Jose Serrano has always been a fan of the sloped-hood Kenworth T800s, so when his son Jose “Joe” Serrano Jr. wanted to buy a W900L Kenworth, he said they were ugly and looked like a monster. Ignoring his father’s opinion of these trucks, Joe went ahead and ordered his custom W900L, but it still ended up getting the nickname “El Monstro” (which loosely translates to The Monster in Spanish), but mostly just for fun. I may not agree entirely with Jose’s perception of these trucks, but I can kinda see what he was talking about, because this cool KW transfer is one “monster” of a truck, for sure.
Born in Mexico, Jose Serrano came to the United States on a work visa in 1973. Working in the fields in the fertile area of Salinas in central California, Jose met Rosa in 1977, and although the two waited ten years to actually get married in 1987, they both agreed they would eventually get married, when they could afford to do so, after only three days of knowing each other. And now, some 45 years later, they are still together and still madly in love! I guess it’s like they say, when you know, you know!!
In 1980, Jose “Joe” Serrano Jr. was born. At the time, the family lived in Gilroy, CA. Getting a job at Gilroy Foods in 1985, Jose Sr. worked the graveyard shift (10:00 PM to 8:00 AM) for 14 years. After the company was bought by another outfit, Jose ended up being laid off in 1999. Not knowing what to do next, he considered training for a trade, but he didn’t want to work inside or at night. Turning his focus to trucking locally, he went to a nearby truck driving school and earned his CDL. For the next two years, he worked for a few different companies, but he wanted to buy his own truck and start his own company – so that is exactly what he did.
Purchasing a used 1996 Kenworth T800 dump truck out of Arizona, Jose then formed Joe S. Transportation and began hauling locally around the Bay Area of California in 2001. Jose’s son Joe loved going out with his dad in the truck and loved the comradery between the other dirt haulers and construction workers. To him it all just seemed like a lot of fun. At the time, after graduating high school in 1999, Joe began studying to be a Probation Officer – he wanted to be in law enforcement, but he didn’t want to be out on the streets every day putting himself in harm’s way. But eventually, realizing it wouldn’t be a very fun profession and that his heart was just not in it, he quit.
Wanting to join the family business, Joe got his CDL in 2003, but dad only had one truck and at the time could not afford to get his son one, too. So, Joe worked for a few other companies for about a year, and then was finally able to join the company when his dad purchased a 1978 Ford L9000 dump truck for him to drive. And this truck was a beast! Over the years, the previous owners had done a lot of “modifications” to it out of practicality purposes, not for beauty, that is for sure. This big, red, ugly truck was super heavy and constantly breaking differentials, but Joe drove it for almost two years.
In 2005, Joe purchased a 1992 Peterbilt 379 transfer and began running as Jose Serrano Trucking. That same year, Joe’s parents bought a modest ranch in San Martin, CA and moved the family there. The following year, in 2006, in an effort to avoid hitting a car that had cut him off on the freeway, Joe rolled that Peterbilt transfer over, several times, in fact, completely destroying the combination but thankfully not hurting Joe. So, back in the old Ford dump truck he went, and back to hauling for Joe S. Transportation. Shortly after that, Joe was able to buy a 2001 Kenworth T800 10-wheeler and get out of that Ford.
The following year, in 2007, Joe married the love of his life, Kristine. A couple years later, in 2009, they found out she was pregnant with their first child. With plans to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Joe was planning to ride his motorcycle there, but since they had just found out Kristine was pregnant, they decided she shouldn’t ride on the back with him and instead should drive herself there in the car. That turned out to be a very good decision, because Joe was involved in an accident on his way to the festival.
Suffering a bad leg break and other injuries, Joe spent the next nine months – the entire time his wife was pregnant – in the hospital, having surgeries, and recovering. On crutches for most of this time, Joe’s goal was to be able to walk out of the hospital, without crutches, carrying their new baby. Their son Andreas (now 12 years old) was born February 24, 2010, and Joe was able to carry him out of the hospital wearing only a medical boot on his foot. Today, most of the damage done from that accident has healed, but Joe can now predict when rain is coming just by how his leg aches, and he still needs to be careful with his foot, as many skin grafts were done to repair his damaged Achilles tendon.
As their family continued to grow, in 2012, their daughter Mikaela (10) was born. Then, in 2013, Joe was able to order a brand-new 2014 Kenworth T800 transfer unit. In 2015, the company bought a brand-new T800 10-wheeler for dad to drive, which he still runs today. Joe drove that 2014 transfer until 2017, when he was finally able to order his next truck – the truck he always wanted – the 2018 W900L Kenworth featured on our cover and centerfold (and these pages) this month.
Starting out just plain white and as a pretty simple truck, Joe had Harry at Harry’s Auto Signs in Hollister, CA add some red and gold pinstripes to the truck, and then he had Arroyo Custom Rigs in Merced, CA add an air-ride system to the front suspension to get the truck lower. With plans to debut the truck at a show in Fresno in 2018, a tractor backed into Joe’s rig shortly before the show was scheduled to happen, so he couldn’t go. Replacing the hood and having the pinstripes redone by Harry, Joe decided to paint the fenders red, but that would just be the beginning.
The following year, in 2019, Joe was finally able to debut the truck at that same show in Fresno, the Central Valley Commercial Truck Show, hosted by the folks at A & L Truck Supply, and it was an eye-opening experience. Being the first show he had ever competed in, he thought he could at least win a trophy with his nice truck, but after seeing the amazing rides all around him (and not winning anything), he realized how much more he could do to his truck and decided to go all-out from there. Since then, the truck has been a constant work in progress, and much more customizing has been done to it.
I had seen this truck a few times at some local shows in California, but it really stood out for me at the Soza Memorial Truck Show in Merced, CA in late June 2022. Stopping to get a closer look after taking a picture of this beauty, I was able to meet Joe and get a quick “tour” of the truck – and I was really impressed with both Joe and the truck. I think what caught my eye the most was his engraved lug nut covers, but as I was shown the rest of the truck, I realized this thing was pretty special – and Joe was, too.
Today, the truck features a newer 2020 Superior transfer setup (boxes and trailer) which are pinstriped to match the truck, and a bevy of custom accessories including bullet-style cab lights with clear glass lenses, a 20” Valley Chrome boxed-end bumper with a 12 Ga. bumper lift kit, high-intensity LED headlights from United Pacific, and chopped air cleaner screens. It also has stainless mirror brackets from 12 Ga. Customs, smooth stainless exhaust shields from Shift Products, stainless Hogebuilt full fenders, a painted visor from RLK Services, and billet blinkers on the front fenders from Shift Products that are shaped like the KW emblem and fitted with glass lights. The front air ride was originally installed by Arroyo but has since been tweaked a bit by Josh at Carballo Air Ride.
Under the hood, the X15 Cummins features a polished air intake kit from Dynaflex, along with a polished stainless-steel power steering fluid reservoir cap. The interior has a hardwood floor that was installed by our friend and past cover trucker (May 2020) Ruben Vargas, along with billet pedals from RWC, a chrome steering column cover, and painted red dash panels. The cab’s headliner features black leather with six small red and chrome “jewel” accent buttons, along with a stainless overhead console with deleted sun visors. However, as mentioned previously, the most unique thing about this truck, inside and out, are the hand engraved pieces.
The truck has many custom billet parts made by Armando Uribe out of Gilroy, CA, along with lug nuts from Roll On Customs, that were sent to Krazy Kutting in Arizona and hand engraved, then chrome plated. These pieces include the lug nuts, steps on the boxes, the hood latches, door sill plates, air and brake valve knobs, the Forever Sharp steering wheel, license plate frames, dash switches, and a custom key cover. Joe even had a custom aluminum “pine tree” air freshener engraved and plated to hang inside, which doesn’t do much to make the cab smell better, but it looks cool (and has an old school vibe). Roll On Customs engraved “El Monstro” on some of the pieces, including the billet air cleaner lights from Mafia 034 Customs, mounted underneath the breather cans.
In late 2020, Joe and his dad added one more transfer to the fleet – another Kenworth T800 – bringing their current total to three transfers and one 10-wheeler. Dad still drives the 10-wheeler every day, but he “threatens” to retire all the time. In fact, one time Joe hired a new driver to replace his dad because he said he was going to retire, and then he didn’t, so they had to buy this driver a truck to drive.
Joe loved building this truck and enjoys running the company, but his first love is his family. Living on “the ranch” with his parents (in separate houses), Joe does the dispatching and customer service, while his wife Kristine handles all the paperwork and office duties. Joe has two sisters and one brother, but none of them are involved in the trucking operation. When not driving or working on the trucks, Joe coaches his kid’s soccer teams, which keeps him very busy. Running their practices a few times a week and going to tournaments to compete takes a lot of time and is a big responsibility, but Joe totally loves it. Spending time with his wife and kids is his favorite thing, so he never lets life or hobbies get in the way of that (including truck shows).
When we arrived in San Martin to get ready for the photo shoot, Abel Hernandez and his crew were working hot and heavy to get the Kenworth prepared for the next day. We were originally scheduled to be in San Martin on a Thursday and Friday, but with impending rain on the way, we bumped our plans forward to a Tuesday and Wednesday at the last minute. Thankfully, Joe and his cleaning crew could accommodate the last-minute change, which turned out to be a smart move because we had perfect weather on Wednesday for the photos, but then a huge storm rolled in on Thursday, as predicted. Had we not switched our plans, we would not have been able to do the shoot.
After driving around for a few hours and scouting locations, we headed to a nice Italian restaurant called Mama Mia’s in Morgan Hill for dinner. As it turns out, this place was very special to Joe and Kristine, as Joe proposed to her there! We had a great time getting to know Joe and his family. After dinner we headed back to the ranch for some night shots of the truck, parked in their driveway, under the “Rancho El Escalon” sign that hangs over the entrance. Joe’s dad grew up on a ranch in Mexico, and that was the name of it, so he wanted to name his five-acre ranch in California the same thing. Funny thing is, he grew up in San Martin, Mexico (in the state of Jalisco), and now he lives in San Martin, CA. It was freezing cold out there that night, but we got some great shots.
The next morning, we met at the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve for our first location, and we even saw a coyote while there. After a few hours, we headed to a quarry in Aromas, where we got some amazing shots, all while dodging the most enormous dump trucks and loaders we had ever seen. My big SUV looked like a bug near these things! After that, we headed back to San Martin and went to Harvey Bear County Park for some final detail and family shots. It was a long day, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Joe and the entire Serrano family.
With plans to keep driving and building the business, Joe wanted to thank his customers and drivers, along with his parents, and polisher Abel Hernandez (he and his crew are the only ones who have ever touched the exterior of this truck). Also, thanks to Harry at Harry’s Auto Signs, everyone at Krazy Kutting, Elite Detailing (for keeping the interior looking top notch), Josh Carballo (for parts and great advice), Joe Jones at California Asphalt Professionals (our July 2021 cover feature and one of Joe’s good friends and customers), and Jose Bueno (Joe’s mechanic and overall helper). But, above all, he would like to thank God, because without Him, Joe could not get through the day and none of this would be possible – he feels totally blessed!
Needing to be practical with this build since he drives the truck every day, Joe has gone about as far as he can without getting crazy or making it hard for him to get his work done, but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Always striving to be better, Joe Serrano admits that life isn’t easy, but family will always be there, so treasure those people and don’t waste any time. As much as he loves trucks and trucking, he loves his family more. And even though his Kenworth W900L transfer might be scary cool, turns out it isn’t such a “Monster” after all.