10-4 Magazine

May 2007 - Performance Zone
By Performance Specialist Bruce C. Mallinson

Do you remember the television shows “Movin’ On with Sonny Pruitt” and “BJ and the Bear?” In case you forgot, they were about owner operators who traveled in Kenworths and tried to help citizens in distress across the USA. I was working in the trucking industry at that time, but I wasn’t building high-performance diesel engines until 1977. I sure did enjoy watching those television shows and the trucks. The A-Model Kenworth that Sonny Pruitt drove was the first double bunk built and it was for MGM Studios. The Movin’ On television show ran for two seasons (1974 to 1976) using the Kenworth, powered by a VT903 Cummins with a 13-speed transmission and 3.70 rears.

These two trucking television shows had a real impact on a young man of five years old from Sparta, Wisconsin, by the name of Paul Sagehorn, who is now 37 years old. Because of those shows, Paul knew he always wanted to drive a truck, even though his father owned an Ace Hardware store. After high school, Paul joined the Navy just as his father did and became a Seabee. The Seabees are the construction battalions of the Navy that build bases, bulldoze, and pave roadways and airstrips. It was here where Paul learned how to drive trucks and earth moving equipment. After his tour of duty in the Navy, he drove full-time for two years for Bud Meyer Truck Lines.

When Paul got married, he returned home to Sparta to work at the family’s hardware store. However, his love of trucks was too great and the memories of the Movin’ On and BJ and the Bear television shows had him searching for a special truck. Paul found his first love, which was a 1984 K100 VIT Kenworth powered by a Cummins NRC 400 with a 13-speed transmission and 3.73 rear gears. The truck was dark blue and, except for the color, was a copy of the truck used in the BJ and the Bear television show. His father Craig painted the truck and the reefer trailer to match the truck used in the television show, which was red and white. Now, here he is – a young man with a truck and trailer that he didn’t know what to do with.

Looking to get started in trucking, Paul and his father applied for their own authority and got it. Meanwhile, Paul taught his dad to drive the Kenworth and helped him get his CDL. They used the BJ and the Bear look-alike truck as a breakaway from the family business. The next thing you know, Paul’s father is enjoying driving the KW so much, his son Paul has been left behind to run the hardware store.

Fellow truck drivers recognize the truck and trailer from the BJ and the Bear television show, so the CB radio always has a steady stream of questions coming all the time. Remember, it was Paul, the son, who wanted the truck, but dad was out having a blast in it. One day, while surfing around on e-Bay, Paul found the original “Movin On” Kenworth A-Model! It was owned by Kerry Hoberg of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it still had the original dash plaque which reads, “This Kenworth is custom built for MGM Studios.” Needless to say, Paul purchased the truck sight unseen. When he got the truck home from Wyoming, Paul and his father started sanding on it and the name Sonny Pruitt appeared on the door with the same lettering that MGM Studios had put on the truck back in 1974. The original 903 Cummins engine was replaced with a BC3 400 Cummins. This Sonny Pruitt Kenworth is now back to its original colors and the original Sonny Pruitt name is still on the doors. It’s driven daily by Paul (since dad won’t give up the cabover Kenworth).

We at Pittsburgh Power did not know about these two trucks – all we knew was that a 1974 A-Model KW with a BC3 was coming in with a rap and we were going to rebuild it to an NTC with 550 horsepower. The COE pulled into our shop with the Sonny Pruitt KW on a drop deck. When I walked out into the parking lot and saw the green Sonny Pruitt KW, my chin dropped! I looked at Paul and he could tell what my next question was going to be. He automatically said, “Yes, it’s the original truck from the television show.” I could not believe it, so I climbed inside and there was the plaque on the dash – I was speechless!

What an honor to have this truck in my parking lot along with the 1984 COE KW replica of the “BJ and the Bear” truck. Here it is, 2007, and I felt like the hands of time were turned back to 1974. A great feeling went through my body as I stood there admiring these two famous Kenworths from over 30 years ago. Two famous trucks that I watched on television weekly were both owned by the same family and in my parking lot at the same time!

The block in the Sonny Pruitt KW was bad so Paul found a used NTC 444 CPL 1280 for us to rebuild. When the engine is complete, we will install it in Claude Akins’ (Sonny Pruitt’s) original truck. Claude Akins, the actor who played Sonny Pruitt on the show, passed away in the late 1990s. But I’ll bet Claude is watching over this truck from heaven and would love to pull one more load with it once the new 700 horsepower Cummins we are building for it is under the hood!

If you would like to get in touch with Paul Sagehorn for pictures of the trucks or information on the television shows, he can be reached at (608) 633-1335 or via e-mail at sagehornp@hotmail.com. If you have any horsepower or performance questions, I can be reached at (724) 274-4080 or at bruce@pittsburghpower.com.

Copyright © 2007 10-4 Magazine and Tenfourmagazine.com 
PO Box 7377 Huntington Beach, CA, 92615 tel. (714) 378-9990  fax (714) 962-8506