Mertens noted this ’76 Peterbilt Model 358 originally got purchased new in California. He picked it up three years ago at an auction in Nebraska from an owner out of Colorado.
Mertens rebuilt the truck’s power steering sector because no one had an exchange core for it due to the truck’s age. “Both rear end housings were cracked and had to be disassembled to weld properly,” he added. “That was quite a project as some of the components hadn't been apart in a long time.”
Complimenting the "old school" look of Mertens '76 Peterbilt Model 358 is its big yellow Caterpillar engine. "I've always had a passion for Peterbilts since I bought my first one new in 1989," he explained. "I've always wanted to own something like this."
Mertens said he replaced the majority of the truck’s wiring for its lights as that proved easier than repairing all of the flaws. “The rest was just removing the sleeper, prepping, painting, polishing, and adding new trim pieces,” he noted. “The stripe is ‘old school’ Pete. But it is vinyl so I can easily change it in a few years if I want to change the look.”
There is still some work remaining on Mertens ’76 Peterbilt's interior, though. “The carpet had been replaced before I got it, but I am considering replacing that with a wood floor,” he pointed out. Changing out the dashboard, for starters, will take some time, said Mertens as will changing from air-powered windshield wipers to electric-powered units.
Mertens said he grew up in the trucking industry, working with his dad and brother. He then moved on to driver for other motor before buying a bulk milk hauling rig in 1979. “Then I started a used truck and trailer dealership in 1999 in Stanley, WI, selling my milk routes three years later to focus full time on the dealership,” he noted.
Mertens classifies himself as a “big fan” of “big hood” tractors such as the Kenworth W900 and Western Star models. He recently bought a 1970 Peterbilt Model 378 “needle nose” tractor and hopes to have it show ready for some of this summer’s trucking shows.