Peterbilt Trucks – From Chain Drive to the Peterbilt 379

Peterbilt trucks are made by the Peterbilt Motors Company, which has its headquarters in Denton, Texas. The American truck manufacture was started in 1939 by then lumber entrepreneur and plywood maker, T.A. Peterman.

Peterbilt Trucks – The Early Years
Peterman was a man with a dream to get the truck business going stronger so he could get his logs to market easier and faster. At the time, Peterman was actually working towards that dream by rebuilding army trucks he bought at surplus, thus learning how to improve them. In 1938 he bought Fageol Motors in Oakland, California in order to use it to start making his custom made chain-driven trucks. The following year he started selling them to the public, which was the real beginning of Peterbilt Trucks.

During the 30s long haul trucking was becoming very popular. It was the Depression and many companies that built commercial trucks were losing ground and going out of business. That is how Peterman was able to get the Fageol Motors Company. Prior to his purchase of them, the company had been making heavy weight trucks and buses for 17 years.

Peterman built 14 trucks in 1939, but that number leapt to 82 the following year, demonstrating to Peterman that the trucking industry was definitely interested in the quality made trucks of Peterbilt. Peterman check now was famous for knowing exactly what the trucker wanted and needed because he sent his own engineers out to talk to truckers. They were required to know what the men in the field liked and disliked before designing a single new truck. Peterman also got the military contract during World War II to make heavy duty trucks. This helped him to get ready to re-enter the civilian market as well after the war.

After World War II, Peterbilt Trucks Marches Forward
Even death didn’t stop Peterbilt trucks. Peterman died in 1945. After his death, the company was inherited by Peterman’s widow, Ida. His wife promptly sold the company’s assets, but didn’t sell the property, to seven of the company’s managers with the thought of maintaining and building up the company. However, since she didn’t sell them the property, the new owners had to scramble for a new location several years later in 1958 when Ida said she was going to sell the land to build a shopping mall.

Due to this, the company changed hands and Peterbilt was bought by Paul Pigott, owner of the Pacific Car and Foundry. He built a brand new facility for the company in Newark, California, and in 1960 Peterbilt trucks were again being manufactured. Pigott kept the name even though he also owned Kenworth trucks and ran both companies. The ironic thing is that Peterbilt was his stiffest competitor, even though he actually owned both companies.

Peterbilt continues to grow strong
In 1960 Peterbilt put out 800 trucks and sales kept on increasing as more and more people began to trust and love the quality made trucks. The company was soon unable to make as many as the customers desired, so Peterbilt expanded to two manufacturing plants and built one in Madison, Tenn in 1969.

By 1973 Peterbilt was delivering more than 8,000 of its trucks and by 1975, it had opened up a version of Peterbilt in Canada. By 1980 it had another plant in Denton, Texas and by 1993 their headquarters was in California where it still is to this day. Denton become the sole manufacturing plant to build Peterbilt’s 362 COE model truck.

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