Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki
Peterbilt Company
Type Subsidary of PACCAR
Founded 1938
Headquarters Denton, Texas
United States United States
Industry Manufacturing
Products Trucks
Employees ?

Peterbilt Motors Company is a manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty Class 5 through Class 8 trucks headquartered in Denton, Texas. The company is a subsidiary of PACCAR. Founded in 1939, Peterbilt operates manufacturing facilities in Madison, Tennessee (1969), Denton, Texas] (1980), and Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec. From the early 1960s until the mid 1980s, the company was based in the San Francisco Bay Are of Northern California, with its headquarters, parts department, and main plant all in Newark, California. The Newark plant closed in 1986; headquarters moved to Denton, and engineering moved to Denton in 1993.


A US built truck under restoration in the UK at the Classic Commercials Enthusiasts Day at Malvern in 2010

A classic American big rig in the UK at a tractor show, kitted out with accomodation in the trailer for the exhibits and the owner

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 couldn't get freshly felled logs from the forest to his lumber mill quickly, or efficiently. In order 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, improving the technology with each successive vehicle. Shortly thereafter, he purchased the assets of Fageol Motors of Oakland, California in 1938 in order 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), was then primarily a manufacturer of railroad freight cars, was looking to expand more in the truck manufacturing business. PACCAR, had earlier acquired the assets of Kenworth in 1945, was already an up and coming player in the heavy truck market.

Popular models

Peterbilt model numbers traditionally start with a '2' for single axle and tag axle models, and with a '3' for dual drive models. Peterbilt eliminated this distinction in the late 1970s.

  • 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 1949-1957. 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 in the cult classic movie Duel is a 1950s Peterbilt 281. (It is not a 351 because it has a tag axle.) 351 was also available after 1971 in a set back front axle (SBFA) configuration (Peterbilt's first such design) aimed at the east coast market. Nicknamed "The Autocar fighter" by some staff. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 wide-nosed tilt hood conventional. (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 1972-1975, and only 10 were made. The 346 was intended to be a concrete mixer, dump truck, or snowplow with 4x4 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 6x6 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)
  • 397: The largest Peterbilt built, and the rarest Peterbilt ever made, with only two built. These were stall-built custom units with 40"+ wide frames designed for extreme off-road use. One unit was destroyed by fire, the other might still be in use today.
  • 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 8x8 362.
  • 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 also though 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 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 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 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 of 2007 with the last 1000 379s called the "Legacy Class 379." The 379 family received interior changes through the 20 year run, like the "Square Dash" from 1987 to 2000, the "First Rounded Dash" from 2001 to 2005, and the current "New Rounded Dash" currently only available in Arctic Gray or Saharan Tan. Peterbilt dropped the long running "American Class" interior in 2005 with the end of the first "Rounded Dash". The main dash color was black, up until the "First Rounded Dash" was available, you could either order it in gray, tan, or black. Currently Peterbilt does not offer the "New Rounded 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" x 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 Peterbilt Model-379 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. The 386 is quickly becoming a popular design and aside not having external air cleaners, it is available with most all of the options of a 389.

2008 and beyond

  • 389: Peterbilt introduced the 389 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2006. The 389 replaced the 379-127". The BBC of the 389 comes in at just over 131" making it the longest hood Peterbilt has ever offered. The 389 features new headlamps with a stylish wraparound design, new fender front and rear trim (the rear bracket is a styling cue back to the step on the old 351 fender). The 389 offers the same popular configurations that 379 offered. The 389 went into production in late 2006 as 2008 models and officially replaced the 379 in March of 2007. The built-after-January 1, 2007 EPA compliant engines dictated many of the changes to the new Peterbilt models.
  • 388: The 388 replaced the 379-119". Sporting a 123" BBC, the 388 shares the same styling as the 389. Both 388 and 389 are Peterbilts aluminum hood "traditional styled" trucks. The 388 and 389 are subtly different yet remain very true to the bloodline.
  • 384: The 384 is a shorter BBC version of the 386. The 384 went into production during mid 2007.
  • 367: The 367 replaced the 357 and the 378. Both have new 123" BBC lengths with fiberglass hoods. SBFA as well as HeavyHaul configurations are available. The 367 retains the older "379 family" headlight options, although now mounted to the hood skin rather than the grille surround and crown.
  • 365: The 365 replaced the 357-111". The 365 has a 115" BBC and is aimed at the construction markets.
  • 330, 335 and 340: These models are the class 6, 7 and "baby 8" units for pick up and delivery, short hauls and vocational applications. Built in the Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec plants, the 330, 335, 340 is becoming a popular platform for snowplows, fire apparatus, and construction trucks.
  • 325: The Model 325 is ideal for the complete range of Class 5 applications including vehicle recovery and towing, lease/rental, pick-up and delivery and business services such as parcel delivery, landscaping and construction. The Model 325 began production in mid-July 2007.
  • 320: The 320 is the oldest model in the Peterbilt line up. A direct descendant of the 300 and 310, the 320 is a SBFA COE aimed at the refuse and concrete pumper market. This was originally a Kenworth designed low cab-forward model but KW gave up on the truck and it was adopted and recycled by Peterbilt Engineering.
  • 220: The newest COE in the Red Oval stable, this COE uses a DAF cab and is targeted to the local pick up and delivery market. GVWR remains below 33,000 pounds.

Other models

  • 390: A conventional with a long chassis.


In the 1960s and 1970s Peterbilt used the shell of a KW sleeper with Peterbilt skin, doors, roof and interior. 30" and 36" sleepers were available. If a buyer wanted a larger sleeper, Peterbilt worked with Mercury Sleepers for 40" and 60" and custom sized sleepers. Mercury would paint the sleeper to match the factory paint or the sleeper came with polished quilted aluminum. In 1978 Peterbilt's engineers were tasked with making a bigger sleeper. They designed the 63" sleeper with rounded doors and a walk-through from the cab. The sleeper debuted on a 359-127" nicknamed "Big Mamoo" by the engineers and can be seen in the 1978 brochure "Rest in Class." This truck also featured the first set of rectangular headlamps. The first raised roof (high cube) sleeper was on a 359 in 1986 and with changes (no right hand forward door) carried through to the 379 family. In 1994 the Unibilt sleeper debuted with air-ride suspension for the cab and sleeper with a large cab to sleeper opening. The Unibilt cab/sleeper option allowed for the sleeper to be removed for a daycab conversion. The UltraSleeper was Peterbilt's largest and most luxurious. At 70" in length, it featured a right-hand access door, table, closet and a small "wet closet" accessible from the driver's side to store boots, gloves and other 'damp' items. The last UltraSleeper was built in 2005.


  • Volvo Truck Division
  • Navistar/International Trucks
  • Mack Trucks
  • Daimler Truck group (Freightliner, Western Star)

See also

References / sources=

External links

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