.5 wheels and tires.
Once he got the truck home, Jeff went to work, making his usual modifications – and then some. Starting with de-arched springs and an air-bag kit from 12 Ga. Customs, the first goal was to get it draggin’ on the ground. To make sure the tanks had enough clearance, they were re-mounted three inches higher using custom brackets made by Jeff’s friend, Mike Alts. Jeff also removed the air-ride system from the back of the cab and then “plugged the hole” left behind with a custom-made PTO wet kit, which tucked in that spot between the frame rails nicely. After a few more modifications were made, the truck was sent to Bill Abernethy where the entire turquoise chassis was sandblasted, and then everything from the added dark red and gold breaker stripes down was painted Army Green, including the frame.
On its maiden voyage, while hooked to the 45-foot walking floor, the trailer swung around and banged into all of the airline connections behind the cab and bent everything up. Without hesitation, Jeff took the truck to Leonardo’s in Medford where the 270-inch wheelbase was stretched to 303 inches, so that would never happen again! Jeff also ordered another new walking floor trailer, but this second one was a 49 footer. Once the frame stretch was complete, Jeff drove it to The Trailer Company to pick up his new trailer in Bakersfield the first week of February (2015). On his way back, he made a detour east out of Fresno, where I met him and took a few photos of this latest ground-dragging combo.
Since then, the farming operation has kept Jeff and his dad very busy – so busy, in fact, Jeff hired a driver (Darryl) to drive the cream and green truck, and jumped back into his dad’s red rig. Jeff has always been a man of faith, and all of these changes he has made over the years have certainly challenged that faith, but he always just presses on, knowing that He will take care of everything exactly as it should be taken care, even if Jeff is famous for making dumb decisions. For this, he really wanted to thank his wife, Pam, and their two boys, Greyson (15) and Joey (13), for putting up with his truck-building obsession. He also wanted to thank legendary pinstriper Don Tippit for all of the amazing work he did on his latest truck, as well as Bill Abernethy and his crew for all of their help over the years.
When Jeff is not building something, driving something or planting something, which is not very often, he fills up his time attending various sporting events his boys are involved in and coaching Joey’s pole vaulting team. Pam stays busy raising the kids, which is a good thing, because she does not like to see Jeff’s projects, which usually entails tearing a perfectly-good brand-new truck apart. But, we can’t wait to see the next “fine mess” Jeff gets himself into!