Some trucks are nice enough to be done up. And then there are the ones that have true sentimental value and are nice enough to be “done again” – especially if your last name is Dunnigan. John Dunnigan Jr. (36) of Bloomsdale, Missouri is the proud owner and operator of this beautiful Kenworth W900L, which was originally owned by his father, John Dunnigan Sr. After John Sr.’s passing in 2007, John Jr. ended up with the truck and, a few years later, had it “done again” by the “boyz” at 4 State Trucks in his father’s honor and memory. And with 1.7 million miles on her, and five years since the rebuild, this is truly an everyday work truck that still looks amazing and cover-worthy!
From as far back as he can remember, all John Dunnigan Jr. ever wanted to do was drive a truck – this is a guy who loves everything about trucks and trucking, and has since day one – and still does! Born December 9, 1980 in St. Louis, Missouri, John is a simple guy. Throughout his life (so far), he has only had a handful of jobs and a few trucks – and he likes it that way. Raised in a trucking family, his dad drove truck, and from the time he was still in diapers, all John Jr. ever wanted to do was go out with him on the road. Growing up in St. Clair, Missouri, about 50 miles west of St. Louis, John Jr. was the fourth child of five – but the only one who really wanted to follow in his father’s trucking footsteps.
After (almost) graduating high school in 1999, he got a driving job at Meramec Trucking in Valley Park, Missouri. As it turned out, when graduation time came, John was two elective classes short, so he had to sign up for summer school to finish those last two classes – which turned out to be Driver’s Education and Typing. Hired by John Hollmann at Meramec, one of his stipulations was that John Jr. needed to get his diploma to keep his job. So, he would load up his truck early in the morning and then drive it to school. A few hours later, when his short school day was over, he would head out to his deliveries. Getting his CDL before he even had his regular Class-C driver’s license, his Driver’s Education instructor was like, “You drove that truck here?” “Yes,” answered John. “Well, there’s probably not much I can teach you that you don’t already know,” replied his teacher.
After getting his diploma, John began driving full-time and never looked back. Being under 21 and having to stay within his home state, he hauled bags of Quikrete for Meramec all over Missouri. A year later, at only 19 years old, he bought his first truck – a 1985 Peterbilt 359 (which he still has today). Since he was so young and inexperienced, he could not get insurance, so he just parked it. Once he turned 21, he jumped in the 359 and leased on with his dad at Dunnigan Truck Line, and then continued hauling bags of Quikrete for Meramec. By then, both John Sr. and John Jr. had purchased second trucks and had drivers in them, so there were four of them running together.
Around 2002, John Jr. started getting tired of running (basically) local, so he quit hauling the Quikrete and began running OTR. He sold his second truck, which was a 1984 Peterbilt 359, and kept running his ’85 Peterbilt. Since then, he has run in every one of the lower 48 states except Vermont – for some reason, he has never been to or through that one state! About two years ago, in 2015, he got his own authority and formed J.S. Dunnigan Truck Line, and loves the freedom of finally getting to be his own boss. He currently has two trucks – his original Peterbilt 359 and the W900L Kenworth seen here. But the KW is not just another truck he acquired along the way – it has a story, too.
When John Dunnigan Sr. purchased this 1994 Kenworth W900L, it was nearly new (it only had 60,000 miles on it). It came with a factory Seminole paint scheme very similar to what it has today. It was a nicely-built truck, but nowhere near as cool or custom as it is today. John Sr. drove that truck for years, until he decided to “go to the dark side” and become a DOT officer in 2004. Since this was the truck John Jr. used to get his CDL and the very first truck he took out on a load by himself, it had a lot of sentimental value, so he decided to buy it from his dad. He ran it for a year or two, pulling a flatbed for Landstar, until his dad decided that he wanted to get back into trucking. John sold it back to him, and then began running his Peterbilt again. Since the 359 was not set-up for OTR hauling, he eventually parked it and purchased a bright red 2003 Kenworth T600 and started running that.
Unfortunately, not long after John Jr. sold the W900L back to his dad, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. John Sr. fought the cancer for a few years, but it finally got him in 2007. When it was all said and done, John Jr. ended up with the black and maroon KW once again. Driving his T600 until 2009, he then sold it and got back into the W900L. Driving it hard for two years, in 2011 he completely went through and rebuilt the Cat 3406E under the hood, which now has about 625 horsepower. Later that year, he decided it was time to completely rebuild the entire truck, so he took it to the “boyz” at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, Missouri, where it got a total facelift.
Spending about 16 weeks in Joplin, the truck was stretched from 274 inches to 325, and then completely repainted and customized. The project was headed by Joe Overfelt and, along with the rest of the crew at 4 State, the truck got a new Seminole paint job done in Black Cherry, Maroon and Gold, the chassis was sandblasted and repainted, the 74-inch Studio Sleeper’s extenders were cut off and the opening from the cab to the bunk was enlarged (converted to a Unibilt opening). The “boyz” also made a custom frame cover to hide all the bolts and such. After an air-ride front end was installed, a one-piece deck-plate, complete with a recessed connection box and painted to match the truck’s Seminole scheme, was also added.
Once all the “heavy lifting” was complete, it was time for the accessories, which included a new billet-style grille with vertical bars, five bullet-style cab lights with watermelon lenses, 8-inch pipes with Pickett elbows, a new visor, and a 20-inch Valley Chrome bumper, with five watermelon-style lights on each side. The tanks and steps were wrapped with polished stainless, 3-inch stainless cab and sleeper extensions were added, and a Valley Chrome T-bumper was installed on the back of the truck, in addition to WTI double hump fiberglass fenders mounted on hidden brackets. Since the big square blinkers had been removed from the tops of the fenders, they added billet-style blinkers from RoadWorks underneath the mirrors.
Moving inside the cab, which still has its original interior featuring gray diamond-tuck leather and buttons, the “boyz” installed a cool painted aluminum floor, which has the Seminole scheme like the truck’s exterior, painted the dash panels, and mounted Talladega low-rider seats. They also removed the splitters from the shifter and replaced them with toggle switches on the dash. The interior has one other very special feature – an old tattered and wrinkled dash calendar from Flying J. This calendar, which has not been touched since John’s father owned the truck, still shows the month of September 2007, which was the last time he actually drove it.
This rig has one other unique feature – a bullet hole in the fuel tank on the passenger side. While driving home one night in 2012, a car pulled up next to him and he heard a loud “pop” sound. Not knowing what it was, he continued home, which was not too far away. Once he got there, he realized that he had a hole in his fuel tank and diesel was running out of it. Calling the local police to file a report, they did not seem that concerned. John knew the make and model of the car, and even had all but one digit of its license plate, but the cops still did not try to find the perpetrators or do anything about it. After fixing the actual hole in the tank, which was pretty small, he left the damaged stainless wrap on the tank as a “conversation piece” – these days, it makes for a good story to tell!
Married to his wife Kerry since Valentine’s Day 2007, this happy couple has two small children – John “JD” Dunnigan III (6) and Braylee (5). Kerry also has four grown kids of her own from a previous marriage. They met at a New Year’s Eve party back in 2002 and got married at the famous “Cupid’s Chapel” in Las Vegas, located right on the Strip. Whenever John is not trucking, he is home with the family or doing some type of family activity – and he loves it. Being a true owner operator with his own authority since April 2015 has given John a lot more flexibility with work and time for his wife and kids.
Not one to take much credit, John wanted to thank all the people who have helped him along the way, including his wife, who helps him run the business, his kids, which help him keep the truck clean, John Hollmann, who gave him his first driving job, and Henry Duarte (and his crew) at Little Sister’s Truck Wash in Barstow, for keeping her shiny. He also wanted to thank the guys at 4 State Trucks including Joe Overfelt, Casey “Biscuit” Lumley, Cole Gardner, Kyle Dimetroff, Jeremy “Wormy” Staten, Cody Burch, Chad Fry, Brian “Shaggy” Schwartz, Aaron Brown and “Bossman” Bryan Martin. He also wanted to make a special mention of his mentor and friend, Doug Protz, who was a senior driver at Meramec when John got hired. Doug was a big inspiration to John – he taught him a lot about trucking, as well as the importance of keeping his rig clean, lit-up and chromed-out!
As mentioned before, John is a pretty simple guy – he runs one truck and one trailer (a 1999 Transcraft Eagle flatbed) – and that is the way he likes it. He still has his original Peterbilt 359, which has been sitting for years now, but he’d like to one day fix it up and use it for local city drops. John Dunnigan Jr. was born to truck, and after all these years behind the wheel, he still loves it. Maybe it’s because it is in his blood, or because he gets to drive such a sweet ride – probably both. But either way, his “done again” Kenworth, with 1.7 million miles on her, won’t be getting sold or traded-in anytime soon. RIP John Dunnigan Sr. Your old rig is in good hands.