NEW LOOK: It may look like the same truck that's been on the racing circuit for several years, but only the frame is the same.
FERGUS, Ont. – A unique fatherly gesture has changed the summers for a Calgary truck enthusiast with a passion for speed.
Gord Cooper set a precedent when his daughter Melissa arrived in style for her high school grad in a bright red Hummer 4X4. He raised the bar when his son Matt arrived at his high school grad in Gord’s 1957 Kenworth Conventional.
“I had to do something special for our youngest son as well and I didn’t have time to rebuild another of my old trucks,” Cooper explained. “I have other antique trucks and specialty trucks and didn’t need another project, but I needed something for my youngest son’s limo. I’m a truck nut, and it’s pretty special when I can do something for my kids.”
So Cooper went out and for his son Glenn’s high school graduation acquired a Canadian built, 1968 Kenworth; the Smokin’Gun.
The original owner, Triston Jackson, used the Smokin’Gun to showcase his ability to rebuild trucks. It was an old busted frame water truck and with much renovation and innovation, the truck was transformed into a big rig dragster, mostly just for show.
“I thought it would be kind of neat to give the Smokin’ Gun a reputation and I think we’ve done that in the five years since,” Cooper told Truck News.
After his first run down a 1/4-mile strip of asphalt, Cooper saw the opportunity to build a special race truck. With major drivetrain and suspension modifications, Cooper has turned the show truck into one of North America’s fastest big rig dragsters.
Originally outfitted with a Caterpillar engine, the truck was more show than go, explained Cooper.
“The truck would do at the very, very fastest 80 mph and the 1/4 mile in about 18 seconds. It was like watching grass grow or paint dry. That’s no slight to street trucks which run around 21 seconds in the 1/4 mile. They’re built for pulling, while we wanted to make this semi fast like a muscle car.”
Cooper had never raced before getting behind the wheel of the Smokin’ Gun.
“I was thrilled watching funny cars and dragsters go, but who thought I’d ever be racing a Kenworth?” said Cooper.
With a Detroit Diesel 8V92 now under the hood, the Smokin’ Gun lives up to its moniker, running the 1/4 mile in the high 12 second range. But Cooper is keen on putting on a good show and is hoping to shave about a second more off his time and reach speeds around 120 mph. With more nitrous and better gearing, the drag racer is confident he can reach those times, despite the amount of hard work it will take.
“There are only a few trucks in North America that will do that,” he said. “It’s a whole team effort, a credit to everybody and we’re having a good time with it. As long as it’s a good time we’ll keep doing it. It’s an awful lot of hard work to have fun.”
Cooper is quick to point out that much of the hard work comes from a sizeable team, dedicated to the Smokin’ Gun. Major sponsors are Shell Rotella T and Waterous Power Systems. His hobby has caught the eye of a number of other companies eager to share co-sponsorship including Enviro-Save Metal Treatment, Kal-Tire/Bandag, Alamo Turbo Chargers, Greatwest Kenworth, Hampton Power Systems, Stampede Crane and Rigging, Capstan Hauling, Pro Trucker Magazine, TNT Racing, and O.C.E.A.N. Hauling and Hotshot.
“There’s also my team, with my mechanic buddy Jim Attewell, without him the truck isn’t fast; and Randy (Oggy) Ogden of Oggy’s Polishing who not only polishes the truck up nice, but co-drives with me out to these events,” noted Cooper.
Gord’s wife, Marilyn, and oldest son, Matt, also help to organize shows and detail the trucks. Family might be the most important inspiration to keep racing this jewel of his truck collection, which includes trucks dating back to his 1926 Kenworth.
“My greatest fan is our 18-month-old granddaughter, Isabelle, who describes it best as ‘VROOM, VROOM!’ Without their input and involvement it wouldn’t be any fun,” added Cooper.
For the Calgary-based trucker fun is the most important part. Cooper does several drag racing competitions, but it’s performing demonstrations that make owning the Smokin’ Gun worthwhile.
“It’s good to be in competition, but the most fun is exhibitions and fitting in with truck shows,” explained Cooper from the Truck Rodeo in Notre-Dame-Du-Nord, Que.
Cooper’s making the most of his time this summer appearing with the Smokin’ Gun at an all-time high 24 events. Cooper runs O.C.E.A.N. Hauling and Hotshot out of Calgary and leans on his fellow owner/operators for the summer months while he dazzles crowds across the country with the dragster.
“We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary at O.C.E.A.N. and it’s our 30th wedding anniversary on Monday (Aug. 7), so it is a really big year for Marilyn and I,” noted Cooper.
Last year marked the first time the Smokin’ Gun made tracks in Eastern Canada and this summer Cooper and his dragster will make its way across the country again, twice.
His first travels out east had the Smokin’Gun in Shell Canada’s display at the Fergus Truck Show, Concord Kenworth, Montreal Kenworth, a demonstration fund raiser for the Ayer’s Cliff, Que. Volunteer Fire Department, New Liskeard Kenworth and the Rodeo du Camion in Quebec.
Cooper will be in Calgary for the Alberta Big Rig Weekend in Calgary on Aug. 26 and 27, also racing his dragster during the September long weekend in Drayton Valley, Alta. for Thunder in the Valley. Straight from Drayton Valley, Cooper will head back east to Hamilton Kenworth, then to the Earl Hardy Big Rig Nationals in Grand Bend, Ont. on Sept. 10.
“You’ve heard of a bus driver’s holiday, well this is a trucker’s holiday,” said Cooper. “I can get on a plane go salmon fishing later when I can’t pop a clutch anymore; this is what really turns my crank right now!”