With all the miles they have traveled and the country they have seen, older trucks, still running all over the United States and beyond, have a lot of stories to tell. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and with this neat truck and the photos seen here, that statement definitely applies.
Son of Ed and Alice McRoberts, LeRoy McRoberts was born and raised in Nebraska. A third-generation trucker, he not only started driving in 1987, but he also purchased his first truck – a 1979 4070B Transtar Eagle – for $6,500. In 1992, he started LeRoy McRoberts Trucking, Inc. Fast forward to 2005 and LeRoy opened Bad Boys Customs, a custom truck parts store in Nebraska.
On May 21, 2010, LeRoy married his wife Amanda. Together, they moved to Sergeant Bluff, IA after researching locations to provide a better education for their children. With the move, Bad Boys Customs also came along, but it only made sense to change the name to I-29 Custom Truck Parts, since they were right off the interstate. I-29 Custom Truck Parts specializes in custom parts and accessories, and is also a dealer for Trux Accessories, Dynaflex Products, Hogebuilt and Truck Armour.
LeRoy and Amanda have three children – a son named Ayden (12), a daughter named Parker (7) and a son named Ryder Eddie (6). Ryder’s middle name came from LeRoy’s brother, Eddie, who drove for LeRoy many years prior to his death in 2007. LeRoy stated that Amanda is the captain of the ship. She handles all the behind-the-scenes action of the trucking outfit and I-29 Custom Truck Parts, and she is also the glue that holds their family and home together.
On a run out west, one of LeRoy’s friends spotted an old rig in Livermore, CA that he knew LeRoy would like. This friend called LeRoy and told him that he had to see the truck because it had everything he wanted – an E Model CAT motor and a factory wheelbase. His friend sent pictures and, sight-unseen, LeRoy purchased the truck at the end of May 2017. The owner of the truck had it set up as a car hauler, but it had since been parked for several years. With the purchase, LeRoy requested that the car rack be removed. So, what is the truck? A 1993 Freightliner FLA104 with a factory 550-hp E Model CAT, 3:08 rear gears, a 255” wheelbase and a 13-speed double-over transmission.
Since LeRoy lived in Iowa, the next obstacle was getting this truck home. With his father Ed having 50-plus years of driving under his belt and since retiring from driving in October of 2016, he seemed to be the perfect person for the job. The plan was that LeRoy would take a load to California, with Ed riding along, and then they would go pick up the truck and Ed would drive it back to Iowa. But, as they say, most plans look better on paper.
When they got to Livermore and saw the truck, they both realized that unlike most times when a photo doesn’t do the subject justice, this was not the case. The truck was in worse condition than what the pictures depicted. Since LeRoy had already purchased the truck, he had no choice but to take it. Ed had taken LeRoy trucking plenty when he was little, and Ed was no stranger to cabovers, but when Ed saw the truck, he didn’t even want to get in it – never mind drive it back to Iowa – with the rough shape it was in. Ed walked around the truck and started rattling off everything that was wrong with it. After plenty of talking and reasoning, LeRoy finally convinced his dad to drive it home.
While his dad was driving the truck back from California, cruising along at 65 mph (in the middle of summer with no AC), he came into Salt Lake City and entered a construction area. While in the construction zone, all the sudden the truck locked up and went spinning in the middle of the road! It was later found out that a wheel bearing had seized-up, and state patrol said there was oil up the side of the truck, as well. The truck was towed to Salt Lake City Freightliner where Ed spent the next three days waiting for the shop to rebuild a new steer axle for the truck. By the time Ed parked at the shop in Iowa, it was six days after he had left California.
What you see here today is a fully restored, full-time work truck, painted in Garnet Red. Pulling a 2012 Wabash 53’ spread-axle reefer trailer, LeRoy uses it to haul meat and produce. This truck is the product of hard work, vision and dedication to bring that vision to life. Special thanks and appreciation go to I-29 Custom Truck Parts’ technician and fabricator Corey Rogers for the body work, Bosch Paint & Body in Whiting, IA for the flawless paint work, Dynaflex for helping to bring LeRoy’s exhaust design idea to life, and Trux Accessories for selling LeRoy the quality fenders and LED lights he installed.
LeRoy’s father Ed has not driven the truck since the day he brought it in from California and parked it in Iowa, nor has he even laid eyes on the finished product! This completed Freightliner was unveiled at the 20th Anniversary 75 Chrome Shop Truck Show in Wildwood, FL this past April (2018), where it also earned a spot on 75 Chrome Shop’s upcoming 2019 calendar.
When asked what LeRoy would tell someone thinking about becoming an owner operator, he said to make sure you buy a reliable truck, and the newer the better. Making a payment on a newer truck will, in the long run, cost less than paying for repairs that inevitably come with an older truck. Also, always make sure to have a safety net in the bank. Better to have that money aside and not need it than not have it and need it.
Special thanks go out to LeRoy McRoberts for providing the picture of what the truck looked like when he bought it, with his father, Ed McRoberts, standing next to it. This old “before” picture, and the ones I took of it now, certainly tell much of the story, but I still had to add 1,000+ words to tell the rest of it. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal – especially in older rigs like LeRoy’s – truck safe!