One Piece At A Time

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Everywhere you look you can find a custom truck, but it is when you take a closer look that sets each one apart from another.  Most of us have been to a truck show at some point and have seen the pride, work, and detail of some of these trucks.  There is ingenuity that goes into these builds, but this story is about a man and his Peterbilt that went above and beyond for a look like no one else, one piece at a time.

Don Wood was born in Manistique, MI to David and Sherry Wood.  They moved to Green Bay, WI when he was five years old.  A couple years later, the family moved to Denmark, WI where they still reside today.  Don grew up and became the third generation of truckers in his family.  His grandfather was the first, hauling mail, and later his parents, who had their own trucking company.

Trucking was all Don saw himself doing from as far back as he can remember.  At ten years old, taught by his father, Don was already driving, moving trucks around the yard, and hooking them up to trailers.  He started out working in the shop, doing preventative maintenance on the equipment, which included greasing and oil changes.

Something Don won’t ever forget was when he was about ten years old, he went trucking with his dad down to Dallas, TX and, on the way, his dad showed him where the Denton Peterbilt factory was.  Don begged him to go there so his dad said if Don would call and get permission, then they would go.  As luck would have it, Don managed to get the plant manager on the phone and not only did they get permission, but they got a private tour of the plant, as well.

As the years went on, Don eventually began driving for his dad.  Back then, the company pulled reefer trailers loaded with commodities from businesses like Johnsonville and Sargento.  Yes, the brats and cheese.  On January 1, 2001, Don ventured out onto his own, purchasing his first truck and starting DSD Transport LLC, named for Don, Sherry, and David.

Life started to change for Don in 2002.  Back then, he raced stock cars near Denmark, WI, and it was there that he met fellow racer, Crystal.  The two started dating and haven’t looked back since.  Crystal was the first female track champion and Don believes she remains the only female track champion.

Around 2006, Don’s dad, David, took his trucking company down to just one truck and started hauling local from Chicago to Green Bay.  Don’s mom Sherry would drive periodically, but when the company was downsized, she took the opportunity to retire.

Don and Crystal eventually got married on September 22, 2007.  In 2011, Don had been leased onto Rollin Transport with his truck, but with his daughters getting older and doing sports, he wanted to be home more, so he decided that his 2009 Peterbilt that he drove over-the-road needed to be traded for an older model.  It just so happened one of Rollin’s other owner operators wanted to upgrade his 2003 to something newer, so the two came to an agreement and Don got his older truck in April 2011.  This truck was then turned into a daycab and, you could say, this year was a turning point.  Don had never wanted more than one truck, but it turned out that his dad wanted to semi retire so Don bought a second truck for his dad to drive.  DSD Transport is known for the unique blue and yellow color scheme you see on their trucks today.

In 2011, Don teamed up with Jim Higgins from 12 Ga. Customs to come up with the stripe pattern that you find on all of Don’s trucks.  The colors of the trucks have been dubbed DSD Blue and DSD Yellow, as they were specifically mixed for the company by TA Truck Painting out of Pewaukee, WI.  The blue started out as a Cosmos Blue from a Jeep which was mixed to come up with the blue they use.  In 2013, Don’s Peterbilt saw a second change with a stretched frame and adding a sleeper back to the truck.  It wasn’t until the end of the summer, in 2020, that the decision was made to not only give this Peterbilt a change, but a complete makeover.

When I said “one piece at a time” at the beginning of this article, that is what Don told me of the build process, stating, “It is like the Johnny Cash song One Piece At A Time.”  Nothing on this truck was left untouched throughout the build process for a ground-up restoration.  It began in October of 2020 with Don and Crystal completely tearing the truck down themselves.  Parts and pieces were hauled down to AMCAN Truck Parts in Pewaukee, WI on three separate loads to begin the build process.

The truck you see today is the previously mentioned 2003 Peterbilt 379.  It has a CAT C15, 18-speed transmission, 3.36 gear ratio, and a sleek 304” wheelbase.  The truck has a matching 2021 MAC trailer with a Quick Draw Tarp System that was purchased in November of 2020.  The truck also sports 8” Dynaflex stacks, a 12 Ga. Customs Mighty Wicked visor, a one-off 19” 12 Ga. Customs stainless steel bumper, and York Corrugating fenders.

Don had attended plenty of truck shows over the years which had given him plenty of ideas up to this point.  He saw what he liked and didn’t like, but one thing he knew for certain was that he wanted his Peterbilt to be different from any other truck out there.  Most of the parts on the truck are custom, one-off pieces, that you can’t buy anywhere, so he had to have them specially made.

If you haven’t seen the interior of this truck in person, it is a must see.  Don wanted a custom interior with a unique, one-of-a-kind look, but not something overly done.  Don and Nick Kimball put their heads together and then enlisted the help of Inside Rides out of Waterford, WI to help bring it all together.  The owner is a hot rod guy, and this was his first semi project.  From the use of leather on the headliner and floor, to the clean style of the dash, there is definitely an old school hot rod feel to it.  The owner of Inside Rides really ran with Don and Nick’s vision and made the interior truly a sight to see.

The truck has been lovingly named “High Maintenance” by Don.  It started by Don considering himself high maintenance, with wanting the best of things, whether it was material or otherwise, because he would never settle for just good enough.  It seemed apparent that the truck is also high maintenance, due to all the custom parts it required, along with the effort it takes to keep it looking on point.

Gratitude and appreciation go out to those who had a hand in making this truck what it is today including Nick Kimball at AMCAN Truck Parts, TA Truck Painting, Bones Welding and Fabrication out of Denmark, WI, 12 Ga. Customs, Inside Rides, Evan’s Detailing and Polishing out of Chilton, WI, and all of Don’s friends and family who helped tremendously.  The people involved with this build is what makes the truck so special.  Don was able to describe what he wanted with the truck, but the knowledgeable people who went from there and created this build are the ones who knocked it out of the park.

The whole idea for this project was to have it completed to unveil at the 2021 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY but, as most of us know, the show had been canceled.  The next big show was the 75 Chrome Shop Truck Show in Wildwood, FL at the end of April.  Don, along with everyone else who was planning to unveil their new rides in Kentucky, decided to take his truck there.  The show was a huge success, and the caliber of trucks in attendance were definitely showstoppers – including Don’s.

Not only winning the Prime Shine trophy, which is chosen by the staff of 75 Chrome Shop, Don also secured a spot in their 2022 calendar.  Continuing through the year, Don attended several more shows and took home plenty of hardware.  To round out the 2021 truck show season, Don was happy to have received an invite to the Denton Peterbilt invite-only show, now hosted by Jay Hawthorne, at the Truckers Jamboree event in Walcott, IA.

The first truck show Don attended was when his mom took him to the Waupun Truck-n-Show (then called the Waupun Truckers Jamboree) around 1992 in Waupun, WI.  Fast forward to August 2008 to the same truck show, but this time, Don registered a truck in the event.  Over the years, he has attended many truck shows, and this year took him to plenty in the Midwest and in the east and southeast.  He said each truck show this year encompassed special moments and memories.

He loved all the shows, but this year his favorite show would have to be the Mayberry Truck Show, that held their inaugural event at the beginning of October 2021.  Don said that the hospitality and venue was like no other, which brought on a different atmosphere.  The host, Mitchell Bottomley, had a way of making everyone in attendance feel special, plus knowing about two-thirds of the truck owners (and Don having his whole family there), was also a bonus.

Don’s favorite and most important part of the truck shows are the people.  He said he loves the people.  You can walk up to a truck and the owners are more than happy to tell you about the truck.  By the end of most of the conversations, you’ve gained another friend.  I asked Don what advice he would give to someone looking to build a show truck and he said, simply put, “Do what you want with the truck the first time, otherwise you’ll just end up doing it again.”

I asked Don why the appearance of a truck is important to him.  He said, “It represents who you are and basically gives a first impression of you before anyone even sees you.  A first impression counts for a lot, and you can’t repeat your first impression.”  For himself, he always remembers the truck more than the people and that is how, in conversations, he recalls someone – by their truck.  When someone sees your truck, they automatically form an opinion of you by how the truck looks.  It is, in essence, a rolling business card.  Customers know your equipment and know what kind of service they will get, while potential customers see what kind of equipment could be hauling their freight.

Although you won’t find Don’s show truck on the road in the winter, that doesn’t mean the rest of the trucks are parked, too.  If you haven’t seen any of the other DSD trucks, know that they all look good.  All of the trucks are maintained in-house, but overhaul jobs go to JX Peterbilt of Green Bay, WI.  Dealing with states that have snow in the winter, road grime and salt is in full force.  DSD Transport is proactive with the effects of winter with all the trucks getting a weekly wash, whether it be in their shop wash bay or at a truck wash on the road.

Along with regular washing, the trucks also get twice-yearly full details.  The fleet gets polished once in the spring and once in the fall to maintain that fresh look.  Don relies on Evan Steger from Evan’s Detailing and Polishing for many reasons, including the fact that he has perfected his craft.  Don said he has a lot of respect for Evan because he started the company from the ground up, the way he built his business and brand, and he can polish any kind of metal.  Evan has a great reputation as a one-stop shop, which continues to keep Don not only happy, but also a returning customer.

To those looking to be a truck owner, Don said to not get in over your head.  Buy a truck that is both affordable and reliable.  Focus more on the money than the big appearance.  Build your brand and establish yourself first, then look at upgrading your truck, if you so desire.  Looking to the future, Don would like to see steady growth and reach a fleet of 25-30 trucks.  A goal for next year is to purchase property to build a larger shop.

As a company owner, Don believes respect is a key component to driver retention.  Show your employees that you respect them, treat them decently, and as an equal.  Don’s employees aren’t his employees, they are his co-workers, working together to keep the company functioning.  He considers the ones driving his trucks friends on a personal level, allows them to make decisions, and doesn’t micromanage them.  His expectations for them are simple – be efficient, manage their time well, be professional, and take care of the equipment.

Today, Don (40) and Crystal (38) have 17-year-old twin daughters, Courtney, and Josie, as well as their faithful furbaby, a 14-year-old yellow lab named Ariel.  Ariel gets to ride along in the show truck.  Some would laugh or be shocked that he would let his dog in the truck, but as Don says, “My dog means more to me than the truck ever will.”  The family has a boat which they try to utilize when they can, but one thing the family does almost annually is take a nice vacation somewhere.  This is not just a family getaway, but also a way for Don and Crystal to award their daughters for doing well in school.

For the last two to three months, Don has been trucking at least once a week, along with handling all of the customer relations, and also dispatching the trucks.  Crystal works full time at a bank but helps where needed with the company.  Among their employees, they have Amanda who works in the office and handles the accounts receivable department.  The company currently owns 13 trucks and has four owner operators.  The trucks run conestogas, van trailers, flatbeds, step decks and low boys, while hauling a range of commodities, except for food.  All of the trucks run over-the-road spanning all 48 states.

I first met Don and Crystal at the 75 Chrome Shop 2021 show.  I had heard about him and his truck from others and slowly started to see photos floating around social media in early March.  Things I heard were how cool the truck was and what a great guy Don was.  I was glad to see the truck at the show so I could check it out in person.  The attention to detail was indescribable, because there is so much uniqueness that went into this build.  Some interiors are so over-the-top, but Don’s is very clean and classy.  I love to see the exteriors of the trucks, and Don’s is no exception, but I have to say that my favorite part of this truck is the interior.

The plan for photographing had been the Friday afternoon/evening that I arrived in Wisconsin, but mother nature had other intentions of the rainy kind.  Don, Crystal, and I ended up scouting locations instead, which proved to be easy, considering we took photos at the end of the road they live on, by a barn about a half mile from their house, and, to Don’s surprise, his house.  The weather that Saturday was dreary and kept threatening rain.  It did drizzle a bit, but the dark skies proved to be a perfect backdrop for the color of his truck.

Special thanks from Don to his wife and daughters for their love and support.  Don admittedly said he is a workaholic, and even though his family sacrifices for it, they never complain.  Also, a shout out to his employees, because without them, the company wouldn’t exist.  Don appreciates that they always bring their “A” game and he doesn’t have to hold their hands.  Last but not least, big thanks to Nick Kimball for not only being a great friend but making the project of his truck really come to life – Don just can’t thank him enough.

Humble, good-hearted, and funny.  If I had to come up with a few words to describe Don, those would be the words.  Thank you to Don for waiting on me to coordinate a trip to Wisconsin to get this done.  I really appreciate the continued friendship I have with Don and Crystal Wood.  The owners and drivers of the trucks I photograph are always thankful for the opportunity to have an article done, but it is myself who is honored to have the chance to tell their story.

Any truck can be customized, but it takes vision and originality to build one into something this magnificent – especially when it’s done one piece at a time!  As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.

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