RETURN OF THE GLIDER KIT

October 21, 2009 Vol. 5, No. 21

Gee whiz, my last newsletter effort (‘Where’s the Leadership,’ Oct. 7) seems to have struck a chord with a lot of folks. Two weeks ago I was bitching and moaning about the almost total lack of government leadership, especially in Canada, in terms of helping us develop and commercialize new technologies. Implicitly, I also blamed the trucking industry itself for not wanting more, for not demanding more. It’s much, much better in the U.S., I suggested, but only in Europe is there a truly serious – and long-standing – push into the techno-future.

I got e-letters from all over the place on that one, agreeing with me passionately. Seems the frustration resides not just in yours truly.

So it’s a little ironic that I’m going to lead off this version of Lockwood’s Product Watch with a trip into the past of pre-emissions-control engines. More specifically, it’s about the increasing popularity of new glider kits powered by rebuilt older motors like the Detroit Series 60 with DDEC 3 electronics. I’ve been intrigued by this phenomenon, knowing that a few Canadian operations – including a couple of sizeable fleets – had taken a run down this path, having grown tired of compromises with newer engines.

Anyway, a family business called Fitzgerald Truck Parts & Sales in Crossville, TN has been doing what sounds like a roaring trade in these trucks, offering Freightliner’s Coronado, Columbia and Classic models as well as Western Stars and long-nose Peterbilts. And Canadians have been buying. One recent order from up here was for 20 daycabs, says sales co-ordinator Tiffani Fitzgerald.

She explains that they buy rolling gliders — trucks complete from factory with rears, excluding engine and transmission – and then install engines rebuilt from the block up with all new parts by Detroit-certified technicians. Mostly the engine choice is a 12.7-litre DDEC 3 Series 60, which comes with a 3-year/300,000-mile nationwide Detroit warranty. Some customers, Tiffani reports, are getting 8.5 mpg with these motors, and they’re going as high as 12 mpg empty on wide-base single tires.

Fitzgerald will also install an Eaton Fuller factory reman transmission with a warranty, if you want it, and they do a lot of custom work too. For Canadians, that often means shortening the wheelbase.

It’s the price that’s especially appealing, between US$81,000 and $95,500 for stock models. For example, Tiffani will sell you a 2008-09 Freightliner Coronado condo loaded with double bunk, top interior package, double insulation for cold weather, refrigerator, etc., for US$95,500 out the door. Or a Freightliner Columbia raised roof for US$89,500 and a Columbia daycab for US$82,500.

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.


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