This was a different kind of year for J & L Contracting out of Springfield, Missouri. Having built their first real working show truck earlier this year, the rig made its debut at the show in Louisville in March and then proceeded to hit just about every other big show on the circuit for the rest of the year. In fact, the folks at J & L are now calling 2015, “The year of the show truck!” Of course, between all of those shows, their “Contender” Peterbilt and its matching heavy-haul trailer, with driver Doug Jameson at the helm, works hard delivering oversize and overweight loads throughout the Midwest.
James (Jamie) Williams is the owner of J & L Contracting, which began as an off-shoot of his father’s company, Williams Construction. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Jamie’s family moved to
Rogersville, Missouri (near Springfield), shortly after he was born. His father traveled a lot with his job, and when Jamie was in third grade his dad quit his corporate gig and started Williams Construction. Throughout his high school years, Jamie worked on farms and ranches, and he loved all the equipment it took to run those operations. After high school he went to Missouri State and earned a degree in Construction Management in 1998. That same year, he married the love of his life, Malona. It was a good year.
After college, Jamie went to work with his father at the construction company. In 2005, after having problems finding sub-contractors with excavation equipment and dump trucks, Jamie approached his father with a proposal to buy their own equipment. Dad promptly said, “No thanks, but if you want to do it, I’ll help you get started.” His dad gave him a 1995 Ford dump truck, which he used as collateral to get a loan to purchase some equipment – and that is where it all began. Although it was set up as a separate business, J & L Contracting was basically just the excavating side of Williams Construction.
Starting out with a couple semi-trucks, two dump trucks and a track loader, it is amazing at how large the company is today – just 10 years later! One day, after purchasing a new track loader from Fabick Caterpillar, Jamie pulled in their place to pick it up. The guys there were impressed with his rig, and asked if he could haul for hire for them. So, Jamie started hauling heavy equipment for Fabick maybe once a week, which quickly became once a day, and then more.
Today, J & L Contracting, LLC has several divisions, including the heavy-haul division, which now has about 30 trucks, an excavation division, which mostly does work for Williams Construction, and a dump truck division, which has 16 dump trucks and three semis that pull end dumps. Jamie also buys and sells dirt. Recently, his father retired, so Jamie took over Williams Construction, as well. Between the two companies, he has about 115 employees and 40 company-owned pickup trucks. Not bad for a guy who is only 40 years old! In addition to hauling for Fabick, and many other dealers, J & L also hauls for most of the major heavy equipment manufacturers, including Caterpillar, John Deere, Volvo and Komatsu, transporting their new equipment from the factories to the dealerships.
Wanting to build a heavy-haul truck he could take to some shows, Jamie ordered a black 2015 Peterbilt 389 from Peterbilt of Springfield in August of 2014. The truck, which was ordered with everything as heavy-duty as possible, came with a 600 Cummins, an 18-speed transmission with a 4-speed auxiliary (giving the truck 72 forward gears), a double frame with a 294-inch wheelbase, heavy-duty suspensions, front and rear, oversized front tires, and a single steerable drop-axle. The truck, which came rated from the factory at 260,000 GCVW, was delivered to J & L in September of 2014.
Following the advice of another respected heavy-hauler with sweet trucks, Truett Novosad, the first thing Jamie did was swap out the single steerable drop-axle with a dual pusher right there in his shop. After that, the truck was sent to Brunner Fabrication in Joplin, Missouri, where Travis and his crew fitted it with all sorts of custom metal work including a custom headache rack, a custom visor and window chops, custom back-lit step box covers with the name of the truck (Contender) cut into them, and custom-cut breather screens and front grille, featuring the J & L logo. They also made the rear light bar, a rear cross-member cover, cab and sleeper drop panels, cool steel steps cut into the shape of the J & L logo (mounted to the frame behind the fuel tanks), and a heavy-duty deck plate.
Since Brunner is a metal fabrication shop and doesn’t paint stuff, the truck was then sent to Truck Rods, the custom truck division at Peterbilt of Joplin, for paint, assembly and final details. Following a design created by Tony Coats for Jamie, Dusty Ford and his crew at Truck Rods completely stripped and repainted the truck with a four-color scheme featuring Viper Red, Viper Blue, Black Onyx and Silver Effect (for the thin dividing lines between the stripes). They also painted the deck plate, visor, air cleaners, fuel tanks and headlight buckets, and then installed WTI fiberglass single-hump fenders.
The final exterior details included 8-inch Dynaflex pipes, plenty of extra lights, triple straps on the tanks, and an extra-wide Valley Chrome front bumper to accommodate those massive front tires (the front fenders were widened, too). Moving inside the cab, much of the interior was painted to match the exterior, including the dash panels, the door panels and the floor. Also, the headliner was redone to match the scheme. All-in-all, the truck spent five weeks at Truck Rods and was completed just days before the Louisville truck show, where it made its debut in March.
Although the truck did not get any awards in Louisville, the guys decided to take it to the show in Wildwood (FL) the next month, where it fetched a couple trophies, including 1st place in the lights class. From there, they were hooked! After that, they took the truck to shows in Willows (CA), Crossville (TN), Dallas (TX), Joplin (MO), St. George (UT) and Denton (TX) – which is why everyone at J & L is calling 2015 “the year of the show truck” – because it was!
Between the shows in Tennessee and Dallas, Doug took the truck to PDI where they hopped-up the motor to about 700-hp. Then, Peterbilt of Springfield pulled it out and painted it black and red. Somehow, between all of that, driver Doug Jameson was hauling loads all over Midwest with the truck and its matching 55-ton Etnyre detachable gooseneck trailer.
A truck this special deserves a special driver, and Doug Jameson fits the bill. Although Doug (43) has only been at J & L for two years now, he has been trucking for most of his life. Born in Springfield, Missouri, Doug’s dad was a jet engine mechanic in the Air Force, so they moved around a lot – they even lived in Germany for four years. When Doug’s dad retired from the Air Force, they moved back to Springfield. In 1989, during his junior year in high school, Doug got into a terrible car accident and broke his back in four places and shattered one of his knees. They said he would never walk again, but just a few years later he got his CDL and started driving a truck.
Much of Doug’s family was into farming and he grew up around heavy machinery, so it made perfect sense for him to get into trucking. After driving a feed truck locally for a couple years, he hit the “big road” and went long-haul reefer trucking for about eight years. After getting burned out doing that, he went back to local work, driving dump trucks and end dumps for almost 15 years. In February of 2014, he joined the family at J & L. Having no experience hauling super-loads, it took Doug a little time to figure everything out, but he was eager and willing to learn, so it did not take long.
His first year at J & L, Doug drove an ugly but very capable Caterpillar over-the-road truck, so you can imagine his excitement when he found out that “Contender” was going to be his truck. Doug was not really involved with the build, and Jamie kept things kind of secretive about it, so when they picked it up just before the Louisville show, Doug was pretty surprised at how far they took it. Louisville was his first time competing at a truck show – now, after just one very busy year, he is practically a veteran! Doug wanted to thank fellow driver Randy Menkel for helping get the truck cleaned up and ready for the shows throughout the year. Jamie thanked Randy in a different way – he bought him a beautiful black and red 2013 Peterbilt 389 and matching 2015 Trail King trailer called “Back in Black” to run for the company (and take to shows).
Family is very important at J & L. Jamie considers every one of his employees a member of his family. His philosophy has always been, “I feed them and they feed me.” This applies to both his customers and his employees – they are all partners – they are all a family. Jamie used to be a workaholic, but after reading an article in a magazine, he changed. In the article, the author explained how business owners should not micro-manage their company, but instead hire competent people to not only help the company to grow and prosper, but to allow you, as the owner, to have a life. Jamie took these words to heart and hired some good people like Lee Perry, Dustin Shipman and Dustin Taylor, just to name a few, to run the various divisions of J & L Contracting. Without these people, Jamie wouldn’t have much of a personal life.
Jamie and Malona have two kids – their son Jack (13), who is not only a good student but also plays baseball, football and tennis, and their daughter Lauren (11), who plays volleyball and basketball. Malona used to be a teacher, but when J & L started to get big, Jamie brought her in to run the books. When not working, Jamie enjoys fishing, boating, mowing the grass, and, most of all, watching his kids play sports.
Jamie wanted to thank his wife for “letting him do this” and his parents for helping him all along the way, while still allowing him to stretch his legs and do his own thing. In regards to the “Contender” Peterbilt, he wanted to thank Brunner Fabrication, Truck Rods and Peterbilt of Springfield. He also wanted to give credit and thanks to Bart Wilhelm, who is a mechanic in the J & L shop, for everything he did to the truck, as well. And, of course, Doug and Randy, for all of their hard work throughout the year.
We at 10-4 have a few “thank yous” to share, too. While at the show in Willows, California, one of our vehicles lost its transmission, and we were stuck. Being early in the morning on a holiday (Memorial Day) and kind of in the middle of nowhere, we were having a hard time getting a tow truck or finding a shop that would even pick up their phone. Then, without hesitation, Jamie offered to have Doug and Randy haul our van 500 miles down to Southern California on the lowboy behind “Contender” – at no charge! For that, we say thank you, to everyone involved. But, that’s just the kind of guy Jamie is.
Being a little burned-out from all of the running around in 2015, the guys at J & L plan on doing more small shows next year. In addition to the “Contender” and “Back in Black” rigs, Jamie has other show-worthy trucks, including one he calls “Northern Hospitality” – which is a red and black 2015 Pride and Class edition Peterbilt that his driver Paul gets to run. He is also in the process of performing a frame-up restoration on one of his original trucks – a 2000 Kenworth W900 with about a million miles on it. When completed in about a year or so, this rig will be their next show truck.
We truly had a great time hanging out with and getting to know Jamie and Malona, as well as Doug and his wife Lyn, and Randy “Fireball” Menkel this year at the shows. It’s always fun when new people join the show circuit because they are so enthusiastic and excited – it rubs off on all of us, who have been at it for decades, and makes everything new again. We are glad you all got to have “the year of the show truck” but now it’s time to get back to work – time to show all the nay-sayers out there that show trucks like “Contender” actually do work!