It was really the First World War that solidified the idea of a “truck” as a specialized transportation vehicle. Up until then, most trucks were simply beefed-up automobiles. But with the war won and the Roaring Twenties taking off, truck design thinking evolved even further.
Vehicle manufacturers realized that there were so many different applications and specialized jobs being done by trucks, that a “one-size-fits-all” design was too limiting. To be successful, they were going to have to deliver highly customizable vehicles, with many different configurations and options to choose from to meet their customers’ needs.
It was in this new truck design climate that the Kenworth Truck Company was founded in Seattle in 1923. But in the beginning, the new company wasn’t called “Kenworth.” Instead, founders Harry W. Kent and Edgar K. Worthington called their new company the Gersix Motor Company. Gersix had been founded in order to supply West Coast loggers with tough, dedicated, logging trucks built around dependable, six-cylinder gasoline engines.
In 1923, Kent and Worthington incorporated the Gersix Motor Company as Kenworth — creating the new name formed from a combination of letters from the founders’ last names.
That year, Kenworth churned out 78 new trucks for the West Coast market. Today, it’s estimated that around 1.3 million Kenworths have taken to the highways. Kenworth is celebrating 100 years in the truck business this year with a slew of commemorative vehicles, paint colors and options, as well as special events with dealers and at trade shows around the country celebrating a century of truck-building.
“We are super-excited to be part of the team that gets to celebrate Kenworth’s 100th anniversary,” said Kevin Baney, Kenworth general manager and Paccar vice president, during a virtual press conference celebrating the company’s centennial on Feb. 15.
“Kenworth’s storied history over the past 100 years provides much to be proud about. From being the first U.S. truck manufacturer to offer a diesel engine as standard equipment in 1933 to selling Kenworth trucks with an electric powertrain today, it’s been quite a journey.
“We’re also especially proud of our leadership in truck aerodynamics with the Kenworth T600 introduction in 1985. That model began the revolution in fuel-efficient trucks, and its evolution has tremendously advanced in the new flagship T680.”
To celebrate its 100th year in business, Baney said Kenworth will release several commemorative truck models and offer sets of “legacy” paint colors, wheel options and interior details so customers can share in this historic milestone.
A Head-Turning T680
Keep your eyes peeled on the highways for Kenworth’s most high-profile 100th Anniversary offering: the T680 Signature Edition tractor.
This special truck features Kenworth’s 76-inch mid- and high-roof sleeper configurations. Inside, the Signature Edition Diamond VIT features a black interior with legacy red stitching accents throughout the cab and sleeper. The package also includes a Kenworth 100 branded GT703 seat with red accents, special brushed platinum dash and door trim, and Kenworth 100 logo stitched into the sleeper back wall.
The Kenworth T680 Signature Edition exterior features a black onyx grille and side air intake, with prominent Kenworth 100 badges on the sleeper. An optional Kenworth 100 exhaust shield cutout and black anodized grille mesh are also available on mid-roof configurations. Also optional are new Alcoa stylized wheels with unique spoke patterns in Dura-Bright and Dura-Black finishes.
Kenworth is also introducing four signature paint colors available on new Kenworth Class 8 and medium-duty trucks. The new colors are Century Platinum, Century Black Red, Century Red and Century Gold.
A Very Special W900
If there’s a flagship model truck commemorating Kenworth’s centennial, it has to be the Kenworth W900 Limited Edition tractor — a truck that is so popular, that its limited, 900-model production run is already sold out.
“The Kenworth W900 is an all-time classic and iconic truck in the industry that is still admired on the road and at truck shows,” said Jim Walenczak, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “As a long-time staple of Kenworth’s history, there is no better way to kick off our year-long 100th anniversary celebration than by launching this Kenworth W900 Limited Edition.”
The special model is available in three configurations: 86-inch Studio Sleeper, 72-inch Flat Top, and Extended Day Cab. The all-black Limited Edition Diamond VIT has 100th anniversary driver and passenger seats. Other interior features include a special edition steering wheel, brushed platinum dash and door trim, and Kenworth 100 logos throughout on the doors and thresholds. A Kenworth 100 sofa bed is standard with the 86-inch Studio Sleeper.
On the outside are Kenworth 100 sleeper badges. A Kenworth 100 exhaust shield cutout and sun visor are optional. A special optional centennial three-color paint design brings a classic look to the W900 and is only available with the 86-inch Studio Sleeper and 72-inch Flat Top.“The W900 is a special truck and this Limited Edition is a great way to celebrate 100 years of Kenworth,” said Walenczak. “Only 900 of these trucks will be produced, so they will definitely become a showcase vehicle for owners who want a piece of Kenworth history.”
Each Kenworth W900 Limited Edition will be serialized — for example, 001 through 900 — in order of build date and sequence with a special Limited Edition badge on the glovebox. The units are limited to 2023 production, which began this week.