We speak to the owner of the truck used in hit movie Duel

Deals On Wheels’ Vivi­enne Hal­dane spoke to the Amer­i­can owner of a 1960 Peter­bilt truck used in an early Steven Spiel­berg movie ti­tled, Duel

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Ire­mem­ber watch­ing Steven Spiel­berg’s Duel many years ago. It was a thriller and the starring role was played by a big, rough Peter­bilt truck that ha­rassed the day­lights out of a trav­el­ling sales­man (played by Den­nis Weaver) as he drove his Ply­mouth Valiant through the Cal­i­for­nia desert.

The fact that we never saw the truck driver, apart from a brief glimpse of his arm and snake­skin boots, only added to the sus­pense.

I al­ways think of that spooky truck if one ever tail­gates me. And be­cause I’ve never for­got­ten the movie, I thought of find­ing out more about what hap­pened to that truck.

I man­aged to track down Brad Wike, the owner of the backup truck made for the movie – a

1960 Peter­bilt with a Cum­mins en­gine. The first one was de­stroyed in the mak­ing of the movie (I won’t say what hap­pened in case you haven’t seen it).

THE BACK­STORY

When we spoke, Brad, who runs a truck­ing busi­ness – BPW Trans­port in Lin­col­nton, North Carolina – was busy trainspot­ting with his eightyear-old son Nathan on the Ge­or­gia/Florida State­line.

“Sun­day is the per­fect day for it be­cause trains head out from all over the states to Florida,” he says.

Af­ter the movie was made, the Peter­bilt was sold to sev­eral other peo­ple be­fore Brad bought it in 2009. Be­ing a fan of the movie –“I must have watched it more than 100 times”, he says — a truck­ing man, and a col­lec­tor of clas­sic trucks, he knows a lot about its his­tory.

“The truck sat around in Agua Dulce in Cal­i­for­nia for about 30 years be­fore Neil Losasso bought it in 2004. He was an avid fan of the movie,” he says. “Neil then sold it to col­lec­tor Dan Bruno from St Louis, Mis­souri. He kept the Peter­bilt for a cou­ple of years, then his wife told him he had to get rid of some­thing. I guess he had too many toys. He knew I was a col­lec­tor, so he con­tacted me and I de­cided to buy it.

“Duel came out as a TV movie in 1971, and in 1974, they made ad­di­tional scenes to make it into a full-length movie.

“The first truck was de­stroyed and I don’t know, I guess it was hauled off for scrap. It would be neat if they had that orig­i­nal smashed-up one some­where you could go and look at. They didn’t have a clue the movie was go­ing to be suc­cess­ful or they would have kept it.

“To­day, Steven Spiel­berg is one of Hol­ly­wood’s big­gest di­rec­tors. At the time, he didn’t know

Duel was go­ing to be a big hit or even where his ca­reer was go­ing.

“My Duel truck is the 1960, 351 Peter­bilt with a Cum­mins NTC, 350 small cam en­gine, with twin stick trans­mis­sion, or 5 + 3, so is a 15-speed (dou­ble over­drive) plus a spe­cially con­structed tanker (1948 model). Its top speed is 70 miles per hour.”

The first truck was a 10-speed with a sin­gle stick.

“Dan Bruno changed the rear end, adding a Reyco sus­pen­sion. The orig­i­nal sus­pen­sion was so worn out that when the truck turned, the in­side of the tyres would rub the springs.

“He added a new fuel tank be­cause it was rusty in­side and he kept hav­ing trou­ble with it. He also re­built the Cum­mins en­gine and changed the Cum­mins air cleaner to a Cat one, just like in the movie,” he says.

Since own­ing the truck, one of the only things Brad has done is add a swamp cooler (air con­di­tion­ing) to the back of the cab.

The first truck was de­stroyed and I don’t know, I guess it was hauled off for scrap

“It looks rough and beaten and it’s one of the hard­est trucks to drive. No power steer­ing, no Jake brake, noth­ing. It’s a rough rid­ing beast but it played the part well,” he says.

To add a touch of au­then­tic­ity, Brad recre­ated the other part of the duel, a red Ply­mouth Valiant that’s parked along­side the Peter­bilt at show time.

It was ap­par­ently a coup on Speil­berg’s part to get ac­tor Den­nis Weaver to play the part of the trav­el­ling sales­man. “He was al­ready a big movie star so it was a big deal. He played the wimpy sales­man so well. It was a great com­bi­na­tion: that wimpy car—a 4 door Ply­mouth Valiant—and a truck that scared the heck out of him.”

DUEL LIVES ON

The movie is still a big hit to­day, ac­cord­ing to Brad, and so is the fas­ci­na­tion with the truck.

“I’ve had peo­ple try­ing to buy that truck from all over: Scot­land, the United King­dom, and Aus­tralia, but I’m not that hun­gry yet. I’ll hang onto it,” he says.

“Be­sides, it’s my favourite show truck. You don’t have to clean it up. The dirt­ier it is, the bet­ter they like it.

“Ac­tu­ally, they used the same trac­tor unit in an

In­cred­i­ble Hulk movie and in a David Lee Roth mu­sic video, too. It was painted green and used in a clip called, ‘She’s my ma­chine.’”

BRAD’S BUSI­NESS

Per­haps it’s no sur­prise then that Brad’s busi­ness, BPW Trans­port, is run on Peter­bilt trucks. He has six 379 trac­tor units (5 Cat- and 1 Detroit-pow­ered) and 50 trail­ers that are kept around five states.

“We’re known here as a re­gional, hot rush, truck­ing com­pany. And you may be sur­prised to know, our big­gest cargo is swim­ming pool noo­dles. We haul 10–12 loads of those a day,” he says.

Brad likes Peter­bilts be­cause they hold their re­sale value well and are strong work­horses. “They are ba­si­cally hand- made, hand-riv­eted and are one of the only trucks to­day that have metal hoods; most are con­structed with plas­tic and fi­bre­glass,” he says.

“If you look at the Duel truck and com­pare it to a new one, they still have many similarities.”

RIGS FROM THE SIL­VER SCREEN

Brad owns more than 60 clas­sic trucks, which he keeps in a 60x160 foot shed on his prop­erty. He also owns a recre­ation of the Smokey and

the Ban­dit truck—a 1973 KW W900A with 350 Cum­mins.

Along with a bunch of other friends, who are avid col­lec­tors, he runs an an­nual truck show known as Brad’s South­ern Clas­sic Truck Show. “Paul Sage­horn from Wis­con­sin has the orig­i­nal

BJ and the Bear truck and trailer—a KW K-100 and the orig­i­nal KW trac­tor unit from the TV se­ries Movin’ On. It’s a 1974 W-900 VIT and was one of the first Ken­worths to come out with a dou­ble sleeper,” he says.

“An­other friend, An­thony Fox, from Rome, Ge­or­gia bought the Rub­ber Duck, Mack RS700-L, West­ern, from the movie Con­voy.

“For our 15th an­nual clas­sic truck show in 2016, we had five movie rigs on top of the big hill and we called it Hol­ly­wood Hill. It was very cool and it was the first time they’d ever been to­gether. We’re hav­ing it this year in Septem­ber, so if any­one wants to see all these movie rigs in one spot, they should come on over.”

1. Brad’s fa­mous ‘ Duel’ 1960 351 Peter­bilt along­side a red Ply­mouth Valiant, for au­then­tic­ity!

2. Brad Wilke and his eight-year-old son Nathan

3. Brad says the while the Peter­bilt played the part well, it’s one of the hard­est trucks to drive

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