Pete and Carl Caporal have been truck-crazy since they were little boys.
Back in the 1960s, their father would take the identical twins to truck stops in New Jersey so they could see the Whites, Internationals and Macks up close, followed by lunch and a visit to the gift shop for truck models.
Not surprisingly, Pete and Carl grew up to be truck drivers, both driving garbage trucks for the village of Irvington, N.Y., and tractor-trailers on the weekends. And while those trucks were fine, the nostalgia for the rigs of their childhoods was strong.
“When I was a kid, cabover trucks dominated the highways out here,” Carl said. “I love the look of those things going down the road. I always wanted to drive one.”
Back in 2008, the brothers began scouting truck shows for an old cabover to restore. They met a man who was selling had a 1979 White Western Star cabover truck with a CAT engine and a 13-speed transmission. That got their attention.
“Kenworth, International and Peterbilt cabovers– they’re a dime a dozen, but a Western Star cabover is rare,” Pete said.
They went to the man’s house in Connecticut and fell in love.
“We opened the door and the interior was intact. It wasn’t eaten by mice. The leather and the gauges were intact,” Carl said.
The owner filled them in on the truck’s history. Built at the White Motor Co. plant in Cleveland, Ohio, it was sold at a dealership in Arizona. It went to work for United Van Lines, then for a farmer in Minnesota who used it to deliver grain for 18 years. He sold it to another farmer. The current owner, a retired truck driver, won it in a farm auction in North Dakota in 2011 and brought it home to Connecticut. The odometer had broken at 819,000 miles so it was impossible to know exactly how many miles it had.
The Caporal twins didn’t care. They bought it for $5,000 and moved it to a friend’s garage in Corinth, N.Y., 200 miles away from the duplex they share in Irvington. For the next three years, their weekends followed the same pattern: get off work on Friday, drive to Corinth, check into a motel, spend 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday working on the Western Star, drive back home on Sunday night. Repeat.
They had never restored so much as a motorcycle before, but they learned along the way.
“We went into the deep end. Go big or go home,” Pete said. “It just worked out. We just fell in love with it.”
When they needed help finding parts, they turned to Hudson County Motors, a Western Star dealership in Secaucus, N.J.
“When they came in with a picture (of the truck), I was a little thrilled because I hadn’t seen one in a while,” said parts technician Pat Kaplan. A self-described pack rat who’s worked at the dealership for 30 years, Kaplan discovered a 1979 Western Star “crash book” at the bottom of a drawer. Using that, Western Star inventory records and some matching White Autocar parts, he helped the brothers find what they needed.
The mechanical parts that couldn’t be found were custom-made. Though the truck was in good shape, its age and mileage meant a lot had to be replaced to make it show-worthy, including the power steering, a new front end, belts and hoses, exhaust system, brakes, tires, lights, fifth wheel, air conditioning, bumpers, wheels, sleeper, upholstery, doors and more.
And, of course, a new paint job. When the Caporals bought the truck, it was a dated two-tone brown, but that clearly wouldn’t do. The twins chose one of the 22 original paint jobs available for that model: bronze-and-rust thunderbird wings spreading from the grill
around to the doors, all against a blue background. It’s as ‘70s looking as a custom van with shag carpeting and porthole windows.
“It’s just beautiful,” Pete said.
Carl estimated the brothers put $51,000 into the truck for parts and the paint job. (You can’t put a price on the time, he added.)
Since finishing the truck in 2014, they garage it in the winter and take it to regional truck shows in the summer, where it always draws a crowd, many of whom have never seen a Western Star cabover.
It’s a pleasure to drive, Pete said: “That truck is pretty tight, no rattles or anything. You go down the road and it doesn’t feel like anything is coming loose.”
They’re looking for a stainless steel reefer to tow behind it just because it would look good and are thinking about buying another old cabover to restore.
“If I had my own building, I’d have two or three of these now,” Pete said.