Mafia Secrets – August/September 2020

A truly fine 359

August-September 2020

Bryan "Boss Man" Martin

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Anyone who knows anything at all about First Class Services in Lewisport, Ky., knows that their name says it all. Nothing will be second rate, slip-shod or lacking in quality or presentation.

This 1987 Peterbilt Classic 359 is no exception.

Randy Stroup, founder and owner of First Class, found this truck at a dealership in Indiana some years ago in decent condition. Just a short eight weeks after the purchase, his daughter and her fiance had planned a wedding. Randy, being the true truck nut he is, had a vision of this truck being part of the landscape scenery at the blessed event, so time was of the essence.

They basically had seven weeks to completely renovate this truck from front to back, inside and out. If you have had a truck painted before, a typical body shop may take 45 days to simply do the paint work, let alone upholstery, accessories, tires, brakes and the rest.

In 1987, Peterbilt Motors made a limited run of Classic 359s. This truck is No. 103 of 359 of those trucks, so it definitely has some collectible appeal in addition to being the “hot rod” of the Pete family of truck models.

Mafia Secrets August/September 2020 Peterbilt 359
This 1987 Peterbilt 359 Classic is a limited-run wagon that’s been customized to become a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

This was not an easy makeover. Because of the age and condition of the truck, the entire chassis needed sand blasted and painted. To do this, the fuel tanks, sleeper, battery boxes, tires, wheels, hood – everything had to come off to properly refinish the chassis paint.

Randy’s crew introduced a Camaro-green base color but stuck with a vintage Peterbilt stripe design and took steps to make the finished rig retain its original appeal. Painted air cleaners were put back on instead of stainless Vortoxes, and the factory-style headlights and brackets were re-used as well. They elected not to stretch the frame and left the stock wheelbase at 265 inches.

Five cab lights and two roof-mounted horns were put back in place, and the bowtie visor was a “must keep.” Painted fuel tanks, and custom rear fiberglass full fenders finished the truck out nicely, along with chrome straight pipes and an American Eagle front bumper. We don’t have any handy photos of the interior, but it was flawlessly restored to match the quality of the gorgeous exterior of the truck. If you are a 359 lover like I am, this truck gets your blood pressure up. Everything came together for a winning look and the appeal of the “classicness” was nailed in their design choices.

It is not surprising that Randy Stroup named his trucking company First Class Services.

“The caliber of service we provide our customers absolutely separates us from our competition,” Stroup said.

A third-generation trucker, Stroup, president of First Class Services Inc., took to the road as a teenager and later gained valuable experience transporting commercial jet engines for David Hodgeman’s Southern Pride Trucking Co. Inc.

In 1989 Stroup, based on his real-world, hands-on experience and acquired know-how, started what has become one of the more highly regarded trucking companies in the country.

“We transferred David Hodgeman’s principles of customer service from the ol’ Southern Pride days and applied the same dedication to the tank industry,” Stroup said.

First Class Services, whose core business is liquid and dry bulk commodities, has a great office staff at the home base, and a dedicated group of drivers. According to Stroup’s operating philosophy, he prefers to hire the right people first and grow his company around them.

Staff and customers, both know that Stroup’s commitment to his profession, which started way back when he was transporting those jet engines from San Diego to Miami, works wonders for them. His advice to anyone starting in the trucking scene remains the same today.

“Customer satisfaction is the backbone to any successful business,” Stroup said. “Take great care of your customers, and in turn-they will take great care of you”

Many thanks to Randy and his shop team for including us in this truck build, and we are always eager to see what’s next in the way of First Class projects.

Today, this truck is running on a weekly basis in the First Class fleet. Who says you can’t get along with a 30-plus-year-old truck? This Peterbilt passes DOT checkpoints, scales – does a solid job day in and day out, and pulls a profit to the bottom line, same as a late-model truck does.

As you motor down America’s highways, keep an eye open for other eye-catching First Class trucks and tankers, as they do it up in style. LL

Check out the July 2020 edition of Mafia Secrets, from Bryan “Boss Man” Martin.