Horses and trucks just go together. And, the more horses you have, the bigger your truck (and trailer) needs to be. Case in point – Johnny Barker III and his cool cabover Freightliner and matching nine-horse trailer. I first met Johnny of Malvern, PA at a truck show a few years back. Johnny had his father’s Peterbilt 379 out at a show and I snapped a few photos of it and sent them to him via Facebook. We traded contact information and stayed in touch, and last summer we set up a time and date to shoot his classic horse-hauling combination.
Johnny got his start hauling horses at a very young age. His parents were both professional horse trainers at the time on their horse farm in Virginia. Living on the horse farm gave Johnny the opportunity to not only learn to care for the horses, but also allowed him to learn to operate machinery and drive trucks. “I’ll never forget my first time hauling horses in a big truck when my dad and I were running out of Florida. I probably shouldn’t say how old I was, but he turned to me and asked, “You ready?” We swapped seats and I’ve been rolling ever since!”
Johnny’s truck pictured here is a 1988 Freightliner cabover. Powered by a Big Cam Cummins 350 mated to an RTX 9-speed, the truck is used to transport Johnny and his wife’s horses. The truck was originally a Ryder truck based out of Florida, and then became a commercial horse hauler for a company named Southern Venture. The truck was eventually sold off from Southern Venture, making its way to a few private farms, before Johnny saw it in 2018 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY. As Johnny put it, “This truck was always destined to be a horse hauler.” And he was right!
The truck has been an ongoing work in progress over the last two years, with Johnny working on it here and there, when he has the time. The latest additions include watermelon lights with incandescent bulbs, because “Glass is Class!” He also recently installed unique bubble windows, in the shape of the old Plymouth logo, in the sides of the sleeper. Johnny has a few other plans for the COE, including more lights and pinstriping to finish out the exterior. The bunk is still in the process of being redone, as well as a few other details. Johnny’s favorite things on the truck are the lights.
The trailer is a 1989 Nine Horse Streamliner DeLuxe made by Branson Bodyworks in Bristol, Virginia. These trailers were all hand built and custom spec’d to each owner’s personal taste. The trailer was originally owned by a private farm in North Carolina, and later made its way to California, used by the Orange County Mounted Patrol to transport their horses. The trailer later made its way back to the East Coast. “My father and I spent about two years restoring the trailer to what it looks like now. The interior is made up of butcher block oak, oak plywood, and vinyl,” Johnny says. According to him, the trailer is advertised as a 9-horse unit, but by today’s standards, it’s good for about six horses.
The inspiration for this truck came from his father. Johnny said, “My dad taught me everything I know about horse hauling and driving trucks.” Johnny grew up riding around in a nearly identical truck to this one, with that truck being a 1983 single axle cabover with a 9-speed and a Big Cam Cummins. “I loved riding in the truck. I didn’t care where we were going, I just wanted to ride! But there were plenty of times when I didn’t even make it out of the driveway before I fell asleep. My dad loved to tell people I’d fall asleep on the doghouse because I was too scared to get in the bunk,” Johnny went on to tell me.
When he isn’t running his dad’s Peterbilt 379 or his cabover, Johnny is piloting a truck for a commercial horse transportation company called Johnson Horse Transportation in Shartlesville, PA. Johnny met his wife through horses, and they currently live on a gorgeous horse farm in Malvern, PA. They share property with Johnny’s father-in-law and now have quite a few horses of their own.
We shot this combo (and bobtail) at two locations about a year apart. The first location was on an absolutely gorgeous horse farm right around the corner from Johnny’s residence. The owner of the property was gracious enough to allow us to use it. The latest shoot, which was completed just a few weeks ago, was done on the beautiful horse farm Johnny lives on.
Needless to say, the truck has a look all its own. It was luck, sheer luck, that brought the truck and trailer together, especially with the paint schemes being really close to matching. While it is still a work in progress, Johnny hopes to have it done in the not-so-distant future so he can finally sit back and enjoy it – and then start “horsing around” in style!