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High Performance Diesel Engines

By Bruce Mallinson

November, 2018

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You gotta love an “A ” Model Kenworth! 359 Petes also! This article is about a very special 1982 A model Kenworth owned and built by Lavern Cross of Middlebury, Indiana. The Cross family goes way back in trucking, back to the days of the Big Cam Cummins engines. In fact, they ran our parts in those great old trucks.

One day I was heading east on I-80 in Pennsylvania driving my 1995 Dodge Cummins and I passed a good looking extended “A” model Kenworth painted teal and purple. I called to the driver on the CB radio to give him a compliment on his truck and he said, “thank you Bruce.” I was surprised he knew who I was. This was before I was doing the radio show with Kevin Rutherford, although, I had been writing articles for the trucking industry since 1989. He mentioned that his family has done business with me for several years. I assumed there was a Big Cam Cummins in his 1982 Kenworth, but he informed me the engine was a DD2 Detroit 60 series. We had just started working with the 60 Series at that time and I told him about the parts we had to improve performance, efficiency, and longevity. In 2006, Lavern stopped by to see us at the Walcott Truck Jamboree and discuss building a new engine for the 1982 A model. We suggested a DD3 for their performance, reliability, and efficiency. Superior Diesel in New Paris, Indiana had a few cores, so Lavern purchased one. Pittsburgh Power supplied all the parts and Brent Roberts of Superior Diesel built the engine. The engine put 610 horsepower to the ground, which is 717 flywheel horsepower. His Kenworth is also equipped with a Pittsburgh Power Computer which has 9 power settings and can add a total of 225 horsepower. This little 12.7 Detroit has the potential of producing 942 galloping horsepower. Please keep in mind that we did not have a dynamometer until 2011 so the horsepower number was an estimate. Usually our estimates were lower than what our engines were putting to the ground. That is probably why there was never a complaint about power with our work.

Fast forward to the Louisville Truck show around 2009, there were three owner operators with single turbo Caterpillars asking us about the Pittsburgh Power CAT computer. They were interested but needed some extra convincing. I asked Lavern if he would take them for a ride, everyone was parked at Cardinal Stadium parking lot. Well the 3 Caterpillar owner-operators came back the next day in amazement of how a 12.7 Detroit can run. Lavern was on power level 9 and bobtailing, needless to say, the A model ran like a scalded dog with 942 horsepower. Those 3 Caterpillar owner-operators each purchased a Power Computer that day. The 5 of us sure did have a lot of fun talking about the test ride.

Lavern parked his A model in 2011 to begin a Frame off restoration and finished it in May of 2018. During the rebuilding process he purchased a cabover, repainted it, then drove it. Soon after, someone else wanted it so he sold it and purchased a W900-L. He had that one sold before he was ready to put the A model back on the road, so he told the new owner he would have to wait for the truck. Lavern is a perfectionist and his trucks that he drives are perfect and wanted by many.

Lavern just finished the truck this last May having done most of the work himself. During the frame off restoration he installed a Pittsburgh Power exhaust manifold, our high capacity radiator, FASS fuel system, and a Spinner oil centrifuge. The truck also has a 13-speed transmission, 3:36 gears, a 285” wheelbase, cab and sleeper mounted on a subframe all on air ride. It has an 84” Aerostar sleeper with a custom interior, refrigerator, microwave, sink, porta-potty, bed folds up for a table, central vacuum, 3,000-watt inverter and APU. His very talented wife hand stitched the Kenworth logo in the sleeper cab wall and made a color matching quilt for the bunk. The cab interior is all new and it has new steel frame rails, wiring, airlines, and brakes. As you can see Lavern Cross is a First-Class owner-operator and does about 90% percent of his own work.

Written by Bruce Mallinson, Pittsburgh Power, Inc.,

3600 South Noah Drive, Saxonburg, PA 16056