Peterbilt trucks are manufactured by Peterbilt Motors Company, which is based in Denton, Texas. The manufacture of American trucks was started in 1939 by the then lumbering businessman and plywood manufacturer, TA Peterman.
Peterbilt Trucks – Early Years
Peterman was a man with a dream of strengthening the trucking business so that he could get his logs to market easier and faster. At the time, Peterman was really working towards that dream by rebuilding army trucks that he bought with surplus, learning how to improve them. In 1938 it purchased Fageol Motors in Oakland, California to use it to begin manufacturing its custom-built chain trucks. The following year, he began selling them to the public, which was the true beginning of Peterbilt Trucks.
During the 1930s, long-haul trucks were becoming very popular. It was the Depression and many companies that made commercial trucks were losing ground and closing. This is how Peterman got the Fageol Motors Company. Before buying them, the company had been making heavyweight trucks and buses for 17 years.
Peterman built 14 trucks in 1939, but that number jumped to 82 the following year, showing Peterman that the trucking industry was definitely interested in quality Peterbilt trucks. Peterman was famous for knowing exactly what the trucker wanted and needed because he sent his own engineers to talk to the truckers. They were asked to know what the men in the field liked and didn’t like before designing a single new truck. Peterman also got the military contract during World War II to make heavy trucks. This helped him prepare to re-enter the civilian market after the war as well.
After World War II, Peterbilt Trucks Advances
Even death didn’t stop Peterbilt trucks. Peterman died in 1945. After his death, Peterman’s widow, Ida, inherited the company. His wife quickly sold the company’s assets, but did not sell the property, to seven of the company’s managers with the idea of maintaining and strengthening the company. However, since she did not sell the property to them, the new owners had to fight for a new location several years later, in 1958, when Ida said she was going to sell the land to build a shopping center.
Because of this, the company changed hands and Peterbilt was bought by Paul Pigott, owner of Pacific Car and Foundry. He built a new facility for the company in Newark, California, and in 1960 Peterbilt trucks were built again. Pigott kept the name even though he also owned Kenworth trucks and ran both companies. The irony is that Peterbilt was his toughest competitor, even though he actually owned both companies.
Peterbilt continues to grow strong
In 1960, Peterbilt released 800 trucks and sales continued to increase as more and more people began to trust and love the quality of trucks. The company was soon unable to make as many as customers wanted, so Peterbilt expanded to two manufacturing plants and built one in Madison, Tennessee, in 1969.
By 1973, Peterbilt was delivering more than 8,000 of its trucks and by 1975, it had opened a version of Peterbilt in Canada. In 1980 it had another plant in Denton, Texas and in 1993 its headquarters were in California, where it still stands to this day. Denton became the only manufacturing facility to build Peterbilt’s Model 362 COE truck.
Peterbilt Truck Lines
Peterbilt lines originally had model numbers beginning with a number 2, which meant single axle models and a number 3 for those with dual drives. However, in the late 1970s, they stopped making these kinds of distinctions. Some of the most distinctive or well-known models were:
– 200/265: This was a smaller truck that had a cabin based on a Volkswagen MAN G90 and is still being manufactured in Brazil.
– 260/360: This is the first real Peterbilt truck model.
– 280/350: This model was built between 1949 and 1957 and was known for its unique bike-style fenders at the front and for having a long-style grille with vertical shutters.
-281/351: This version of the Peterbilt truck model was made between 1954 and 1976. One of its main claims to fame is that a Model 281 appeared in the 1971 Steven Spielberg movie Duel, where an evil truck was trying to kill people. It was a 1950s version of that model of the 281 Peterbilt pickup.
– 282/352: This version of Peterbilt trucks had a tilting cab over the engine and was the model that came out after the 351, which was a non-tilting cab style. It was named Pacemaker after someone won a naming contest and got a color TV as a prize. The pacemaker was also developed as a 352 model and gained fame when it appeared on the Knight Rider TV show as the evil super truck named Goliath, as well as being the model that was sung about in the truck song, Convoy.
– 358: This model was the company’s first drop top style truck. It was sold until 1976.
– 359: This model Petebilt truck was sold from 1967 to 1987. The 1100 series of these had a bulkhead door style that is still in use today.
– 346: This is a very rare version of the Peterbilt brand and only 10 of these trucks were built between 1972 and 1975. It was intended to be used for mixing concrete, or as a dump truck or snow plow type truck.
– 348: Model 348 was sold between 1970 and 1986 and had a sloped fiberglass hood for better visibility. It was the first fiberglass hood made by Peterbilt.
– 353: The 353 replaced the flat fender models and had pit style fenders instead. It was used in construction.
– 387: The 387 Peterbilt trucks were also built between 1976 and 1987. It had a heavy weight frame, flat fenders, steps under the cab, large bumper, and was used to haul coal.
– 362: The 362 became Peterbilt’s flagship truck in 1981. It had two types of windshield wipers, one was a center piece and the other had three or two windshield wipers. It also introduced a front axle that was retracted and had longer springs up front. The last one was held in 2005.
– 372: This Peterbilt model is considered the most aerodynamic, the front of the cabin can be flipped forward for easy maintenance. It was made between 1988 and 1993. It is said to have a kind of Darth Vader look because it looks a bit like the shape of a helmet.
– 377: This model incorporated some headlights on the fenders and was also considered aerodynamic. It was made with a front axle that was advanced as well as one that was lagged. It was manufactured from 1987 to 2000.
– 378: This Peterbilt truck had a steep fiberglass design on its hood and came as a front axle that lagged behind in design. It was popular for the highway, as well as for local transportation.
– 357: The 357 was similar in style to the 378, but weighed more than it was. This is because it was designed for construction. It also came with flat fenders, a new style of hood and grille that had been put in in 2004. It was very popular in the heavy haulage industry.
– 385: The 385 was built between 1996 and 2007. It was intended to compete with a Freightliner brand truck, the FLD.
– 379: Between 1987 and 2007 this was Peterbilt’s premier flagship truck. A claim to fame is that Autobot frontman Optimus Prime was shown as a 1997 Peterbilt Model-379 Extended Hood truck in the Transformer movie.
– 389– This model ushered in some of the changes to Peterbilt models to make them compliant with 2007 EPA standards.
Since then, many more styles and models of Peterbilt trucks have appeared and the company remains strong with many truckers wanting to drive or own a model of the legendary Peterbilt trucks.