Peterbilt Motors Company is an American manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty Class 5 through Class 8 trucks headquartered in Denton, Texas. Founded in 1939 Peterbilt operates manufacturing facilities in Denton, Texas (1980), and Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec. From the early 1960s until the mid 1980s, the company was based in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, with its headquarters, parts department, and main plant all in Newark, California. The Newark plant closed in 1986 with all manufacturing consolidated at its facility in Denton; in 1993 headquarters and engineering also moved to Denton.
In the early part of the 20th century, Tacoma, Washington plywood manufacturer and lumber entrepreneur T.A. Peterman was faced with a lumber logistics problem. He could not get freshly felled logs from the forest to his lumber mill quickly, or efficiently. To develop forest assets, it would be necessary to improve upon the contrived methods of the day: floating logs down river, or the use of steam tractors, and even horse teams. Peterman knew that if he could develop the then nascent automobile technology and build trucks, he could go a long way towards solving his problem.
To this end, he was rebuilding surplus army trucks, (back in the 50's) improving the technology with each successive vehicle. Then he decided to try to put a battery on the starter (instead of the crank) and shortly thereafter, he purchased the assets of Fageol Motors of Oakland, California in 1938 to supplement his need for a custom built logging truck chassis. Fageol had gone into receivership in 1932. By 1938, the Great Depression had driven the value of the assets to nearly zero. Peterman acquired the defunct truck manufacturer and began to produce customized chain-drive trucks for exclusive use by his timber concern. In 1939, he began to sell his remarkable trucks to the public. T. A. Peterman died in 1945. His wife Ida, sold the company to seven individuals within the organization (management) less the land. They expanded it into a serious producer of heavy-duty trucks. In 1958, Ida Peterman announced plans to sell the land to develop a shopping center. The shareholders, not having the desire to invest in a new manufacturing facility, sold it to PACCAR. PACCAR (Pacific Car & Foundry Co), then primarily a manufacturer of railroad freight cars, was looking to expand into truck manufacturing. PACCAR, which had acquired the assets of Kenworth in 1945, was already an up and coming player in the heavy truck market. In June, 1958, they acquired Peterbilt Motors as a wholly owned subsidiary. One year later, Pacific Car started construction of a modern 176,000-square-foot (16,400 m2) manufacturing facility in Newark, Calif. In August, 1960 Peterbilt moved to the new facility and became a division of the parent firm, carrying on its own tradition while retaining its product line.
In the late 1960s a second manufacturing facility was built in Madison, Tennessee. A third manufacturing facility in Denton, Texas was built in 1980, which became the sole location to build the then new 362 COE model. In 1986, Peterbilt closed the Newark plant, but left its headquarters, engineering, marketing and sales operations there. In 1993 Peterbilt left Newark completely, moving its headquarters and engineering operations to Denton as well.
Peterbilt model numbers traditionally started[when?] with a '2' for single axle tag axle models, and with a '3' for dual drive models. Peterbilt eliminated this distinction in the late 1970s.
- 200/265: Small truck with Volkswagen/MAN G90-based cab. Similar to the L80 cab series, Volkswagen production continues today in Brazil
- 260/360: The first model ever made. Production briefly halted during World War II.
- 280/350: This is the classic "iron-nose" conventional built from 1949 to 1957. It has distinctive cycle-type front fenders, and a long grille with vertical shutters.
- 281/351: The classic narrow-nose butterfly hood Peterbilt made from 1954 until 1976, though few were made after about 1968. The truck was made notorious with the public with the release of Steven Spielberg's 1971 thriller Duel, which featured a 1950s Peterbilt 281. (This truck was not a 351 because it had one tag axle.) 351 was also available after 1971 in a setback front axle (SBFA) configuration (Peterbilt's first such design) aimed at the east coast market. Nicknamed "The Autocar fighter" by some staff. The design of the companion trucks made way for later models, as the 351 SBFA evolved into the 353.
- 282/352: Tilt-cab cab-over-engine (COE) model that replaced the Model 351 (non-tilting) cabover with "Panoramic Saf-T-Cab" in 1959. Formally nicknamed the "Pacemaker" by a staffer at Peterbilt after an in-house name contest in 1969 (the winner got a color TV). 1959-early 1969: headlights closer to radiator. The UniLite cab was all hand tooled. Pacemaker style sheet metal 1969–1980. The Pacemaker cab was refined through the 1970s. Pacemaker 352s were available in cab sizes ranging from 54" to 110" bumper to back of cab (BBC). A 352 Pacemaker appeared in Knight Rider as super-truck Goliath, and the "cab-over Pete" is referenced in the classic CB radio song Convoy.
- 352H high cab model introduced circa 1975 for larger engines, with higher cab and 1510 sq in radiator, instead of the normal 1100 sq in radiator. The 352H was a Freightliner Powerliner competitor. The 352H was available in 86" and 110" BBC lengths and the very rare 63" BBC cab.
Peterbilt truck model with two rectangular headlights.
- 358: The 358 (288 single drive) was Peterbilt's first tilt hood. Basically a tilt hood 351. Later available with a fiberglass hood. 358 was available from 1965 until 1976.
- 359: Introduced 1967 this was the first long-nosed conventional Peter. (289 single drive). 1967–1972 it had the small-windowed "Unilite" cab. The first 359 was spec'd as a wrecker and sold to Coast Counties Peterbilt. In 1973, the 1100 series cab with bulkhead-style doors debuted (late 1972) Distinctive "Corvette" dash added 1977. Formal name "Dash of Class." The 359 was in production until 1987, when it was replaced by its successor the model "379". 1987 Peterbilt produced the "359 Classic", a limited run of 359 trucks with numbered dash plaques. The bulkhead style doors of the 1100 series cab are still used today.
- 346: The second-rarest Peterbilt ever made. It was made from 1972 to 1975, and only 10 were made. The 346 was intended to be a concrete mixer, dump truck, or snowplow with 4×4 versions planned but never built. The first 346 featured the Unilite cab and was sold to Rinker Construction. In Traverse City, MI, there is a 346 crane truck still in operation. (JB Selvidge)
- 348: The 348 was a fiberglass hood aimed at mixer and dump truck applications. The sloped hood afforded additional visibility. This was Peterbilt's first fiberglass sloped hood (1970). The 348 was in production from 1970 until 1986. The 349 was similar but with a slightly wider hood. 349 was later marketed for lightweight highway duty in the 1980s. 348 6×6 used a 359-113 SBFA hood.
- 353: The 353 replaced the 351 flat-fender and 381 construction models in 1973. 353 had flat "pit style" fenders, butterfly hood and was aimed at construction.
- 387: The 387 (1976–1987) looked similar to a 353 but had a heavier frame, longer hood, full flat fenders and undercab steps, larger bumper and overall heavier specs. Originally designed as a coal hauler, the first 387 was built in the Madison, Tennessee plant in 1976 and can be seen in the 1977 Working Class brochure as a coal truck. (JB Selvidge)
- 362: The 362 replaced the aging 352 in 1981 as the company's flagship cabover. 362 was available with a large one-piece center windshield with three wipers or two center pieces with two wipers. The latest refinement was the 362E, which had a slightly set back front axle for longer front springs. The last 362 was built as a SBFA for oilfield use in August 2005. 362 was available in cab sizes from 54" to 110" BBC with SBFA and tandem steer options. There was also an 8×8 362. Jerry Recycled Batteries From Cars[clarification needed] is based on this truck.
- 372: Designed for high efficiency and driver comfort, this was the most aerodynamic Peterbilt cabover ever built. The nose piece of the cab flipped forward (similar to the old 350 COE of the 1950s) allowing access to maintenance items. 372 was in production from 1988 until 1993. The 372 proved that 10+ MPG can be achieved with a class 8 truck. The truck has the distinction of being the most unusual Peterbilt design offering a sinister Darth Vader look that some[by whom?] also thought looked like a motorhome (think Winnebago) or a football helmet.
- 377: Peterbilt's aerodynamically-designed conventional with a fiberglass hood and headlights incorporated into the fenders. Available in set forward front axle (SFFA) and set back front axle (SBFA) configurations. Available 1987 until 2000. Replaced by the 387 in theory but continued as a 385-120.
- 378: Similar to the 379, the 378 has a fiberglass hood and steeper hood slope. It is not available in an extended hood, but is available in set back front axle (SBFA) configurations. The 378 is popular in local and vocational trucking, as well as over the road applications. Available 1987–2007. Whereas the 378 and 379 both are available in a 119" BBC, the 378 sits four inches (102 mm) higher above the frame rails compared to the 379. This accounts for the slight downward angle to the hood.
- 357: The 357 looks like a 378, sharing the various hoods (SBFA, SFFA, Vocational "Heavy Haul" and short hood versions), but is heavier spec'd for construction and heavier applications. 357 was available in a 111" BBC also. The 357 was also available with flat fenders, much like the 353. The 378 and 357 SBFA received a new hood and grille/crown for 2004. The vocational hood debuted in 2004 for customers needing a front engine power take-off (FEPTO). This model quickly became popular as a heavy truck or tractor and became known as the HeavyHaul option.
- 385: The 385 looks like a 377 with a more sloped hood. The 385 has a more sloped hood, shallower grille surround/crown than 377 had (later year 377s and 385s were nearly indistinguishable). Produced to be a direct competitor to the Freightliner FLD. 385[clarification needed] 1996–2007.
- 379: The 379 was Peterbilt's flagship truck from 1987 until the 2007 model year maintaining the nameplate's signature long-nose styling. Available in standard (119" BBC) and long hood (127" BBC) lengths, the 379 is the last conventional over-the-road truck available with an aluminum hood. Replacing the "359" in 1987, it remained in production until March 2007 with the last 1000 379s called the "Legacy Class 379." The 379 family received interior changes through the 20 year run, like the "Original (Square) Dash" from 1987 to 2000, the "Ergonomic Dash" from 2001 to 2005, and the current "2006+ Dash" currently available in Arctic Gray, Saharan Tan, Burgundy Wine, and Maritime Blue configurations. Peterbilt dropped the long running "American Class" interior in 2005 with the end of the "Ergonomic Dash". The main dash color was black up until the 2000 model year, which was the last year for the "Original Dash"; you could either order it in gray, tan, or black. Currently Peterbilt does not offer the "2006+ Dash" in black. Peterbilt also made changes to the cab doors in late 2004 when the vent window post was eliminated and the mirrors moved from the door to the cab. (Interestingly the "original cab" from Fageol had no vent windows and thus a retro look was achieved). The passenger door received a much larger peep window. New door release handles and locksets replaced the 1972 units. The 2005 models had a flat door window lower ledge. For 2006 and 2007 the doors received a new window with an angled-towards-the-hood lower ledge allowing for additional visibility, especially to the right. Rear corner windows also became available. The new for 2005 cab mounted mirrors allow for enhanced view and allow the driver to keep his view facing forward without leaning to see the mirror. The rear window of the cab saw changes from the original 36" × 28" window. The Unibilt Daycab window size became standard around 2003.
Autobot leader Optimus Prime's alternate mode in the 2007 Transformers film is a 1997 Peterbilt Model-379 Extended Hood truck.
Three modified 379s appeared in the 2007 live-action film "Transformers" as Autobot-leader Optimus Prime's vehicle/disguise mode. There was much controversy over this in the Transformers fan community because Optimus Prime is almost always portrayed in the various cartoon series as a flat-nose cabover semi-trailer truck (or later as a fire engine); his movie incarnation would be the second with an extended nose conventional cab (following his role in 2002-03's Transformers: Armada). The filmmakers have said that, ignoring the fan-termed "mass shifting" associated with the series, Optimus's final official height of 28ft (almost 10m) in robot mode would not have been possible to allow for all of the mechanics of the CGI model if they had gone with a cab-over, which would have dropped him instead to a smaller 20ft (almost 7m).
- 387: The 387 is an aerodynamic over the road conventional. It uses the same bare cab shell its cousin the Kenworth T-2000 with different sleeper, roof, cab skin, interior and hood, and Peterbilt frame. The 387 is available in two sleeper lengths: raised roof, mid roof and a daycab.\
- 386: Entered production in spring 2005, it is an aerodynamic truck, with a lower price tag than the 387. It is only offered with a 126" BBC (Bumper to Back of Cab dimension.) The 386 is quickly becoming a popular design and aside from not having external air cleaners, it is available with most all of the options of a 389.