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Cambridge Chronicle - Cambridge, IL
  • Lifelong mechanic says farewell to restored ‘one-of-a-kind’ truck

  • Denny Orr restored 1959 truck
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  • Ever since Denny Orr was a kid growing up on a farm he’s been mechanically inclined.
    He would race down a gravel road at break-neck speed, dust billowing out the back of a go-cart or motor-driven bicycle he’d built himself.
    After graduating from Wethersfield High School in 1965, Orr went to Canton Community College where he took a course in diesel mechanics while working at Taylor & Son, which then sold Ford tractors and farm equipment.
    After putting in 10 years at Taylor’s, Orr went to work as a mechanic at Wayne Martin’s Massey-Ferguson implement company in LaFayette, where he became service manager. In 1982, he went out on his own, selling and repairing Ariens lawn and garden equipment at Denny’s Sales and Service at the old Wanee Drive-in site south of town.
    He’s always worked on tractors, trucks, combines — about anything with a motor — in a shed on his own farm just east of Black Hawk College East Campus where he is now does equipment maintenance and groundskeeping.
    He has accumulated a large collection of antique tractors over the years — mostly Minneapolis-Moline, Oliver and Ford — and restored more than a dozen of them.
    He’s always been a collector, fixer and restorer, not often a seller, so it was a big step when he decided a few months ago to sell one of his “babies” — a “one-of-a-kind” 1959 Chevrolet Viking 50 cab and gooseneck trailer he completely rebuilt over 25 years ago. “I’m at the place in life where I’m too tired to go out anymore and start rebuilding an engine at 8 o’clock at night,” Orr said.
    In 1986, after being in business on his own for four years, Denny was, as he tells it, “scrounging for parts for an antique tractor I was restoring” and found himself at the farm of a well-known “collector,” the late Bill Holland, near Tiskilwa. He spotted an old red, 2-ton dump truck “in the weeds” and had been thinking he needed a bigger truck to haul things in his business. He also thought it better to restore a truck than buy a new one and saw potential in the weed-covered ‘59 Chevy.
    Holland said he had picked up the truck, equipped with a grain box and hoist, about 10 years earlier from a farmer near Neponset, but couldn’t remember his name.
    For the next two years, the truck was Denny’s pet project. He removed the box, shortened the frame, installed fenders over the back wheels and installed a hitch for a fifth-wheel trailer. The cab was repainted blue, one of the most popular original colors of the Viking series, and Orr got the 327hp V8 engine — the truck’s second — running again. He also redid the interior of the cab rebuilding the dashboard and replacing the bench seat with a black custom upholstered seat from a 1977 Ford LTD to make long road trips more comfortable. He also updated some of the parts to make the truck easier to operate.
    Page 2 of 2 - One of the features that makes the truck a rare find today is what is called a “low cab forward” with a shorter hood.
    Denny hooked the cab up to a 28-foot trailer with an 8-foot upper front deck and put it to work.
    “I hauled tractors, mowers, and even combines to Indiana, Iowa, and other places with that truck,” said Orr. But, when his business just south of town closed in 2005, the Viking 50 and trailer were parked in the barn at his farm, where they stayed seldom used.
    Finally, he decided he needed the space in the barn for other things and it was time to get rid of the vintage cab and trainer. “I knew if I kept it in the shed it would eventually deteriorate but I didn’t want to sell it to just anyone,” said Orr. “I wanted it to go to someone who was was going to take care of it and do something with it.”
    His daughter, Linda, took some pictures of the unit and posted them on the Internet on Craigslilst. One prospective buyer wanted to make some changes which didn’t sit well with Denny, so he waited. Then came a call from a man in Gulfport, Miss. He was in the trucking business and wanted a truck he could take to parades and car and truck shows.
    He was willing to pay Denny’s price and the deal was done. He arranged with a truck driver hauling a load to Illinois on his flatbed to stop in Kewanee and load Denny’s truck on the empty trailer for the trip back south. Denny drove the truck to the loading dock at Kleine Equipment, the John Deere dealer near his farm, and carefully drove it for the last time onto the flatbed.
    “I got a little teary-eyed as I watched it go down the road,” said Orr, “but it was for the best.”
    He said the new owner has since called from Mississippi, and is happy with the truck and making plans to show it off. Denny has filled the empty space in the barn with a couple of antique tractors and is happy that the truck he restored and drove around the country has found a good home.
     

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