Monday, December 24, 2007

the most ROCKIN' truck ever . . . played a bit part in a David Lee Roth video

(above) the great one, from Steven Spielberg's telemovie DUEL (1971)
(above) a movie program from Yugoslavia, found on eBay

(above and photos below) the 1960 Peterbilt model 281

(DUEL's second truck) now owned by Dan Bruno

these photos were shot at the American Truck Historical Society's

annual convention, here held in SoCal in 2004

(above) finally we get to see the driver!!!

(above) resting, but just until its next attack!
at Dan Bruno's St. Louis Dump Trucks yard
(above) Dan takes the beast out for a spin
(above) lurking, biding its time
(above and two below) from David Lee Roth's "She's My Machine" video (1994)

(above and two below) from David Lee Roth's "Hot for Teacher" video

I was doing some personal research on a movie I greatly admire, Steven Spielberg's DUEL, released in 1971, when I came across an odd bit of information--that the 1960 Peterbilt model 281 with its 1948 Fruehauf tank trailer, played a bit part in David Lee Roth's 1994 video "She's My Machine." You can see a few of the sequences in the stills above (sorry for the lousy reproduction quality).
"She's My Machine" was the first track on Roth's YOUR FILTHY LITTLE MOUTH album. Roth of course was the lead singer in Van Halen for a long period, and has recently rejoined the band for their current tour. This was one of his solo albums.
DUEL, you'll remember, was about a nameless, faceless trucker harassing a motorist (played by Dennis Weaver) on a remote and lonely road. It was directed by Spielberg and written by Richard Matheson based on his own true story. You can read the entire plot at It still stands up on its own, a real thriller.
Of course you know I'm into trucks and have been pretty much a lifelong member of the American Truck Historical Society. You haven't lived until you've gone to a ATHS convention (it's held each year somewhere in the US), where over 500 big rigs from the 1920s - 1970s stand proud and tall.
Above, you see some of the photos I took at the 2004 ATHS convention at the California Motor Speedway, where NASCAR holds its SoCal events. The DUEL truck takes awesome photos from every angle--it's a real bona-fide Hollywood star. Great curves, awesome face.
The Peterbilt truck Spielberg employed was indeed chosen for its "face." For each shot, several people had the task to make it uglier, sponging on lots of "truck make-up." The shots of the truck were composed in such a way as to make it seem "alive" in terms of its attack on Dennis Weaver's character, David Mann, driving a red 1971 Plymouth Valiant. What's central to the picture's success is that the script refused to resolve the central mystery of the truckdriver. The final shot of the truck falling off the cliff had to be completed in one take. For the film's theatrical release, at least two additional trucks were purchased to complete additional scenes that were not in the original made-for-TV version.
Much of the movie was filmed in Southern California's "Canyon Country," in and around Agua Dulce and Acton. Many of the landmarks from DUEL still exist today, including the tunnel, the railroad crossing, and Chuck's Cafe.
The dinosaur roar sound effect that's heard as the truck goes over the cliff is also heard in JAWS as the shark's carcass sinks into the ocean. Spielberg has said this is because he feels there's a kinship between DUEL and JAWS, as they are both "about these leviathans targeting everyman." He has also said that inserting the sound effect into JAWS was "my way of thanking DUEL for giving me a career"
Dan Bruno, the truck's current owner, has this to say on his website
"There are a lot of misconceptions about the DUEL truck or trucks. The surviving truck (the one that I own and exhibit) is what we refer to as Truck #2. There were four DUEL trucks, depending on what you count.
"TRUCK #1: The 1956 Peterbilt 281 that was used for most of the movie had a 1674 270hp I-6 Cat engine. As those engines didn't come out until the mid '60s, that means it was re-power. That's also the reason for the Cat's horizontal air cleaner, which came from a 966 Wheel Loader. The truck had a 10-speed transmission originally, likely a Fuller RT-9510. The truck was on its last legs during filming, and therefore Spielberg ordered a second truck to be made to look like it. Thus, truck #2.
"TRUCK #2: My 1960 Pete 281 was the second truck made as a double. At the time George Sack built it up, it had a 262 Cummins diesel engine and a 5x3 Spicer/Brownie transmission. This truck lost its DUEL make-up to appear in David Lee Roth's "She's My Machine" video, shot in Malibu. The truck was re-adorned in make-up for its cameo in the 2003 biker movie TORQUE. Neal Losasso bought the truck from George Sack in 2004, and I bought the truck from Neil in October, 2005, moving it from Los Angeles to St. Louis. TRUCK #3 was a 1964 Peterbilt 351 that was used to film the extended gas station/laundromat scene, the school bus push, and the railroad crossing push. It was returned to George Sack's lot and destroyed in some other production. TRUCK #4 was a mid-60s short wheelbase model 351 [used for some cutaways].
"DUEL, like CONVOY, is filled with Foley overdub of the truck sounds (these were added in post-production). In DUEL you hear mostly the sounds from a Cummins diesel and a 13-speed."
On Dan's site, he also lists the specs for both the truck and trailer. He notes that the truck has 1,013,000 original miles. It reached a top speed of 74 mph, paced on I-15 somewhere between Apple Valley and Barstow . . . allegedly. Fuel mileage on the open road is 5.1 mpg, and going up a grade like Frenchman's Pass it gets a tank-sucking 1.1 mpg.
Dan notes he's currently reworking some of the truck's mechanical, air, and electrical systems to help it become more reliable. When Dan exhibits the truck, as he did at the 2004 ATHS convention, he sometimes includes what you "think" is a phantom driver, as shown above. But who knows??
For those fans of Roth's "She's My Machine," here are a few snippits from the lyric:
"It's gettin' late, I don't know, 'bout 3 a.m.
And I'm drivin' in my '57 dream
It's gettin' late, don't know just where I've been
And I'm comin' to you from all points in between.
She gets along, let alone, she's premium
And I love to feel her each and every night
Damn straight, she's wild in overdrive
Feels like something's getting right.
Machine, machine
She's my machine,
Machine . . ."
There's also a very interesting Japanese 3" CD single currently on eBay with what appears to be a gorgeous illustration of that there dream machine in a four-part fold-out. Currently $15 bux and no takers . . . alas.
Finally, I should note that Dan Bruno has restored one of CONVOY's Mack tractors and has recently purchsed its original surviving Trailmobile tanker, in time to run them in a 30th Anniversary caravan thru New Mexico in '08. As I get more info, I'll pass it along. Everybody remember C.W. McCall's classic song? 'Bout the Rubber Duck, and Pigpen, and all those other guys?


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Anonymous said...

Actually, the truck was displayed at the 2004 truck show by its previous owner, Neil, as well as featured in the 10-4 magazine when Neil owned it. All Dan Bruno has managed to do is buy the truck, blow its engine, mangle its trailer, and make a mockery of Duel. Notice the ginormous oil puddle under the nose? That was taken after Dan Bruno took posession. Anyone that knows anything about old trucks wouldn't have tested its "top speed" and blew it up. From other sources, I've come to an understanding that the truck enjoyed a cruising speed of 55mph. Go figure!

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