When hauling bulk commodities, it’s all about the weight. The lighter the truck, the more it can haul. Usually, when building a show quality ride, a lot of weight is added – but that was not the case for this build. In fact, this cool old A-Model Kenworth and its polished trailer turned out to be lighter than many of the triaxle dump trucks in the R.W. Smith Trucking fleet, which makes the name of this article (and the name of this truck) make a lot more sense.
Trucks have been in Kevin Smith’s family blood for four generations. His great grandfather, Max Smith, started hauling coal in 1932 from the coal mines in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania to homes near the company headquarters located in Doylestown, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Kevin’s grandfather, Richard W. Smith Sr., started working for his father Max as soon as he was able to drive. Later, Richard Sr.’s trucking career took a back seat to the Korean War. After returning home, he started R.W. Smith Trucking in 1953.
Kevin’s father, Richard Jr., started driving for Richard Sr. when he turned 16. Kevin and his brother Rob both followed in their father and grandfather’s footsteps, becoming the 4th generation of Smith’s to drive truck. The Smith’s kept to what the family knows best, which is hauling coal, stone, sand, salt, and other bulk commodities.
Today, they maintain a fleet of Kenworth and Peterbilt triaxles, as well as multiple Kenworth W900L tractors, and a lone Peterbilt 389 tractor, driven by Rob. In addition to their daily large rides, they have quite a fleet of classics in the barn, ranging from a V8-powered Peterbilt 359, a 362 Pete cabover, and multiple A-Model KWs. Richard Sr. retired from driving and running the company in 2015 at age 82, and that is when Richard Jr. took the reins.
The beautiful combination seen in these photos was the work of Kevin, his brother Rob, their father Rich, their mechanic Eric, and a host of other friends and family. The truck – a 1978 Kenworth W900A – sits on a 2011 Kenworth T660 chassis. The frame ended up needing to be rerailed before any other work could be done, and after this task was completed, the wheelbase ended up at 222 inches. “I was able to salvage all the hoses and wiring, as well as the gauges, rocker switches, and the turn signal switch that operates the electric wipers from the T660,” explained Kevin. “These items were all still in working order and they function perfectly in this truck.”
In addition to salvaging these parts from the donor T660, the air and heat controls from the newer KW also found their way into the cab of the A-Model. Kevin is no stranger to A-Models, as he previously built one when he was in high school (that truck was still his daily driver while this build was unfolding). The upholstery was done by Randy Martin at SpareTimeFab in Myerstown, PA and installed by Kevin. The rest of the interior was done in-house. Finishing the interior pieces are walnut wood dash panels, which Kevin made himself.
The truck is powered by a new Caterpillar C12, which runs very well, with help from Rich Reddick of RR Enterprises, based out of Quakertown, PA. Rich just happens to be Kevin’s father-in-law. The motor is backed by a 10-speed Eaton transmission that sends power to a single axle in the back (the rear most axle on the truck is a dead axle to save weight). “In our business, weight is everything,” said Kevin. Tonnage makes the money in their business. Kevin’s combo weighs an impressive 24,500 lbs., which is actually less than some of the triaxle dump trucks in their fleet.
All the paint work, including the cab, hood, and frame, was done in-house. The pinstriping and lettering were done by Scottie Kania, who has been working with the Smiths for over 30 years. Kevin’s truck has a unique look with a single stack and a single air cleaner. Kevin explained the single stack and single air cleaner serve dual purposes – they pull the 70s look together while also keeping the weight down. Kevin’s truck is also equipped with a J. Ferrell Custom Trucks air ride front end. The trailer is a 2019 MAC half round which was polished and alumicleared in-house. Some parts of the trailer were also painted the red of the truck frame to give it a little extra pop.
Kevin would like to thank everyone involved in the build of this truck with a special thanks to his wife, Rhiannon, who put up with a three-year build. Without the help of his dad, brother, their mechanic, friends and family, the build would not have been possible. And when it was all said and done, Rob coined the phrase “Worth The Weight” and that became the truck’s name.
When thinking about where to shoot the photos of this truck and trailer, there was no other place to do it but where it works. The R.W. Smith fleet often loads at a quarry down the road from their shop and, thankfully, with their good relationship with the quarry and their employees, we were able to shoot the combo down in the hole and around the plant area. Then, we finished the shoot back at their shop, where I was able to focus on just the tractor a bit more.
I would like to thank Kevin for asking me to shoot the truck when it was finished. I’ve become friends with the Smiths over the last few years, and they truly are a great family – and they really know how to build some very cool old school style trucks. And this amazing A-Model was “Worth the Weight” (and the wait) for sure!