Cover Story: In The LimeLight

September 1, 2012

Not Just For Show, This Dream Truck Is For Go

Dan Brown’s “Project LimeLight” truck is a new truck that can’t be bought off the lot at your local Peterbilt dealer, though more than a few people tried while it was under construction.

By Tom Kelley

What happens when a veteran trucker builds a show quality truck, not for show, but for his own personal dream truck? The result is certain to put both the truck and the trucker in the “LimeLight.”

This sublime lime ride is no ordinary custom truck. Instead of starting with an existing working truck and doing a stem-to-stern overhaul like many custom rides, or gradually adding special touches to a once stock truck over a number of years, Dan Brown’s “Project LimeLight” truck is a new truck that can’t be bought off the lot at your local Peterbilt dealer, though more than a few people tried while Project LimeLight was under construction.

A Kenosha, Wisconsin based owner-operator contracted to nationwide bulk hauler Quality Distribution, Brown is a 21-year veteran of driving trucks. Brown started his driving career as a milk delivery driver, and then after 12 years as a company driver he became an owner-operator and joined Quality in 2003. Brown’s typical cargo is 5,000 gallons of frame paint, destined for auto manufacturing plants.

After owning several used trucks, Brown wanted his dream ride to have the factory-built quality of a brand new truck, but with some special features and extra horsepower that aren’t found on the dealer’s option list. The solution to Brown’s dilemma was to start out with a “rolling glider” kit from Northern Illinois Peterbilt.

Glider kits are most often used to rebuild a wrecked truck with significant body and frame damage, but a still serviceable powertrain.

Unlike a standard glider kit that leaves the engine, transmission, driveshaft and rear suspension/axle(s) off of a typical new truck, a rolling glider kit is just that, able to roll, with everything but the engine, transmission and driveshaft.

The one option Brown couldn’t order from Peterbilt on his 2013 Model 389 was Caterpillar’s legendary 3406E engine with the 6NZ series serial number. The 6NZ series engines are highly valued as the strongest foundation for building a high-performance powerplant. Brown had the 6NZ engine ready and waiting for Project LimeLight, built up to 750 horsepower by Grand Rapids Caterpillar, the same shop that did the installation of the engine, transmission and driveshaft. All that horsepower makes its way to the ground through an Eaton Fuller 18-speed transmission and Dana 44K rear axles geared at 3.36:1 for great fuel economy. This powertrain combination allows Brown to get 8.1 MPG from a traditional-style truck.

The single most attention-getting feature of the Project LimeLight truck is also the inspiration behind the name. The truck’s “Synergy Green” paint color originally appeared for just a brief run on the retro-inspired 2010-2011 Chevrolet Camaro. The bulk of the truck got its Synergy Green paint job as a special order from the Peterbilt factory, while the aftermarket body panels were painted to match and installed at Perfection Autobody in Burlington, Wisconsin.

Brown spent the better part of nine months planning and spec’ing the rolling glider kit before it ever came off the assembly line. Once the factory was done with their part of the job, Project LimeLight took another three months to complete, between the Cat dealer, the paint shop and the Peterbilt dealer. Apart from the custom paint color, another factory-installed special order item that contributes to the truck’s unique ground-hugging look is a 3.5” drop front axle, typically used on car-hauler tractors to keep overall height to a minimum.

Key to the truck’s ground-hugging look are custom front and rear fenders, filler panels to close up the gap under the cab and sleeper, and one-of-a-kind front and rear bumpers. In yet another nod to the truck’s Chevy Camaro inspiration, the rear bumper sports a group of rounded rectangular taillights, similar to those found on the retro pony-car, and the shape of the bumper ends is also meant to evoke the Camaro’s rear body panel. The bumper’s shape is echoed on a custom chrome panel that covers the cab suspension components at the back of the sleeper.

Another unique treatment added to the truck are its “strapless” air cleaner mounts. Instead of the straps typically used to mount the air cleaners to the truck, the normally decorative aftermarket light panels that many truckers use to close the gap between the cowl and the air cleaners are actually the structural mounts for the air cleaners on Project LimeLight.

Not just another pretty face, Project LimeLight was not built with show truck competitions in mind, but rather as Brown’s everyday work truck.

Although given the truck’s attention-grabbing looks, Brown can expect to be working in the LimeLight in more ways than one.