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Reader’s Rig: Thomas West’s 1948 Kenworth “Needle Nose”

Sometimes, really cool ideas come in small packages. Then there are ideas that are, well, larger than most. Take for instance Thomas West’s 1948 Kenworth. While some people are content with building a big dually pickup to haul around their toys, Thomas West had a much bigger idea when he found this 1948 “needle nose.”

“We use it to haul race cars and it’s not a show truck, but it does get a lot of attention,” says Thomas.

Cummins Swap

The 12-valve used under the hood is a 1991 vintage and is backed by a manually shifted NV 4500 transmission.

Thomas’ story with the vintage KW begins when he and his shop Renegade Racing needed something special to haul cars to events and such. While looking for the perfect “rig”, he found this cool hauler that was originally built by Jeff Jones.

Thomas tells us the construction began when Jeff placed the seasoned  “lightweight” cab and hood on a 1977 GMC motorhome chassis. Aside from the airbags, the chassis is rebuilt to factory specs. That includes the GM disc brakes. However, Thomas did say that a hydroboost system was added to give the brakes a little more grabbing power with less effort.

Kenworth

This is a big girl, and as such, requires big wheels and tires. The custom aluminum rollers were made by JK Motorsports and measure 24×8 and the tires are 275/30-24. The rear wheels are only driven by the forward Dana 60 rearend with 4.11 gears and the trailing rear is only there to complete the look and help support the load carried.

While one might expect to see a Cummins under the hood of this Kenworth, what they find might surprise them. Instead of an old-school NH supercharged engine that would have been motivating the truck when new, now, we find a later model 12-valve Cummins with a turbo.

Before The 12-Valve

The NH engines were six-cylinder mills displacing 743 cubic inches. The heads feature four valves per cylinder and were a cross-flow design (intake and exhaust on opposite sides). Naturally aspirated, these engines typically delivered 200 to 220 horsepower. These were found in the ’40s through the late-’60s Kenworths, They were the powerhouse diesel truck engine of their day

The engine under the narrow hood is built with reliability in mind, so performance mods were kept to a minimum.  “The engine came from a Ram truck,” says Thomas, “It’s 12-valve Cummins with an NV 4500 manual transmission bolted to it. The engine was rebuilt to stock specs., but the fuel pump has been turned up and the turbo was upgraded with a replacement one from VS Racing.”

When it was new, the interior in ’48 could best be described as sparse, and that theme remains — mostly. While it looks period correct, what you might not notice is the addition of a very serious sound system that was installed by Audio Pros.

Photo gallery

VIEW FULL GALLERY >

If you would like to see more rebuilt haulers like this cool rig, you can check out minibigrigz.com or the Facebook page covering all-things mini big rigs by clicking here.

Do you want to see more Reader’s Rigs? So do we. This is a column DieselArmy.com puts together and we need your help. If you would like to share your diesel-powered ride, we want to hear about it — we can never get enough. If you want to see more diesel trucks built by you the readers, send a few pictures of your rig showing the engine, interior, and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and we’ll make you internet famous. You can send your submissions to [email protected].

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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