While most of us grew up calling this vehicle the “Dodge Ram”, the truck hasn’t been associated with Dodge since 2011, when Ram left the Dodge line of light trucks. Despite the name change, it remains one of the best trucks on the market, as evidenced by its five-time win as “Truck of the Year” (1994, 2003, 2010, 2013, 2014).
The front-engine, rear-wheel/four-wheel drive full-size pickup truck went into its fourth generation in 2009, with a new design by Ryan Nagode and Scott Krugger that was showcased in the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Updates included a new suspension system, a hemi-engine option, a new storage system, and a four-door cab style option. It is also marketed with a “class-exclusive” manual transmission. It has a 6.7 L Cummins Turbo Diesel l6 engine, measures between 234.1 inches and 287 inches depending on the cab options.
The Ram Pickup is assembled in both the U.S. and Mexico with plants in Michigan (the Warren Truck Assembly) and Saltillo (the Saltillo Truck Assembly), and is available as a two-door regular cab, a 4-door quad, crew, or mega cab, or a Dually. The Gross Combined Weight Rating says it is capable of hauling between 11,000 – 15,500 pounds (The Ram 1500 and the 2WD Ram 1500 long bed with Hemi engine are specified).
In spite of its more blue collar background, the Ram Pickup is not just a heavy lifter. It’s also involved in the world of motorsports, and has won two championships (the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers’ Championship in 2003 and 2004 and the San Felipe 250 in 2008 and 2009).
The Ram also comes in many different forms, with several special editions over the years, including the Power Wagon (the off-road version), the Rumble Bee (a limited sport-truck version), the Spirit of ’76 (celebrating America’s Bicentennial), and the Nightrunner (2000 were made in 2006 and were painted in Brilliant Black, had chrome rims and grill, a 5.7 L Hemi engine, dark shaded headlamps, and Nightrunner trim, logos, and embroidery).
The truck does well domestically and abroad, selling in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as well as in Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, Argentia, Chile, Paraguay), Europe, and the Middle East.
Despite the end of its run in 2007, the Peterbilt 379 (soon replaced by the Peterbilt 389 which had upgrades to both its hood and headlights), a Class 8 truck from PACCAR, is still recognized as a star among the rest of its fleet mates, due in part perhaps to its appearance in film as the character Optimus Prime in Michael Bay’s Transformers film.
In production from 1987-2007, the Peterbilt 379 was the largest highway truck available from the company at the beginning of its run, with both a standard and extended hood available (the standard was 119 inches while the extended hood was 127 inches). It differed from the Peterbilt 359 (which it replaced) in that the windshield wipers were horizontally mounted, and it had a windshield a bit larger than the Peterbilt 359.
The Peterbilt 379 was a powerful truck, utilizing a wide array of turbodiesel engines to maintain its edge on other highway trucks. The list of engines used include the Caterpillar (C-11, C-12, C13, C15, C-16 and the 3406 B,C, E, P, and EWS), the Cummins (NTC, N-14, ISM, ISX, ISMe5, ISXe5, the Signature 600) and the Detroit Diesel (60 and 90 series).
It was available with a variety of upgrades ranging from interior color (from 2000-2007, you could choose between black, tan and gray), exterior color (a range of choices including Arctic Gray, Sahara Tan, Burgundy Wine, and Maritime Blue), cab mounted mirrors, rear corner windows, the elimination of the vent window post (this was a change that gave the truck a vintage feel), and a special edition called the “Legacy Class” (the last thousand units before it was replaced).
Peterbilt (a subsidiary of PACCAR – which also owns Kenworth) began in the late 1930’s in Denton, Texas, although they have had factories in both the USA (California, Texas, Tennessee) and Canada (Quebec). It originally began as a logging truck company, using surplus army vehicles as the base, which then evolved into the trucks used until 2007.
Over fifty years old with an impressive resume of movie appearances, awards, and recognitions for achievements spanning a decades-long career – no, it isn’t one of the Bond men, nor Harrison Ford, nor any of the classically handsome, talented actors who grace the big screen. It’s Porsche’s 911 model, which has been in production since 1963 (there are over a million Porsche 911’s in the world as of 2017), making it one of the oldest sports cars still in production.
The classic two door sports car from Germany has a rear-engine, rear-wheel/four-wheel drive, and until 1998, relied on an air-cooled engine like the Volkswagon Beetle (it now has a water-cooled engine). It has gone through several overhauls and upgrades over the years, and the current models (the 991 Series, which is the third platform since the original – called the Carrera and the Carrera S) include a 3.4 or 3.8 litre engine, producing 350 and 400 hp respectively.
They’re over two inches longer than their predecessors, and the wheelbase is almost four inches bigger. It’s almost all aluminum, which makes it over one hundred pounds lighter than previous Porsches. This makes for a more powerful, speedier ride, with the ability to go from 0-60 in less than five seconds.
With improved fuel economy (due in part to the electromechanical power steering, an engine stop/start system, and a coasting system that gives the Porsche the ability to idle on highways and while traveling downhill) by 16%, updated technology (which includes a torque vectoring system, hydraulic engine mounts, active suspension management, and the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control which allegedly helps corner flat and improves the high-speed directional stability as well as lateral body control), and the 2015 Best Premium Sports Car On The Market award from Car and Driver, the 911 is maintaining and even surpassing its previous popularity.
Part of its popularity comes from appearances on the racetrack, including races and rallies, such as the Targa Florio, the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and World Championship for Makes. It has also made many cameos in the film industry, including scenes from Gone in Sixty Seconds, Annie Hall, Cars, and Wolf of Wall Street.
It doesn’t look like the Porsche is going anywhere soon, and if the 50th anniversary special limited-edition is any indication (it was produced with retro touches as well as bumped up horsepower), we’ll be getting another cool classic to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
Founded in Portland, Oregon in 1912, the Kenworth corporation produces both medium and heavy-duty class 8 trucks (which includes tractor trailers, dump trucks and semis), along with medium and heavy-duty cabovers which have become popular collector’s items and projects for restoration. The cabover consists of a tractor unit attached by a fifth wheel hitch to one or more semi-trailers to carry freight, with the majority of the weight being borne by the tractor, hence the between a simple truck-and-trailer arrangement.
Truck enthusiasts around the country have taken it upon themselves to restore these beautiful old rigs and share their results in shows and on the road. The beauty is that these vehicles are not reserved for the rich and powerful. These trucks can be useful and beautiful, used and enjoyed by truckers, enthusiasts, and collectors alike.
The most popular cabover models are the K100, K123, and the K200, but despite their popularity, they are a rare sighting on the streets and if you ever get the chance to see one up close, you should take the chance and savor this beautiful old rig.
With Facebook groups, YouTube channels, forums, and entire websites dedicated to the Kenworth cabovers, it seems these rigs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are even websites such as the Gillig Transit Coach / Pacific School Coach Online Museum and the American Truck Historical Society who are working to preserve several Kenworth public transit vehicles – and there are plenty of fans willing to dedicate the time and resources to preserve Kenworth’s other notable vehicles, such as the cabovers, both for historical value and for the acknowledgement of how Kenworth has shaped the industry for over 90 years.
The Kenworth brand has remained a name that connotes steady, high-quality products, as evidenced by their complete sweep of the 2007 J.D. Powers Award, specifically for Heavy Duty Truck Product Satisfaction.
The Ford F-Series comes highly recommended – since 1977 it has been the best selling pickup in the U.S. and the overall best-selling vehicle in both the U.S. and Canada since the early 1980’s. With several iterations to choose from (150 to 750, spanning thirteen generations for the 150 type), this light and medium-duty truck has cornered the market and become the go-to vehicle for a myriad of jobs.
The pickup also has a range of special models for those wanting a more unique look or extra features – from the unibody (similar to the Ranchero) to the special edition F-150 Nite, Eddie Bauer and Harley Davidson, to the SVT Lightning, Raptor and F-150 Tremor (high performance versions of the pickup), to the F-150 Platinum (a luxury version), there are plenty of trucks to fit every buyer’s needs and wants, whether they’re looking for a truck in which to go camping, or simply want a sleek looking vehicle with hauling capabilities.
Despite its main designation as a work truck, it has been entered in and won several races, including the San Felipe 250 (winning a total of eight races in the late 90’s to mid 2000’s), the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and the Primm 300 (three times).
Outside the U.S. and Canada, the Ford F-Series (particularly the special editions) enjoy a following in Europe, Australia and China, where they are often added to car enthusiasts’ collections. The pickup is also sold in certain parts of Central and South America, Africa, and several territories and island chains around the world.
Though the Ford F-Series has been reimagined and retooled throughout its generations, it still remains one of the most popular pickup trucks, able to perform a wide variety of jobs due to its rugged durability, while still retaining its image as a powerful, sleek pickup.
Music to the ears of Truckers
When it comes to music about truck drivers, there is nothing like the “Road Hammers.” It’s said all their songs always about truck drivers.
So much so that “AllMusic Review” critic Rick Anderson wrote:
“When you cultivate a sort of Motörhead-meets-Charlie Daniels visual image but all of your songs have to do with the joys and sorrows of driving a truck, then you’re shooting for a pretty narrow demographic ‘
But he adds… so what?
There’s an eager audience for it but also for other groups as well who sing about the often lonesome roads traveled by truckers.
Their songs often speak of being away from homes and families. Coffee and cops are common themes. Tragedy as well.
Some of the earliest songs date back to the 1950s.
You can find all kinds of top 50 lists but the ten named here are probably the best known for the widest audiences that include not only drivers but anyone else who romanticizes the road.
No. 1: “Keep on Truckin” has entered the general American vocabulary to mean many things since former Temptations and Motown singer Eddie Kendricks released it in 1973. It reached several No. 1 lists and was almost as popular in the UK charts.
Kendricks did not leave out his old Temptations singing group:
In old Temptations’ rain, I’m duckin’
For your love through sleet or snow, I’m truckin’
Kendricks died of lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 52.
A park in his native Birmingham was named after him and Rapper Kendrick Lamar was said to have been named after him.
No. 2: Another No. 1 hit was ”Me and Bobby McGee.” Written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, it’s the melancholy story of two drifters. They hitch a ride from a truck driver. When they part ways, the singer is best described as having the blues.
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, that’s all that Bobby left me, yeah
But, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
Hey, feelin’ good was good enough for me, mm-hmm
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGhee
The song was first sung by Roger Miller. It later went through many versions and became best-known for Janis Joplin. It was not only associated with her but was the only one of her top ten records during her short life.
No. 3: “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler).”
Written by Dave Loggins and recorded by country music band Alabama, it was a No. 1 single. It was the group’s 12th straight single No. 1 single on Billboard Magazine’s list.
It’s the somewhat sad story of a truck driver working to support his wife and three children.
“Daddy” tells his children that while he is gone, all they need to do is remember the song he taught them:
Roll on highway, roll on along, roll on Daddy ’til you get back home, roll on family, roll on crew, roll on mama like I asked you to do
This one has a happy ending, however. The family thinks “daddy” may have had an accident and goes through a tense night until hearing from him that “the man upstairs” listened to the song and the driver was found safe and sound.
No. 4: “East Bound and Down.” This is from the highly popular movie “Smokey and the Bandit.” It spent several months on the Billboard charts at No. 2 and became a television series of the same name.
Jerry Reed sang:
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’
We gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ Bandit run
No. 5: “White Line Fever.” A popular song with many versions though never a No. 1 hit. Merle Haggard did the best-known version.
White line fever, a sickness born
Down deep within my soul
White line fever, the years keep flyin’ by
Like the highline poles
It’s generally believed the song was inspired by auto creator John DeLorean who was entrapped in a scheme to sell drug money to finance his company.
The upshot was a film of the same name.
And In 1988, the song was used in an anti-heroin public information film in the United Kingdom.
No.6. “On the Road Again.” It was written and made famous by Willie Nelson and became one of his biggest hits.
Many others copied it, including Alvin and the Chipmunks in a 1981 version where Alvin sings about his reluctance to do a road trip while he misses his home.
On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
No. 7: Rubber Ducky.” First sung by Muppet character Ernie on Sesame Street named after his favorite toy. It became a surprise hit in 1970 and was nominated for the “Best Children’s Grammy.”
Little Richard performed a rock n’ roll version of it as a guest of the TV program.
Rubber Duckie you’re the one
You make bath time lots of fun
Rubber Duckie I’m awfully fond of you
No.8: “Convoy.” Best described as a 1975 novelty song performed by C. W. McCall. It became a number-one song on both the country and pop charts in the U.S. It was No. 1 in Canada as well. First heard in the Sam Peckinpah film “Convoy.”
Cause we got a mighty convoy
Rockin’ through the night.
Yeah, we got a mighty convoy,
Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
‘Cross the U-S-A.
Convoy! Convoy! Convoy! Convoy!
No. 9: “Six Days on the Road.” This hit song goes back to 1963 and is sometimes credited with launching the truck driver song craze in modern times. It is also hailed as the definitive celebration of American truck drivers.
Dave Dudley sang it:
Well it seems like a month since I kissed my baby goodbye
I could have a lot of woman but I’m not like some of the guys
I could find one to hold me me tight,
But I could not make believe it’s right
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight
No. 10: “Forty Miles of Bad Road.” Another song phrase that was so popular it become commonplace in the English language. Where did it come from?
Best guess is a record producer who heard a Texan say:
“Your girl has a face like forty miles of bad road.”
Duane Eddy recorded it as an instrumental.
No lyrics needed.
The title says it all.
Hollywood film producers are not known for taking chances. So an R-rated film about a drug dealer taking his RV to Mexico might seem on the surface a bad gamble.
But the 2013 movie “We’re the Millers” was definitely a winning bet.
And a distinct departure from the usual family rated G-comedies produced by movie-makers.
Aided undoubtedly by stars such as Jennifer Aniston (as a stripper) and Jason Sudeikis (the drug dealer), the film cost a relatively small budget of $37 million. But it earned a whopping return of $270 million.
It was not only a departure from usual Hollywood “safe” movies, it did well at the box office despite tepid reviews by critics.
It apparently had no trouble finding an audience of more mature movie-fans who appreciated its comedy despite its adult rating.
As one patron put it:
“This was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it, but it is not for kids or for anybody who is easily offended. It had a lot of raunchy things and foul language, but they work a lot of funny things into it.”
The plot is perhaps an unlikely one: a veteran pot dealer creates a fake family.
Fake wife, fake kids.
They are used to disguise his effort to use his RV to move a huge shipment of weed into the US from Mexico.
“The ‘Millers are headed south of the border for a Fourth of July weekend that is sure to end with a bang,” is a summation,
The RV, which plays a prominent role, is also unusual.
It’s one of the Encounter line of Coachmen motorhomes.
The film was a showcase for the Coachmen division of Elkhart, Indiana-based Forest River Inc. It showed off what is known as Ford’s durable and dependable 22,000-lb, F-53 stripped chassis upon which the “Encounter” line of Coachmen motorhomes is based
News reports say that two Coachmen Encounter RV units were used during filming, as well as a 1991 Foretravel Grand Villa Class A unihome. The later was on a Chevrolet chassis. The Triton V-10 engine was also a prominent feature (distinct with noise and a V-10 emblem on the hood).
What made this movie a success may have been partly its R rating, which is given for “crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.”
All of which may have been factors for ticket-buyers.
But the motorhome itself may also have contributed to its success.
Motorhomes in movies have long been a prominent feature of films since the 1950s when Lucy and Desi Arnaz ventured out in disastrous fashion in “The Long, Long Trailer.”
And there’s been continuing debate on which were the best and worst.
Without entering that route, the Winnebago may deserve the academy award for “best” RV.
At least when it comes to not doing very much, but in number of appearances.
Movie-dom fascination with RV’s might be traced to the 1950s,
That was when a 40-foot-long, 1953 New Moon was the star trailer in the Lucy-Desi film of 1953 which started the RV movement. Memorable scenes included Lucy’s (unsuccessful) efforts to cook a dinner. The most dramatic moment may have been when the trailer almost fell off a cliff, a moment many other RV riders may have sympathized with if not always experienced.
But we soon see the Winnebago in movies such as “Lost in America,” and “About Schmidt,” and even “Spaceballs” and “Independence Day.” The latter is best described as serious “science fiction.”
A Winnebago was also the unsung character in the highly successful “Independence Day” film about aliens trying to take over earth. Not really a starring part for the RV since it was mostly seen as crop duster and alien abductee Randy Quaid took his children with him to fight the aliens.
In the science fiction category…or at least comedy fiction…the film “Spaceballs” also had the mad creative genius of Mel Brooks in another Winnebago.
“Schmidt” in a Winnebago Adventurer is all about a recently-widowed man’s efforts to find himself during a solo road trip (which may help explain why it was not a major hit)
“Lost” starred well-known comedy writer Albert Brooks and Julie Haggerty as a corporate couple who abandon their lives to travel easy-rider style across the country.
A much bigger box office hit was “RV,” which featured a bus from Forest River Georgetown RV.
Bob (Robin Williams) convinces his family into taking a business trip disguised as an RV adventure. Many scenes of mayhem such as running over cars and shopping carts and an RV sinking in a lake. The family endures and wins in the end.
Also a hit: “Meet the Fockers,” which featured not only great actor Robert DeNiro but also a 2007 Pace Arrow. A tale of the difficulties of soon-to-be in-laws.
In the lesser known film category, there was also the 2006 “Motorhome Massacre,” which featured an Argosy “Woody.”
Good times in the RV till the machete-throwing crazy arrives to spoil the fun.
The portrayal of movie truckers is not unlike how American Indians were seen during the heyday of the American cowboy west. They have not always been seen favorably in the flicks.
In other words…the way movies show truckers is a mixed bag.
Think of it like the well-known Sergio Leone western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
The latter two categories, “bad and ugly,” are not always strictly defined.
The “Good,” however (at least in the movies) is easier to define. It is none other than Clint Eastwood. In the so-called Italian-made Sergio Leone westerns.
And of course, we see him later as the good guy again in another trucker movie.
In “Every Which Way But Loose,” he stars with ape-like Clyde as an amateur boxer.
Since that movie was mostly forgettable, let’s look harder at the bad trucker.
The really bad, and ugly, too, is J. D. Walsh. He was well-known for his amazingly diverse character roles.
And we see him at his best (or worst) as the scariest trucker ever seen in the movies: “Red Barr. “
The film is “Breakdown.”
Trucker Red graciously stops to help hero Kurt Russell when our hero’s own Cherokee Jeep vehicle breaks down.
But don’t let this fool you.
As the plot unfolds, Russell loses his wife to the kidnapping (or we should say wife-napping) trucker Red.
There are chases, fights, and bad characters you first thought were good such as a crooked sheriff.
The plot twists continue till Russell is reunited with his wife.
The trucker comes to a bad end when his semi-truck falls off a bridge and he is crushed to death.
The opposite of Red is “Smokey,” of course.
Who’s played by the world’s best “good ole boy” Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit.”
He and memorable Jerry Reed are two truckers on a wild ride hauling beer from Texas to Georgia.
They are chased by another memorable character played by Jackie Gleason. He is sheriff Buford T. Justice.
Just about everyone’s seen it because it was the second highest grossing movie of 1977, behind only “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”
For anyone who doubted its popularity, the beer brand being hauled was Coors. At the time, it was sold only in areas east of Oklahoma. The movie was like a free ad for Coors.
Also of note in the movie: Burt Reynolds played the part with his real-life girlfriend of the time: Sally Field.
The trucks used in the film were Kenworth W-900 models.
PS: If you were too young to have seen the movie at the time, there were two other sequels.
Since we’re still talking about good guys, perhaps the world’s second most famous movie trucker is Martin Penwald, or Kris Krisfofferson.
Known in the film “Convoy” as “Rubber Duck.”
Kristofferson before the film was better known as a songwriter with perhaps his best known “Me and Bobby McGee.”
A Mack truck was used in the film. The hood ornament of a Rubber Duck gained immortality by being sold as a separate item.
They are routinely still offered for sale via the Internet.
Another good guy in the movies was Chuck Norris.
He is a former karate teacher whose films include “Good Guys Wear Black.” He does some of his fighting aboard an 18-wheeler in “Breaker! Breaker!”
One reviewer said:
“It’s 1977 and everyone wants to be a trucker. That was the craze. So someone figured to put some Karate and some trucks together.”
Lots of vehicle chases and crashes, and some kung fu as well.
Another good guy trucker largely forgotten today is Jan-Michael Vincent, a former “pretty boy” actor whose short-lived film credits included “White Line Fever.”
It’s the story of an Air Force veteran who decides to enter the trucking business to earn a good living for his family.
Unfortunately, the business has been overtaken by organized crime.
The hero and his 1974 Ford 1974 Ford WT9000 cab over rig with a Cummins turbo diesel engine nicknamed “Blue Mule!” fights back.
This film, if nothing else, added the phrase of “White Line Fever” to most vocabularies (meaning addicted to trucking).
“Black Dog,” which in trucker terms means the visions’ drivers get when terribly tired, also added to movie-goers’ vocabulary.
Patrick Swayze plays Jack Crews who is a good guy tricked into hauling a load of illegal firearms. Swayze actually drove an 18-wheeler truck in the film.
One of the best and most famous trucking movies ever had both a really good guy and a really, really bad one.
It was made for TV.
In fact, it’s often described as the best ever made-for-tv movie.
“Duel” was also famous for its director: Steven Spielberg’ first movie.
Dennis Hopper of television’s “Gunsmoke” fame is a motorist driving around in a red Plymouth Valiant (those who remember the world’s longest running television western remember him as good-natured “Chester”).
Chester in this film makes the mistake of passing a dirty truck tanker.
The truck driver, who is never seen, for some reason gets angry.
Very, very angry.
The trucker gives chase, via on the road.
Hopper barely escapes with his life.
In one harrowing scene, he thinks he is safe in a glass telephone booth (no longer found anywhere) when the truck driver plows right through the glass in his 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker.
There are a lot of unforgettable-looking trucks in the “Road Warrior” movies. The vehicles of the future are unforgettable because of their heavy fortifications built around them like miniature castle-and-moat-protected cities in the middle ages.
Actor Mel Gibson famously drives a semi-truck supposedly full of ultra-valuable fuel to escape the heavily muscled bad guys.
Who could forget his famous line:
“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me.” Gibson jabs his finger at his chest.
There have also been some famous movie films about trucks that these days just a distant memory.
The best-known may be “They Drive By Night.”
It starred Humphrey Bogart and George Raft as down-on-their-luck independent truckers in a black and white movie.
Unlikely to be seen today except on old movie channels.
Of course, most movie portrayals of truckers which were most prevalent and popular during the 1970s are not very realistic for modern movie-goers
During the 1970s, other trucker movies included “Moonfire,” a film about truckers fighting villains in Mexico described breathlessly as “the most authentic trucking movie ever made.”
Or “Big Rig,” a documentary about real life truck drivers starring actual truck drivers, not actors.
It’s all about the “real people who drive the country,” according to advertising.
Which is just fine…if you believe what they tell you in Hollywood. ###
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