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Monday, May 27, 2024

Bill Kolias’ truck is so special that he keeps it under glass. Literally.

His 2003 Western Star 4900 EX and its matching custom RV trailer are covered in painstakingly applied layers of glass that protect the garnet-red finish and graphics. And it works. Kolias hasn’t waxed the truck since it was glassed in 10 years ago.

“It’s one sexy truck,” the 62-year-old driver said.

When it rolls through a construction zone, workers stop and stare. When it’s at its winter home at an RV park in Punta Gorda, Fla., passing drivers exit the highway and circle back to take a look. Wherever it’s parked, people delay their errands to walk around it and gawk.

“I can’t begin to tell you the fan club I have in south Florida,” Kolias said.

The trophies it’s won at truck shows fill a case. It even gets invited to custom car shows in Florida.

Kolias began driving in New Hampshire in 1977, forming a company with his brother. Since his wife retired in 2006, he and his rig have lead a dual existence: winters in Florida basking in the sun and summers in New Hampshire, hauling building supplies to wholesalers.

When Kolias bought the truck in 2005, his first Western Star, he had it redone with aircraft paint that costs $800 a gallon and added orange and yellow star graphics. To protect his investment, he had the tractor, including the inside door panels, dashboard gauges and all the chrome, aluminum and stainless steel parts, covered in thin layers of glass, a process that took two men 33 hours to complete.

The glass bonded with the paint and “nothing sticks to it,” Kolias said. All he does to keep it clean is hose it off. The glass also keeps the paint from fading in the Florida sun.

The improvements aren’t limited to the paint. Kolias’ additions include chrome wheel covers with gold-leaf touches, chrome running boards, LED lighting, captain’s chairs, hardwood floors in the cab and sleeper, satellite radio, and so on. When he and his wife became snowbirds, he added the 38-foot recreational trailer and gave it the same paint-under-glass treatment.

Kolias says the $50,000-plus he has spent improving the truck and trailer is a worthwhile investment in a job he still loves.

“I do this more for personal enjoyment than I do for making money,” he said. “I’ve met too many people who go to work every day and they’re not satisfied. They’re always longing for the weekend and vacation. For me, every day is a vacation. It’s really the truck of my dreams, the truck I always wanted to have.”

A truck that turns heads is a reflection of Kolias’ passion for trucking. So is the professional image he projects by wearing a uniform with a brass name tag and spit-shined boots.

“I now have a reputation to uphold,” he said. “If I pull into a delivery with dirt on my boots or on my rig, there’s no end to the ribbing I get.”

For all the graphics and add-ons, it is a working truck for half the year, with a Caterpillar C15 engine, 18-speed, double overdrive transmission and 550,000 miles.

“You run this truck down the road at 70 mph and it’s as smooth as a luxury car. It’s a fun truck to drive; it doesn’t fight you,” he said. “It’s big and flashy, and it’s comfortable. I go to work and I have nothing but fun.”