Since the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed legislation that clamped down on older trucks and forced many of its citizens to scrap their classic iron and replace it with newer more fuel-efficient models, the term “California Cool” has lost much of its luster. These days, running up and down the most western state, which for years dominated the scene and led the rest of the country in terms of style and trends for trucks, the landscape is now filled with aerodynamic plastic fleet trucks.
But, thankfully, some California truckers saw potential in these newer trucks and finally a few are out there setting new trends and showing the rest of the states that these rigs can be cool. Johnny Delgadillo and his son Andrew are a couple of these folks, and their sweet little 2-axle Freightliner Coronado oozes “California Cool” and proves that it can be done.
Born in raised in California’s central valley, Johnny Delgadillo (45) of Fresno, CA operates a small fleet of trucks that haul various agricultural products within his home state. Currently running five trucks, J. Delgadillo Trucking started in 2015. Before that, Johnny had trucks running under his father Aurelio’s company, Delgadillo Trucking.
Aurelio Delgadillo immigrated to the United States from Mexico back in the late 1960s and became a laborer. After meeting Juanita, the two were married in 1973 – and 46 years later, they are still together. Johnny was born in 1974 and he has five other siblings (four sisters and one brother). Aurelio started trucking in 1990 as a driver. After just one season (about six months) he bought his first truck – a 1974 Freightliner cabover. Back in those days, ag haulers would work hard for six months during the various harvests and then shut their trucks down for six months. Most went to work for other companies during those other six months, which was the case for Aurelio Delgadillo, as well.
After graduating from high school, Johnny headed to the local community college, but he barely lasted one semester. In 1993, at 19 years of age, Johnny got his CDL and started trucking with his dad, who got him a 1986 Freightliner Classic to drive. This 2-axle day cab conventional was powered by a 3406 Cat and painted tan with brown and orange stripes. It wasn’t anything very fancy, but it was nice. Less than a year later, Johnny bought this truck from his father and proceeded to drive it for the next 11 years.
Replacing the Freightliner Classic with a 1994 Freightliner FLD around 2004, this 2-axle truck, with a small integral sleeper and a Detroit engine, was eventually painted white with green flames and covered with lights. Johnny ran the FLD for several years and then bought a 2-axle 1999 Freightliner Classic around 2009. This rig also had a Detroit under the hood, hooked to a 13-speed, and a 48-inch sleeper. This was the first truck Johnny ever really fixed up and took to a show. Painting it white with a green frame and fenders, this truck was bagged in the front, had a custom grille and visor, body drop panels and plenty of extra lights.
Around 2012, someone in North Carolina offered Johnny a nice chunk of change for that ‘99 Classic, so he sold it. After returning from delivering it back east, Johnny and his son Andrew (who now had his CDL and was running one of his dad’s trucks) started looking for its replacement. Checking out a red 3-axle Pete 389 with a sleeper and a red 3-axle Freightliner Coronado day cab, they surprisingly opted for the Freightliner, wanting to eventually fix it up and make it something unique. After buying the 2011 Coronado, which has a 550-hp Detroit DD15 hooked to an 18-speed, they immediately cut it down to a 2-axle and put it to work.
Running the Coronado as-is for a few years, they eventually sent it to Arroyo Custom Rigs in Merced, CA where it spent about a month being customized by David Arroyo and his brother Rafael. Acquiring a 36-inch Peterbilt sleeper, David and his brother installed the bunk on the back of the Coronado, which required a lot of work. Not only did they have to cut the opening in the back of the cab but, not wanting it to look too obvious that it was a sleeper for a Peterbilt, they removed the full-size door and vents and then re-skinned the sides, adding smaller “glove box” doors (like a Freightliner would have). And, since they were re-skinning most of the sleeper anyway, they went ahead and added a large rear window in the back wall, too.
In addition to installing the unibilt sleeper, Arroyo also fabricated custom aluminum body drop panels, built unique steel mirror brackets, filled in a crease that runs along the side of every Coronado’s hood, and made a completely custom air suspension for the front axle, which included a back-up system, in case the main system ever failed. Arroyo also made a custom aluminum grille out of expanded metal (like a BBQ grate) and then added a polished plate mounted at the top of the grille. Lastly, Arroyo made a custom drop visor and mounted it to the rig on extra-strong handmade brackets attached to the roof. Customizing a truck like a Freightliner Coronado is no easy task – you have to get creative! Once all the fabrication work was completed at Arroyo, Johnny and Andrew painted the truck solid red and went back to work.
Over the next couple years, more was done to the truck including adding (5) bullet-style cab lights, 8-inch Dynaflex exhaust with Picket elbows (they had to make their own custom brackets), a custom rear light bar and aluminum deck plate were made by Andrew, and the backs of the front fenders were extended down a few inches to line up with the bottom of the drop panels. In January of 2019, the whole truck was painted synergy green (a Chevy Camaro color) and white by their friend Memo Perez in Planada, CA. At this time, all the final touches were added including extra lights, a new front bumper and polished stainless Hogebuilt quarter fenders. Then, Jake Blancas of Fresno, CA pinstriped the entire truck (even the back of the visor) and added the company logos to the sides.
Some work has been done to the interior of the Freightliner, as well, but the Delgadillo boys plan on doing a lot more. Currently, the truck has a booming sound system that includes a Kenwood head unit, (6) 6 x 9 speakers, (2) 12-inch subs and (3) amplifiers. The 3,000-watt system was installed by Super Stereo in Fresno, CA. The interior also features a painted white steering wheel, billet pedals, white-faced gauges, a chrome pistol grip shifter and chrome brass knuckles for the air brake valves.
Johnny’s father Aurelio is now retired from driving, but he and his son Aurelio Jr. (Johnny’s brother) still run his company. Aurelio’s company peaked at about 20 trucks, but once the CARB regulations started kicking in, he began deleting trucks from his fleet. Today, Delgadillo Trucking has about eight trucks. Johnny started his company, J. Delgadillo Trucking, in 2015 with three trucks, and today he has five. His son Andrew (30) drives the Coronado daily, hauling various agricultural products. Currently, Johnny’s fleet consists of the 2011 Coronado, a 2013 Freightliner Cascadia, a 2011 Pete 386, a 2011 International TranStar and a 1995 Freightliner FLD. All these trucks are painted white and green, and their trailers are painted to match.
Pulling hoppers, tankers and flatbeds for about 10 months out of the year, the Delgadillo’s follow the harvests throughout the valley. A typical year of hauling starts in February with carrots for a few months, grain for a month, tomatoes, almonds and pistachios during the summer and early fall, and then cotton and liquid fertilizer through the fall. Everything kind of stops in December and January, allowing the guys to catch their breath and relax during the Holidays, perform any necessary maintenance, and maybe even do some custom work on the trucks. Johnny no longer drives, spending most of his days talking to customers, working on trucks, running for parts and dispatching.
When he is not busy playing with trucks, Johnny and his wife Esmeralda like to just get in the car and drive, with no plans, and just find something fun to do. Johnny likes to explore the quiet back roads and get off the beaten path whenever possible. Married for 24 years but together for 30, his wife helps in the office when she can, but she has a full-time job working for an accountant that keeps her pretty busy. They also have a daughter named Ashley (20) who is currently going to school and helps in the office when she can, as well.
Over the past few months, they have taken the Freightliner to several shows throughout California and done very well at all of them. Starting with a show in Fresno in September, they also went to shows in Ontario and Porterville in October, and then one last event in Imperial in November. At most of these shows they earned a 1st place in their class, along with a few “Best Freightliner” awards and one People’s Choice award (at the show in Imperial). To help them during this busy time, they hired Charlie Reyes, a driver and polisher from Mendota, CA, to keep the truck polished and take it to the events (and do some driving). Obviously, he did good!
We first saw this truck at the Central Valley Commercial Truck Show in Fresno, CA back in September, and those vibrant colors really caught our eye. Upon further inspection, we were impressed with the quality of the work and creativity used to make a typically boring fleet truck look amazing. Scheduling the photo shoot a month later near my home in the foothills east of Fresno, we headed to a friend’s place just down the road in Dunlap, CA.
Danny Hall has lived in Dunlap all his life and is known by the locals for his excavation expertise – he even cleared a nice pad in a very overgrown spot next to a creek near my in-law’s house so my daughter could get married there last spring. Danny’s house was built in the late 1800s, and behind it sits a neat old barn and a rusty feed silo that used to be part of a turkey ranch once located there. This made a great backdrop for some of our pictures, and the rest we took in various spots around his yard. We appreciate all the work he did the week before the shoot to get his backyard (and the barn) looking so good. We even stuck around for an evening BBQ after the photo shoot was finished and made a fun night out of it. Thanks to Danny and his wife Janice for the hospitality!
Johnny wanted to thank everyone who has helped he and Andrew with this truck, including Salvador Perez (who helped with some of the fabricating), Memo Perez (the painter), Jake Blancas (the pinstriper), Charlie Reyes (who got the truck shining and kept it that way), and David and Rafael Arroyo of Arroyo Custom Rigs (for making the truck so cool). David and Rafael used to build trucks on a part-time basis, but they recently quit their day jobs and started building trucks and fabricating parts full-time. If you need something made or want to build a fully custom truck, give them a call in Merced, CA at (209) 564-7645. Johnny also wanted to thank his wife and the rest of the family for all their help and support over the years, and Danny Hall for providing an excellent photo shoot location and good company for the entire day.
Liking the size of the company right now, Johnny might be okay to add one or two more trucks, but no more than that. When I asked him what it meant to him to be on the cover of the magazine, he said, “Best of Show trophies are good, but to be on the cover of 10-4 means a lot more, because everyone wants that. It has been on my bucket list for years.” That was nice to hear, and it meant a lot to me, as I have dedicated much of my life to producing this magazine. California may not be the trend-setting state it once was, but thanks to guys like Johnny and Andrew Delgadillo, we can still turn heads – and maybe even redefine what “California Cool” is to the rest of the country.