December 01, 2011

Peterbilt Spotters Guide

A brief photo reference guide to identify various Peterbilt models from the late '50s on up


 Conventionals from the mid 1950's through the 1970s.


The model 351 replaced the 350 series with a new style hood, radiator assembly, fenders, battery box, headlamp mounts and bumper.       The early 351's had wide rubber windshield gaskets, a carry over from the 350 series.  This was replaced by smaller rubber.  Early 351 butterfly hoods had shorted hood side and a ledge panel that the hood sat on.  The hood hold-downs attached here. Later hoods had a full size side panel with a smaller hood ledge just above the frame rail.  351 was built until 1976.

Note the hood ledge on the lower hood side, the tapered frame rails and the art-deco crown ornament.  351 bumpers had wide-set tow-pin locations, the headlamps mounted to the rear of the radiator and were set back from the face of the radiator.

This 351 has the post 1960 unilite cab that featured larger glass, a new instrument panel, smaller rubber windshield gaskets and a larger rear window.  Note that the hood is still split at the bottom.  351 was available in 113",  119", 123" and 127" BBC sizes.   A 127" 351 is rare to find.  Some 351's will have a deep core radiator-the polished sides of the radiator stand out nicely. 

On some 351's a "blister" or bump-out can be seen on the right side of the hood panel.  This is to allow clearance of the turbocharger. 

This sharp black and white 351 has an option bug screen.  Note the painted air horn. Painted horns, roof lights, handles and mirrors were standard at one time.  The swan hood ornament was a customer add-on.

This 351 features a 36" sleeper, the horizontal bar grille option, quad headlamps and plenty of polished items.  

This view shows the pre 1960 cab.  Note the slider rear window, the drip rail that surrounds the roof of the cab.  The rear of fender step is clearly visible as is the headlamp mount.

This is an optional 351 grille screen.  Note that the crown ornament is now the bird in flight.  The ornament debuted in 1965 with the tilt hood model 358. The Bird appeared on the 351 in the late 60s.  Many 351's were converted to tilt hoods (becoming 358) with a dealer-ordered conversion. Photo courtesy of Hank Suderman

  This 351 features quad headlamps, a 36" sleeper and several polished items. The Peterbilt sleeper sported a raised stylized version of the bird crown ornament on the outer corners of the roof. This feature lasted until 1979.  Peterbilts featured tapered front rails which were phased out in 1966, and the rear taper was phased out by 1971. After that all models had had straight rails that were rolled instead of stamped.

MODEL 351L Logger

The 351L had the radiator of the 351 and the aluminum diamond plate fenders similar to the 383 and 38's steel fenders..  Engineered for logging. Photographer Unknown

351L with full fenders.


The last model 351's were built as "Autocar fighters" with "pit style" fenders and set-back front axles, mostly spec'd as dump trucks. Pre'1973 351 SBFA's had the unilite cab.



The model 341 was aimed at the dump/mixer applications.   The 341 was a short hood  351 at 113" BBC.  The 341 was built until 1972.



  The model 358 was developed in 1965 and was the first Peterbilt tilt hood. The 358 was a 351 with a tilting hood. The grille shell attached to the hood cleared the radiator where the radiator was the grille on  351. 358 was available only as a 119" BBC.  Aluminum at first and a fiberglass hood was available later.  Note the location of the headlamp mounts and the headlamp bracket was "right-side-up" were 351 had the headlamp tucked into the bracket.  The Bird hood ornament debuted with 358. The painted metal air cleaner intake tube was redesigned for 1966 as a rubber hose.   358 was built until 1976.

  Dan Bruno's 358 has the newer style corner fender lights. (see notation under 359) Note that this 358 has the rounded grille screen opening.  This is a fiberglass hood.  Photo courtesy of Dan Bruno


In 1967 the model 359 was introduced.  The 359 shared many of the styling cues of the 358 tilt hood.  The first 359's had a 2-bar grille screen to downplay the width of the hood.  The 2-bar screen was replaced by the 3-bar screen in the late 60s.  Note that the tow pin openings in the bumper are now mounted center on the rails where 351 had them outboard.  The 359 radiator was 1444 square inches.  359 fenders had small triangular shaped steps mounted outboard on the rear of the fenders to allow the driver to step up to clean the windshield.  351 had steps that were inboard on the fender and attached from the fender to the stepboard skirt (what some call the lower cab extension panel).

  Peterbilt mirrors were had a diagonal brace from the mirror arm down to the door.  This brace was mounted from the mirror arm to the top of the door on the side where the air cleaner was mounted.  Note the fender mounted reflector and light.  The '68-73 models had this stand-up style light.  After '73 a sleek low-profile style lamp from the 358 fiberglass hood was used. '69 or '70 359 wrecker.  Forward fuel tank, Donaldson air cleaner.


  This 359 has the 3-bar grille.  Note that there are no visible forward brackets on the front of the fenders, also note the red mudflaps, common on Peterbilts in the late 60's and early 70's.  Photo courtesy of Robby Gaines


  1972 saw a new hood for the 359.  The hood was engineered differently, had new panels, a new grille and crown and visible brackets on the front of the fenders.  The new hood is identifiable by the location of the seam between the crown and sides of the radiator surround - the old hood had the seam several inches higher up, the new hood has the seam at the same level as the panel joint on the hood skin.  This hood carried over to the 1100 series cabs in late 1972.  This 359 has the air conditioning condenser build onto the grille shell.  Some called this a "wide mouth 359."  Most 359's had roof mounted air conditioner units.  359 was available in 119" and after 1969 127" BBC lengths.  A fiberglass 119" hood was available after 1973.  359 hoods featured a flip-up radiator cap access door and an engine oil dipstick door on the right side of the hood on early versions (until the late 70s).


  This 359 has the new hood from 1972, note the rounded corners of the bug screen, the panel seam on the crown sides at the same location as the hood ledge and the front of fender brackets.   Photo courtesy of JB Selvidge


  The Model 346 was developed in 1973 for the dump/mixer 6x6 market and was even planned to be marketed towards the 4x4 snowplow market.  346 used a 351 crown and upper hood panel.  BBC was 113". Only 1 346 was built with the older unilite cab.  Photo courtesy of JB Selvidge


Peterbilt had several off-road construction models including this model 383 6x6. Note the full length steel diamond plate fenders, radiator guard/grille and headlamp shields.   Photo courtesy of Jim Overmohle.


  Probably the rarest of Peterbilts, the model 343 was a 6x6 chassis, open cab and hood built for export to the Philippines.  The photo above also clearly shows the tapered frame rails.


  The 371 looked to my eye to be a 343 with a complete cab. 


In 1972 a new cab replaced the unilite cab.  The new cab was not only taller, but had larger glass, bulkhead style doors and a new interior.  The new cab had 1100 square inches of windshield glass and was dubbed "the 1100 series" cab.  This cab was used on all Peterbilt conventionals after the end of 1972.

  1100 Series cab.  Early cabs had a small rear window, after 1975 the rear window was increased in size from 18"x29" to 18"x36". The larger window was used until 2003 and remains the size of the optional rear window option in the 36", 48" and 63" Peterbilt sleepers today.

The 1100 Series Peterbilts 


  The 1st 1100 series 359.  Changes with the new cab included new doors, glass, visor, low profile roof air conditioner units, diagonal mirror braces attaching to the mirrors not the doors and a taller sleeper.  The sleeper gained height to match the height of the cab.  The additional 4 inches was made up with a panel above the bunk doors, a grab rail attached to the panel assisted in entry/exit to the sleeper.  Other changes included a straight windshield pillar, rounded door corners, low-mount paddle/style door releases and a molded plastic dash cover.  Early 1100 cab 359's were only available with a molded headliner.  An upholstered headliner was available in the mid 70s. Photo courtesy of Peterbilt Motors Company.

This 359 displays the sleeker fender mounted marker light as well as dual air cleaners which were rare in 1975.  

 Often overlooked was the 359-113".  Available only with a fiberglass hood.    Photographer unknown.


  Set-back front axle hoods were available on the 359 after 1973.  The hoods were fiberglass and available as 119" or 113" BBC versions.  359 SBFA's had 2 bumper size options, the narrow bumper or the deep taper.  Both were swept back dramatically.  The massive bumper produced an imposing site on the road.

Fiberglass Hood 359

Fiberglass at far left, aluminum left.

An easy way to spot a fiberglass hood from an aluminum hood is to study the how the grille surround/crown is attached to the hood skin. The fiberglass hoods have the rivets on the surround where the aluminum hood has the rivets on the hood skin. Fiberglass hood models also do not have the hood panel joint, forward external fender brackets, rear steps or rivets on the hood skin. Note the bug screen above is stamped aluminum and not the mesh.  This changed in the mid 70's.



Model 381 with 1100 cab from 1975. Model 381 differed from the 383 in the height of the radiator. (see the 383 with unilite cab).  The 381 in the black and white photo is seen with a 358.


  The 346 carried over with an 1100 cab.  That's me in 1973 on a 346 at Peterbilt of Wisconsin in Waukesha.  Only ten 346's were built.  

I have a soft spot for the 346 - I found this one in 2003 in Traverse City, Michigan.

MODEL 358 - with 1100 cab

  Compare the 1100 cab 358 with a unilite cab 359.  The 1100 cab (on left) has a fiberglass hood, the unilite has an aluminum hood.  Note how the quad headlamps enhance the look.  


  From the beginning, Peterbilt differentiated single drive units from tandem drive units with a different model number.  Above is a model 289.  A 289 is a single drive 359.  A single drive 358 was a 288.  A single drive 351 was a 281.  The use of the 359/289 system ended around 1980.


   The model 348 was first built with the unilite cab and later the 1100 cab.  The 348 was marketed towards the mixer and dump truck segments.  The 348 replaced the 341.  348 had a sloped fiberglass hood and 115" BBC. The 348 also had a wide-nose brother, the model 349. The same sloped hood just wider.  349 was marketed as a lightweight highway tractor in the 1980s.  Interesting note:  Compare the profile of a 1974 348 and a 2010 365 - they are extremely similar.


  The Model 353 was introduced in 1973 for the construction market.  353 had the 1444 square inch radiator of the 359 with a butterfly hood and "pit style" fenders.  353 fenders were smooth painted with black anti-slip material applied to the top surface.   353 was available in 117"  and 123" BBC with set forward or set-back front axles.  

Left, SBFA 353, right, SFFA 353.


  In 1975 the model 387 was engineered for the heavier off-road segment.  Initially developed for the coal industry, 387 saw many heavy duty applications. 387 featured a massive grille/radiator guard, full length fenders and heavier spec'd frame and suspension. 387 was 126" BBC.  Side note:  387 was the first model number to be reused by Peterbilt.

MODEL 359-127

In 1977 the 100,000th Peterbilt was built.  Painted gold, this 359-127 was sold to Consolidated Peterbilt in Massachusetts.  Note that the 359 had the older style hood with no visible front fender mounts and the crown seam was higher up the grille side.  The 127" long hood (officially never called "extended hood" or "EXHD" by Peterbilt) was updated in mid 1977 to match the style of the 119" and 113" 359 hoods.


In 1977 Peterbilt engineers developed what became the benchmark for the classic truck.  The 359-127" with a 63" walk-through sleeper.  This new 359 was the first Peterbilt with a walk-through sleeper, (the sleeper was 3 inches longer than the KW VIT), and had round corner bulkhead style doors like the cab.  The cab had a new instrument panel called "The Dash of Class."  Some call it the "Corvette dash," even though the Corvette was of no influence in the design.  The engineering team dubbed the truck "Big Mamoo" because of the size of the tractor with its long hood, big sleeper, dual exhaust and dual air cleaners.  Big Mamoo also was the first Peterbilt to feature the rectangular quad headlamps.  In the Peterbilt brochure "Rest in Class," Mamoo had the rectangular lamps.  The lamps were prototypes and were removed before the truck was sold to Denver Peterbilt.  Mamoo also had a one-off feature - the right sleeper door was a "suicide" style.  In the brochure the door is visible even after airbrush touch-ups were made.

Photo courtesy of Bill McCullough


Unilite interior from 1970 in Oxblood Red.   Unilite in green.

  Unrestored in Peterbilt Brown. Unilite in black. (faded)  Unilite dash.

Early 1100 cab interior in green on left, Oxblood on right. Note the beige headliner. 1100 base interior with beige door panels and original dash.

1100 cab interior in Classic Oxblood Red.  Note the padded headliner and large sleeper crawl-through along with the custom steering wheel.

Classic II in brown with the Dash of Class.


Through the 1970's the conventionals continued as 359, 289, 353, 387 and 348. The 341, 358, 383, 381, 288 and 281 all ended production.  In 1979 the square door 36" sleeper was replaced with an all new sleeper that featured the same doors as the 63" sleeper and walk-through ability.  


Peterbilt Spotters Guide Page 2





copyright 2011 Tim's Trucks and Tim Ahlborn.  Photos copyright their original photographers and Peterbilt Motors Company.

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