Conventional cab trucks have gradually replaced cab-over, A.K.A. flat nose trucks. Despite the market’s shift, some enthusiasts continue to favor older models over more contemporary ones, such as the cab-over Kenworth K100. 

Let’s explore more closely the history and development of the Kenworth K100 to better understand why it is regarded as the most popular flathead truck of its era. Furthermore, we’ll learn how the classic unit has maintained that status up to the present. 

History of the Kenworth K100

When it comes to semi-trucks, Kenworth is a familiar brand. Despite its extensive product line, the K100 has consistently remained one of its most well-liked models. Below is a brief overview of the truck’s development.

Kenworth K100 

​​Two of Kenworth’s most well-known models, the W900 and the K100, were introduced in 1961. Both units were promoted as multi-purpose carriers and featured free-fit bolted frames and bolted doors with piano-style hinges.

The K100 had the standard cab-over-engine (COE) structure, with bigger cab doors, more horsepower, and more gearbox options. The W900, on the other hand, had a full conventional cab hood design with a standard tilting hood.


The Kenworth K100

The K100’s flat nose design was originally created to optimize freight while adhering to state-length constraints. However, newer Kenworth variants overtook the K100 in the market when regulations on truck lengths loosened.

Kenworth K100C

The K100C, a significantly altered variant of the K100, was released by Kenworth in 1968. The unit’s front windshield shape, headlights, and roof illumination were all new, but the engine remained the same. 


The Kenworth K100C

In addition, fiberglass was used instead of metal for the engine tunnel, gas cap, and headlamp cover to improve thermal insulation and further reduce weight. These modifications enhanced the model’s aerodynamics even more.

Kenworth K100 Aerodyne Raised-Roof Sleeper

During the 1970s, Kenworth started exploring sleeper units on its major lines, including the K100. In 1976, the company released the K100 Aerodyne Raised-Roof Sleeper Cab. 

The K100 Aerodyne was the first sleeper cab with 7 feet of standing headroom manufactured in a factory. This provided drivers with comfort and driving room never before seen in conventional trucks. The design also reduced the drag caused by the trailer, resulting in improved driving performance.


The Kenworth K100 Aerodyne Sleeper vs the W900

For the 1976 American bicentennial celebration, Kenworth released limited-edition versions of the K100 Aerodyne tagged as “Very Important Trucker,” or VIT. One of the recipients of a custom-made VIT was Evel Knievel, a professional American stunt performer and entertainer. This historic milestone further memorialized the popular K100 line.

With their proposed Flat-floor K100 vehicle, Kenworth looked into the prospect of providing extra space for truck drivers in 1990. Originally, the grill was quite low, the floor was level, and a sizable engine doghouse was under the bunk to increase the inside room. The format was influenced by drivers who slept in enormous engine doghouses.

But the Flat-floor K100’s prospective market and dealer apathy prevented it from moving further with manufacturing.

Kenworth K100E 

The K100E, a revamped version of the K100, was released by Kenworth in 1985. The K100E had a comparable engine to its predecessor, but exterior modifications allowed for a 75% reduction in overall aerodynamic drag.


A Kenworth K100E

The K100E’s corner radii were enlarged to 11 inches, the cab was extended by another 3 inches, and the windshield’s angle back was increased by 3 degrees to 13 degrees perpendicular. These modifications were made to enhance the aerodynamics of the cab by easing the airflow over its top.

The K100E’s improved aerodynamics came with increased fuel efficiency. The model sported a better driving environment with a low-mounted and pull-type door handle for easier use, a new Air Cushion seat for all-day driving comfort, and an infinitely adjustable steering wheel for optimal control.

Kenworth K200

The K100E was eventually phased out in the North American market in 2002, but with continued production in Australia. Later, Kenworth Australia released the K200, which had a K100E-like exterior with a few minor changes.

Kenworth K100 in Pop Culture

Besides being well-liked among entrepreneurs and truck drivers, the K100 enjoyed a successful career in popular culture. 


The Kenworth K100 hauling the Enterprise space shuttle. (Source)

The “Enterprise” space shuttle was moved by the K100 during ground operations in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1977. Also, the K100 Aerodyne unit was featured in the action-comedy series BJ and the Bear in 1979, as well as in the 1978 Peter Carter film High-Ballin’.

Using the Kenworth K100 Today

Even though Kenworth stopped producing K100 trucks for the North American market, the K100 is still one of the most well-liked trucks today and has a high resale value. 

One of the biggest issues that K100 owners now face is finding replacements parts for their rig. One such part is the HVAC box. Over time, these units typically rust out at the bottom and the OEM Red Dot HVAC system is no longer available. We have been able to produce a stainless steel version of the K100E HVAC box


Premium Kenworth K100 HVAC box

Althought parts are getting harder to find, K100 owners appear to keep pushing through in order to keep these classics on the road. 

The Timeless K100 Will Always Be in Fashion

The K100 has solidified its position as one of America’s favorite trucks, and business owners continue to value its reliability and performance. Despite being phased out, the K100 remains a valuable asset in the industry. With the right modifications and setups, it can be a productive member of your fleet.

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