As many of you know, I’m a car guy and have a highly custom Mustang that I show at various events across the country. But my love for cars doesn’t begin or end with Mustangs. I love all kinds of cars, including lowriders. I’ve always been fascinated with the entire lowrider culture, show scene, and the incredible creativity that often goes into building a lowrider. Because of this admiration, I was blown away the first time I saw the “Low Life” Peterbilt that was built by the One of a Kind Customs team in Sigourney, Iowa.
I met stepbrothers Dan Brubaker and Brett Wright, along with Blake Evans, at the very first Dirty Business Truck Show at HD Equipment in Grand Mound, IA. At the time, they had built a black heavy haul Pete and were showing it on the truck show circuit that year. It was a gorgeous truck, that I really liked, and took many photos of at several different truck shows. I was determined to write a feature on this black beauty, but for many reasons, it didn’t happen. In retrospect, I’m glad I waited for the right opportunity and truck to feature that was built by the guys at One of a Kind Customs – this one!
From the time I met Dan and Brett, they had in mind a very special truck they wanted to build. Something unique, unusual, and never seen before in the truck show world. I would see them at different events, and they would share their overall concept and some ideas of this build with me, but never the specific details. It wasn’t until they officially unveiled it that I fully comprehended and appreciated this build.
Before I talk about the details of the build, I think a little bit of history about the family trucking business would be beneficial. The family trucking business was started in 1935 by Dan’s great-grandfather, Oscar David “OD” Brubaker. He began hauling livestock from Iowa to the Chicago and Detroit stockyards, with backhauls of steel back to Iowa. At the time, he pulled open top trailers, that provided the flexibility to haul livestock and steel. “OD” ran the business from 1935-1976. Dan’s grandfather Verle Brubaker continued to grow the business from 1977-1979, running livestock and steel, but eventually shifted the business to primarily hauling livestock. At this time, they moved from open trailers with sides to strictly livestock trailers.
Ron Brubaker, Dan and Brett’s father, took over the family business, Brubaker Trucking, from 1979-2020. This included not just driving, but also running the office, handling personnel responsibilities, and dispatching loads to the company and O/O drivers. In 2020, Ron then turned over the responsibility of managing the business to Dan. On the trucking side of the business today, they have 15 trucks hauling primarily cattle all over the Midwest and South. For diversification, they also do a little bit of van and RGN hauling, as well. Their fleet of trucks consists primarily of Peterbilt trucks, along with Wilson and Merritt trailers.
Raising five boys, to keep them busy and out of trouble, Ron Brubaker got them involved in the family trucking business. Starting out doing some of the routine and mundane work to clean and maintain their fleet of equipment, this eventually led them to getting their CDLs, gaining experience driving, and understanding the business. Eventually, Ron allowed Dan and Brett to design and customize their trucks, and others in the fleet. This early customization work was what gave them the idea for the creation of One of Kind Customs. Officially opening the doors in 2019, their custom truck building business has steadily grown in its first four years of operation, and they currently have builds scheduled into late summer 2023.
When the decision for the Low Life build was made, Dan and Brett had planned to use a brand new Peterbilt 389, but Dan had serious reservations about chopping up a new rig, so they decided to find a late model Pete 379, in good condition, to use as the foundation for the build, instead. This led them to a 2006 Pete 379 they found and then purchased in Georgia. They now had a suitable truck for building the lowrider they had dreamed of. It took them over six months to build this truck, beginning in September 2021 and finishing in late March 2022, just in time for the big reveal at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.
To achieve that lowrider look, major exterior modifications were made to the truck including chopping the cab 8 inches, the windows 5 inches, the doors 3 inches, and 8 inches was removed from the sleeper. For every modification made to the cab, corresponding changes had to be made to the doors and frames. After all the necessary cuts were made, they had to apply new skins to the cab, doors, and sleeper panels. Other custom modifications made were raising the mounts for the rear leaf spring hangers and installing new ones, installing a car hauler front axle, and making custom front end springs. The most significant change was lengthening the wheelbase from 260-inches to 312 inches. Dan’s justification for this change was, “You can’t go low unless you go long!”
The list of vendors that provided the parts they needed to complete the build were from well-known outfits. Exterior parts supplied by RoadWorks were the front bumper, a custom grill, cab and sleeper drop panels, lots of mini watermelon lights for the entire cab, an I-panel between the fuel tanks, a one piece panel for in front of the rear drive axles, step boxes, exhaust system, and hood latches. Other exterior products installed were chopper-style headlights from JP Cycle, billet nut covers from Roll On Customs, mirror brackets and hidden air cleaner mounts from 12 Ga. Customs, and drive axle fender covers from Shift Products.
For the interior, a totally custom hot rod dash was built. Covered in red and gray materials, the dash features a minimal number of gauges (from NT Lites) and chrome toggle switches, along with a large in-dash touch screen. The seats were redone with red and gray covers from EZ Pete Interiors, and a chrome steering column and painted steering wheel were added, as well. The roof is covered with black suede, and custom door panels were made. In the engine compartment, the 550-hp 5EK CAT was painted and then fitted with a new turbo, manifold, and air intake from PDI, and then got a “hot” tune from a local provider, boosting the powerplant to about 650-hp. The guys have plans to make some big modifications to the interior and under the hood, so look for those changes to be done soon.
To finish out the build, One of a Kind Customs smooth welded the top of the frame panels, added custom air ride to the front axle, installed a custom welded rear cab panel, modified and smoothed the engine firewall, and used bronze glass for the side windows and two-piece windshield. They also had custom aluminum wheels machined locally at a shop in Sigourney, IA. Being built as a lowrider style custom truck with all the modifications mentioned was unique in and of itself, but what really sets this build apart is the amazing paint work done to it. Dan and Brett selected Joe Manley to complete the painting and striping of the Low Life Peterbilt.
I met and spoke to Joe at the 2022 Dirty Business show, and he provided me with a very detailed and informative explanation of the paint work done on the truck. Dan and Brett worked with Joe to select the color combination of House of Kolor Kandy Apple Red and Solar Gold to paint the Pete. The frame is painted with Solar Gold, and the hood, cab, and sleeper are covered in Kandy Apple Red, along with 13 layers of painted stripes and clearcoat. Over 13 gallons of paint were used to cover the entire truck. They depleted the paint supplies of these colors from three different suppliers to ensure they had enough product to do the job!
Every area of the truck was painted, including the engine. The total products used were 14 gallons of clear, 12 gallons of Solar Gold, and 2 gallons of Kandy Apple Red. In addition, three pounds of gold flake and one pint each of Kandy Tangerine and Kandy Root Beer were mixed into the base paint to create the distinct colors. The final touch that Joe added was variegated (enhancing the different colorations) Gold Leaf. It took five weeks and 375 hours to complete the paint and striping on this truck.
When it all was said and done, the finished custom Low Life Peterbilt has won many awards at several well-known shows like The Red Dirt Showdown in Oklahoma, Frenchy’s Truck Jamboree in California, Walcott Truckers Jamboree in Iowa, and the Waupun Truck-n-Show in Wisconsin. The coup de gras was receiving an invitation to the Lowrider Super Show in September 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. To get this invitation shows the ultimate respect and recognition this venue had for the Low Life truck build. It was a first-ever accomplishment in the industry, and for One of a Kind Customs.
This awesome build, completed by Dan, Brett, Blake, and all the guys at One of Kind Customs, truly represents and reflects many aspects of the lowrider style. Being a big fan of lowrider cars, I have a great appreciation for what they accomplished with this Low Life Pete. I hope you too will appreciate all the hard work, time, effort, and creativity that went into this build. With this ride, One of Kind Customs is Livin’ the Low Life in Iowa, of all places. Congrats, gentlemen, on a fantastic build!