This month’s creation was built for Dale Bussey (50) of Stephensville, TX. But it wasn’t built recently – it was built way back in 2000. This was the very first “custom” build I did at Kansas City Peterbilt, which is why it was called “Project One” – and, oddly enough, it fits into this month’s celebration of everything 1993 in honor of 10-4 Magazine’s 30th anniversary, because the truck is a 1993 Peterbilt! And, to make the story even better, Dale still runs this truck every day, and says he will never sell it.
Fresh out of high school, I got a job at Shelby Elliot’s Used Trucks in Kansas City, KS. I worked there for nine years. Shelby occasionally bought used trucks and then fixed them up to resell them. During my time there, he let me pick the colors to paint the trucks a few times, which was cool. In June 1997 I began working at Kansas City Peterbilt as a salesman. At that time, they didn’t do much custom work, we mostly just ordered new trucks. But that changed with “Project One” in 2000. This truck is special to me because it was the first lot truck they let me customize with my own ideas to help sell it.
The 1993 Peterbilt 379 was sold at KC Peterbilt and then repossessed in February of 1999. Our dealership had recourse on the truck, which meant we were responsible if the buyer quit paying. The truck was abandoned at Bosselman’s Truck Stop in Des Moines, IA, so me and our finance lady, Sally, went to get it. I remember it being super cold and slick that day, and the truck had bald tires, which made it really difficult to drive. We wound up not being able to make it back to the dealership that night due to the terrible road conditions, and we had to stay the night in Osceola, IA in a little motel with only the clothes we had on. This turned out to be a long-standing joke with the old KC Pete crew.
The truck was purple, which I was never a fan of, and it had a 70-inch “batman style” Able Body sleeper on it, which nobody liked. The dealership was upside-down on the truck and owed more than we could sell it for. And, due to the terrible economy at the time, we had no space in the dealership’s main parking lot, so we parked it in one of the lower lots. One weekend the breathers were stolen, which added another expense to an already losing deal. It sat for a long time. I explained to my boss and owner that I had some ideas for that truck, because it really had good bones. They just kept denying the fact that they would have to spend money to still lose money, but finally they decided to let me do what I wanted to it to try to salvage something from it and not lose too much – and I labeled the truck “Project One” for obvious reasons (although there was never a “Project Two” truck).
Growing up around hot rod cars, I always thought it would be cool to take something and make it cooler. The truck is a 1993 Peterbilt 379 Extended Hood with a 3406 mechanical Cat. On my “to do” list for this truck was to remove the barn siding from the hood, fill all the holes, remove the goofy sleeper, install a 48-inch flat top with a Unibilt opening, change the headlights to single squares (which were later switched to double rounds), add a butterfly visor, and remove the horns from the roof. I also added seven cab lights, flipped the mirror brackets, and installed some old-style Vortox breathers, painted white, and then repainted the truck white. I wanted to paint it an exotic color, but the dealership said, “No!” So, white it was. I also added a black vinyl stripe, which is still on the truck today.
As the build proceeded, I began to advertise the truck in the Truck Paper. The internet was just coming on the scene, so I updated the ads as we went, both online and in the printed paper version. Dale Bussey, a trucker from Texas, saw the ad in the paper version of the Truck Paper and gave me a call. The day he came to get it we were still working on it, so he had to hang out and wait. Some things never change! We still had to install the sleeper boot and the seats. And then away he went. The old truck found a wonderful home, and our dealership only lost a little money (not nearly as much as they would have if I didn’t fix the rig up a bit). Since that build, our shop has been customizing trucks and helping people get their dream trucks ordered and built, as you have seen in my articles in 10-4 Magazine for the last 17 years (since February 2006). So, with the theme of 1993 and still going strong, this truck, and its proud owner, fits into the mix nicely this month.
Born in Queensland, Australia, Dale lost his father at age 11, so for most of his life, he hasn’t had a vision of what having a father is like. This caused him to live his life by trial and error, but he remembers very well what his Uncle Ken said when he was 12 years old. His uncle poked him in the soft part of his neck and told him, “Nothing good comes of alcohol or drugs.” Dale said, “Man, that simple comment has resonated with me my whole life, and I knew that stuff wasn’t for me.” Dale went to school and worked cattle for his uncle during breaks. He went to regular school until the 10th grade, and then chose another option. Over there, you had a choice to continue school or pick other options. He chose to leave regular school and spent two years in agricultural college (1989-1990).
Having moved to America, his sister and mom invited him to come for a visit in 1992. They were in the Fort Worth area of Texas. When he arrived, he met up with some college kids that were into rodeo and horses. Dale said, “We started in North Cowtown and wound up at Billy Bob’s on a Thursday evening.” They introduced Dale to a saddle shop owner, and Dale ended up helping them some while he was there, because he was already familiar with leather working. When Dale left and went back to Australia, the owner of the saddle shop said, “If you want to come back, I will hire you as full-time help.”
Even though it was a short visit to the States, Dale found out fast that he liked soda pop with ice in it, drive up banks, and automobiles that had A/C in them. Apparently, those things were not common “down under” in Australia. In June of 1993 he returned to the United States, got a Social Security number, and went to work. He worked in the saddle shop until the fall of 1996 when he purchased a one-ton Dodge and a 32-foot gooseneck trailer and started hauling cattle for a local guy. He did that for four years until he bought the truck seen here from me.
This truck became very special to him very quickly. The year model was the same year he came to America, and his initials are in the VIN number of the truck, so it was obviously meant to be. The truck had 745,000 miles on it when he purchased it from me on January 17, 2001. Unfortunately, in July 2003, he had to overhaul it for the first time, due to the fuel tank heaters failing. That rebuild went 1,260,000 miles until he had to have it overhauled again. It now has 700,000 miles on that rebuild, and Dale still makes a run pretty much every week with it. Today, the truck now has over 3,000,000 miles on it, and it is still going strong.
Although the road has not always been smooth, he has learned, “It is what it is.” He tries not to worry about stuff he cannot control, which is pretty much everything! At one point, he had another old 359 Peterbilt that he loved that was the same year of his dad’s passing, and he had a driver in it. He built up his operation to include three trailers, but when that previously mentioned driver retired, Dale sold everything except the one truck and trailer you see here. He said, “Life is a lot better. I can shake a man’s hand and look him in the eye and tell him that I will do the best job I can, and that really reduces the things for me to worry about.”
When he is not out trucking, Dale enjoys spending time with his sweetie, Kristel. They have been together for three years now. Dale also has a wonderful daughter named Danielle (19). Over the years, Dale and I have kept in touch, and I consider him to be a special friend and his truck holds a special place in my heart and my history. I am so glad I got to do this special feature on both of them, in honor of 10-4 Magazine’s 30th anniversary. Here’s to 30 more years of playing with trucks!