In the vast landscape of diesel truck enthusiasts, Sam Wood of St. George, Utah, stands out with his remarkable 1961 Kenworth 921, lovingly nicknamed “Tonka.” This vintage beauty is not only a testament to the iconic design of the first-year W900, but also a tribute to the golden era of trucking. “These are the kinds of trucks that the men that built America drove,” Sam says. “I love every mile I put on it.”
Sam’s affinity for needle nose, butterfly hood trucks led him on a quest to find the perfect embodiment of his dreams. Four years ago, while perusing antique trucking pages on Facebook, he stumbled upon an image of a rather unassuming black and yellow Kenworth sitting in a field. With minimal information about the truck’s year, engine, or price, he was instantly captivated. Located in Hotchkiss, Colorado, it didn’t take long for Sam to seal the deal and have the truck shipped to his home in St. George.
Upon bringing the Kenworth home, Sam embarked on a journey to make it roadworthy again. The truck underwent a comprehensive restoration, with new parts and meticulous attention to detail. It was during this time that Sam’s trucking journey took an unexpected turn. He stumbled upon a trailer in Las Vegas that he simply couldn’t resist. It is perfect for hauling his lawn chair and beer cooler, adding both utility and charm to his setup. Both the truck and trailer received their own share of refurbishment, including new electrical work, airlines, tires, and more.
The Kenworth itself received some significant upgrades, such as a new dual exhaust, extensive electrical work, a new rear axle, and twin fuel tanks. These improvements ensured reliable and efficient performance during the annual 2,000-mile journey to car and truck shows. While the fuel efficiency may be a bit lacking at four miles per gallon, the experiences and stories shared with fellow enthusiasts, from seasoned truckers to curious newcomers, make every mile worthwhile.
Under the hood, the Kenworth boasts a Cummins 335 engine with a turbocharger, delivering ample power for the road ahead. But what truly sets this truck apart is its transmission setup. The truck features a unique “twin stick” transmission configuration, consisting of a five-speed main transmission and a separate four-speed auxiliary transmission. Working together, they provide an astonishing 20 forward gears and four reverse gears, allowing for unmatched control and versatility.
To maintain the authenticity and pay homage to the golden era of trucking, Sam strives to keep the Kenworth as stock and period-correct as possible. No modern comforts like air conditioning or power steering find their way into the cab. Instead, Sam revels in the raw experience, feeling a connection to the hardworking men who once operated these machines for long hours, building America with their hands on the wheel.
Sam’s love for his Tonka is evident in the pride he takes in preserving its legacy. He actively shares his trucking adventures and knowledge through his social media presence on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram under the handle @Sammy’stonka. His videos offer a glimpse into the driving experience and serve as a resource for fellow enthusiasts seeking a deeper understanding of the workings and history of these remarkable trucks.
For Sam, driving his dream truck is a joy that knows no bounds. Whether it’s a casual bobtail drive around town or a cross-state journey to a show, every mile behind the wheel of his Kenworth is cherished. It embodies the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and serves as a reminder of the remarkable heritage of the trucking industry. As Sam’s trucking adventures continue and the legend of Tonka grows, truck enthusiasts from all walks of life eagerly await his next journey, inspired by his passion and dedication to the spirit of the open road.
We are ecstatic that Sam took the time to share his build with us and we can’t wait to see what his journeys bring in the future. Be sure to check out all of his upcoming content coming. For more cool build features like this, stay tuned right here at Diesel Army.