There's no arguing that 18-wheelers are fun and awesome. America having one of the largest highway networks in the world and low gasoline prices, trucking isn't just part of American automotive culture but of American culture itself. And it’s understandable. There's something romantic about trucks. Of course, it’s not all glamorous, especially since the 1980s, when deregulation of the trucking industry led to de-unionization among drivers, and it became a low-wage industry with high turnover and higher costs due to higher emission standards. However, while the years took a toll on the industry workforce, they also did a great job on the trucks, which became more advanced, easier to drive, and more comfortable. Trucking rigs, also commonly known as 18-wheelers (because of the typical number of wheels), still look awesome, huge beasts with tall exhausts and chromed grilles. You can also find many 18-wheelers that have huge sleepers (part of the cab designed for rest) with more accommodations than are in some NYC studios for which you have to pay thousands of dollars per month. Because truckers spend most of their time behind the wheel of their rigs, they often chose to modify them to give them a unique personality of their own. With this in mind, we've selected 20 pictures of insane modded 18-wheelers, but we didn’t focus only on regular rigs that you can find on the road but also on unique vehicles that can show that 18-wheelers are not just about delivering stuff but can also be real masterpieces of art and technology.
20 Russian "Mad Max" Truck
Russian motorcycle club the Night Wolves ordered this scary and at the same time awesome beast to act as one of their showstoppers. It looks like the Tatra T815 aka “The War Rig” driven by Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road, but it's actually based on a Russian ZIL-133 truck, which, if you Google it, looks very dull and uninspiring. Aptly named “The Mad Max,” the truck is stylized to look like a cistern, but it can actually transform by splitting into two and becoming a stage for shows organized by the motorcycle gang. It took the garage laboratory “Wolf Engineering” several years to work on this beast, according to 161.ru. The old engine was replaced by a new one from the Russian Kamaz truck manufacturer, and the cab was modified to be able to adapt to new styling. The rest of the styling was made pretty simple by welding pieces of metal, and the side windows were replaced by bars. The front bumper was also replaced by a huge battering ram. In addition to acting as a stage, the Mad Max can also provide a fire show that involves flames coming out from the smokestacks. All the modifications and additions resulted in a weight of over 30 tons, and it’s completely road legal (at least in Russia), although it doesn’t go faster than 40 kph (25 mph) for safety reasons.
19 "Optimus Prime" Western Star 5700
You might've already seen this truck—but not on the highway towing a trailer with groceries to Walmart. This is the Western Star 5700 that was built to star in the Transformers movies. Optimus Prime is well aware of his mission to protect the Earth from Decepticons, so he makes sure to keep himself updated and to transform to the best truck possible, so he switched from the traditional Peterbilt to a more sleek and modern Western Star 5700. But joking aside, the Optimus Prime 5700 was developed especially for the Transformers series and includes styling found on the regular truck, which Western Star describes as its most aerodynamic truck, according to Truckers News. “The response to the Optimus Prime trucks from our customers, dealers, and employees–as well as from the general public–has been fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to introduce the world to the all-new 5700XE,” said Andy Johnson, brand manager for Western Star. Aside from the cool paint that features red flames on a blue body and triple smokestacks, the Optimus Prime 5700XE also had some other mods that allow it to do stunts during filming, but they were probably removed since the truck went on a country tour after the shooting and was even available as an Uber option in some cities.
18 Long and Low Custom Truck
I bet a lot of you were wondering how a cross between a truck and a hotrod would look like. Or you probably weren’t, but thanks to Walt Moss of Walt Moss Trucking, you don’t have to wonder anymore in any case. Walt Moss and his team built some very cool vehicles, including an old Peterbilt school bus that was rescued from a field, shortened, and restored with a custom interior, a motorcycle that has a rear tire from an actual truck, and a huge trike (motorcycle) that looks like a truck but is registered as a motorcycle.
Walt Moss’s collection also includes a truck built using a 1954 truck and a 1960s sleeper that was converted to accommodate a back seat.
The hood is long—very long, in fact, at 11 feet from the windshield to the grille and keeps underneath a C-15 Caterpillar Engine that develops a massive 1,000 horsepower and 2,600 foot-pounds of torque. The truck has an air ride frame and an air ride suspension at the front. In a YouTube video, Walt Moss refers to the whole ensemble when he says, “Somebody said I had a bad dream or something” and later says that it was their idea of building something “long and low.”
17 Pikes Peak Freightliner Cascadia
What do you do when you want to build a truck that would become the fastest Semi to race at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb event? The guys at the Banks Racing started with a Freightliner Cascadia truck and then fitted it with an engine of their own design. The 14-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine is a Super-Turbo, which means that it’s both turbocharged and supercharged, according to Truck Trend. Since it’s more of a supercar than a truck, its engine is located in the middle and develops 2,400 horsepower (the stock engine develops around 575 horsepower). The engine and the drivetrain have a lot of other customizations to improve its power, including a system that injects a mix between water and methanol in four stages, a two-stage water-spraying system for the intercooler, and water-cooled brakes. Even though the body of the truck is made from fiberglass and carbon fiber, the whole setup still weighs around 10,000 pounds, so to support it, the suspension uses 3.0 King coilover shocks. Professional racer and stunt driver Mike Ryan has been piloting the Freightliner to the summit of Pikes Peak Raceway for the last several years, setting the record in 2013.
16 The "Limo" Peterbilt 379
What you see in this picture is actually a “Limo” truck—at least that’s how Jeff Botelho of California-based Botelho Custom trucks envisioned it, according to 10-4 Magazine. Botelho started with taking a 2002 Peterbilt 379 truck and stretching it to 360 inches. The cab was extended to 15 feet and 3 inches long, and each side was fitted with four-foot windows. The truck also got custom-made rims by Alt Wheels, a weed-burner side exhaust, and a Caterpillar C-16 engine that was boosted to produce up to 2,000 horsepower. The body was painted black with signature “Botelho” green flames, and the engine and frame were also painted green. The inside of the cab features a white interior with a green dash and green panels in which the sound system was embedded. The truck was ordered by Jerad Wittwer, the owner of Performance Diesel Inc. based in Utah, and he planned to use it to promote his company and to transport his horse trailer to rodeo events.
15 The "Blade"
Aside from building the “Bad Habit,” the guys at the Regional International also built this, the Lonestar “Blade.” According to Owner Driver, to build the “Blade,” the Lonestar had its wheelbase extended to 7.7 meters (25 feet), and the battery boxes and fuel tanks were moved. The cab was painted in a nice silver color, and traditional, hotrod-like blue flames were applied. The front grille was left stock but was painted blue, and so was the head of the 13-liter Maxxforce powerplant that, for this model, was modded to develop 1,000 horsepower fitted to an 18-speed Road Ranger gearbox. The front bumper was also left from the factory, but it didn't escape the fitting of blue LEDs that were placed all around the truck. Overall, 20 meters of blue LED strip lighting was fitted around the Lonestar “Blade.” It also had a custom drop visor installed (with blue lights). After it was shown at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Kentucky in 2008, the Lonestar “Blade” was shipped across the world to Australia in 2015, where it was used by Navistar Auspac, the Australian and New Zealand subsidiary of Navistar, to announce the return of the International brand to Australia.
14 Volvo VN-based Motorhome
Since 18-wheelers are more than capable of carrying huge loads, they're convenient for carrying caravans and serve as motorhomes, although it might be a bit excessive. However, if you either suffer from claustrophobia and need to live in a big space even when camping or have a big family or, for some other reason, want a very big motorhome, then this Volvo VN motorhome is what you need. According to blogunity.net, this motorhome is 52-feet long and has a trailer that's another 38 feet. If you also take into account a four-feet hitch, you end up with an RV that's 94-feet long. Why would you need a trailer, you might ask? It serves the role of a garage, and to make it more extravagant, it has room not for one but for two cars. The motorhome itself is, of course, top specced, featuring lots of comforts, such as a large bathroom and a kitchen, as well as a diner. There are several black leather couches that can double as beds, as well as two foldable bunk beds near the front of the cabin. The Volvo VN that carries all this is fitted with a Cummins engine that develops 550 horsepower connected to an automatic gearbox, and there are eight mini cameras to improve visibility, which should come in handy in parking lots and camping sites.
13 The "Shockwave"
This Shockwave truck shows that 18-wheelers aren't just for hauling stuff around but are also for developing insane speeds. Built on top of a Peterbilt semi, the Shockwave is one of three American trucks powered by a jet engine and is the fastest jet-powered truck in the world.
According to Daily Mail, the Shockwave is powered not by one but by three Pratt & Whitney J34-48 jet engines taken from US Navy trainer jets (called T-2 Buckeye) that together generate 36,000 horsepower.
In this way, even though it weighs four tons, the Shockwave can get to almost 400 mph (when it beat the world record, it hit 376 mph, which is faster than a Japanese bullet train) and can cover a quarter of a mile in just 6.5 seconds. Its fuel tanks can hold 190 gallons of fuel, and one performance burns 180 gallons. When accelerating, the driver in the cab experiences about 6G of force (by comparison, astronauts during a launch experience around 3G, and fighter jet pilots can take up to 9G vertically ). In addition to the original Peterbilt-based Shockwave that was built in 1984, there's a newer one, called the "Super Shockwave" that's based on a 1957 Chevy that has two jet engines and can reach 336 mph.
12 Uber's Self-Driving Truck
This one isn't a modified truck in a conventional sense that includes a cool paint job or drivetrain mods that make it faster. But it’s very awesome nonetheless. The mods that make this truck awesome include three LiDAR detectors on the roof, a high-precision camera, a whole bunch of other sensors that, working together, allow the truck to drive by itself. Built by the San Francisco startup Otto, the Volvo truck has around $30,000 worth of hardware and software, which offer true ‘Level 4’ autonomy on the highway, according to Wired. This means that when the truck is on the highway, the driver isn't required to look at the road nor to keep his hands near the steering wheel and is allowed to read a book, watch videos, or even take a nap. Otto was bought by Uber in 2016 for $680 million, and later that same year, it made its first delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, a 120-mile journey. The technology is still being developed, and it won’t put drivers out of work soon since they're still required to drive the truck to and from the interstate. But earlier this year, Uber said they started doing commercial freight deliveries in Arizona, according to Recode.
11 "Project TOC" Kenworth 900
What you see in the picture is one of the most customized Kenworth 18-wheelers. This beautified beast on wheels called “Project TOC” was built by the San Antonio-based Texas Chrome Shop, which took a 2000 Kenworth 900 and made it worthy of being a true museum exhibit. The whole body is painted blue with paisley patterns embedded in the paint. The paisley patterns weren’t included only in the body but the rim of the wheels and the exhaust are also engraved with a paisley pattern.
The rounded wheel arches and the front bumper give it a low-rider look and blue lights mounted all around the truck give it a cool, ghostly look.
According to The Drive, the developers took things further and also added airbag suspension and other mods to the drivetrain, including a modified 550 Caterpillar engine that's also painted blue and connected to an 18-speed transmission. The interior of Project TOC is as beautiful as the exterior, with blue and paisley-patterned panels matched with chrome elements around the instruments on the dashboard, the steering wheel, and the gear stick. In the back of the cabin, we can find a cool sound system, and the bunk bed was replaced by a leather couch.
10 Most Expensive Mack Ever
This Mack Super-Liner shows that 18-wheelers aren't just for the average Joe. It was built by Mack Truck Australia for the Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of the Malaysian state of Johor and is the most expensive Mack ever, with a cost of over $1.0 million, according to Daily Mail. The body was painted in red, white, and blue, symbolizing colors representing the Johor flag. On the inside, the cabin was expanded and now includes a fold-out double bed, a refrigerator, a cooking grill, a six-camera CCTV system, two flatscreen TVs, as well as wooden floors and cabinets that have stone tops. And because it’s not extravagant enough for a sultan, the seats have 72,000 stitches of golden thread, according to ABC. Going back outside through a custom door installed at the back of the truck and there’s a sun deck that can be decked with chairs, umbrellas, and even a barbeque (a pretty smart use of space). The sultan didn't order the truck because he's probably bored walking around his massive (I assume) palace and wanted to moonlight as a truck driver. He uses the truck to tow his speedboat around the country, which is surrounded by water.
9 The "Bad Habit"
Let’s now get back to some more traditionally modded 18-wheelers, starting with this International Lonestar truck that was built by the Elizabeth Truck Center for Regional International, a chain of truck dealerships. It looks magnificent, and its name, “Bad Habit,” adds another 50 points of cool factor. The idea to build this one-of-a-kind truck came from Jim Carello, the dealer principal of Regional International. Before the “Bad Habit,” the Carello family also ordered from the Elizabeth Truck Center a custom Navistar International ProStar truck called "the Mayhem." To build the “Bad Habit”, the Elizabeth Truck Center started by lowering the front suspension by 4 inches, according to Elizabeth Truck Center’s Anthony Pesce, who talks about the truck in a YouTube video. They also modified the front bumper to make it longer.
The front grille was replaced to make it look like the one on a Chrysler PT-Cruiser.
The front and rear fenders were also extended to give the vehicle a more low-ride look. The back panel was covered and finished to be smooth as opposed to the original that's corrugated and has some dents. For color, the Elizabeth Truck Center went with the candy-apple red, and the paint gun went over each part of the truck 42 times to give it the perfect color.
8 Army Football Team's Lonestar
And we're back to the International Lonestar with a beautiful custom paint job. While aside from the paint job, there weren’t mods done to the drivetrain, it's a special truck.
It’s special because it was built by Navistar especially for the United States Military Academy at West Point to support their football operations and will be used to carry the equipment of the Army football team.
According to the company press release, “The LoneStar truck is adorned with famous graduates and images of West Point to visibly demonstrate Navistar’s shared commitment to the institutional value of integrity, honor, and professionalism.”
7 "The Reaper"
This custom 2016 Volvo truck is driven by Bruce Richards, who owns Above and Beyond Transport. The truck, called “The Reaper,” has a custom paint job that was designed by Richards and his wife, Heather, according to Overdrive. The truck does look very cool with a purple and white paint job with diamond plate-like elements. On the back, it has an awesome representation of a reaper as well as the title of the well-known Blue Öyster Cult song “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
The truck is powered by a Volvo D16 engine and has a 12-speed I-shift gearbox.
“The Reaper” also comes with a custom 168-inch sleeper made by ARI Legacy Sleepers. The sleeper includes a full-size kitchen, a queen bed, and a lot of other amenities that are usually found inside a home. The truck had a price tag of around $250,000 when it was purchased in 2016.
6 ADAC's Mobile Testing Center
Let’s now briefly venture to Europe and take a look at this awesome ADAC mobile-testing service truck. It might not impress with bling or a super powerful engine, but what ADAC, a German automobile club that's the largest in Europe (with over 18 million members, according to Wikipedia) managed to achieve with this truck is nonetheless impressive. What this truck does is it drives around Germany, stopping in various cities. The trailer is lifted from the truck using hydraulics, and then, it expands, creating a big test center fitted with a garage for a car and an entire office. According to ADAC, car owners can get to this mobile testing center and, for free, can check stuff like brakes, brake fluid, shock absorbers, battery condition, and lighting. According to Empl, which built the inspection units, the test container also has air conditioning and heating to ensure year-round operation, a heated roof panel to prevent icing, and a power generator, as well as a theft alarm system.
5 V16 Freightliner For Bonneville Salt Flats
We've already presented a race truck for Pikes Peak, and now, it’s time to take a look at another masterpiece of engineering that this time took on the Bonneville salt flats. It was also built using a Freightliner truck (manufactured in 1997), but the body was replaced by a unit built by Columbia to improve aerodynamics, according to Hot Rod Network. The beast is powered by a V16 engine with a total displacement of 1931 cubic inches (32 liters), which is helped by twin Garett turbos to develop an astounding 4,000 horsepower. The power is sent to the wheels by an Allison HD750 5-speed transmission.
The whole construction weighs 20,000 pounds, and considering that it drives at high speeds, it cannot be supported by regular tires.
Therefore, the owner, Ben Goodman, had to use aircraft rubber. In this way, the front tires of this truck come from an F-15, and the rear tires are from a Boeing 737 airliner. How fast can it go? Well past 200 mph, and to slow down, it needs to use a parachute.
4 The “5150” Peterbilt 379
You might see some similarities between this Peterbilt 379 and the black one we showed a couple of images earlier. That’s because this one was also built by Jeff Botelho, and it also features his signature green flames. According to Overdrive, Botelho customized this 2007 Peterbilt 379 as a way of dealing with his father’s death. He stripped down the entire truck and got to work. What resulted from this project was a badass truck with a tuned Caterpillar engine developing 980 horsepower connected to an Eaton Fuller 18-speed transmission. It's covered in green flames not just on the outside but also on the inside, as the dash, the door panels, and the floor are also covered in vinyl flames. Botelho also added a rear roll-down power window to the sleeper. The interior was also fitted with 18 Image Dynamics speakers with sizes ranging from 10 and 60 inches, these speakers producing 2,800 watts from a Pioneer head unit. The truck is called “5150,” and it managed to win a number of prizes at various events around the country. What’s surprising is that Botelho actually uses this truck to haul stuff, although it’s often tricky because he has to be extra careful when driving in order to avoid scrapes and bumps and other damage to the paint job.
3 "The Boss" Tow Truck
The Malaysian sultan has a custom Mack truck that might cost $1.0 million, but a Canadian company decided to spend their $1.0 million in a more practical way: getting the world’s largest tow truck. Nicknamed “The Boss,” this tow truck was built by a company in Quebec on order from Mario’s Towing, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, according to Ice Towing. The truck, which took a year to build, features an 80-ton boom and a 60-K winch package on the back and can easily tow a big rig truck or a 320-ton mining truck. Even though there are more than 20 similar tow trucks, this one is the biggest because of its tow package, according to 660 News. It took five to six days to transport the truck across the country. The general manager of Mario’s Towing Nicholas Moretto said that a big part of the cost was probably spent on research and development. “The changing demands in towing, with road safety we did some research and thought this would be a great investment to make what we do better,” Moretto was quoted as saying. In addition, owning the world’s largest towing truck also gave the company some publicity, which hopefully paid off some of the costs.
2 The "Brockasaurus"
What you see in this picture is the “Brockasaurus,” a competitive pulling truck owned and operated by Joe Metzger and his sons, Matt and Ben from Ohio. The Brockasaurus is built on a 1974 COE Brockway (nicknamed "Huskie" for the hood ornament that represents a husky dog with a pulling harness). According to Truckers News, in addition to having a mad and scary paint job, the truck is powered by a 1,150-cubic-inch (19 liters) Cummins KT engine that develops 3,220 horsepower.
According to the Truck Trend, the Cummins KT Powerplant engine is limited to a single turbocharger and uses a ported head, custom intake, and modified injection pumps that help the 19-liter beast develop 2,100 horsepower and 4,000 pound-feet of torque, even though it uses stock crank, rods, and pistons.
The cost of the engine can reach $70,000. “The Brockasaurus” participates in pulling events across the Midwest and managed to win the Ohio State Tractor Pullers standings in 2016.
1 "The Heat" RV
We've covered a huge motorhome based on a Volvo 18-wheeler earlier, but this mammoth will put that one to shame. This one was built by Ron Anderson and his company Anderson Mobile Estates. It has a total space of 111 square meters (1,200 square feet), and with a push of a button, eight pistons push the roof 42 inches higher to create a second floor. Inside there are 14 TVs, and it packs between $100,000 and $125,000 worth of technology, as well as $30,000 worth of leather, according to Business Insider. Some of the technology includes a lighted makeup mirror that has a TV behind it and sliding doors to the wardrobe area—a feature inspired by Star Trek. Granite countertops in the full kitchen cost between $100,000 and $200,000, and the bathroom with a steam shower costs $25,000. On the second floor, there’s a screening room that can fit 30 people. The RV that drives around on 22 wheels costs a total of $2.5 million and is owned by Will Smith, who named it “The Heat.” However, Mr. Smith doesn’t need it every day, and “The Heat” can actually be rented for just $9,000 a week. It’s not a lot considering the size and the fact that you can use the same bathroom or bed that Will Smith does.
Sources: dailymail.co.uk, truckersnews.com, trucktrend.com, overdriveonline.com