In the American Civil War, some soldiers wore gaiters, a protective legging that would keep rocks and dirt out of boots (or brogans, if you've ever heard that word) that were often only ankle-high. Some WWI GIs had "puttees," which work similarly. Looking at the striking new Kenworth W990, somehow I ended up thinking of soldiers in those historic photos.
It's those accents on the truck's hood. So naturally, checking out a W990 with 76-in. mid-roof sleeper last week at the American Trucking Assns.' Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, TX, I had to ask the Kenworth folks about it.
"Nice-looking truck," I said. "What's with the gaiters?"
I got the puzzled looks and raised eyebrows I was waiting for, then nodded toward the chrome accents on the hood and pointed them out.
As you'd expect, they're a lot closer a reference than the Civil War—they're a tip of the hat to the W990's venerable longstanding predecessor, the W900.
"On the W900L and trucks of old with the long hoods, you've got cans on the side—15-in. stainless steel air cleaners," explained Jamin Swazo, on-highway marketing manager at Kenworth. "Those have gone away primarily because of the width of the hood; you can't put those on the outside."
[Have a look at Billy Goullon's 1981 Kenworth W900A on display earlier this year at the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show.]
In place of those cans, the new W990 has a functional air intake system on both sides. Air flows in through the scoops there in this improved aerodynamic design, retaining a unique look.
Swazo noted the W990's designers wanted to "pay homage" to the look of the W900 "by putting some stainless steel on the side of the truck to give it some depth with the form." Those chrome air intakes wrap over the top of the hood so you can see them from the driver's seat.
Materials and quality were important here—just like the air intakes are made of stainless steel as they were on the W900s, so are the W990's front grille surround and other accents, pointed out Brett VanVoorhis, Kenworth's fleet sales manager for the Western region. Corners aren't cut with chromed plastic.
"That's a big deal to the people that are looking at buying this truck," he said.
It's not the only thing that helped the W990 stand out for many of the show's attendees—click through our slideshow to see more.