From Chassis to Classy: Pumper Refurb Job Starts From Scratch

We get behind the wheel of one of Pumper magazine's Classy Trucks by having a Classy Conversation with Jimmy Norwood of Royal Flush Septic in Southwest Harbor, Maine
From Chassis to Classy: Pumper Refurb Job Starts From Scratch

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A quality refurbish job on a pumper truck takes time, but it’s even more of an investment when you’re starting from scratch with nothing more than a used truck chassis.

Jimmy Norwood, owner of Royal Flush Septic of Southwest Harbor, Maine, is meticulous about picking out the right chassis and rigging it up with a tank.

“You learn every time you buy one and build it — what to look for that saves money so you don’t have to do a complete makeover,” he says Jimmy Norwood. “It takes a while to find a truck. You just keep watching truck sites and eventually you’ll find one that fits your needs, and you go after it.”

After rigging up three trucks, including a 2006 Kenworth 335 with a 4,000-gallon tank, Norwood knows what to look for in a used chassis. “The motor is most important, and then you go after the gross vehicle weight rating,” says Norwood. “And you want to know how big your front end and rear ends are, and then of course the wheelbase to fit the tank that you’re looking to put on. You can just look at a used truck and tell if it’s been taken care of. It’s just like buying a car, same idea.”

Speccing out the Kenworth

Norwood opted for an aluminum tank for the 2006 Kenworth, though his other trucks are outfitted with steel tanks. “I don’t feel there’s durability with aluminum tanks like steel. The corrosion is the biggest thing.”

To help prevent corrosion, Norwood had the aluminum tank epoxy-coated. “A lot of people say it’s a good thing to do, a lot of people say it isn’t,” he says. “I’ll have to get a little age on it and see if it made a difference."

The tank came with a digital readout — a feature new to Norwood. “My other trucks just have sight gauges, and the digital tank readout actually works pretty nice,” he says. “The next truck I build I will definitely put one on there. It takes all the guessing out of it. I have very few who question me, but when they do question me, it’s nice to have.”

Another new feature on the Kenworth is heated collars, although Norwood doesn’t like them as much as the digital readout. “I don’t run heated collars on the other trucks. We put Nontox in them and go out in 10 below zero, and I’ve never had a problem. A lot of people do, but so far so good.”

The Kenworth is powered by a Cummins 350 hp engine tied to an Eaton eight-speed transmission. “I’m not against an automatic,” says Norwood. “It just seems the trucks I find have standards. If I came across an automatic with the right wheelbase, I would definitely buy it if it was the right deal.”

The black, orange and silver color scheme came from the truck’s driver, Mark Wark. “I’ve always had orange and white, but my driver wanted to do something different with this truck, so I let him go at it. After about $7,000 I had to shut him down,” Norwood laughs. “Everything on that truck is hand-lettered, so we spent a lot of money on it.”

Quality work not only takes money, but also time, which was put in by Art by Bart, who did all the lettering by hand. “That truck took about a month to letter it. Bart — I don’t know his last name, he just goes by Art by Bart — he can do some nice lettering. He’s about 76 years old and he’s got more stories. He’s a hell of a nice fella,” Norwood says.

Next up for Royal Flush

Royal Flush currently runs three trucks, with the ’06 Kenworth being the most recent addition. But another truck is slated to join the fleet soon.

“We just bought another 2,600-gallon tank we’re going to put in service,” Norwood says. “We’re going to rig up a truck this winter.”


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