A monster machine once owned by Hollywood movie star Burt Reynolds has found a home in Huddersfield.
And it’s a dream come true for current owner Neil Ashworth whose enthusiasm for US trucks was fuelled by watching the actor in 1977 hit Smokey and the Bandit and by his own father’s fascination with US automobilia.
Truck driver Neil, who lives in Golcar, said: “My father, Graham Ashworth, had American cars and hotrods and would take them to shows. Smokey and the Bandit was a big part of my life growing up. I always wanted a truck like the one in the film.”
Neil spent 18 months looking for a US truck to buy before finding the 15-litre Kenworth W900B for sale in Leicester – a vehicle similar to the truck featured in the film.
But it was only when he researched the history of the vehicle that he found out about its star connection.
Contacting its last owner in the USA, Neil discovered that the truck, which was built in 1985, was owned for several years by Burt Reynolds.
Watch: Burt Reynolds recalls his career highlights
“It blew me away when I found out,” said Neil. “I wondered it she was joking about it. At the time, he owned a Nascar race team. That was on the back of the money he made doing Smokey and the Bandit, which was a big hit. The truck was used to ferry the cars to race meetings.”
Neil also spent hours on the phone talking to the truck’s driver during those racing years, Gale Wilson, who is now 73 and still driving trucks daily.
The 30ft long truck, which has a top speed of 100mph and is powered by a Caterpillar engine, was originally black, but was given a green and white livery for Reynolds’ Skoal Bandit team. In 1989-90 the team was sold and the truck was re-painted in its current colours.
While it’s an impressive “rig” it’s not the kind of thing you can park on the driveway.
Neil, who bought the truck almost four years ago, garaged it at his workplace for a number of years, but after leaving his job last month needed to find a new home for it.
A friend, John Pogson, of Holmfirth-based Italia Autosport, approached Dan Bamforth, of Meltham property rental firm Towndoor for help. Now it is housed in an industrial unit at Towndoor’s Dyeworks development in Lockwood.
Neil takes the truck, which he has named Smokey Joe, to vehicle shows up and down the country during the summer. “I’m out every weekend during the show season,” he says. “It’s a real showstopper on the motorway. It brings a smile to everyone’s face. Drivers sound their horns and wave. There are only about 200 American trucks in the whole of the UK, so it’s a bit of an eye-opener.
“But I don’t take it out in bad weather. It takes too long to clean afterwards!”
Truck builder Kenworth began in 1923 when founders H W Kent and E K Worthington rolled the first production Kenworth out of the door in Seattle. During the Second World War, the company produced military vehicles as well as parts for Flying Fortress and Super Fortress aircraft. It continues to manufacture a range of trucks for the US market.