Just as modern farm tractors all seem to incorporate similar styling and design cues in their general appearances, the same is true for modern heavy trucks. Aerodynamics figure prominently in modern truck design due to the fuel savings to be had when racking up thousands of kilometres every month. Manufacturers have been influenced in how they style their models by cost-conscious fleets eager to cut down on fuel use.
Gone are the days, even in ordinary automotive design, where unique styling is the primary consideration.
But not everyone is willing to put function over form. The Kenworth brand has seen a consistent demand for its classic and long-running W900L model because its cool factor is off the charts. And for some buyers, cool is king. With its external air breathers and boxy front end, you might argue the W900L puts form over function, at least when it comes to fuel mileage. But it’s still as capable as ever in all the other ways it needs to be.
Kenworth’s W900 series has been a star of the big and small screens over the years. It played a major role in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” and on TV as Sonny Pruitt’s truck in the series, “Movin’ On.”
Since its initial introduction in 1961, the W900 continues to keep the same general appearance, and today it is available in the long-hood L and shorter-hood B models. And Sonny Pruitt (actually Claude Akins, the actor) would easily recognize today’s W900 as the descendent of his ’70s-era pride and joy.
A conversation with “The Kenworth Guy”
To see what today’s W900L (the L stands for long-hood version) offers, Grainews met up with “The Kenworth Guy,” Andy Willerton, at Inland Kenworth in Winnipeg, Man., to check one out. Willerton is a sales rep for the dealership and is a popular online promoter of the brand, with his own YouTube channel and website.
“The last refresh we did in ’07 was on the interior, changing the dash around,” says Willerton. “But basically, they’ve been pretty much the same for about the last 60 years.”
His dealership has been stocking a lot of W900 “project trucks,” which are blinged-up models the dealership has used its imagination on by adding chrome, other accessories and unique touches, which make the trucks stand out from the crowd, he adds.
Under the hood, buyers can opt for a variety of horsepower ratings with Cummins or Paccar diesels mated to a wide range of manual and auto shift transmission choices. To stop them, trucks can be equipped with standard drums or even newer, more efficient, air disc brake systems. And there are several different air ride rear suspension options to meet a variety of preferences or needs.
Producers can set the truck up to be prepared for rougher gravel roads and dusty field conditions with an extra filter option to keep dust and grain chaff out of the HVAC system for the cab and additional supports for the hood fenders to prevent cracking and damage from road vibrations.
Inside the cab, different gauge packages are available along with a variety of levels of interior comfort, such as air ride leather seats.
The result of all of this is producers can spec out and factory order a pretty classy ride in their W900 of choice, but MSRP can hit well over $200,000 with all the add-ons and upgrades for a really tricked-out rig. For those who are a little more conservative and just want a more basic, more economical power unit, the T880 may be their Kenworth of choice.
The economical choice
“We brought this model out in 2013,” says Willerton of the T880. “For gravel haulers, grain haulers, farmers, it’s been widely accepted.”
The T880, even in its most basic configuration, offers a much wider cab than the W900 (the narrow W900 cab with a slight wedge-shape design was a nod to aerodynamics back in the day). Even with plain interior appointments, the T880’s cab size offers a good degree of comfort and space, something growers can appreciate as they carry everything from extra clothes and lunches to spare tools and parts with them to the field.
Like the W900, the T880 can be spec’d with either a Cummins or Paccar engine. The latter, according to Willerton, has been the most popular in trucks leaving his dealership.
“A lot of that has to do with weight,” he explains. “Guys want to maximize payloads and how much they get in the box, so they need to keep weight down. It has a light cab and the Paccar engine is lighter.”
And when it comes to purchase price difference, the T880 will make a much smaller dent in a buyer’s bank account than a high-end W900.
“You’re going to save quite a lot of money compared to (a customized W900),” says Willerton.
Referring to the high-end W900 in his showroom and its price tag, Willerton sums it up this way: “That’s what I call the cost of cool.”