When two young truck drivers hang out together and talk, you can bet that one of the topics that is sure to come up will be the dream trucks they hope to one day build and drive. Such is the case for Robert and Evan. Spending many nights out on the road truckin’ together, these two friends talked a lot about building “outlaw-style” hot rod rigs. Sadly, one of these young men, Evan Lancaster, passed away before his dream could become a reality. Thankfully, the other one, Robert Campbell Jr. of Hughson, California, was able to build a truck that meshed his dreams and Evan’s together, creating a true rolling tribute to his friend lost too soon.
Born and raised in California’s Bay area, Robert Campbell Jr. (25) grew up in a family that did a lot of construction work and trucking. Robert’s parents divorced when he was just three years old and his dad, Robert Campbell Sr., got full custody. When Robert’s dad wasn’t playing AAA baseball, he was trucking. Robert learned how to drive while sitting in his dad’s lap at an early age and, later, as a teenager, loved to go trucking with his father – back then, Robert Sr. was driving a transfer. After a crane accident and some other sports-related maladies, Robert’s dad abandoned his baseball aspirations and began trucking full time.
About 15 years ago, Robert’s dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After doing some heavy chemo, he got better and went back to work. Five years later, it came back as Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and he has been fighting that cancer ever since. This ongoing sickness has caused Robert’s dad to have an on-again off-again trucking career, based on his health, and has forced him to lean on his son a lot. It has been a frustrating journey, for sure, but he is very glad that he has such a kind and hard-working son, who takes such good care of him, when he needs it the most.
When Robert Jr. was in high school, his dad got transferred to Nevada, where he hauled powdered cement and wet sand in pneumatic trailers. After about two years, his dad got sick again, so they went back to California for more treatments. Once he got better, in 2006, they decided to leave California and move to Utah. When Robert turned 18, he got a job at the local coal mine loading trucks and pushing coal. On his days off, he trucked scrap steel to Salt Lake City for a friend. Robert was always hustling. When his dad got sick again, Robert left that job at the mine and went to work at a construction company, where he learned how to operate all sorts of heavy equipment and trucks.
After Robert’s dad got better again, he went back to driving, but this time he started pulling a flatbed for B & J Trucking. This company eventually offered Robert a job, too, hauling hay, which was his first “real” trucking job. Pulling hay trains (a truck with two trailers), Robert was often grossing over 115,000-lbs. In 2011, when Robert was 21, he and his dad pooled their money together and bought a red and black 1986 Peterbilt 359 with a 3406B Cat. Robert hooked the rig to a flatbed and the two of them trucked together for almost a year. Robert Sr. said it was one of the best times of his life. When Robert’s dad starting getting sick again, he had to stop driving, so Robert switched to hauling oil in the summer and cows in the winter.
Traveling from Utah to California for his cancer treatments was starting to take its toll on Robert’s dad, and the extreme weather in Utah wasn’t helping, either. So, in 2014, they both decided it was time to move back to California, but not the Bay area – they wanted to live in the central valley. Not knowing anyone or anything there, Robert reached out to a friend he had made on Facebook – Evan Lancaster – who was a hard-working young trucker that drove a beautiful white and lime green 379 Peterbilt for Wild West Commodities. Robert told Evan what they wanted to do and asked him if he knew anybody who had a house to rent and/or a driving job. Amazingly, Evan got back to him the very next day and said that he had found them a place to live, and probably a driving job, too. Keep in mind that these two young men had never met face-to-face, but Robert and his dad packed up a U-Haul and away they went.
Once in California, they moved into the house next door to Evan and Robert started hauling for a company that delivered feed to dairies with his 359. Shortly after that, Robert got the opportunity to buy a 2000 Peterbilt 379 transfer, something he had always wanted because it reminded him of his childhood, and he took it. The truck, which eventually became the rig on our cover and centerfold this month (and on these pages), was burgundy-colored and in rough shape. But, it had a newer 550 ISX Cummins and, overall, it was solid. Robert parked the 359 to run the transfer, but after only eight months, he just couldn’t make it work, so he pulled the boxes, added low-bed ramps on the back, and switched to low-boy hauling.
During this short time in California, Robert and Evan became the best of friends. They often trucked together, and helped each other out when needed. When Robert was out of town on a run, Evan would go to his house and help take care of his dad when he wasn’t well. These two young truckers both dreamed of the day they could build and drive their own outlaw-style “hot rod” rig – and talked about it often. Evan, who was a few years older than Robert, really wanted to buy his own truck and fix it up. He eventually found a 2-axle 1963 narrow-nose Kenworth, but debated whether to make the leap or not. After some time, he decided that he was going to buy it. He called Robert and said, “I’m on my way to the bank to get the cash – I’m gonna do it!” Robert was so excited for him. That was the last time he ever spoke to Evan on the phone.
Later that night, Robert got a call from someone telling him that Evan had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and fell into a coma. As Evan slowly began to recover, an outpouring of support came from family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers through, among other things, a Facebook page (“Prayers for Evan Lancaster”) – this page quickly grew to have over 800 members. The family, including Evan’s wife Kayla and their eight-year-old daughter Heidi, were moved by the outpouring of love and support. Evan seemed to be making progress, but after suffering a second stroke, sadly, he passed away on June 16th, 2015 – and he was only 30 years old.
Evan’s death hit Robert hard. He wanted to do something special to honor Evan’s memory, so he decided to rebuild his truck using many of the ideas they had talked about. Robert took the truck to John Chamorro (who also knew Evan) at J & A Truck Painting (formerly ColorWorx) in Oakdale, CA. John began the rebuild by tearing the truck down to almost bare frame rails and then re-did almost everything. To pay for the work, Robert gave John his 359 (John says he wants to build a top-notch show truck with it).
While the truck was in the shop, for over two months, Fred Rivera offered to let him drive his 1976 Peterbilt 289, and told Robert that when his truck was done, he would have a job (and a nice Ravens flatbed) waiting for him at Rivera Trucking (one of Fred’s Peterbilts was featured on our cover back in November 2002). Robert took him up on the offer and, since getting the truck back in September, he has been pulling that 48-foot flatbed for Fred, and is very grateful for this opportunity he was given.
Evan always wanted an outlaw rig, painted “hot rod black” (flat black) with no numbers on it, and Evan and Robert both loved a popular A-model KW owned by Justin Klos in Australia, which is flat black with a red stripe. Inspired by that Kenworth, John sandblasted the chassis and then painted the truck’s frame flat black. Robert and John worked together to design a similar but unique stripe for the truck. They also decided to add scallops to the front fenders. A lot of body work needed to be done first, so John re-skinned the doors, replaced the fenders, and fixed the truck’s banged-up hood and roof. While up there, he also mounted five cab lights in an old-school configuration. Using heavy metallic paint, John chose charcoal gray with a dark red stripe, outlined and lettered with gold.
Some other items that were added to the truck include a new bowtie visor, breather lights, and one-piece drop panels from Valley Chrome. John also installed new seven-inch straight pipes from Lincoln Chrome, stainless quarter fenders, and a custom steel deck plate with a recessed connection box, painted and striped to match. The final touches included personalized license plates that say “C8NTBME” (which was Evan’s name on Instagram), #51 on the side of the truck (which was the number Evan wore when he played football), a chrome swan atop the hood, and an old-school glitter shifter knob (the rest of the interior is still pretty stock – for now).
Robert wanted to thank everyone that helped make this project happen, including John Chamorro and his crew (Keith, Paul, Ryan and Jose), David Reyes at Kustom Shine in Manteca, CA for all of the polish work, Fred Rivera for letting him use his old Pete, and Evan for much of the inspiration. Robert also wanted to thank his dad and his grandpa, Duane, as well as his God-parents, Ron and Cheryl Schwab. Not only have they helped over the years with moral and financial support, but Cheryl, who works in cancer research, was able to get Robert’s dad into a trial program for an experimental drug that has worked wonders. He just seems to be getting better every day! Thanks also go out to Kenny at Alpine Pacific Nut Co. in Turlock, CA for letting us take some of the photos at their location.
Still living next door to Evan’s widow and their young daughter Heidi, Robert gets to hang out with Heidi every once in a while and loves it – he says she has Evan’s strong and ornery personality. Robert really looked up to Evan and respected him. Evan would go out of his way to help anyone, which is one of the reasons why they just “clicked” right from the start. Robert misses Evan and misses trucking with him, but feels his presence in the truck all the time. Robert has learned that nothing (and no one) should be taken for granted. Tell the people around you that you love them while you can, because one day they just might be gone.
Robert has a few other plans for the truck (like air-bagging the front), but he mostly just wants to keep hustling and growing. One day, he hopes to have his own trailers. He also hopes his dad will one day be healthy enough to get a bone marrow transplant, which could make him cancer-free. But, if that never happens, he just wants him to feel good so he can enjoy the rest of his life. In the meantime, Robert Campbell Jr. will just enjoy doin’ it outlaw style, in memory of his friend, Evan Lancaster.