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Head Turner

by Rolf Lockwood
Untitled Document You could be looking in exactly the opposite direction and still find your eyes mysteriously drawn to Silvo Ostronic’s bright yellow Peterbilt. It’s that striking. That much a head turner.

The other astonishing side of his spectacular truck is that the total investment so far — including purchase price – is just $18,000. Silvo, who lives just west of Toronto in Brampton, Ont., bought the 1984 Peterbilt 359 for a mere seven grand last year and then set about doing a rather extreme makeover. He’s done almost all the work himself, with the exceptions of the paint and the frame stretching.

We first saw the rig at the Fergus Truck Show this past July, which was the Pete’s first show outing, and it stood out like a brightly lit diner on a foggy night. He says it’s still a work in progress, though it already looks spectacular.

In fact it’s just the most recent of a string of 359 makeovers he’s done, six to be precise, and he’s sold every one of them for more than he had into it. He has no intention of selling this one, though he’s already had offers. Nor does he have any intention of buying a new truck, ever. He did it once, but that was enough, and for the kind of work he does, there’s no need.

“I just couldn’t justify it,” he says. “I can run this truck for another four or five years, payment-free. And nothing ever seems to go wrong with it.”

Silvo hauls Suzuki engines in rail containers from the CP yard near Brampton to the CAMI plant in Cambridge, Ont. It’s a short haul of a little over 100 miles round-trip. A self-professed happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he does that precisely so that he can drive stretched 359s.

He started working life as a mechanic out of high school and worked in a Corvette shop for a few years before trucking snared him in 1984. First it was Volume Tank Lines (where he ran with highwaySTAR editor Jim Park, incidentally), then TNT, and “...then I got the long-wheelbase bug and went on with Sextant Lines.” He’s been hauling ‘cans’ for a few years now.

His first stretch was a 298-in. 1985 Pete 359, then a 300-in. ‘86, followed by an ‘87, etc. “My passion is the 359 because they have that Corvette dash,” he explains. Not surprisingly, he has also owned a bunch of ‘Vettes, 11 in all, the last of them retired after his first child came along a few years back.

With the present ‘84 Pete, he got lucky. When he bought it he asked the previous owner for any bills and receipts he might still have, and soon discovered that the Cat 400 under the hood had been rebuilt just 200,000 km earlier. He then found an Eaton Fuller 13-double-over for less than $800, and when he took it apart, he realized that it had just been rebuilt too. He wasted no time transforming the rest of the truck.

“I stretched it right away,” Silvo says, before anything else was done to it, taking it from its previous 222-in. wheelbase all the way out to 300 in. That work, as with all his other 359s, was done by Bestway Trailer Repair in Brampton, though he was part of the stretching crew.

And then he lucked out yet again when the auto plant he hauls to shut down for four weeks last year. He took the Pete to his brother-in-law’s nearby farm and got busy.
“When the sun came up at 5:45 in the morning I was there, and at the end of the day I’d be hoping for another 15 minutes of light,” Silvo says. “That was seven days a week for all of those four weeks.

“My wife has a lot of patience,” he says with quiet understatement.

Silvo chopped the cab, clipping six in. from the roof and the sleeper, all of that done with a simple Makita grinder. Then he built the hood, extending it by 23 in. The brilliant yellow paint was done by Quality Collision in Brampton.

The interior, which is just as striking as the sleek exterior, shows some serious imagination and a great sense of style. There’s no cheesy fake wood to be seen, the metal dash painted in the same yellow as the outside, the upholstery black. The chrome highlights you see in the door panels are his own creations, using simple metal automotive trim strips that he carefully formed into the shapes he wanted. The result is stunning.

All of this work is funded out of ‘general revenue’, meaning that when there’s a bit of dough in the bank, Silvo’s back at it. Given his complete lack of truck payments, he’s got some room to maneuver on that front. But he’s under no illusions about the truck’s role. It’s not a show truck and it never will be.

“It’s a working truck,” he says. “It’s got to make money.”

Be nice if we could all go to work and make a buck in a rig as nice as this one.