The world of trucking lost yet another icon a few months ago when Joe “Mustang” Glasco passed away at his home in Honolulu, HI. Joe had long since retired, and many of you may remember our cover and story featuring Joe and his one-and-only Mack cabover about 10 years ago. It was the only truck he ever owned, and he ran it for 35 years, pulling the same flatbed trailer for 30 of those years, as well. And this truck and trailer were way ahead of their time, thanks to Joe’s forward-thinking ideas and many innovative upgrades. In honor of his passing, we thought it would be fitting to reprint most of his amazing story, which was originally published as the cover feature in May 2010.
For over 35 years, legendary trucker Joe Mustang and his one-and-only Mack owned the road. If you ever saw a “silver streak” go flying past you while out on the interstate, most likely it was Joe, making up for lost time. Joe Mustang and his unique truck were inseparable for most of his driving career, and Joe’s flatbed trailer has spent its entire life hooked to the Mack. It is not uncommon to find an old trucker who’s been driving for 30 or 40 years, but to find one that drove the same truck for 35 years and pulled the same trailer for 30, now that is rare.
Joe, with the help of his trusty Bulldog, ran from coast to coast and border to border, hauling all kinds of freight. Known to dodge a scale or two here and there, Joe was a bit of a renegade – a real trucker’s trucker. Joe and his truck were certainly ahead of their time. Many of the things that Joe did to his truck back in the 1960s and 1970s were unheard of back then. Even today, his truck still turns heads wherever it goes, only now it is Dan Thomas, the truck’s current owner, not Joe Mustang, that gets to enjoy all the attention.
Born in 1915, Joe “Mustang” Glasco got his start in Pennsylvania, driving an early 1930s Diamond T with an integral sleeper. Making $10 a week, he hauled roofing material, canned goods, potatoes and anything else he could find into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. In 1946, Joe moved to Los Angeles and got a job driving for Consolidated Freightways. After that, he drove for Coast Line, Santa Fe Transport and PMT (Pacific Motor Trucking).
It was in 1959 that Joe Mustang bought his one-and-only rig – a 1957 H63 Mack – from a trucker that had it on lease with Belyea Truck Company. Belyea was a company that prided itself on moving loads that were deemed to be impossible by others. Originally, the tractor was a two-axle rig with a Mack 205-hp Thermodyne, triplex transmissions, and a double reduction rear-end – the truck was geared to top out at 75 mph. Back then, the truck was painted in the Belyea colors of gray and black, but Joe quickly changed it to metallic silver with black trim.
For a while, Joe kept the Mack with Belyea, making $0.24 per mile, with an additional $.06 for each driver. In 1964, Joe purchased a new 40’ flatbed made by Brown Mfg. Company. After Belyea, Joe trip-leased to outfits that specialized in flatbed loads (hauling flatbed commodities was what Joe liked best). Paxton Truck Lines, Senna Trucking, Johnnie Teresi, Progressive Transportation, S & H Truck Lines, BBD Trucking, Contractors Cargo and Doudell Trucking all had their names on Joe’s door at one time or another. Throughout his career, Joe and his Mack ran into every state in the Continental U.S. and Canada, pulling for carriers like ETMF (East Texas Motor Freight), ABF, Landstar, Ranger and Inway.
Over the years, Joe took the old H-Model through many changes, both subtle and obvious, during their long career together. Many of the updates Joe made to his Mack were done to accommodate the ever-changing rules of the day, and to maximize his payloads. During the first makeover, Joe extended the steel frame to give the truck a 212” wheelbase and added a tag axle. The well-worn Mack Thermodyne engine was replaced with a Cat 1673, while the Mack triplex transmissions and Mack rear-end remained. A few years later, Joe stretched the wheelbase out even further to 224” and then re-powered the truck again with a Cat 1674.
Joe was quite content with his new setup, but the trucking game was always changing, and it took new equipment to keep up. With only forty feet of deck space on his trailer, Joe began to lose out on loads. The new trucks were also lighter and had higher horsepower, which got them to their destinations quicker. Not wanting to buy new equipment, Joe decided to do a third major makeover on the H-Model. Joe had kept his eye on what the new trucks were running and began gathering the necessary items to perform the work. For example, while in Michigan picking up a load of machinery from the auctioning of the Diamond REO plant, Joe spotted a stack of nice aluminum frame rails, so he struck up a deal on a set and then hauled them home.
By now it was the mid-1970s and Joe, who had a garage full of components, went to work on the truck’s third rebuild. First, he cut the steel frame rails at the transmission mounts and slid them into the new aluminum rails, which had been cut to give the rig a 264” wheelbase. Next, he added a Western air-ride suspension and R-170 rear-end. The front axle and steering were replaced with a Mack SuperLiner unit attached to a Kenworth three-leaf spring. Joe then made his own cross-mounts and attached them to the rails using rivets. The engine was replaced with a Cat 1693 PCTA (cranking out 525 horses at the flywheel), and then backed with a Fuller 10-speed transmission. This larger engine required Joe to add a larger, modified radiator, as well as a unique air clutch system.
Since the Mack was already dismantled, Joe decided to customize the interior and make some exterior modifications, as well. Joe added two Peterbilt fuel tanks and a Peterbilt bumper, modified to his liking, tons of custom diamond plate panels, and a unique 8” weed-burner exhaust, taken off a turbo prop airplane engine, which sticks out from the side of the truck just behind the right front tire. He built the pipe strong enough to stand on, and anytime a DOT inspector asked him about it, Joe would just say that it was a step. He also re-skinned the back of the sleeper with a piece of diamond plate, and anytime he was asked about his “headache rack” he just said that it was OEM. Old Joe must have been quite the salesman to get away with that!
Inside the cab, Joe installed WWII vintage aircraft gauges, using high-quality aviation-grade Teflon-coated wiring, and made a shifter modified from a P-38 fighter plane’s stick. At night the cab is a glow of red from aviation map lights he installed. Even the shift tower was custom-built by Joe. The interior is by no means luxurious, but it does look both functional and cool.
Some other interesting items this truck has includes classic five-hand-hole aluminum wheels on the front, and Alcoa’s first generation of tubeless aluminum wheels on the back (and on the trailer) which have a unique ribbed design for added strength. His newly updated engine had a different air intake system, so the two big, round air cleaners, mounted underneath the back of the sleeper, were no longer necessary. But, not wanting to get rid of them because he liked the way they looked, Joe converted one of them into an extra oil reserve tank and used the other to cover his Luberfiner. Joe found the rig’s silver grab handles mounted on the truck while sitting in a handicapped bathroom stall one day. He looked at the brushed silver handrails that were mounted on the wall around the stall and realized that they would be perfect for his rig. Joe immediately contacted the company that made the rails and bought a few sets.
Joe was a simple guy, and his truck had a simple look. He always kept it, and himself, looking good. Joe was known for always wearing black western attire including black boots, a black hat and a black belt with a big buckle. Joe’s Mack has very little bright chrome – most of the aluminum is not polished or painted silver. The extra-long length of his wheelbase allowed him to begin specializing in odd shaped and sized loads without upgrading his trailer. Unlike most trucks, Joe’s Mack has no engine brake, but that was never a problem for this veteran trucker.
After this third and final rebuild, Joe drove the truck with this configuration until he retired in 1994. Not wanting to sell it, Joe continued to maintain the rig, but as he got older it got harder and harder. This is where Dan Thomas comes in. Dan had met Joe years before at a truck stop in Oregon, and really liked the old H-Model Mack. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Dan’s truck-driving father had one just like it. Twenty years later, with the help of Stan Holtzman, Dan was able to locate Joe and the H-Model Mack. For years, Dan tried to buy the now-retired truck from Joe, but he just wasn’t ready to let it go. In 2002, Dan was finally able to strike a deal with Joe to buy the truck. By then, Joe was 86 years old, and he just couldn’t take care of it anymore.
Since purchasing the old Mack, Dan has had the pleasure of taking it to several truck shows and out on many pleasure rides. And no matter where he goes, people still call out to Joe on the CB when they see the truck. Joe Mustang and his Mack were well-known and held in high regard by many. Most people say that Joe was a true truck-driving gentleman. But some just remember the truck because, as one man told Dan, “I only saw the truck running down the road and I could never pass it or catch up.” Dan has heard numerous tales from truckers who tried to keep up with Joe or pass him without success.
After his retirement, Joe spent the last years of his life in Honolulu, Hawaii. Joe was a Teamster throughout his entire trucking career, so he had a comfortable retirement plan. Joe loved to swim, and about four times a week, he went to the pool and swam 50 laps – up to the time he was 102 years old! During those swims, he met Terri Lum, who was the pool attendant. Everyone loved Joe, and he quickly befriended Terri and her husband Mark. Always known for wearing black, Joe did not disappoint at the pool either, sporting a black speedo and, of course, his signature black hat. Joe was fit and trim all the way to the end, but after taking a fall in his home and hitting his head, which led to other medical issues, Joe passed away in December of 2018. He was 103 years old!!
Not many people live that long these days, and even less who make their living out running a truck their entire life. Joe Mustang was an exceptional man, a truck-customizing pioneer and a legendary driver who will be missed by all who knew him. He, like his truck, was a rare breed, indeed. So, the next time you see this silver streak whiz by you on the highway, think of Joe, but wave “hello” to Dan Thomas.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We would like to thank Mark Lum for contacting us directly to let us know about Joe’s passing. Had it not been for his thoughtfulness and kindness to reach out to us, we might never had heard about his death at all. Joe was a bit recluse and always a loner, but we sure enjoyed his wit and humor – this guy was a real character and he will be missed. We are so glad we got to tell Joe “Mustang” Glasco’s original story in 2010 while he was still alive and able to read it and enjoy it. We hope you enjoyed this partial reprint of it here, as well. Rest easy, driver, your shift is over.