While attending the Ohio Vintage Jamboree this past June, I was so busy taking pictures and talking to people that I almost overlooked one of the coolest trucks at the show. I didn’t even see it until I noticed a brown and cream Kenworth coming into the show grounds and walked over to get a closer look. This cabover we will talk about in another story, but this month, let’s talk about the 1958 Peterbilt 351 ST, owned by Jeff Miller of Elyria, OH that KW just happened to (thankfully) park next to.
Jeff Miller is the co-owner of a company called J.D. Spayre Trucking (pronounced “Spare”). The “J” is of course for Jeff, while the “D” is for his business partner, Dave Eischen. J.D. Spayre runs tankers, dumps and flatbeds. They own six trucks and have a dozen leased owner operators that haul stone and other materials involved with paving the roads in northern Ohio, including liquid asphalt. Liquid asphalt is used in road construction as the glue or binder, mixed with aggregate particles, to create asphalt concrete. Its other uses include waterproofing products like roofing felt and sealing flat roofs.
J.D. Spayre’s biggest customer is Kokosing Materials in Fredericktown, OH, which is the material supplier to Kokosing Construction, from the same town. Kokosing is one of the largest family-owned contractors in the country. Serving the transportation sector with unparalleled experience and resources, they construct everything from highways and iconic bridges, to working in the landfills. Their work capabilities include asphalt and concrete paving, piling, mass excavation, post-tensioning, beams and girders and underground utilities.
Born and raised in Elyria, OH, Jeff has lived his entire life in this city – he has even lived in the same house since 1960! After moving out for a couple of years, he eventually moved back with his beautiful wife Toni. Jeff and Toni met their senior year of high school. They were from different schools, but their first date was Jeff’s senior prom. They have been married for 38 years now and have two wonderful children, Anthony and Alison, and four grandsons from Anthony. Anthony was born on Jeff’s 26th birthday 26 minutes after midnight! Jeff and his wife do like to travel, and sometimes they take these trips on his 2017 Harley Limited. They have ridden as far west as California and all the way down south through the Florida Keys. However, Jeff’s favorite motorcycle is his 2004 Screaming Eagle.
After graduating high school, Jeff worked at a Bob Evans restaurant for a little bit, then tried working in a factory for a company right in Elyria (Rigid Tool) – in fact, Toni has worked there for 42 years. Factory life wasn’t for Jeff, so he tried something a little different and became a parts runner for the local International dealership (Heisler’s). A customer named Charlie Nelson would stop by the dealership often to pick up parts for his trucks, and he always (jokingly) asked Jeff, “When are you going to come drive for me?” Charlie had a few tandem dump trucks and that’s where Jeff got the bug to drive. Jeff stayed at the dealership for two years and then took Charlie up on his offer.
After driving a tandem dump truck locally for a couple years, Jeff went over-the-road for a little bit when the lure of the big rigs going down the highway and a change of scenery called him. He went to pulling a reefer for a local outfit, Laubenthal Refrigerated Transport out of (you guessed it) Elyria, OH. They did a lot of business with McDonald’s, hauling the breading material for their filet of fish sandwiches, running from Cleveland up to Gloucester, MA then to Chicago, IL and back. He did this for about five years and then went back to driving a tandem dump truck.
About this time, Jeff met his future partner Dave Eischen. They were both driving tandem dump trucks at the time (Jeff had a 1975 International Fleetstar painted red and white with a green dump body). At the time, both men were doing sewer jobs, new construction, and hauling stone and other materials needed for building roads and other projects. Jeff asked Dave if he wanted to go into business with him, and in January of 1995, J.D. Spayre was born.
Over the years, they have had some sharp looking trucks. In 2018, they went to the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, KY with a 2015 Cat-powered Peterbilt 389. Painted lime green with white stripes and hooked to a blacked-out 2019 Mac asphalt tanker with polished stainless-steel ends, this truck was called “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” and it had the same basic paint scheme as the 1958 Peterbilt 351 featured here, it just used different colors.
Eleven years ago, Jeff decided that he wanted to build a show truck, so he bought the 1958 Peterbilt featured here. Manufactured and sold in Oakland, CA, this truck was built for an equipment hauling company in California and, over the years, worked as a dump truck, a water truck and a road tractor before falling into disrepair in a storage yard. Brought to Elyria, OH in October 2009, a partial restoration was started, but most of the work didn’t get done until 2012.
The classic truck is powered by a 335 Small Cam Cummins hooked to 5×4 transmissions and features a Pete Low Air Leaf rear suspension. The wheelbase is 252 inches, and Jeff was going to keep it as a long day cab, but when he found a cool bunk for sale, he couldn’t resist. Tanner Wilkins of Wilkins Oklahoma Truck Supply had the beautiful 34-inch stainless-steel Bentz sleeper for sale, so Jeff pulled the trigger. Young Tanner’s grandfather Cliff did all the impressive artwork on the sleeper, and Tanner’s dad Brett did all the metal bending.
The main colors of the truck are celery stalk and dark green metallic, and from the time I first saw this truck at the show and then saw it again at our photo shoot, Jeff had custom hand-painted pinstripes, done by Aerografix Airbrush and Pinstriping of Elyria, added to the truck. This final touch added more of an old school look to this already amazing piece of iron. The stainless rear fenders are from Hogebuilt, but Jeff wanted to break up all the bright work, so he covered the centers of the fenders with black vinyl, painted them dark green metallic, and then clear-coated them, leaving the polished edges exposed.
As I was taking pictures of the interior of the truck, I noticed strips of wood in the door jams. I have never seen that before, but the doors were nice and tight when I carefully opened and closed them. The interior is tastefully done, with pinstriping on the doors. The dash is dark metallic green with a nice cluster of chrome gauges, which includes the gear shift patterns for both sticks. Jeff is still working on the inside of the cab, so it is not complete yet, but once he fits it with the custom interior currently being made, it is going to be fantastic.
A lot of work was done by Jeff and a few awesome craftsmen. Steve Troyer of Creston, OH was the master builder of the truck, and his vast knowledge and various abilities made him an obvious choice for this project. John Lasky of Elyria, OH was the one that brought the original fenders back to life (actually to show quality) and spent countless hours block sanding the frame. John Glemza, also from Elyria, stretched the frame and gave the rig a nice smooth ride.
I would like to thank Jeff and Toni who took the time for this photo shoot. They were planning on going for a ride on their motorcycle that day, but gladly brought the ‘58 up for me to shoot, instead. Jeff picked out the areas for the photo shoot, as well, choosing tattered industrial spots and alleyways around downtown Elyria. It was a great Sunday, and all I can say is that I am so glad I did not overlook this amazing Peterbilt at that truck show back in June!