Who doesn't love a parade? Marching bands, clowns, crowds of people waving from the curb, dozens colorful floats ... Each September my home town of St. Catharines, Ontario, plays host to the Grape & Wine Festival, a celebration of the Niagara Region's wine-making industry.
Jim Herriot's 1975 Kenworth W900A does the St. Catharines, Ont. Grape & Wine Festival Parade.
Our parade pales in comparison to, say, the Rose Bowl Parade, but local schools, industry, community service groups, and others pull out all the stops and march through town with banners-a-waving.
In my spare time (yeah, right), I'm the sound engineer with a semi-pro musical theatre company called Garden City Productions, and this year they had a troupe of dancers on a dropdeck trailer hoofing it to musical selections from their upcoming production of "A Chorus Line." I had the pleasure of towing that trailer through town with a splendid 35-year-old Kenworth W900A.
Being the token trucker in the company, I'm often asked to haul stuff around with borrowed or rented trucks. This time they asked if I could scrounge up a trailer they could dance on in the parade. A pal of mine, Jim Herriot, owns a small garage in the area, so I called and asked if he knew anyone who'd loan us a trailer for the event. He not only came through with the trailer, but he actually let me pull it with his prized Kenworth.
Talk about a kid in a candy shop.
Of my list of the Top Five trucks of all time, the early W900s are my favorite. For the record, I'm also fond of the mid-1980s vintage Freightliner COE, Peterbilt's Model 362 COE from a decade later, late-model R-model Macks, and the Pete 359.
Jim's Kenworth, at 35 years of age, has only 1.1 million miles on it, and while the exterior has been painted and buffed up a little, the interior is just as it was in its working days. It's clean and all original -- complete with the light-up plastic dice, the dash-mounted fan, the clear plastic custom gearshift knob, and the stinky Christmas tree air fresheners.
There's a 425-hp Cat 1693T (A model) under the hood. It was the forerunner to the 3406, and was more commonly found in bulldozers. The transmission is an RT0-12515 overdrive -- the top cog puts the stick up against the dash.
The truck was built when I was still in high school, yet it was still running in revenue service several years after I had moved on from driving trucks to writing about them in 1997. To be part and parcel with a machine that had been running and earning for longer than the entire length of my driving career was a moment to be savored.
The truck has had only four masters. Floyd Gibbons for Preston Feed and Seed of Galt (now part of Cambridge), Ont., spec'ed and bought it new. It changed hands in 1982, when farmer Verdun Zurbrigg bought it to haul produce around. Another owner acquired in it 1999, with the intention of restoring it, but that never happened. Jim Herriot bought it in May of 2004, painted it, and did a little mechanical work. So except for those hands, and maybe a few others, my mitts were among a very small number who have ever steered and geared the truck.
Judging by the crowds at curbside, there were a bunch of other fanciers of old trucks at curbside on that crisp Saturday morning. The truck was getting almost as much attention as the dancers out back on the trailer.