In the spring of 1978, John and Joanna Davis bought this 1977 Peterbilt 359 right off the lot at Boise Peterbilt in Boise, ID. The truck was a stock truck that was ordered to be a logging truck, but those specs also worked for the job they wanted to use it for – hauling from the mines outside Battle Mountain, NV. After a lifetime of hard service and then retirement, John and Joanna’s two sons, Shane and John, surprised their parents by having the old Peterbilt completely restored, and then presented it to them at a recent family celebration – and as you can see in some of the pictures, they were very surprised and excited!
John’s family were Idaho farmers, but they moved to Battle Mountain, NV in 1972 to work for a barite mine. After he had been working for a company for a while, John decided to buy his first truck and lease it to a local outfit. It was there he started growing his business – his first truck was #101. Since John and Joanna numbered their trucks in sequence, and this 359 was their first brand-new truck, it ended up being #104. Now, 42 years later, how fitting for it to be featured here in 10-4 Magazine, in October no less, when we celebrate 10-4 Day.
This rig has worked hard its entire life. Running off-highway and in the dirt, hauling out of a barite mine, pulling dump trailers or hauling gold ore concentrate, the 359 did this for 20 years then became a water truck. It was a water truck until the tank was pulled off in June of 2019, when it (secretly) went in for a complete restoration. Being 4.5 times heavier than water, barite is a non-metallic mineral used mostly as a weighting agent for drilling operations – it is also added to rubber to create anti-sail mudflaps!
John and Joanna worked hard to build their business, called John Davis Trucking. Joanna kept the books, helped with the maintenance on the trucks, and ran a dozer building stockpiles. She told me that John would make the money and it was her job to figure out how to spend it. John spent long hours seven days a week driving. The kids grew up learning how to work on the equipment, as well as drive, when they got old enough to do so. Together, they built a successful family business with 50 trucks, along with a concrete business that had three plants scattered along I-80 in Nevada.
This old Peterbilt holds a lot of memories for the entire family. Their oldest son Shane got to ride back from the dealership in it when dad drove her home from Boise. She has more hours on her than miles because of the work she did. The two boys, Shane and John, grew up in the business, and both boys rode in #104 when they were little. And, when they both were old enough to drive, each of them drove #104, as well. Family is really important to these folks. They worked hard together and played just as hard when they got time off, going hunting, fishing in the many local rivers, swimming, and having picnics.
In 1999 the boys bought the trucking business from their parents and changed the name from John Davis Trucking to Quality Transportation Inc. They bought the concrete business, as well. This let their parents retire and enjoy going to Yuma, AZ to escape the harsh Nevada winters and come home to enjoy the summer in the mountains outside of Battle Mountain, NV. After that, the boys grew both businesses up to 100 trucks each. A couple years ago they sold the concrete business and have downsized the trucking operation to just 25 trucks, reducing a lot of stress.
A little over a year ago, Shane and John contacted Kory Krug, the Body Shop Manager at Silver State International in Sparks, NV, to restore the beloved old 359 as a surprise for their mom and dad, and to be something they could show the younger kids down the line where they came from. Kory loved the opportunity to restore this old truck and took the job seriously – he even had the original microfiche of the build sheet to work with. This let him know exactly what parts she had when she was new. When the restoration was completed, he left the printed build sheet, with all his notes, in the truck. They don’t sell most of these parts anymore, so you have to dig to find them in junk yards or have a good fabricator make that obsolete part you need, so this restoration project was no easy job for the team.
It took Kory and his team, which included Mike Murphy (air conditioning, electrical and engine), Dean Diaz (cab rebuild, sheet metal, paint and assembly), Rick Webb (hood, sheet metal work, paint, and assembly), Vincent Piazza (frame and suspension), and Thomas Shubert (fabrication and exhaust), a year of blood, sweat, tears, and love to bring this truck back to being beautiful.
When the guys in the body shop started chipping away at the rust on the chassis, the tools began making holes in the frame, so new rails had to be ordered. The air conditioning roof mount system had to be all put together from scratch. The engine in her was a Big Cam 400 Cummins, and she was running perfect, so there was no need for a new engine. All new electrical and air lines had to be run and a reman 13-speed transmission was installed, along with new rears.
One thing that they were able to keep was the original horn pull chain. Kory spent over six months trying to find an AM/FM 8-track player like the one that came in the 359. After finding a few that didn’t work, he was lucky enough to find a brand-new Audiovox, still in the box, that had never been installed in anything. He asked Shane what kind of music his dad liked, and he said old country. Kory found several 8-track tapes that actually worked. A funny note: when they unveiled the truck and John and Joanna were sitting in it, Kory told them about the music and how they could play it. At that point, Joanna told him that John didn’t listen to music when he drove because he would rather listen to the engine!
The team rebuilt the original hood with a couple new top panels and new fenders (they still make fenders for a 359). Then, they painted her the original blue and gray with gold trim, in the same scheme. Mike’s Sheet Metal in Sparks, NV made the cab panels, battery, and tool boxes. Interior Classic Restoration in Verdi, NV took most of the old interior that was there and could be used as a pattern, and then created the pieces that weren’t there. They had the truck for a week and a half to do the interior.
The truck was unveiled to John and Joanna on August 28th, 2020, at a party celebrating both their 52nd wedding anniversary (on the 23rd) and Joanna’s birthday (on the 30th). The last year of work was all worth it when the truck rolled out as a total surprise! It was a pretty emotional moment, and a few tears flowed at the reveal. Some people might not understand how much a truck can mean, but this family does. John got to take her for a drive, and Joanna said he didn’t miss a gear, even after all these years since driving a truck.
We would like to thank and give credit to Serendipity Photography with Jonni Davis for most of the pictures. Jonni is John’s daughter and John and Joanna’s granddaughter. This truck has earned her retirement. No more mud or mines. They hope to take her to a few shows (I think she would be a big hit at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY). I’m sure this happily retired couple will enjoy taking their restored “surprise” out to dinner on a Saturday night or on a Sunday drive, and relive all those great memories.