Archive for Wednesday, June 19, 1996


June 19, 1996


— Melvin Kibbee likes to ride in style. His definition of that term is a little bit off the beaten path.

Melvin Kibbee's truck has no air conditioning, has tires so old they make him nervous and travels at a top speed of 48 mph.

What better vehicle to drive halfway across the country?

"Took me six days," said Kibbee, a Bakersfield, Calif., resident who drove a 1926 Mack truck to Lecompton for a family reunion on Sunday. "But I really kind of went for all the backroads I could, rather than the interstate."

Kibbee, a retired over-the-road trucker, has logged thousands of miles in modern rigs with air conditioning, stereos and other comforts. But the Lecompton native wouldn't trade any recent models for his Mack.

"It rides real good," he said. "I meet all the laws and the DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements. And it steers wonderful."

The former owner and operator of a machine shop and wrecker service in Lecompton, Kibbee bought the truck 32 years ago after moving to California.

"They used them like to build Boulder Dam, all the big projects," he said. "The wheels are bigger than the over-the-road trucks today."

That's not the only difference between Kibbee's truck and today's 18-wheel vehicles. The Mack boasts chain drive, meaning that the engine is connected to a sprocket instead of a modern enclosed driveshaft.

The tires are so large that the only ones being made for it are "museum-grade," meaning that they're not really fit for over-the-road use. To compensate, Kibbee has cobbled together a collection of tires and tubes.

"Some of them are World War II tires," he said. "I cross my fingers every time I look at them."

Other specifications:

  • Mileage -- "Oh, gosh, I don't have any idea," Kibbee said.
  • Gas mileage -- "I got real good mileage on this trip," he said.

What's real good?

"Twenty-three, 24 miles to the gallon."

So it's not a subcompact. But say this for the Mack: It was built to last.

"It's been to Portland, Seattle, Denver ... I've been all over in it," said Kibbee, 68, who displays the vehicle at antique truck shows. "This is the second time I've been here in it."

Kibbee said the only problem he encountered on his trip was a broken spring in the accelerator, which he fixed easily.

Of course, some people might consider driving in a nonair-conditioned cab in 100-degree weather a problem, but that didn't phase Kibbee.

"I've driven trucks with air conditioning, but you know, I don't use it," he said. "I like working outside, working in my shop and what have you. I guess I'm what you'd call a country boy."

About 50 Kibbee family members turned out to see the iron-horse truck during Sunday's reunion. It might not be their last look.

"When I go into the truck shows, I always drive my truck," Kibbee said. "Guy looks at me in Spokane and says, 'Why don't you haul that?' I said, 'Anybody can haul one.'"

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