Truck of the Month

May 2019
Earl R Martin's 1965 Peterbilt model 351A "Old Clyde"
Earl R Martin's 1965 Peterbilt model 351A
WRITTEN BY:
  • Mark Harter
PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
  • Earl R Martin Jr

In 1964 Earl R Martin Sr., a trucker from East Earl, PA walked into his local Mack Dealership in Lancaster, PA, and inquired with a salesman about spec'ing out a new Mack Truck. Well, the salesman laughed at him, responding with "Come back to see me when you grow up and get serious." Needless to say, Mack has regretted that decision ever since. So, with money to spend, Martin went truck hunting and began researching Peterbilts.

Since that fateful day at the Mack dealership, the pride of the Pennsylvania based Earl R Martin Trucking fleet doesn't carry a Bulldog, but rather a red oval on it's grille and the 1965 Peterbilt model 351A, Nicknamed "Old Clyde," has been a member of the Martin Family since the day Earl Sr. and his wife Ruth flew to Oakland, California to pick up the truck at the Peterbilt Plant. Both Earl and his brother purchased identical Peterbilts and the consecutive serial numbered Pete was piggybacked on the rear of "Old Clyde" for the trip home to East Earl.

Earl R Martin Sr and his wife Ruth with their 1965 Peterbilt model 351A
Earl R Martin Sr and his wife Ruth in the cab of their 1965 Peterbilt model 351A

As many will tell you, a Peterbilt in Mack country was a rare sight in the early 1960s and even our website boss, Duncan Putman, whose grandparents and mother were from nearby New Holland, PA, told this author that he remembers seeing the Martin Peterbilts in the early 70s. "It was not a common sight to see a truck like that working in that area," referring to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. But while Duncan was just a guy who loved trucks at the time, Earl Jr told us that many people in the area were skeptical of his Dad and Uncle purchasing their Peterbilts, with many saying "those Martin boys will never be able to pay those two fancy trucks off!"

Proving the local naysayers wrong, Earl Martin Sr. put the truck to work right away, initially pulling a dump trailer hauling stone and sand, but branched out and began hauling hogs, pulling a flatbed hauling steel and even running many trips with the truck hauling potatoes from Florida to Maine while sleeping across the seats of the small Peterbilt cab since the truck was not equipped with a sleeper. As the Earl Martin Trucking fleet grew in later years, "Old Clyde" was kept for local work and was mostly used for pulling a tanker hauling fuel or as a spare truck during the 1980s.

While Earl Jr's father, Earl Sr, was the first driver of the old Peterbilt, he told us that many of there company drivers put a lot of miles on the truck over the years as well. But because of one of their drivers, this is how the Pete earned its nickname, "Old Clyde" as Jr explained: "One of our early drivers (who just retired a few years ago) had a cantankerous father-in-law whose name was Clyde. Our driver thought that since the old Peterbilt could be a little cantankerous at times, he began calling it Clyde, and for some reason, the name stuck."

Earl R Martin's 1965 Peterbilt model 351A arriving at a truck show in Hershey, PA

While speaking with Earl Martin Jr, he told this author a lot of great stories about his dad and the Peterbilt. "My dad claims he took me for my first ride around the block in the truck when I was only 6 or 8 weeks old!" As Jr continued: "I spent a lot of my childhood riding along with Dad in the truck, sometimes even during the school year on short trips before or after school." But as the stories continued, he mentioned that the 351A was wrecked in the mid-1980s by his cousin. "He was delivering a load with one of our dump trailers and unfortunately wound up laying the truck over while making the delivery." The old Peterbilt was banged up pretty badly and Earl Martin Sr. was told by his insurance company the truck was totaled.

For quite some time after "Old Clyde" was wrecked, it sat under a tarp in the corner of the yard. Jr said that "My dad was planning to sell the truck for scrap, but I begged and pleaded with him not to!" continuing, "I told him that I badly wanted to drive the same truck he did when I got my license!" So, after Jr convinced his dad, the elder Martin decided that the old Pete would be worth repairing, even if it didn't make sense financially to do so.

Now 54 years later, "Old Clyde" has over 2,000,000 miles on its odometer and went through a complete restoration in 1995. The vintage 1965 Peterbilt 351A is powered by a turbocharged Cummins NH-250 with over 300 HP mated to a 15-speed transmission pushing power to 3:90 rears and all riding on a 209-inch wheelbase with aluminum rims wrapped in 24.5 low-pro rubber. While all the restoration work was done at the Earl R Martin shop, Jr had Mark Hollen at Denver Truck Painting in Denver, PA, give "Old Clyde" its classic Peterbilt paint scheme. The interior of the truck also received an update including carpet, leather seats and lots of other custom goodies.

The Cummins NH-250 under the hood of Earl R Martin's 1965 Peterbilt model 351A
Interior of Earl R Martin's 1965 Peterbilt model 351A

While Jr. did personally run "Old Clyde" for a year after its restoration in 1998, the truck is now retired from revenue service and is primarily used to represent their company at truck shows and other events. However, Jr's oldest son, Taylor Martin, has taken an interest in the family's classic Peterbilt and enjoys driving it, having done so in parades around the Lancaster County area as well as going to truck shows with his dad.

As "Old Clyde" was Earl R Martin Trucking's first truck, the company has since purchased 87 trucks since 1965, with nearly all of them being Peterbilts. Jr still likes to get out and drive from time to time, and when he does so, his personal ride of choice is a Peterbilt model 359 that the company purchased new in 1987. While Jr now runs the family business, Earl Sr is retired and will be celebrating his 82nd birthday this month! Earl Sr no longer drives trucks, but he still enjoys being around the company he founded, generally coming in every day and helping the shop by running parts and helping out with other miscellaneous small jobs.

Earl R Martin, Inc.
EDITOR'S NOTE:
  • Special thanks to Earl Jr for sharing the story of his father and his 1965 Peterbilt model 351A 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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