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The Screamin’ Jimmy

SLOCAN VALLEY, B .C. - Two-cycle Detroit Diesel engines found in old GM trucks were a love/hate type of motor, and I loved them for their simplicity and the unique sound of what was referred to as the...


NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Ray Kosiancic has revived this classic GM truck and given it a paint scheme familiar to Slocan Valley residents.

NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Ray Kosiancic has revived this classic GM truck and given it a paint scheme familiar to Slocan Valley residents.


SLOCAN VALLEY, B .C. – Two-cycle Detroit Diesel engines found in old GM trucks were a love/hate type of motor, and I loved them for their simplicity and the unique sound of what was referred to as the “Screamin’ Jimmy.”

Many industrial workers, however, hated them because of the monotonous high speed sound made by the two-cycle Detroit engines.

When I was 17 years old, I took a mechanical course with the Chicago Training Corporation, where I learned more about the Detroit Diesel engines. They were used in all industrial applications – tractor, skidders, big trucks and even buses.

In 1964, Dietrich Collens installed a 353 Detroit into a new 1964 Chevy half-tonne truck as a demonstrator and service vehicle. To my knowledge, this was the first diesel pickup truck in Canada and when my good friend Reg Broughton drove it into the farm I was immediately impressed and wanted to buy the special vehicle.

I bought it in 1966 and it replaced a 1957 Ford half-tonne that I was using to deliver raw milk through the Crescent Valley and South Slocan Area.

Prior to putting it into service, I exchanged the step-side pickup box for the nicer full side-type box, chrome plated the grille, added two three-inch exhaust pipes up the back of the canopy and replaced the wheels as there were no mag wheels available for that truck.

I also installed a new process five-speed transmission with an air compressor for the air horn and painted it in a medium blue colour.

In 1972, I left the dairy business and put in custom bucket seats, obtained some nice slotted mag wheels and painted it purple. I still have this truck, which is due for another paint job.

In ’72 the Mica Dam north of Revelstoke, B.C. was being constructed and Loram International Contractors had a contract to do all the underground rock work which required a diesel-powered service truck.

They purchased a new ’72 GM one-tonne and installed a GM 353 diesel engine into the vehicle with a water scrubber and air purifier for the exhaust to pass through. When the truck became available for sale through Reg Broughton (who was again in charge of all the equipment used on the project), I purchased the 1972 GM one-tonne truck, which had a heavy steel deck with a large Caterpillar type exhaust muffler coming up through the front left corner of the deck.

For several years, this yellow truck sported a big sign across the front of the hood that read “Caterpillar” and another on the end gate that said “When I grow up, I want to be a Mack.”

In 1990, I added another axle – a tag axle with cyclone mag wheels and 9.5″x16″ tires, a five-speed transmission and bucket seats. I also constructed a 12-foot temporary flat deck and two three-inch exhaust pipes, which ran up the back of the cab.

In 2004, I found a nice cube van with steel structures and aluminum sheeting that was 8’x14′. But I needed a van body that was 6’10″x12′. So I cut it in half, taking out 14 inches and cutting off two feet from the rear. I painted the truck and van yellow with a black stripe through the centre where I have the name Slocan Motor Freight.

That’s the name that was on a truck used as a freight truck operating between Slocan City and Nelson, B.C. and operated by Frank Huffty in the 1940s. When my three brothers and I would walk to school on an old gravel road, Huffty would often stop and pick us up. The cab would usually be filled with parcels and other freight items so we would get into the back behind a large tarp. Since the box was also usually filled with freight, we’d ride on the end gate thinking this was just great, today would be “cool!”

Our big concern was whether Frank would remember to stop at our farm, but he always did!

Slocan Motor Freight and Frank Huffty are long gone, but now a classic vintage truck is sporting the name that so many Slocan Valley residents can reminisce about. They also get to hear a Screamin’ Jimmy travelling on a paved road, something Frank Huffty would have dreamed about.

If I can’t have wings, give me wheels.


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