Canadian Speed: Gord Cooper’s 1968 Smokin Gun’

A Kenworth is the last thing you would expect to see being unloaded at the drag strip.

Travelling Western Canada’s roads since 1981, OCEAN Hauling & Hotshot Ltd. is a family-run business dedicated to providing safe, on-time heavy equipment transport in Calgary, Canada. The owner and president, Gord Cooper, works with a team of dedicated professionals who have helped him build a trucking empire.

Cooper’s business, OCEAN specializes in hauling absolutely anything and everything all around the country. From the western edge of Canada to all corners of the great white north. OCEAN covers oil field, construction, engineering, agriculture, and aviation equipment. This is what started Gord’s inseparable bond between him and love for big trucks.

Cooper displays his business’s name on Smokin’ Gun because they cover all over the United States and Canada. You never know when a business opportunity will approach you.

Gord Cooper has built a business that will haul nearly anything you can imagine and that includes aircraft.

Its A Big Truck Thing

Cooper has started his own collection of vintage trucks over the years. “I also own 1926, 1935, 1957 & 1987 Kenworth vintage trucks, in addition to several commercial Kenworths for work,” Cooper said. His trucking empire and his ongoing truck collection eventually lead him to his pride and joy, Smokin’ Gun.

Smokin Gun is a pearl white, 1968 Kenworth W923 (serial number 83774). It’s taken Cooper since 2001 to build this mammoth of a truck, and the original cost was only $15,000. Since then, he’s become affiliated with ATHS and the NHRDA and earned his spot as World Record holder. Smokin Gun owns the record for the fastest hot-rod semi in the world with no sign of a dethroning.

The dual stacks out of the hood flume smoke out into the Texas air at the NHRDA World Finals.

In 2016, at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta, Cooper flew down the quarter-mile in 11.40 seconds at 120 mph. For a truck that weighs 10,000 pounds that is straight moving. Cooper tells us at that weight and elapsed time, that should near him somewhere north of 3,o00 horsepower. Although the original cost may have been low, getting it to this point has been pricey. Cooper tells us, “To be a top contender in the Hot-Rod Semi class, it’s taken around $50,000 to do so.”

Cooper’s build has had a huge influence from tractor-trailer trucks. “Owning my business has made a big impact on Smokin’ Gun, but it was in 1985 when it really started,” Cooper said. “That’s when I secured my first Kenworth that I owned and operated.”

Although this isn’t the racer, this is the faithful tow rig truck that Cooper actually unhooked from the trailer to compete in the Semi-Bracket race the same weekend as he raced Smokin’ Gun.

The dynamic usage and operation of a vintage 1968 Kenworth at truck shows, air shows, and drag races are what pushed Cooper to build this truck. It’s clear that everyone has been to one of these event’s, but what’s unique is that it’s a purpose-built semi truck for drag racing. That’s what really caught our attention to the build is the uniqueness it brings to the industry.

How The Build Went

The history of this buildup has had plenty of ups and downs, but it’s not unexpected when you go that fast in something that big. “I’ve encountered turbo explosions, dropped valves, bent/broke connecting rods, scored cylinder walls, snapped driveshafts, and even split intake manifolds,” Cooper said. Luckily for Cooper, the pay off has been nice with all the success, but it’s come with its pitfalls.

Glamour shot of one of the turbochargers that were covered up just after this photo was taken. Cooper was very particular about keeping these inlets covered to any moisture or debris. A funny addition to the trailer was the Rotella branded frisbee’s that covered these turbos perfectly.

When building something like this, it becomes a part of you. From personal experience, you eventually obtain a favorite part of the overall build. “My favorite part of the build is the nitrous injection system,” Cooper said. “It consists of 16 buttons on the custom aluminum manifold along with the twin 40-pound polished aluminum nitrous oxide bottles.”

As stated before, the truck weighs 10,000-pounds. With that being said, Cooper tells us, “If I could change anything on the truck now that its most complete, I would exchange the factory steel frame for aluminum rails to reduce the overall vehicle weight.”

Like other tractor trucks, the front clip folds forward for easy access to the engine bay for inspection.

In the beginning, the truck was equipped with a Caterpillar 6-cylinder diesel engine. “After the engine swap, I chopped the roof down eight inches and shortened the frame 50-inches,” Cooper said. Since then, he’s replaced it with, his now race ready, Detroit 8V92 backed by a four-speed Allison transmission.

The list kept going as he then fabricated a roll cage in the cab, mounted aluminum racing seat and five-point harness, installed disc brakes, relocated the radiator behind the cab, and beadlocked 315/22.5 slicks for a footprint of 23 inches.

“I also own 1926, 1935, 1957 & 1987 Kenworth Vintage Trucks in addition to several commercial Kenworths for work,” Cooper said.

Every build starts from something, whether it be an already moving vehicle or something that’s on the verge of the graveyard. This particular truck was evolved from an auctioned off, broken-framed, tandem water tank truck into a show and drag truck.

The Powerplant

Clearly staying with the Canadian theme, the engine was matched to the truck in all red and white.

Powering this mammoth of a truck is two-cycle, 736 ci, 12-liter Detroit diesel engine. Nothing special was needed to swap this engine into the chassis except the motor mounts. The swap was performed by John & Wayne Talkington at TNT Racing in Fontana, California. “The engine was balanced within a 1/2-gram and blueprinted on my kitchen table at home,” Cooper said.

Other major alterations include a custom oil pan, pickup tube, Detroit marine camshaft, exhaust manifolds, and the Allison 740 automatic transmission equipped with Bob Ware modified shifter and shift kit. All of the work was performed Jim Atwell of Calgary, Alberta.

BD Diesel Performance turbochargers are the lungs of this animal that build up to 105 psi of boost.

On the exterior of the truck, Cooper kept the original Kenworth conventional grille and badges but replaced the front bumper with a lightweight and polished aluminum one. Like anything else, any weight shed is lower elapsed times. All of the panels behind the cab are custom fit and powder-coated aluminum that meets the polished rear AeroWing.

The massive wing on the rear creates downforce that plants the rear tires to the track to maintain traction. Keeping moisture out of the exhaust, and showing his love for his homeland are Canadian patched stack covers.

10,000 pounds ripping down the strip is all held together on an 1810 driveline and an original Eaton 40,000-pound single rear axle. Because of the safety regulations, Cooper also added a kevlar blanket and driveshaft loops which will control any broken driveline parts during movement.

The twin 40-pound nitrous oxide bottles come with plenty of hardware. Including a pile of solenoids and switches to control it all.

How would you slow down such a heavy truck? Cooper said, “We use custom hydraulic disc system on the back and three-ton hydraulic disc brakes on the front with extra friction pads powered by air over hydraulic master cylinder.” I realize they have lengthy shutdown areas on race tracks, but I can imagine something of that size doesn’t stop on a dime.

If you are a fan of burnouts, meet Gord Cooper. Let’s just say he’s not afraid to replace the tires.

With the support of his friends and family, competing was made a lot easier. “I want to recognize and thank some of the crucial people that made this operation work for me this year,” Cooper said. “First off, thank you to my wife, Wendy, my mechanic and good friend, Jim Atwell, and my new US crew assistant, Tyler Christiansen.”

Cooper also wants to shout out to all of the sponsors that take care of whenever they are needed. BD Diesel Performance, Capstan Hauling, Greatwest Kenworth, Bandag Tires, OCEAN Hauling, TnT Racing, Truck Spa, and WAJAX Power are the elite sponsors that have led and worked with Smokin’ Gun straight to success. Also appreciated are Randy and Stacy Cole and the entire NHRDA staff for the drag racing opportunity.

It was an absolute pleasure meeting with Gord and learning about his truck.

With some of the best racing in the world and an industry growing full of competitors and spectators, it’s hard not enjoy the sport so much. We were happy to finally get the chance to meet Cooper and learn all about Smokin’ Gun, and look forward to seeing his racing program excel in the future.

Article Sources

About the author

Artie Maupin

Artie Maupin is from Southeast Missouri and has an extreme passion for anything diesel. He loves drag racing of all kinds, as well as sled pulling competitions.
Read My Articles

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