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Cowboy Limousine


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Cover Feature

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Jeff Botelho and his team of builders have done it again. After making a convertible Peterbilt a few years back and turning the truck-building world on its ear, the guys have now built what we are calling a "Cowboy Limousine" ­ but Jeff just calls it the limo truck. Both of these trucks were built to compete at the Big-Rig Build-Off held in Louisville, Kentucky every March, but neither of them took the top honor. Unlike the convertible, which Jeff built for himself, the limo truck was built for a customer. Jerad Wittwer, founder and owner of Performance Diesel Inc. in St. George, Utah, is the truck's proud owner (even though Jeff still hasn't delivered it to him yet). After growing up on a ranch, graduating from diesel technology school, and several years of heavy-duty mechanic experience, Jerad (37) founded Performance Diesel Inc. (PDI) in 2001 primarily as a repair facility. Over the years, in an effort to fix some of the reoccurring problems that he found, he began to develop a line of high performance diesel engine products. Starting at first with exhaust manifolds for Cat engines, Jerad made his stronger than the stock versions, which helped them to last longer. After that, he got into the electronics and started custom tuning ECMs with their own software. Today, PDI offers a wide variety of performance-enhancing parts such as turbos, manifolds, injectors, clutches, radiators, intercoolers, cams, mufflers and more. Jeff met Jerad at the Dallas truck show in 2008 and the two hit it off. Shortly thereafter, Jerad asked Jeff if he'd be interested in building him a 4-door truck, similar to a Schwalbe type of truck but cooler, to pull his 53' horse trailer to rodeo events across the country. Jeff agreed to take on the project, so a few months later, Jerad purchased a 2002 Peterbilt ­ nothing fancy, just something for Jeff to get started with. Jeff flew out and picked the truck up in March of 2009 and, with help from Francisco Murillo, the two immediately began the transformation. At first, the guy's ideas were pretty tame. They planned to build a 4-door conversion-style truck that was easy to maneuver and could pull a 53' trailer. Their first plan was to leave the wheelbase at its original length of 265 inches and just stretch the cab (they even considered making it a 2-axle rig). After working on it solid for about three weeks and finishing much of the floor and some of the cab walls, Jeff got a call from Bud Farquhar of Stars & Stripes Show Truck Events. It was only April 2009, but Bud wanted to invite Jeff to participate in the 2010 build-off. Jeff and Francisco stopped working and called Jerad to pitch him the idea of using his 4-door truck for the build-off. Jeff told Jerad that he could make his truck something really special, but he'd have to wait a year to get it. After Jerad agreed to let Jeff enter his truck into the build-off, Jeff put the project on the back burner ­ after all, he had 11 months to do it and several other projects waiting to be done. At some point, Jerad decided that he couldn't wait until March for his truck so he went out and bought a Schwalbe Kenworth W900 conversion to pull his horse trailer. After using it for a few months, he decided that he really liked the KW and no longer needed the Peterbilt to pull his horse trailer. In December of 2009, as Jeff was gearing up to get going on the project, he was told that the truck was not going to be used so it no longer needed to be practical. And although it was a little late in the game to be changing things, in typical Botelho style (last minute), Jeff redesigned the rig, making it much more extreme. But with less than four months to complete the entire job, Jeff would have no time to waste. The first thing Jeff did was bring in one of his fabricator friends, John Chamoro, as a full-time employee to help. John, as you might remember, built the custom 4-link suspension and air bag system for Jeff's convertible Peterbilt. The next four months was a blur, as Jeff, Francisco and John worked tirelessly, side-by-side, to complete what is now called the limo truck. Jeff wanted to make it perfectly clear that he did not build this truck alone ­ it was a team effort. After stretching the frame to 360 inches, finishing the floor and getting the walls set, the guys went to work on the rear doors and the side windows. Cutting up two Peterbilt doors for each rear door took a lot of time, but Jeff wanted all of the corners to match. Cutting the doors in half and tossing the piece with the pillar angle away, they took the other pieces and welded them together, creating square doors with identical corners. Using this same technique for the side windows, which power up and down,

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made the job much easier because the doors were already made to accommodate the glass. The back corners of the cab were purchased new from Peterbilt to ensure that, once again, everything matched. All of the other pieces were hand-fabricated by the guys. After finishing the 15-foot long cab's floor, walls, doors and windows, it was time to do the roof. None of the guys had much experience working with fiberglass, so they had to learn fast. They started out with a Peterbilt Ultra roof cap for the front, and then cut it down three inches so that it would match the height of the 63-inch flat top sleepers ­ three of them were used for the roof. By the time the roof was done, the guys were pretty good at doing fiberglass work. Near the end of January (2010), Jerad came and picked up the truck's Cat C-15 engine, telling Jeff that he'd rebuild it and have it back to him in just a couple weeks. A month later, when the engine was returned, it had somehow morphed into a hopped-up C-16 with about 2,000 hp. PPG was one of the main sponsors of the build-off, so they supplied Jeff with the bright green paint he wanted for the chassis, drivetrain and dash. When the paint arrived (in a five-gallon bucket) it was not quite what Jeff wanted, so he went to the local PPG dealer and tinkered around with it until the color was just right. Wanting to use polished button-head bolts on the frame, the entire chassis had to be disassembled, and then each piece was painted separately. The engine was then painted, and several pieces were sent to New Image Metal Finishing to be chromed. It's now the beginning of March, just weeks before the project needed to be completed, and there was still much to do. Once the cab was completed, they loaded it on a flatbed trailer and took it to Martin at Castillo's Upholstery in Modesto, CA. It was only supposed to take a couple of days, but it ended up taking eleven. Jeff had a lot of wild ideas about the interior, but Jerad wanted it to stay pretty conservative, so

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of the truck's wheels are custom prototypes from ALT Wheels in Brea, CA. These weight-rated and approved wheels, along with several other cool new styles, are now available to the public. Planning to leave for Louisville on a Monday night, things seemed to be coming together pretty nicely. On Friday, just days before they were set to go, Jeff sent Jerad a picture of the nearly-complete, all black truck. Jerad replied with a text that said, "When are the flames going on it?" Knowing that Jerad is not a big fan of flames, they were never discussed ­ the truck was just going to be black. Jerad told Jeff that it was too black, and that it really needed his signature Botelho flames. Jeff called his brother Jim at 100 Proof Ink in San Jose, CA and got him working on the design. The next day, Saturday, Jim and his partner Tuey Dickerson were at Jeff's shop applying the vinyl flames, which included a few well-placed PDI logos, as well. While the flames were being installed, which took all of Saturday and most of Sunday, Jeff and the guys had to stop doing everything else on the truck, so Monday turned into a crazy day and a long night of work. It wasn't until early Tuesday morning that the truck was finally done and ready to be loaded, but when Jeff tried to pull it out of the shop, the clutch would not work. After dropping the transmission and pulling the Lipe clutch, they realized that one of the disks had been put in backwards. Jeff, not knowing much about these Lipe clutches, did not properly reassemble the pieces, and after putting it all back together, it still did not work. So they pulled it all out again! With help from PDI techs on the phone, Jeff got it fixed, and after performing two complete clutch jobs, they had the truck loaded, strapped down and ready to go. Jeff and his friend Jeremy Smith pulled out of Jeff's yard in Los Banos, CA at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday night. With 2,700 miles ahead of them, they put the pedal to the metal and did their best to get there as soon as possible. But somewhere

the guys chose a simple design, using extensive amounts of tan and brown leather. While the cab was gone, the guys installed the entire drivetrain. Once the cab returned, it was put back on the truck and its side skirts were fabricated and installed. After that, the 7-inch chrome exhaust, which is a dual weed-burner type of system that exits through holes at the rear of these side skirts, was built and installed. Jeff brought in a professional painter to spray the black on the cab ­ there was just no extra time to deal with any possible problems or errors. It was now a mad-dash to the finish! About a week before they had to leave for Louisville, the guys began assembling all of the final pieces. A Jones Performance hood and front fenders were installed, as well as stainless rear full fenders and a custom-built rear tail plate. Junior at Aranda Truck Accessories provided the bumper and battery boxes, while 12 Ga. Customs provided the visor and custom air-ride front end. For a little extra "wow" factor, the guys installed a set of high performance Fox shocks with remote reservoirs on each side of the front axle. At this point, the gauges and lights were all hooked up, the painted dash panels were completed and installed, the door poppers were fine-tuned, and every other little accessory was installed. All ten

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around Oklahoma, one of the side skirts, which Jeff had not secured with the proper bracing (he ran out of time), came loose. The wind peeled the metal piece back and smacked it against the cab, leaving a nice scratch in the black paint. Not knowing what to do, Jeff called Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, MO to ask if they could stop by his shop that night to fix the panel. Bryan was already in Louisville, so he called Joe, his shop foreman, and told him to head down to the shop and open everything up. Jeff rolled into Joplin at about 1:30 a.m. and backed his Landoll into Bryan's shop. Two hours later, the panel was fixed, and Jeff and Jeremy were back on the road. Although Jeff did all of the work himself, Joe was there to offer assistance (and parts) whenever needed, and Bryan never billed Jeff a dime for any of the parts or for Joe's time! At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, just an hour after the show had officially began, Jeff and the truck made it to the exposition center. A small army of polishers came out to help Jeff get the truck cleaned up ­ after all, it had just traveled 2,700 miles on a trailer through rain and snow storms. The first guys to grab rags and offer their assistance were Jeff's competitors ­ the boys from Outlaw Customs. Some of the other helpers included Jeff's wife Rosie, John Chamoro, Kris Gaare, Angelina Lopez, Mickey Gwillim and his son, John and Jackie Silva, and Tim Ludwig,

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summer so he can take it to several events he has been invited to attend. After that, Jerad plans to license the truck as a motor home and use it to pull PDI stuff to truck shows and other types of promotional events. Jeff wanted to thank everybody who helped on this monumental project that took thousands of man-hours, but he mostly wanted to thank his wife Rosie, who was a single mom with three small kids for four long months during the build. We would like to thank Bob & Willemina Diepersloot of Diepersloot Dairy in Chowchilla, CA for letting us take over the driveway in front of their big, beautiful home for a few hours one night while we took some of our pictures (the centerfold). Jeff's next project is to restore his father's original 1993 Pete so that his dad's old friend, Jack Moeller, can proudly take it to some truck shows on his behalf next year (Jeff's dad passed away in 2008). But, in the meantime, Jeff will continue to operate Botelho Brothers Trucking, which hauls mostly frozen loads in California, and doing plenty of smaller projects back at the shop for his customers and good friends. Having been featured on our cover three times now, Jeff Botelho is in a pretty elite club ­ in fact, he is the only member. But more important than that, he is one of the best truck builders in the country, and also a great friend. We can't wait to see what his jacked-up brain dreams up next.

just to name a few. In just a short amount of time, they had the truck lookin' good! Now it was time to relax and enjoy the show. Unfortunately, the limo truck did not win the build-off, but nobody really cared. Jeff is proud of what they built, and Jerad, the truck's owner (and financier), loved it, and that is all that mattered. After the show, Jeff brought the truck back to his shop to finish all of the little details and fix a few of the problems. He also had Dave Harrill of Harrill Inc. install the truck's sound system (it only had woofer speakers in it at Louisville). Dave fitted the truck with a Clarion head unit, Image Dynamics speakers and Zapco amps. At some point, a large flat-panel television is planned to be mounted on the back wall of the cab. Since Jerad is just going to use the rig for promotional purposes, he is letting Jeff keep it throughout the


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