Every time we leave our house there is a chance we won’t make it back home. Whether we are heading out on a cross-country delivery or just going to the store, we should always consider what could happen and do all we can to alleviate those chances as much as possible. C.G. Soza (46) of Atwater, CA is painfully aware of this danger after a terrible accident claimed the lives of his wife and son. They left and never came home. As a daily reminder of how fragile life can be, and to keep him focused on his family, he added the phrase “Always Headed Home” to the back of his visor, because from the moment he leaves on a run he is already thinking about getting home and vigilantly working to assure that he makes it back safely.
With trucking in his DNA, C.G. Soza is a third-generation trucker. His grandfather, Cornelio Valencia (C.V.) Soza lived in Phoenix, AZ and started hauling hay and produce in the 1920s. C.G.’s dad, Cornelio Silva (Corny) Soza, was born in 1939. He started hauling hay out of the fields at 14 years old, and then began running to California, hauling produce, at 18 years old in a gas-powered 1936 GMC with a 20’ flatbed. At the time, it was the biggest and baddest truck on the road! Corny loved California so much, he moved there. And not long after that, he got a job at Trevis Berry Transportation out of Gilroy, CA. Staying there until 1988, Corny ran for this outfit for 36 long years.
Always an owner-operator with his own trucks, Corny loved 2-axle Freightliner cabovers, and had several of them over the years. He bought a brand-new one every ten years, and these are the trucks C.G. cut his teeth in (actually, he probably grew his first teeth in one of them). Meeting C.G.’s mom Virginia at a truck stop in Tucson, AZ where she was a waitress, the two got married in 1971. C.G. (Cornelio George) Soza was born a few years later in 1975. Strapping the car seat to the doghouse of his Freightliner cabover, Corny took C.G. and his mom out on the road with him almost every day for four years until C.G.’s younger brother Carlos came along. The other drivers teased Corny that he had put diesel fuel in C.G.’s baby bottle, because this kid loved trucks from day one (still does).
Going out with his dad whenever possible, C.G. spent every moment in the truck when he was not in school. At about 10 or 11 years old, he got tall enough and strong enough to push in the clutch on those old trucks, and he began washing trucks on the weekends. His dad, and many of the other drivers at the company, would leave money in the truck and C.G. would unhook it, drive it into the wash bay, wash it, drive it out, and then re-hook it. C.G. was so excited to drive everyone’s truck, he would have done this job for free – but they paid him ($20 for a daycab and $25 for a sleeper truck). We could earn up to $200 on any given weekend, and this was in the 1980s – and he was only 11 years old, so that was a lot of money.
Leaving Trevis Berry Transportation in 1988, Corny moved the family to Merced, CA. After forming Soza & Sons Trucking, he went out on his own with one truck and a set of flatbed doubles. Hauling cardboard out of Save Mart Supermarket’s distribution center in Merced to be recycled, Corny moved three loads a day to the Bay area, by himself, seven days a week. Eventually, he got a second set of trailers and hired an owner-operator to pull them. Wearing a cowboy hat to hide his young face, C.G. would go out with his dad to help when needed. A few years later, at just 17 years old (1992), C.G. got his CDL and could now legally help out.
Going to church with a guy who worked in management at Blue Diamond Almonds, C.G. was able to get a seasonal driving job with them at 18 years old because they were self-insured (nobody would insure an 18-year-old kid with no documented experience). This was his first real trucking job, and he was paid $18 an hour to pull double flatbeds and hopper bottoms with a 2-axle 1990 Volvo. The season only lasted about four months, so C.G. enrolled in college because he thought it might be cool to get a business degree. That lasted for about a year. After his second season at Blue Diamond Almonds, C.G. quit school and bought his first truck at just 20 years old – a 2-axle 1989 Freightliner cabover with a 48” sleeper and a 3406B CAT – and formed Soza Trucking. Although this CAT was rated at 425 horsepower, it was a dog.
Getting married in 1996, C.G. and his first wife had two kids – a daughter named Kiersten (24) and a son they call C.J. (22). Following in the Soza tradition, their son was named Cornelio James but always called C.J. C.G.’s father-in-law was a CAT mechanic, so after a few visits and a few adjustments, he had C.G.’s lethargic CAT roaring like a lion. C.G. loved to “walk away” from his dad when climbing the hills, as they were both horsepower freaks. Around 2000, Corny sold his company and retired, leaving C.G. to figure out his next move. Deciding that he wanted to try something different, C.G. bought a new 3-axle 2000 Freightliner Classic with a 72” walk-in sleeper and started hauling produce to Las Vegas, NV for Raley’s Supermarkets, after they opened a few locations there.
Running to Vegas every day for two years, in 2002 C.G. and his wife decided to divorce. Selling his truck later that year, C.G. took a little time off to get things in order and then took a driving job at Blue Line Distribution in 2003. This was the transportation arm of Little Caesars Pizza and, later, TCBY Yogurt. C.G. stayed there for three years. During this time, he got married and had another son. A.J. (Adrian John) was born in 2004 and C.G. married Windley in 2005.
In 2006, C.G. decided to take a break from trucking and opened an auto repair shop in Merced. The following year, he bought a Subway Sandwich franchise and opened it in Hughson, CA. The next year, he bought a second location in Merced, CA, and the next year (2009) he added yet another, that was situated at the courthouse in Merced, CA. Around 2012, he sold the second and third locations to pay off the first one and continued to operate it. In 2014, after going out in a truck with a friend, he sold his last Subway franchise and decided it was time to get back into trucking (tax hikes and minimum wage increases were killing his profits, too).
Ordering a brand-new Kenworth in 2015, the one seen here, C.G. went back to trucking, pulling a set of red double bottom dumps he bought, hauling clay and petroleum coke. These products were very dirty, and C.G. hated that he couldn’t keep his truck clean, so after a year he started looking for other work. Unfortunately, at that time, his truck was a single axle, which made it hard to find work. When ordered, this 2016 Kenworth W900L with a 36” sleeper was not only a 2-axle, but it wasn’t nearly as fancy as it is today. It did, however, have the same paint job, in Deep Tropical Blue and Flame Red, as that was ordered and done at the factory.
Reconnecting with a friend from high school who was hauling cars, C.G. went to work with him as a subhauler, pulling a 7-car transport. With virtually no training, C.G. picked up his first load of cars in Benicia, CA (near San Francisco) in May 2016, which just happened to be a full load of brand-new Nissans. The first few weeks was tough, but once he started to figure things out and get the hang of it, he really started enjoying hauling cars. Unfortunately, C.G.’s life changed rather suddenly just a few months later.
Growing up with dyslexia, C.G. struggled as a kid, but once he was properly diagnosed, he got the help he needed to overcome this learning disability that affects the skills involved with reading, spelling, and writing. After his son A.J. was diagnosed with it, his wife Windley began driving him to a specialized tutor 30 minutes north of where they lived, twice a week. Windley, who was a highly educated teacher, also had some medical challenges, including epilepsy, which gave her occasional seizures, but was under control with medication.
Nobody knows exactly what happened, but on September 7, 2016, on the way to one of these tutoring sessions with A.J., while traveling north on Highway 99, she suddenly jerked the wheel to the left and crossed the center median, colliding at full speed with a pickup heading south. Windley and A.J. were both killed instantly. The other driver sustained serious injuries but survived. According to witnesses and the “black box” recorder in their car, all indicators pointed to Windley having a seizure. C.G. was devastated and ended up taking about six weeks off, but eventually realized that he NEEDED to go back to work – for various reasons. In situations like these, diving into your work can sometimes be a good distraction, and that is what C.G. did. He also leaned on his two older kids, that really helped him get through this difficult time.
Going back to hauling cars, C.G. decided it was time to take the business to the next level, so he and his old friend from high school became partners. In January of 2017, C.G. had his 2-axle KW converted to a 3-axle and stretched his wheelbase to 278 inches. At this point, he added new single-hump fiberglass fenders, painted to match by his cousins who owned a body shop (Romero’s Tri Valley Auto Body) in Livermore, CA. He also installed a painted visor, added air-ride to the front axle, and did a few more things to it, before going back to work pulling a 7-car Miller transporter. Although they were working hard, they never seemed to get ahead. Then, in 2019, C.G. realized that his partner was living large off the company and embezzling money.
Parting ways with his business partner, C.G. took his one truck (the Kenworth) and one trailer and went on his way. Litigation was in the works, but before that could happen this ex-partner died. Now that C.G. was keeping all the money he actually made, things were good. Some other good things happened in 2019, as well. Back when he owned the Subway store, Ashleigh was his FedEx driver, and he saw her on a regular basis. He thought she was cute, but he was happily married. Well, after running into each other in 2017, they got reacquainted and started dating. In 2018, they had a son named Ryleigh (3), and then got married in 2019. Also, that year, they had a second son, Tucker, who is now two years old. Ashleigh and these young boys really helped heal C.G.’s heart after all the pain and loss he had endured.
From 2017 to 2020, C.G. did a lot of work to his Kenworth. Over that time, he replaced the 6” exhaust with a complete 8” AK system from Dynaflex with Chino tips, added custom front and rear light bars, a custom painted aluminum deck plate and frame cover made by Central Cal Welding, Trux LED headlights, and nine bullet cab lights. C.G. also had custom mirror brackets from Arroyo Custom Rigs installed, an 18” American Eagle stainless steel front bumper, and more than 150 lights, tactfully painted and placed to not be too noticeable in the day (an attitude and style adopted from his dad). He also replaced the first air-ride system he had installed on the front a few years prior with the latest system from Arroyo Custom Rigs.
Under the hood, the Cummins ISX15, which was originally rated at 500 horsepower, was fitted with PDI’s “Big Box” tuner, along with their exhaust and intake manifolds, and turbo. Pushing over 600-hp now and hooked to a 13-speed transmission, C.G. is very happy with the truck’s power and performance. He also installed chrome air intake tubes from Dynaflex, and then sent out a bunch of smaller parts like the power steering bracket, radiator brackets, air-to-air tubes, and more to be chromed.
In 2019, C.G. purchased a brand-new 2020 Cottrell 8-car transport. Ordered in the same Flame Red to match the tractor, the trailer came with a few lights, but C.G. and his friend and driver Brett Scroggins, installed a lot more of them – like almost 100 more, including “penny lights” down each side on custom tabs/brackets, blue under glow lights, and blue light strips that light up the wheels. They also polished the air tanks, decks, boxes, and hydraulics, and reprinted all the control panel signs to operate the trailer in his fonts and colors (thanks to Mike Freitas of Freitas Signs in Hilmar, CA). To make sure the entire combination is always show-ready, even when rolling down the road, this daily driver, with over 610,000 miles on it, is polished exclusively by our friend Colby Caliva at Sic Rigz.
When the Covid-19 shutdown occurred in March of 2020, C.G. and Brett found themselves with a few weeks to kill, so they decided to tear the interior apart and redo it. They knew if they ever wanted to win a Best of Show award, they needed the interior to be done, so they went for it. This job ended up taking about four months, so it was good C.G. had another truck to drive once they could get back to work.
Gutting the entire interior in C.G.’s driveway, they sanded all the hard plastic parts smooth and then had them painted. For the soft interior pieces, they sent them to Advanced Interior Restoration Services in Modesto to be dyed. This place also used cutting-edge technology to “print” the graphics on all the door panels, the headliner, and sleeper walls. C.G. and Brett also installed a 2-piece aluminum floor, painted by his cousins like everything else, then covered it with a thick coat of epoxy to protect the paint. The cab also got a painted Forever Sharp steering wheel, reupholstered seats, and a “big” sound system, featuring an Alpine deck, eight speakers, two 12” subs, and two 3,000-watt amps. C.G. also had the “Always Headed Home” phrase added to the back side of his visor so he could see it every day while driving.
Wanting to have a memorial truck show in his son’s honor, C.G. tried to do it in 2020 but couldn’t find a venue because of the pandemic shutdowns. However, in June of 2021, he was able to have the 1st Annual Soza Memorial Truck Show at the Merced County Fairgrounds, to raise money and awareness for dyslexia. Despite record-breaking temperatures of 112 degrees, the show was still a success, with 104 registered trucks, and raising almost $20,000. This money will go toward helping kids get tested for dyslexia and then getting them help once diagnosed, among other things. Stay tuned to 10-4 for more information about their 2022 event as details and dates get confirmed.
After attending his own show, C.G. ended up going to quite a few shows in 2021, including the Southern Idaho Truck Show, Frenchy’s Truck Jamboree in Red Bluff, CA, Truckin’ For Kids (TFK) in Southern California, GBATS in Joplin, MO, and then the E.M. Tharp truck show in Porterville, CA. Without a doubt, the highlight of those shows was when he won the big Best of Show award, along with a bunch of others, at Truckin’ For Kids in September. We were proud to have his truck parked next to our booth, but he took that award fair and square over about 250 other trucks at the show. For C.G. that was dream come true – a dream 46 years in the making!
Sadly, C.G.’s father did not live long enough to see his son’s dream come to fruition. He did, however, get to see the truck after much of the customizing was done, and really liked it. His only comment was, “How long is that wheelbase? I bet it is hard to turn around!” Spoken like a true old school trucker, Corny was “backed up against the fence” for the last time in February of 2018. C.G.’s brother Carlos never really got into trucking, and he is now an executive chef in Pennsylvania. C.G. also has a half-sister from his mom’s first marriage named Sherry who lives in Idaho, and he had a half-brother, as well, but he was killed by a drunk driver when he was just 21 years old.
Wanting to acknowledge and thank some of the people involved with this build, C.G. says “thank you” to his cousins at Romero’s Tri Valley Auto Body for painting almost everything that was not painted at the factory, Mike Freitas at Freitas Signs for making all his exterior graphics, Arroyo Custom Rigs and Central Cal Welding for all the parts they built and installed, Advanced Interior Restoration Services for all their help with the interior, Colby Caliva and Sic Rigz for always keeping the rig shining, and his best buddy Brett Scroggins for helping with all aspects of the build and sharing the same passion as C.G. Lastly, but most importantly, he’d like to thank his wife Ashleigh for all her support and patience, for all those late nights in the driveway and missed dinners, and for going with him to most of the truck shows. Doing it with her, and the rest of his family, just makes all those amazing moments even more memorable.
We would like to give a special shout-out to everyone at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA. Taking our night shots for the centerfold there, they lit up their crown jewel for us to park C.G.’s truck in front of – a retired former Air Force One Presidential McDonnell Douglas VC-9C jet, which has been at the museum since October 21, 2013. This aircraft was in service from 1975 to 2005, and served the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. Special thanks to Don for coming out to the museum after hours to open the gates for us (and turn off the alarm), on his birthday, with a house full of guests waiting for him! The rest of the pictures were taken the next day at Lake Yosemite near UC Merced.
When asked about the future, C.G. said he wasn’t entirely sure what the future held, but he knows he doesn’t want to drive every day forever. His long-term plan would be to have nothing but owner-operators, and one really nice truck for himself, to drive when he wants to. He also hopes one (or more) of his kids might one day decide to join their dad and then eventually take over, but he has put no pressure on any of them to do that. However, little Ryleigh, at just three years old, really loves trucks, so time will tell.
Currently, the Soza Trucking fleet consists of (3) 8-car transports, along with a 4-car tow truck, and one owner-operator. C.G. also has a brand-new Kenworth W900L already ordered and on the way. He wouldn’t tell us much about this new KW, but he did tell us it will have a bigger sleeper and be a completely different color. Hauling auction cars almost exclusively these days, C.G. has enjoyed great success over the past few years, but worked very hard to get there, and endured many hardships along the way. One of his favorite sayings is, “You gotta be first or you’re last!” But even more important than being first, is to be “Always Headed Home!” Keeping that promise and commitment is now C.G. Soza’s lifelong mission.