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Cost To Refurbish A Truck

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I've been a fan of the old truck hobby for decades but generally only as a spectator.  I've always hoped to one day get in on the action so I'm now hunting for a hobby truck of my own, preferably a Superliner.  Over the years I've collected a few antique pickups but never personally owned a "big" truck of my own.  I'm not in the trucking business like many of you but I have driven big trucks off and on over the years and have a life-long passion for them (esp. Superliners!).  As I look at trucks for sale I find that most of the ones in my price range need some "sprucing up."  I'm trying to get a handle on what it might cost to have some of this refurbishing work done since I don't really have a clue.  I'm sure many of you have tackled these kinds of projects before.  Can anyone give me ballpark costs for some of the tasks below?  I'd just like to have a general idea of how much $$ I need to allow for these things as I plan my "toy budget."  

*  Professionally polish all the aluminum on a tractor-- 6 (or should you just do all 10) wheels, 2 large fuel tanks, battery boxes and air tanks.  Do polishers do stacks, grilles and mirrors, too, even though they're not necessarily aluminum?

*  Sandblast and re-paint a frame.  I know that's a loaded one.  I'm talking about doing a pretty thorough job-- removing all the wheels, fuel tanks, air tanks, battery boxes (or somehow covering them).  Then covering the cab and engine so the entire length of the rails could be primed/painted uniformly from end to end.  I don't know how else you could paint a frame without it looking half-assed (like just doing from the back of the cab to the end of the frame).  Of course, the frame behind the cab would have to be done inside and out, including the rear axles and suspension.  A big project!      

*  Install new air lines and other rubber/plastic that might be degraded from time.  

*  New tires-- what kind of money does it take these days to put a nice, new set of 10 matched American-branded tall tires (say 11Rx24.5s) on a tractor?  Include mounting, please.  

Thanks, guys!  

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A Superliner is a good one to start with. Buy the best one you can afford. EVERYTHING is expensive to replace and parts are harder to find as the age of the truck gets older. I have had trucks done by professionals, done my own and purchased one that just needed a little work and had all the right stuff. 

Going down the line:

Wheels cost $275-300 new. Repolish is approx $125-175 a wheel. I have bought repolished wheels for $175. An old or scrap wheel is worth about $50-70. Scrap the old ones and get new, there is nothing like new wheels and tires. Danny's truck wash by me in Phoenix, AZ does polishing all the other polishing you asked about. Call them and they should be able to give you a ball park price. The more you can polish the more you can spend in other areas.

Frame restoration is going to be what you are willing to accept. A perfect frame with no rust pocks, holes welded, painted in and out will be expensive $20-50k. Just to grind down, sandblast and repaint like you stated will be at least $10,000. A nice Superliner went for $15000 with aluminum frame, E9, and nicely painted in the past a member here had it. They were out there, maybe still.

Air lines and hoses are things that you should be able to do. Having a hobby truck is having something to tinker with and work on. There are things the go wrong, break and just need replaces. You will go broke if a truck shop is going to maintain your vintage truck. DOT Hoses, lines and fittings, $1500 should cover it for parts.

American Big rubber tires: $3500-$4500 for a set of 10

Hope that give you an idea of what you could be looking at. Buy the best condition truck you can to start with and you will be money, time and work ahead. Then go out an have fun with it. 


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Thanks guys, especially AZb755v8.  This is helpful stuff.  Yikes!  So you say about $7k-ish for new wheels and rubber?  And an equal amount for frame blasting/painting?  This definitely isn't a poor man's hobby, is it?  It amazes me when I go to truck shows and see how many guys have "toy" trucks that don't do anything but go to shows.  Many have more than one!  And then to haul or drive those trucks long distances to shows!  Yowza, that some serious coin!  More power to ya!  Hope to join the fun some day.  I realize it helps a lot if you're already involved in trucking somehow and have access to the equipment to be able to mess around with big toys.  Unfortunately, I don't have that "excuse" to have an old truck.     


If anyone else has additional feedback on their experience with buying or refurbishing their hobby truck I'd love to hear about it.  I'm sure some of you have been in my shoes before.  

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Cost for everything is relative to your area.  

I just had my hubs and rims blasted this spring(dustless blasting).  I had $300? in it.  He brought his trailer/equipment and did it in my driveway.   Few hours and it was done.  I'm sure if you have a portable guy in your neck of the woods you could do the same kind of deal on your frame.

Tires?   $400-600 depending on brand, and they can go higher for high end tires.  I run 22.5" Toyo on mine and they were $400 each just a few years back I put new steers on it.

As for which truck?  Buy the best you can afford.  Try to make sure all the big mechanicals are in good shape, you don't want to have to put engine/trans/rearends in it.  Rust is common and will just have to find the best you can.  All depending on your capabilities and/or how much you can spend to have it done.

I bought my B for basically $2500.  I've done near everything but put a transmission in it over the last 17 yrs.  Every few years I find another project to tackle. I'd have to do some math to figure out what I have tied up in it, though I know it's not a large sum.  I keep it running(as I need it).   Some buy a project, tear it apart and never see the light of day again.  It can be a daunting task.

Edited by Freightrain
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1959 B61 Liv'n Large......................

Charter member of the "MACK PACK"


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