Anyone who appreciates cool trucks knows how appealing an A-Model Kenworth can be. Ever since he first saw one, “Big Ed” Davis (67) of Central Point, OR loved them. There was just something special about that big chrome grill and KW emblem on the front that really hooked him. Over the years, Ed owned a lot of cool trucks, but never a long hood W900A – until now. And when “Big Ed” goes big, he really goes BIG! The truck seen here took over 14 years to build, and everything on it was a big project in itself, including the very big 12V-71 Detroit Diesel powerhouse tucked under that long hood.
Born in Corvallis, OR in 1952, Ed Davis grew up in the tiny town of Blodgett, located 15 miles west of Corvallis, in Central Oregon. When I say “tiny” I mean tiny – as of the 2010 U.S. census, the small community only had 58 residents! Growing up on his grandparent’s farm, they grew wheat, oats, and barley, and had a few dairy cows, as well. Ed remembers having to hand milk up to 30 cows a day, until they eventually got a machine to do the work. Attending Blodgett Elementary School, that only had two rooms and two teachers (one taught grades 1-3 and the other taught grades 4-6), Ed later got bused to the high school in Philomath, a few miles down the road. If you look on the map today, there is still a street in Blodgett named after his grandfather Ray (Davis Road).
Nobody in the family trucked, but grandpa Ray had a 1948 Studebaker truck with a flathead six gas engine and a 4-speed transmission. At some point, Ed’s dad Ben installed a 3-speed Brownie, making the truck a 2-stick, to help haul their crops out of the fields. They also had a Caterpillar tractor, and Ed loved to drive them both. At 14 years of age, Ed was already driving that old Studebaker into town to deliver their products because his grandpa didn’t know how to shift with the two sticks.
After graduating from high school, Ed went to work at a nearby lumber mill in Philomath, OR “pulling the green chain” (as he put it). About a year later, he got a job at Pumilite Building Supply in Corvallis, working in the warehouse and making deliveries. The company had a 1969 Kenworth truck and trailer with a Detroit 8V-71 engine and a 5+4 transmission, and Ed really wanted to be its driver – but they already had a driver for it, so Ed was stuck driving smaller vehicles. While working there, he began going out at night with a friend who hauled wood chips in a cabover Mack with a 5+3 transmission setup. Having some 2-stick experience from the old farm truck, Ed learned how to drive this Mack and eventually got pretty smooth.
The driver of that big KW at the building supply company Ed worked for eventually took a vacation, and while he was gone, Ed offered to drive the truck. They did not know he could drive it, so once he proved he could, he was off to the races. Not long after that, the other driver got his own rig and became an owner operator, so Ed started driving the big Kenworth on a full-time basis. In 1976, at the age of 24, Ed got his first truck – a brand new yellow 1977 Freightliner cabover with a NTA 400 Cummins and a 13-speed – and started pulling a trailer for Edwards Brothers, hauling swinging meat between Idaho Falls, ID and Portland, OR.
Back then, you could do a lease-purchase type of deal right from the dealership, and that is how Ed got that new Freightliner. About a year later, he returned the cabover to the dealership and then bought a brand new 1978 Western Star conventional, equipped with a factory 525-hp Cummins “K” (KTA) motor, which he promptly turned up to 600 horsepower. At first, Ed hauled wood chips in a modified van trailer for about eight months, and then in 1979 he bought a new 40-foot Fruehauf inside frame flatbed with a spring suspension for just $5,200 and started hauling lumber down to Los Angeles. After installing a small Mercury sleeper to his Western Star, he realized there were no boots available for the opening, so Ed just used duct tape. He had to find his own loads back north, but boy did he feel like he was living large, running that super-slab up and down the west coast!
Later that same year, Ed bought a new 1979 Kenworth W900A with an Aerodyne sleeper and a 3406 PCTA Caterpillar engine and then put a driver in the Western Star. That only lasted a few months, so Ed sold the Western Star and continued driving the KW, which was painted dark brown with light brown and tan stripes. Ed drove that Kenworth until 1985, putting 900,000 miles on the odometer, before buying another new Kenworth – a 1985 W900B – powered by a 3406B Cat with a retarder. This KW also had an Aerodyne sleeper and was painted maroon, plum and silver. Leasing the truck out to Plywood Components Inc. (PCI) in Albany, OR, Ed drove for them for four years, until the truck was paid off, then went back out on his own again.
Pulling A-train flatbeds for a while to be home more, it was tough for Ed to keep the truck rolling, so in 1990 he sold it and starting hauling logs for Mike Brown out of Philomath, OR. Six months later, he switched over to hauling chicken feed for Steve Wilt, driving an older International conventional, with a 1693 Cat, pulling double tankers, sectioned inside to haul up to four different products. He did this for about a year and then got out of the truck and moved into the office to help dispatch and run the company. Steve had just formed Tri-West and was on the grow, and Ed wanted to be more involved with his kids, so it kind of worked out well – except for the fact that Ed did not like working inside.
Whether he liked it or not, Ed worked in the office at Tri-West for about nine years – until 2000. After leaving Tri-West, Ed sold trucks and trailers for Bob Grover at Pacific Truck & Trailer in Grants Pass, OR for a while and then bought a 1975 Peterbilt 359 with a 3406B Cat, that was white with yellow fenders, and started hauling chicken feed for Foster Farms as an owner operator. Ed called this truck “The Rooster Cruiser” for obvious reasons. He did this haul for about nine years until he retired from driving in 2010. He still has this old 359.
A big part of Big Ed’s story is his longtime wife and sweetheart, Rayven. The two met in high school, but did not get together until after graduation, when Ed finally realized that she liked him (Ed was clueless in high school). After some rough first dates that left Rayven a bit injured, thanks to Ed’s poor judgment, the two got married in 1971 – they were both 19 years old. Almost 49 years later, these two lovebirds are still a dynamic duo! In the early days, Rayven would go trucking with Ed and even take the wheel late at night so he could rest. Of course, she had no license to do this or any formal training, so you can imagine the fun that ensued – like when she came upon a steep downhill grade and hit the brakes a little harder than necessary, throwing a large sleeping Big Ed out of the sleeper and into the windshield!
While Ed was trucking, Rayven made a name for herself managing fairground facilities. She was so well-known for her talents, that while running the fairgrounds in Polk County (which she did for 13 years), she was “recruited” by the Benton County Fairgrounds and paid twice her wage. A few years later, she was approached by the folks who ran the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and, again, she was offered twice her current salary (at the time) to join their team – which she accepted. Taking this job in 2000, her and Ed moved to Canby, OR so she could be closer to her work.
A few years after moving to Canby, Rayven was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord, in which the immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. As the disease progressed, Rayven eventually ended up in a wheelchair and could no longer work. While all this was happening, Ed was hauling the chicken feed for Foster Farms and also started buying really nice trucks and flatbed trailers, hiring drivers, and then leasing them to RAM Trucking in Brownsville, OR. This went on for several years, until Ed eventually had 10 trucks at RAM. In 2010, as stated before, this is when Ed retired from driving – partly because he could, but mostly to take care of Rayven, which he is happy and feels privileged to do.
In 2010, the couple bought a neat log home in Central Point, OR and moved there from Canby. This log home, which is visible in some of the pictures, is sitting right in the middle of town, but is strategically situated in a way that it feels completely private and isolated, and it even has a fantastic view of Table Rock Mountain just outside of Medford. Most of the pictures we took of Ed’s KW were either in front of or behind this house – in their driveway or on their lawn!
Around this same time in 2010, Ed and Rayven’s son James (42), who has a trucking company of his own (JDT) and was also featured on our cover back in June of 2008, started aggressively building his trucking business. So, one by one, Ed started moving his trucks from RAM to JDT. Today, Ed has six trucks at JDT and one at RAM and operates as E & R Trucks. In addition to his dad’s trucks, James has 21 of his own, and is doing quite well, and his older sister Renae (48) is a Certified Public Accountant with Ernst & Young in Portland, OR. Obviously, Ed and Rayven taught their children how to work hard and take care of themselves.
About 14 years ago, while Ed was still driving, he bought a set of Peterbilt frame rails and a 1979 Kenworth W900A cut-off, that included a cab, hood, sleeper, and some other miscellaneous parts, and started building his dream truck from scratch. “I have always wanted an A-Model with a long hood. Anyone who has ever watched Smokey and the Bandit or Movin’ On and seen that chrome grill and KW emblem on the front of a W900A, that’s it. If that don’t get you, nothing will,” said Ed. In those early days, when beginning to build the rolling chassis, the work was done in the warehouse of a mill Ed was working with at the time in Albany, OR with help from his good friend, Dave.
Creating the rolling chassis required Ed to find and buy a Peterbilt suspension. Locating a Low AirLeaf DS404 suspension with 3:55 rears, Ed was able to just bolt it right on those Peterbilt frame rails. Then, he bought a wrecked Volvo and stripped it of its front suspension and 5” drop axle, mounting it on the front of his new chassis, along with some Peterbilt leaf springs and an air-ride system, and away he went – it was now a roller with a 285” wheelbase. Funny side story: he sold the engine out of that Volvo for the same price he paid for the entire truck. Plus, besides the front suspension parts, he got a bunch of other parts from it like the big fuel tanks, the transmission, aluminum wheels, the rear ends, and a bunch of fuel. What a deal! When they moved to Central Point, Ed loaded the “roller” on a truck and took it to the shop at his new house, where it sat for quite a while.
Working on the project here and there, building things and collecting parts and pieces, the process was slow going. One of the first things Ed did was replace the hood. The one it came with was a short hood, so he pulled that off, gave it to a friend, and then bought a new TruFit replacement long hood and got it mounted. Thankfully, he was able to use the existing frame horns in the front from his original cut-off to mount the new hood to his chassis (those can be hard to find). Next was a big project – making the cab and sleeper a unibilt system. Those old body parts weren’t strong enough to stay together on their own, so Ed and his friends built an aluminum skeleton to put under the cab and 36” flattop sleeper, and then mounted the air bags under that framework. It was a big job, but it accomplished what they needed.
Next came the engine – the BIG engine! Ed had been looking for a solid 12V-71 Detroit for the truck for a long time, when his son James surprised him for his birthday with the one in the truck today. Buying it from a guy in Forks, WA, who had built it and then put it in his log truck for literally just a few weeks, the 980-hp engine, complete with twin turbos, ran like a charm right from the start – and sounds amazing. Of course, much was added and customized to the engine over the years, which was installed in the truck using highly modified Cat motor mounts, including lots of bright teal paint, extra chrome, polished stainless and pinstripes. Most of the plastic air and fluid lines under the hood were replaced with polished aluminum or stainless hard lines, and all the radiator supports and lower bumper braces were custom-made, chrome plated, and fitted with billet spacers. Behind the engine, an 18-speed gearbox was installed.
In addition to the stunning bright teal paint and pearl white stripes, sprayed by Erik’s Trick Resto’s, some of the final exterior details include one-piece side windows, a simulated one-piece flat glass windshield accomplished by bonding two pieces of glass together in the center with no trim, and lots of hidden Trux Dual Revolution LED lights. It also features a custom painted visor, stainless mirror brackets, 8” cab and sleeper body drop panels, custom painted step box covers, and painted tank fairings, all made by Chad at Northwest Fabrication. Other notable exterior pieces include a 7” Dynaflex exhaust with Pickett elbows, Hogebuilt stainless quarter fenders, an aluminum rear light bar, a painted aluminum deck plate and a light box mounted behind the sleeper, a polished aluminum 5th wheel with chrome springs and painted hardware, seven cab lights, and a painted panel with lights between the fuel tanks.
In addition to everything else mentioned, the truck is covered with tons of custom one-off billet accessories, including billet plates on the steps and tank fairings, billet flap weights, and well over 100 billet nut covers, along with plenty of pinstripes. All of the pinstriping was done by Rick Evans, a local painter, which includes the fan blades, the back of the front bumper, the inside of the hood, the back of the headlights, the back of the flaps, the back of the visor, several pieces on the engine, the rear light bar, and the light panel between the fuel tanks. Rick also added the thin grape outlines around the pearl white stripes. It sounds like a lot, but most of it is hidden or placed in conspicuous places so it isn’t gaudy or overwhelming.
Moving inside, nothing was left untouched there, either. The cream diamond tuck interior features teal buttons, German square weave carpeting, a 2-stick setup from 4 State Trucks with polished sticks and green acrylic knobs, a polished and painted steering wheel, custom billet dash panels, a polished billet tilting steering column, billet door and window sill plates, billet pedals, and custom teal-faced matching gauges made by Auto Meter. Back in the sleeper, the bed has been replaced with a couch, and (4) 10” sub-woofers for the stereo are mounted underneath it. The pioneer system also includes an in-dash touch screen, custom speaker pods in the lower front corners of the cab under the dash, and two amplifiers.
A big project like this takes a lot of people to accomplish. In addition to everyone else already mentioned, Ed would like to thank and acknowledge Jeff and Todd with Full Bore Diesel for helping with the air system, Allen and Darren for doing all the custom billet work, Dale at M & M Electric for wiring the dash, his friends Jeremy and Herb (Ninja Poop!) for miscellaneous jobs throughout the build, his son James and many of his drivers who would come to Ed’s shop and help whenever they could, Kim at Spokane Metal Finishing, and Bruce Gieg, along with his helper Trey, from T & D Performance for much of the custom fabrication, assembling and details (and just about anything else that needed to get done).
The almost-finished truck made its debut at the big ATHS show in Reno, NV in May of 2019, where it was a big hit. Five months later, and even closer to being finished, Ed brought the truck to Southern California for the Truckin’ For Kids Show & Drags in October of that same year. Parking the truck up front as our special guest, right next to our booth, it was once again very popular. At that event, we always give out a special “Sponsor’s Choice” award, and that year it was given in honor of our co-founder Erik Sieben (Big E) who had died from cancer a few months prior. The trophy had a color picture of Erik etched in acrylic on the front, and we chose Big Ed and his A-model to receive that special award. Ed really liked Erik and thought he was a pretty cool guy, so that award meant a lot to him – and it is now prominently displayed on a shelf in his living room for all to see.
Finally finishing the last few little things on the truck, the night before we arrived to do the photo shoot in May 2020, this was a big project. For those who don’t know Ed, they call him “Big Ed” because he is really tall. When asked about his height, Ed said, “I always tell people I’m 5’-18” because it makes the little people feel more comfortable.” But the truth is, Ed is just a big teddy bear. This was a big project, for sure, built by a big guy, with big ideas, who now has the big ride he always wanted. I can’t think of a better person to pull all this off than a man named “Big Ed” Davis. Congratulations on a job well done, big guy!