You could say the Blue Star Gas bobtail “Old No. 44” has been around the block a time or two. In continuous service from 1966 to 2006, the classic propane autogas-powered truck now stands as a monument to dependable technology, first delivering reliable propane fuel to Blue Star customers for decades and now winning top awards at car shows across the country.
Old No. 44 was purchased in 1966 by Bill Stewart, father of current Blue Star Gas President Jeff Stewart. It traveled more than a million miles on the rural, unpaved roads of Northern California and Oregon before retiring in 2006. But rather than put the propane bobtail out to pasture, the Stewarts elected to give the trusty old truck a facelift. The bobtail was refurbished in 2007 by JARCO, which first designed and built the International Loadstar 1600 with a propane autogas-powered engine, to restore it to its former glory.
Today, the classic propane bobtail is exhibited at nationwide trade shows with one of Blue Star Gas’s brand new trucks to demonstrate the evolution in technology.
“Old No. 44 has served us well, even in retirement,” says Jeff Stewart, a third-generation owner of Blue Star Gas. “The truck’s longevity and performance has been remarkable. It made deliveries for decades over rough terrain, providing the communities we serve with clean, efficient propane. Now an award-winning show truck we use in parades and display at car shows, this old beauty is still an important part of the Blue Star Gas legacy.”
Robert Hobson, a Blue Star Gas service technician based in Salem, takes the classic Blue Star Gas bobtail on numerous cross-country trips to car shows, along with his son Kenny. Rumor has it that around Christmas time, Santa Claus—who bears a striking resemblance to Hobson—has even been known to get behind the wheel of Old No. 44.
“It’s interesting to see the 40-year evolution in technology when we display the classic bobtail truck side-by-side with an updated one,” says Hobson, who does at times don a Santa costume when he shows off the truck in December. “There have certainly been advances in convenience and safety, but not many vehicles today can match the durability and craftsmanship of this workhorse propane truck.”
Bobtail truck technology isn’t the only thing that’s advanced since number 44 first hit the road in 1966: Blue Star Gas has evolved as a company as well, spreading from California up the coast to Seattle, and now even supplying clean propane autogas for vehicle fleets. As a partner in the international Alliance AutoGas network, Blue Star Gas provides a complete program for fleets to switch to affordable alternative fuel, coordinating autogas vehicle conversions, on-site fueling, operational and safety training and ongoing technical support.