CALGARY, Alta. - When most older trucks are gearing down for a resting place in the junkyard, Gord Cooper's 1968 Kenworth is just warming up. For the past six years, Cooper and his Canadian-built Kenw...
CALGARY, Alta. – When most older trucks are gearing down for a resting place in the junkyard, Gord Cooper’s 1968 Kenworth is just warming up. For the past six years, Cooper and his Canadian-built Kenworth – the aptly named Smokin’ Gun – have been touring North America, putting on awe-inspiring demonstrations with the drag racing big rig. This summer the Smokin’ Gun shot off the starting line and captured the Diesel Drag Racing Association (DDRA) North American speed record for Pro-Rigs.
“I went 120.7 mph,” said Cooper with a grin. “Blew the old record away by 6 mph.”
Cooper captured the new speed record – which if you’re a fan of the metric system is in excess of 190 km/h – in his hometown of Calgary on Aug. 25 during the Pro-Trucker Magazine Big Rig Weekend at Race City Motorsport Park.
“It was an awesome day! My run of 119.88 mph was great and I thought I was close, so I had to go for it. The wind was good on the first run; it bounced the truck around a bit during the 120 mph ride, but I managed to save it,” Cooper told Truck West.
“If I didn’t have the trucking experience of 23 years, I would have lost the truck when the wind bounced it.”
Heading into the final weekend of August, Cooper had not planned on breaking the speed record, but he was hoping it would happen; and 120 mph is a threshold he has been wanting to break for a long time now.
The one-time water truck had given Cooper some transmission issues the past couple of summers, but with those concerns fixed and a few other areas tweaked, the Smokin’ Gun was primed for a fast summer on the asphalt.
“We had transmission issues the last couple of summers, and we worked that out and worked out some aerodynamic issues; we did a big tune-up,” explained Cooper. “It’s absolutely stupid now; that’s what the kids call it. We also boosted it from 2,400 hp to more than 3,100 hp; and that’s how we got the extra speed on it.”
Under the hood, the Smokin’ Gun houses a Detroit Diesel 8V92 engine with twin turbos and supercharged nitrous boost; and uses an HT-740 Allison transmission.
The extra speed was evident the weekend before Cooper officially broke the DDRA speed record in Calgary.
Performing at the annual Drag Wars event in Grande Prairie, Alta., Cooper and the Smokin’ Gun had a couple of 118 mph passes. But unfortunately for Cooper, Drag Wars is not an official DDRA-sanctioned event, so his impressive times would only serve as a taste of what would come in Calgary the next weekend.
“We did a tune-up at Drag Wars the weekend before in Grande Prairie. We had a couple of 118 mph passes, and it was running hot,” noted the driver. “I did a run of 118.3 mph and then I had to back it up, which I did with a run of 118.4 mph. I got the papers signed and it was official, just not official enough.”
Even with the record firmly in hand, Cooper is not going to let off the throttle just yet and is poised to get the Smokin’ Gun running even faster.
As well as working on the transmission and aerodynamics, the cooling system of the drag racing rig was also improved.
“I think I can go faster. It’s good for more, possibly 123 or 124 miles per hour,” added Cooper. “The engine’s strong as hell, it’s shifting better and the aerodynamics are better. The driver’s smartening up a bit too; slowly. Experience is good for all of us.”
As Cooper is fond of saying, it’s a lot of hard work to have fun; and he is quick to credit the hard work of a number of people in helping him live his dream, including his son Matt who joined his team this summer.
“I have a great crew, a great support staff, great sponsors, and I couldn’t do it without any of them,” said Cooper.
“We fill the stands wherever they advertise that we’re coming. It’s become quite a program the last five years; it’s really become a full-time hobby.”
During the summer season, the Smokin’ Gun is featured at between 20 to 25 events, which as well as the races include promotional barbecues at dealerships across Canada. Even with a full touring schedule, Cooper is enjoying his time behind the wheel of the Smokin’ Gun and the opportunities it provides him.
“I’m still enjoying it; it’s still pretty neat meeting all these people,” said Cooper, after signing autographs for a group of four people who stopped to look at the Smokin’ Gun.
Sitting with Cooper in the afternoon Alberta sun at Drayton Valley’s annual Thunder in the Valley Drag Race, waiting for his turn to hit the quarter-mile, it’s obvious he enjoys the social aspect of his tour; and people equally enjoy stopping to say ‘hi.’
Nearly every driver of a quad or golf cart that drove by gave a friendly wave or a yell, and those that didn’t, stopped to chat.
But for Cooper, it’s pure enjoyment and he manages to stay humble despite his success on the racetrack.
“All of us fast truck guys in North America know each other, so it’s pretty cool,” Cooper added. “As far as ego, my record is good for a buck and a half and a cup of coffee; it’s just cool.”