Truck of the Month

June 2019
Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth model 523C "Bullnose"
Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose
WRITTEN BY:
  • Duncan Putman
  • Mark Harter
PHOTOGRAPHY BY:
  • Duncan Putman

There are plenty of truckers out there who have acquired a vintage truck in some form of condition, whether it be in fairly good shape because it’s spent decades hidden inside barns, all the way to a rusting hulk complete with trees and shrubs growing in it along with snakes and or vermin living in the seat upholstery.

Marc Jessup, a third- generation trucker and owner of Mooresville, Indiana based Jessup Logistics, is the caretaker of his grandfather Dale Jessup's classic 1955 Kenworth Bullnose. Needless to say, this old Kenworth is one exception to the above paragraph. Most of the stories you hear when speaking with owners of restored vintage trucks seen at truck shows nowadays, talk about “bringing back” sad examples of iron that may not have been operated for long periods of time before restoration. The Jessup Bullnose has never been "truly" retired from service, and has been kept in immaculate "ready to go" condition since Dale rebuilt the old Kenworth in the late 1960s.

Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose

In 1965 Dale Jessup was on a haul out west. Stopping in at the Kenworth dealership in the Denver area, he spotted a truck on their lot that caught his attention. It wasn't one of the new trucks on the lot, but an old truck parked out behind the dealership that caught his eye. Sitting on blocks and with parts missing, the sight he saw was a 1955 Kenworth model 523C "Bullnose". Inquiring with the dealership about the rig out back, that had been left for parts and scrap, Dale saw life in the once proud Kenworth. After making a deal, Dale purchased the truck for $2,500 and hauled the worn-out Bullnose home to his shop in Camby, Indiana, where the truck went through a complete rebuild and its first restoration with its initial powerplant being a NH-220 Cummins. While Dale had intended to use the Kenworth on his 6,000 acre farm, the truck proved itself and quickly became the pride of the Camby Indiana based Jessup Trucking fleet.

On a hot, humid Saturday morning in May 2018, the day before the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, we met up with Marc Jessup and his cousin Mike Kale, also a trucker, just south of Indianapolis at the Jessup Logistics shop in Mooresville, Indiana to do a photoshoot with the elusive Bullnose.

Elusive? Well, for Mark Harter, our website admin., yes, the truck had been elusive to him most of his life. Mark grew up in the Central Indiana area and remembers seeing the Jessup Bullnose rollin' down the highway, or when he was in his car driving by the Jessup Trucking shop and seeing the Bullnose parked there, but could never nail the truck down to see it up close or get time to photograph it during the 1990s. So, after doing some research, Harter found Dale's grandson Marc Jessup, who had started his own trucking company, Jessup Logistics, and so, followed in the footsteps of both his father DC and grandfather Dale. Upon making a call to Jessup Logistics in the hopes of finding out what happened to the classic Kenworth, Harter was surprised when the Jessup Logistics employee he was speaking with told him that it was alive and well and parked in the shop just outside his office.

Mike Kale and Marc Jessup standing with the Jessup Trucking 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose
Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose

When we got to the Jessup Logistics shop that May morning to meet up with Marc and Mike, the shop door was opened, and you should have seen the smile on Harter's face! It was though he had found the Holy Grail! As Harter looked over the truck, Marc Jessup went into his office, grabbed the keys and came back out, hopped into the Bullnose, and fired up its big Cummins. He pulled it out of the shop into the early morning light, its red, white and black paint, polished aluminum wheels and stainless accessories, all gleamed in the May morning. As the truck warmed up, sitting there idling, Duncan and Marc Jessup discussed where to shoot the Bullnose.

As Duncan began to photograph the big Bullnose, both Marc and Mike began telling stories about Dale and the truck, along with reciting the history of the Kenworth. After rebuilding the truck in 1965, Dale ran and worked it hard, and in 1986 it had gotten pretty tired, although it had been maintained to the highest standard by Dale's long-time mechanic, Raymond Sheets. It was time to give the KW an overhaul. Taking the Bullnose out of service, Dale had the NH 220 Cummins removed, and in its place, a Cummins NTA 420 uprated to 450 HP was installed. The truck also received the addition of brand-new frame rails, stretching its wheelbase to 212-inches. A Kenworth 36-inch sleeper was also added and a custom diamond tuck upholstery manufactured by Gusco of Salt Lake City, Utah was installed.

Interior of Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose
Two of Jessup Logistics Kenworth T680s and the Jessup Trucking 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose

In addition, custom made panels to access the big Cummins under the doghouse were created for easier access for service to the truck’s engine. If you're not familiar with Kenworth Bullnoses, these cabs were placed on a typical conventional frame and did not tilt. The Bullnose trucks were built during the days of overall length laws, and were the forerunner to the modern-day Kenworth K100 series cabover trucks with tilting cabs.

As Marc Jessup was telling us stories about the truck and his late grandfather, he told us a great tale of when the current Cummins engine was installed. After Dale had rebuilt the truck in 1986, the mechanics at Cummins told him to bring the truck in for a check-up after 5000 miles. So, a week later, Dale pulled into the Cummins shop in Indianapolis and the mechanic asked him what he needed. When Dale told him that he was there for his 5000 mile check-up, the mechanic just looked at him in disbelief! In that week, Dale turned over 5500 miles in the Bullnose, running from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City, then on to Boston and back to Indianapolis!

Now powered by its current Cummins NTA pushing 450 hp through a Fuller 10-speed transmission to 3:90 rear-ends and riding on a 212-inch wheelbase with Kenworth torsion bar suspension, 24.5 aluminum wheels wrapped in lo-pro rubber, the 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose currently has over 4,000,000 miles on its odometer!

Two of Jessup Logistic's Kenworth T680s with Jessup Trucking's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose

Sadly, Dale Jessup passed away at the age of 90 on January 17, 2017. Even though he’s gone, his memory lives on in the truck he left to his grandson Marc. Marc even told us that he has left several of his grandfather’s items in the truck, including one of his ballcaps that he used to wear, still hanging on a hook in the sleeper of the truck.

Currently, Marc Jessup and his company, Jessup Logistics is an all Kenworth fleet. And like his grandfather, whose fleet consisted mostly of Kenworths, Marc intends to keep his fleet that way too, relying on "The Worlds Best" to deliver his customers’ freight safely across the country.

In addition to starting and owning his own company, Marc is a former successful Sprint Car driver who raced in the USAC series. Marc resides in Mooresville with his wife Andrea and their son, Cole.

EDITOR'S NOTE:
  • Special thanks to Mike Kale and Marc Jessup for sharing the story and allowing us to photograph the late great Dale Jessup's 1955 Kenworth 523C Bullnose and sharing it with our readers!
  • Do you own a unique rig? Get your truck featured here on our website and show-it-off to the world! Click Here to contact us and tell us about your truck!

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